Addiction Disorders & Mental Health History
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The study of addiction has not been studied nearly as long as aspects of mental health proven by the fact that asylums have been around for many years (Bethlem 1247) and treatment centres for addiction appeared many years later focussing, at first purely on alcohol. Alcoholics, for example, would be sent to an asylum for ‘treatment’ for their drinking as alcohol abuse was deemed as some form of madness!
The word ‘Bedlam’ (English word used to describe chaos) was derived from ‘Bethlem 1247’ which was the name of England’s first insane asylum-please click on the link below:
Definition of bedlam: a place, scene, or state of uproar and confusion
“There was bedlam in the streets after the verdict was announced”
or Bedlam: an asylum for the mentally ill – madman-lunatic.
The history supporting mental health is vast, colourful and at times highly disturbing and yet this has all contributed towards modern day understanding of mental illness. Addiction, of any kind was not really recognised as a clinical issue/disease until the 1960s. In the mid-eighteenth-century alcohol was used to placate native tribesmen into signing meaningless contracts which led to an epidemic of alcoholism and smallpox that decimated the American Indian population. To this day, addiction plays a large role in the remaining American Indian people largely centred around drugs, gambling and alcohol.
Recovery Process History
‘In 1750 American Indian tribal leaders would encourage younger members of the tribe who had become addicted to alcohol to use their ancestral heritage and beliefs to guide them back to sobriety’
‘An Inquiry into the Effects of Ardent Spirits Upon the Human Body and Mind (1785), was the first notable challenge to the widely accepted belief that alcohol itself posed no risk to people and that the only people who would get drunk were of dubious moral character’
‘Founded in 1864, it was the first single-purpose hospital in the United States specifically designed and built for the treatment of alcoholism as a ‘mental’ condition. Three years later, the Martha Washington Home in Chicago became the first dedicated rehabilitation centre for alcoholic women in America’
Counselling was initially developed to assist soldiers in the first world war and at that time there was no understanding of anxiety or PTSD-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Soldiers were described as suffering from ‘shell shock’ as a blanket expression to describe a soldier’s horrific experiences of war!
Counselling forefathers such as Carl Rogers, Aaron Beck Ellis and Sigmund Freud developed various counselling modalities including Humanistic, Psychodynamic and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as methods of assisting clients with addiction and mental health disorders. Counselling itself is still in its infancy. It was not so many years ago that group therapy would involve twenty plus people in a circle, all smoking cigarettes and basically hurling abuse at one another! Over the years essential ground rules have been developed and standardised to assist clients and facilitators in creating individual and group sessions that are much more therapeutic and take into account, individualism.
Two world wars, industrial revolutions, stock market crashes, the great depression, Spanish flu, the plague, to name but a few historical events that have heavily impacted mental health globally. Now we are presently dealing with the coronavirus which is taking many lives daily. The fallout from this virus is impossible to assess at this point but we can safely say that addiction and mental health issues will increase in vast numbers.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process