A snapshot of the history of Mental Health in the UK

Mental health has come a long way, only 3000 or so years ago we were drilling holes in the skulls of mentally ill people to get rid of 'evil spirits’. Thankfully modern methods of dealing with mental illnesses are less gruesome and more effective. In this article we’ll be exploring (what has been) the brief history of mental health and how we’ve got to where we are now.

It was as early as 400 BCE that mental illness was recognised as a problem within the body as opposed to a curse from the Gods above. Progress was fairly slow, with the first psychiatric hospital opening in 1247 (dates vary) in London. It’s fair to say that hospitals in the 1200's were very different to the ones that we have now, and in Bethlem Royal Hospital (or Bedlem) the main focus was on people who were considered ‘mad’. ‘Mad' in the 1200's and ‘mad' now aren’t the same though. Mad back then meant you were bouncing off the walls and pulling your hair out. Bedlam became a so-called zoo in the 1600's with people eager to witness the ‘madness’ confined within their walls. This caused Bedlam to move to South London to impress visitors. Bedlam was the only place to receive treatment for mental illness but it was run on a very small scale and they did not have many patients, recording just 24 in the year 1620. It is crazy to think how many more people there would have been that needed, but didn’t receive help back then.

In the 1800's hospitals turned into asylums as the mentally ill were chased off the streets and straight into their spaces. 

Wilhelm Wundt came along in 1879, he was who opened the first experimental psychology lab in Leipzig, Germany.

He was then joined by wave makers Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and many others as they began to explore the mind.

It wasn’t until 1911 that a psychological term was used, with Eugen Bleuler first introducing the term ‘Schizophrenia’.

A pair of world wars later and that’s when we began discovering ways to treat mental illness.

In 1949 came Lithium, Thorazine followed in 1952, behaviour therapy began in the 50's and then came Librium and Valium.

We began to move away from asylums in the 1970's, changing them to ‘community-based healthcare’ 

With the new millennium fast approaching, a new generation of anti-psychotic drugs were brought out.

New millennium, new techniques right? Mindfulness meditation became increasingly important for psychological care. Charities started opening, campaigns began and governments started releasing funding. Mental health begins to be recognised as a global issue and an increase in the number of people suffering comes to surface.

Then we reach the point in time which I call - the present. 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives. Suicide is at an all-time high and we all seem to be in some sort of social war with eachother and even sometimes, with ourselves. The positives are that we have finally started to move forward. We’re well on the way to finding the most effective techniques which help us solve the complexities we’re faced with regarding depression, anxiety, and PTSD amongst other things. Both medically and therapeutically.

WeRFundamentals are working hard to destigmatise mental health within young people, because everybody has mental health and we should all be talking about it! 

By Babs Isaiah Shittu

Makeda McMillan