The war hospital in Ireland
in Shell-shocked British Army veterans in Ireland, 1918–39
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Chapter 4 analyses soldier-patients who were treated in the Richmond War Hospital in Dublin. The thirty-two-bed hospital, set up in an adjunct building of the Richmond District Asylum, was reserved for the exclusive treatment of psychoneurotic casualties of the First World War. It was innovative in the context of Irish mental health care with patients remaining under ‘observation’ in an exclusive military facility without being diagnosed as insane. War hospitals were established to cater for physical injuries, and all soldier-patients wore ‘Hospital Blues’ regardless of their ailment. For the first time, mental illness was deemed treatable in its early stages and was placed on an equal footing to physical wounds. This elevation of status would prove crucial. The war years were witness to a reduction in staff, financial investment and provisions and overcrowding in the public asylums across Ireland. This resulted in a reduced standard of care and a subsequent increase in patient mortalities. Crucially, soldier-patients at the superior RWH were spared this fate due to their segregation from pauper lunatics.

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