History of Mental Health Treatment Focus of New Museum

The world’s oldest psychiatric institution, the Bethlem Royal Hospital outside London, recently opened a new museum and art gallery charting the evolution in the treatment of mental disorders.

The original hospital was founded in 1247 in what is now central London and the name spawned the English word “bedlam” meaning chaos and madness.

In the 18th century visitors could pay to gawk at the hospital’s patients and, three centuries later, stereotypes about mental illness still abound. The bleak period in the history of mental treatment is addressed but not dwelled upon in the museum.

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