At the Bethlem Royal Hospital in London, England, in the 1700s, visitors could peer into patients' cells, poke them with sticks, and be amused by their unusual behavior.1 We certainly have come very far from that time, but people with mental illness continue to fascinate—and frighten—many. Just today the National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Organizations
called for the proper burial of two women who were patients at the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane in the 1880s. Their mummified remains are on display in a bathroom of the Barbour County Historical Museum in Philippi, West Virginia "at a dollar a look," says the Coalition (entry at Bethlem was free on the first Tuesday of the month
1). This story reminded me of
plans for the now closed Weston Hospital in West Virginia (what is going on in this state?): "Psyco Path" dirt bike races, "Hospital of Horrors" haunting tours in October, and a "Nightmare Before Christmas" tour on December 23. So much has changed since the 1700s, but some attitudes have persisted. The victims of this continued exploitation are
all people with mental illnesses—past
Reference 1. Currie JM. The Fourth Factor: A Historical Perspective on Architecture and Medicine. Washington, D.C.: American Institute of Architects; 2007: 89.