Save Us From Our Saviors

Would someone please save us from our saviors. Seems we have been plagued by… well, insane treatment for centuries.

We lunatics have been forced to live on the outskirts of civilization as far back as ancient Greece and beyond. Seems when plagues would break out in towns they would come out and stone to death the insane, lame, and outcasts as part of a cleansing or purification for the town. They called it “pharmakos” and there we find our modern words pharmacy, pharmaceutical etc.

When the “Designated Mental Health Unit” opened here two years ago, several of us were designated as mentally ill and then designated to live in the designated mental health unit. I was one of the designated. As we were moving in, the security officer made a statement to some other inmates in the unit next door who were out watching the arrival of the designated…I remember clearly a remark by the officer (who later was promoted to counselor) ‘yep, I am gonna start selling tickets for a tour next week.’ I’m not sure exactly why but that struck me to the quick.

It was some time later that I read how it was an amusement in England through the Victorian era to buy tickets to tour the Royal Hospital Bedlam. To view all the lunatics up close, exposing such unfortunates, many naked of either sex, to the curious eyes of anyone able to purchase a ticket.

Then this plague of saviors came to the new world. People like Dr. Benjamin Rush, a pillar of early American Psychiatry with his introduction of the tranquilizer Chair of 1811. A common device used by Prisons and Jails across America to this date called “restraint Chair.” This cruel and unusual form of restraint is used as much for a form of cruel torture as restraint.


Dr. Rush also drained buckets of blood from those unfortunates with mental illness. He also devised a gyration device that spun patients at high speeds strapped flat to a board in what he called circulation flow to the brain. He also contended if they vomited during the process that would increase healthy circulation. The prestigious Rush Institute for Mental Well-being is known today as Rush-neuro-science Institute.

Dr. Henry Cotton (1886-1933), having delivered successful lectures at Princeton University claiming a 87% cure rate, was the new and upcoming pioneer in science and medicine. The insane are physically ill. If the location of the infection (source of insanity) could be found and extracted the lunacy would come to an abrupt end. It seemed only a process of elimination. That would call for patience, ability and determination, on his part, and some unfortunate captives as victims of this lunacy.

Seems Dr. Cotton ordered 11,000 tooth extractions in two years from Patients at Trenton State Hospital in New Jersey. Running out of teeth to extract, he set about extracting other pieces of various other body parts including but not limited to pieces of stomachs, bowels, genitals. Some female mental patients were ordered to have their cervix enucleated (completely removed).

After an investigation they discovered a 56% mortality rate among those treated for prolonged periods. Persevering (him not the patients) the doctor went on extracting and lecturing until his death in 1933. He won’t be missed by us (the mentally ill). In an obituary in The American Journal of Psychiatry they remarked “a most remarkable achievement of the pioneering spirit…”

In his great and enlightening book Great and Desperate Cures (1986) Elliot Valenstein wrote “After drilling two or more holes in a patient’s skull, a surgeon inserted into a patient’s brain any of various instruments – some resembling an apple corer, a butter spreader, or an ice pick – and often without being able to see what he was cutting, destroyed parts of the brain.”

The year was 1935 and the regress to an 800 year old technique to relieve the patient of the devil had come full circle. Dr. Freeman ad Dr. Watts pioneered lobotomies in America. By 1949, The New York Times in an Editorial: “Surgeons now think no more of operations on the brain than they do of removing an appendix.”

Soon Dr. Freeman had refined the technique. He would use an ice pick to enter the skull through the eye socket above the eyelid where he made the lateral cut by forcing the point from side to side the with great strength. He would force the ice pick through the orbital bone and the maneuver the pick to shred the prefrontal brain.

By 1960’s lobotomies fell out of vogue and now it’s all about drug therapy. Chemical restraints. However, some of those barbaric approaches survived and are in constant practice in jails and prisons across America. The Restraint Chair, Chemical Restraints, and Solitary confinement are used for punishment as well as a means of cruel torture for those with a mental illness.

We are still forced to live outside society’s invisible boundaries. Those who are odd, strange, well, not normal are best kept out of sight… Right?


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