Mental Health Treatment: Past and Present

Critical Thinking Questions

People with psychological disorders have been treated poorly throughout history. Describe some efforts to improve treatment, include explanations for the success or lack thereof.


Beginning in the Middle Ages and up until the mid-20th century, the mentally ill were misunderstood and treated cruelly. In the 1700s, Philippe Pinel advocated for patients to be unchained, and he was able to affect this in a Paris hospital. In the 1800s, Dorothea Dix urged the government to provide better funded and regulated care, which led to the creation of asylums, but treatment generally remained quite poor. Federally mandated deinstitutionalization in the 1960s began the elimination of asylums, but it was often inadequate in providing the infrastructure for replacement treatment.

Usually someone is hospitalized only if they are an imminent threat to themselves or others. Describe a situation that might meet these criteria.


Frank is severely depressed. He lost his job one year ago and has not been able to find another one. A few months after losing his job, his home was foreclosed and his wife left him. Lately, he has been thinking that he would be better off dead. He’s begun giving his possessions away and has purchased a handgun. He plans to kill himself on what would have been his 20th wedding anniversary, which is coming up in a few weeks.