Introducing truths about Inpatient Mental Health Hospitals in History

Inpatient mental health blueish photo of inside of a hospital
The second part of a series examines the history of inpatient mental health care—a brief look at the start of famous Hospitals in the United States.

Introduction of Inpatient Mental Health Hospitals in History

Bellevue Hospital

     1736 – Bellevue Hospital in New York City is the oldest publicly funded hospital in the country.  It opened its first psychiatric ward in 1879 and then its first alcoholic ward in 1892.  For decades everyone knew of Bellevue as an inpatient psychiatric care facility; it was even referenced in movies, TV shows, books, and such. 

Eventually, the Psychiatric Hospital was passed out and was transformed into a homeless shelter, and now, the psychiatric patients are treated in one of the eight inpatient units in the Main Hospital.

Pennsylvania Hospital

     1752 – The Newly opened Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had given an area to the Quakers in the basement of the facility to treat the mentally ill.  The rooms were limited and came fitted with Shackles on the walls.  This was the precursor to the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, founded in 1856 and closed in 1998. This was a State-funded facility.

Eastern State Hospital

     1773 – Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia, is the oldest psychiatric hospital in the country.  The hospital is still active today.  The hospital was originally opened in the city but was moved to the suburbs in the 20th century.  

Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of their Reason

     1817 – Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of their Reason, this was the first privet mental health hospital founded by a group of Quakers.  It was built on a 52-acre farm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

This facility is still operational today; however, they changed the name to Friends Hospital, and it is now on 100 acres.  The Quakers looked to change the way the mentally ill were viewed; they wanted to provide suitable accommodations and more humane treatment.

The Eastern Lunatic Asylum

   1824 – The Eastern Lunatic Asylum was opened in Lexington, Kentucky. This was the first institution that was west of the Appalachian Mountains.  This facility is still open today, but the name was changed to Eastern State Hospital.      

Publicly supported hospitals.

1890 – By this time in America, every state had one or more publicly supported mental hospitals, and all increased in size as needed to meet the needs of an expanding population.  By the mid-20th century, the hospitals housed over 500,000 patients.  However, as advancements in treatment methods continued, the need for these facilities diminished. They were not seen as a requirement anymore.

Inpatient mental health blueish tinted picture of the inside of a hospital 02


It doesn’t take a lot to see that the mentally ill have always been viewed as less than desirable citizens, more to the point they weren’t even viewed as a part of society most of the time; they were third-class citizens at best with no rights or protect them from abuse, illegal experiments, mutilation, even death. 

The medical treatments were substandard, and the facilities matched that same thought.  Filthy, and unsanitary, some resembled torture chambers and jails that were not even fit for prisoners that had been taken into custody because they were not made to meet the same standards as jails.  This has improved but not to an acceptable level yet, still to this day we have horrible overcrowding, remember I told you that in the mid-20th century “they” (Government Officials) said that we didn’t need so many facilities anymore. Hence, they were closed, and so they got to keep the money they were spending on these useless facilities (which in some cases, it was just on paper that they were sending the funds to these facilities).

  Ok, now we are set up to look into the present.  So, our next series will be “How are the mentally Ill taken care of today.”  

Inpatient mental health Blueish tint picture of inside of a hospital 03

Other articles written by James Maxwell are: 

History Of The Fundamentals On Treatments For The Mentally Ill By James Maxwell

A Former Police Officer’s View on Mental Health

How to Stand Beside Someone with Trauma Issues

Being supportive of a significant other with mental/sexual abuse

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