The story of the mentally ill persons and the imprisoned ones during the 19th century was not one that an individual cannot wish to imagine. Few people understood about the torment that these people were going through in their cells or hospital beds. The change that we see today where prisoners and mentally ill people have some dignified treatment can be attributed to the course works of one Dorothea Dix. This paper shall be reviewing a video on the face of mental health reform based on the life and times of Dorothea Dix and directed by Victoria Smith.
Born in 1802, Dorothea lived with her parents in Massachusetts until the age of twelve when she left for her grandmother’s in Boston to escape the dismal life she led back then and also to stay away from her abusive father. It was in Boston that she grew to become a humanitarian by beginning to teach children from the less fortunate in the society. She started her first school at the age of fourteen, and this was the beginning of her story towards fighting for the rights of oppressed and the voiceless in the society.
The fight for the mentally ill
She began her long journey towards fighting for the rights of the mentally ill at the east Cambridge house of collections where she taught Sunday school. The correction house was a women’s prison, and most of the inhabitants were either mentally ill or perceived as insane by the community. At the prison, she was quick to notice the improper conditions that the prisoners were subjected to and the inhuman acts towards them by their keepers. She would immediately push for reforms on how the prisoners were treated. This was just but the beginning of the whole process of fighting for the rights of the mentally ill.
During the 19th century, prisons were a place where all kinds of people were pushed to, and in most cases, the mentally ill persons were forced to share the same prisons with the rest of the criminals. The prisons were characterized by among other lack of regulations, poor sanitation, and overcrowding. Things were made worse by the fact that all prisoners were held together; men, women, children and even the mentally ill.
This prompted her to write to the authorities at Massachusetts asking for reforms to be institutionalized at the correctional centers. She would attach with the appeal letter for reforms reports on how prisoners were being mistreated inhumanly and in ways that were unimaginable. She reported counts of starvation, sexual and physical abuse, plus being left unclothed with poor sanitation. This led to the introduction of a movement that would fight for the improved conditions for both the imprisoned and the mentally ill.
While in Europe, she found out that the same situations as those in America were what the prisoners back there were going through. She went ahead to recommend reforms in these institutions across many countries just like she had done in America. Her move was supported by the then Pope Pius the 9th who personally ordered for the construction of a hospital specifically for the mentally ill after she had presented her report. Dix would later move back to America in 1856 where she worked as a military nurse alongside other women. She then returned to her noble course after the civil war till she met her death in 1887. In her whole life, she believed that however queer it may appear to be, imaginary problems are worse to handle than actual ones. Her devotion to her noble course saw the creation of a series of institutions not only across the United States but also across the world. She shall be remembered for the bravery towards relentless push towards the creation of mental facilities and the improvement of conditions in the centers.
Sang-hyun, P. (2016). U.S. Patent Application No. 29/430,392.