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Mental nurses and their patients, 1935–74
Author: Tommy Dickinson

Anecdotal evidence of the testimonies of patients who received treatments for sexual deviations and medical attitudes towards them are scattered in the recorded accounts of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, intersex and queer/questioning (GLBTIQ) people. This book examines the plight of men who were institutionalised in British mental hospitals to receive 'treatment' for homosexuality and transvestism, and the perceptions and actions of the men and women who nursed them. It explores why the majority of the nurses followed orders in administering the treatment - in spite of the zero success-rate in 'straightening out' queer men - but also why a small number surreptitiously defied their superiors by engaging in fascinating subversive behaviours. The book is specifically about the treatments developed for sexual deviations in the UK. Transvestism was also treated fairly widely; however, not to the same extent as homosexuality. After an examination of the oppression and suppression of the sexual deviant, the introduction of aversion therapies for sexual deviance is considered. During the 1930s-1950s, mental health care witnessed a spirit of 'therapeutic optimism' as new somatic treatments and therapies were introduced in mental hospitals. The book also examines the impact these had on the role of mental nurses and explores how such treatments may have essentially normalised nurses to implement painful and distressing 'therapeutic' interventions . The book interprets the testimonies of these 'subversive nurses'. Finally, it explores the inception of 'nurse therapists' and discusses their role in administering aversion therapy.

Tommy Dickinson

Treatment Act 1930, which was geared towards a model of treatment, where patients would have greater autonomy; and the Mental Health Act 1959 that put a new emphasis on community care. In the period between these two Acts, nurses witnessed what has been described as ‘therapeutic optimism’; as new therapeutic options particularly somatic (physical) therapies for treating psychiatric patients were introduced.2 The introduction of these new approaches raised expectations of curative treatment, in keeping with the nomenclature of the new 1930 Act. This chapter explores these

in ‘Curing queers’
A conceptual history 1200–1900

This collection explores how concepts of intellectual or learning disability evolved from a range of influences, gradually developing from earlier and decidedly distinct concepts, including ‘idiocy’ and ‘folly’, which were themselves generated by very specific social and intellectual environments. With essays extending across legal, educational, literary, religious, philosophical, and psychiatric histories, this collection maintains a rigorous distinction between historical and contemporary concepts in demonstrating how intellectual disability and related notions were products of the prevailing social, cultural, and intellectual environments in which they took form, and themselves performed important functions within these environments. Focusing on British and European material from the middle ages to the late nineteenth century, this collection asks ‘How and why did these concepts form?’ ‘How did they connect with one another?’ and ‘What historical circumstances contributed to building these connections?’ While the emphasis is on conceptual history or a history of ideas, these essays also address the consequences of these defining forces for the people who found themselves enclosed by the shifting definitional field.

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Tommy Dickinson

because they reduced the degree of voluntariness on the part of the patient. These mixed public discourses of sexual deviation also created uncertainty for the nurses in this study. The nurses were also exposed to a number of contextual factors in their clinical practice, which may have influenced their decision to administer aversion therapy to cure sexual deviations. The introduction of the Mental Treatment Act 1930 brought a wave of therapeutic optimism around the possibility of curative treatment for mental patients. This led to the introduction of new somatic

in ‘Curing queers’
Ben Harris

instructions and act purposefully. As Virginia came to realise in The Snake Pit, by the middle of the twentieth century most of the work performed by psychiatric patients had little if any claim to the status of therapy. A hundred years earlier, however, work by patients was often part of a therapeutic regimen. While this did not survive the death of therapeutic optimism in the late nineteenth century, the start of the twentieth century saw a revival in the use of and faith in work therapy. It centred in New England, where clergy, psychologists and physicians briefly

in Work, psychiatry and society, c. 1750–2015
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Vicky Long

‘humanitarianism 1 science 1 government inspections 5 “the great nineteenth-­century movement for a more humane and intelligent treatment of the insane”’.34 Viewing the asylum as an instrument of social control which psychiatrists exploited as a mechanism for professional aggrandisement, revisionists pointed to the ways in which psychiatry perpetuated notions of social, gender and racial inequality. Such studies traced how therapeutic optimism gave way to pessimism as theories of degeneration reinforced policies of custodialism by the 1870s, transforming asylums into custodial

in Destigmatising mental illness?
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Is it time to change our approach to anti-stigma campaigns?
Vicky Long

again, efforts to destigmatise mental illness focused on ‘promising’ patients, at the expense of ‘chronic’ patients. Thus, the new therapeutic optimism embodied by physical treatment methods, for example, was achieved in part by segregating those whose illnesses were more long standing and less amenable to somatic treatment methods, while the appeal of admissions wards was enhanced by removing chronic patients to segregated wards. My concern is that current anti-­stigma campaigns also focus upon acute, minor and transient experiences of mental disorder, and similarly

in Destigmatising mental illness?
Nursing shell-shocked patients in Cardiff during the First World War
Anne Borsay and Sara Knight

doctors tried to establish which treatments worked best with which symptoms, informed by competing approaches to understanding and managing mental illness. The therapeutic optimism originally associated with moral management techniques had dissipated as late nineteenth-century public asylums struggled with unresponsive chronic cases and the routines of institutional life were gradually reworked to deliver mass rather than personalised care.32 At the same time, the influence of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis was penetrating British medicine. One of the most renowned

in Mental health nursing
Murray K. Simpson

system and preceded developmental approaches. Pinel and Esquirol notionally held onto idiocy, but held little therapeutic optimism, and it was left marginalized in the framework of moral treatment. Degenerationist and neurological approaches in the latter half of the nineteenth century linked idiocy and insanity organically. The methods and aims of the medico-pedagogues and later physicians of idiocy were, again, quite different. It was advantageous to attain autonomy and to redefine and reposition idiocy outside of psychiatry. Psychoanalysis, Garrabé suggests

in Intellectual disability
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Therapy and empowerment, coercion and punishment. Historical and contemporary perspectives on work, psychiatry and society
Waltraud Ernst

. Harris deftly maps the waxing and waning of moral and psychological approaches and of patient work from the early days of therapeutic optimism to the rise of reductionist neurology in the 1880s, followed by ‘a revival in the use of work therapy’ at the start of the twentieth century – in New England in particular. The belief in the formation of good habits through regular work (which, as patients at Bethel, Maine, sang, while sawing wood, ‘sets our spirits free!’), dovetailed with wider national sentiments of prosperity from natural resources and new technologies and

in Work, psychiatry and society, c. 1750–2015