Home | News | Be proud of your roots: academic on lunatic asylums and mental health nursing
The dark corridor, a common image in films depicting insane asylums.

Be proud of your roots: academic on lunatic asylums and mental health nursing

Halloween is over for another year and it’s likely more than a few revellers across the globe opted for one of the staples of any spooky dress up party – the evil nurse.

Tied to that costume choice is their presence in a number of horror films and TV shows, often set in an insane asylum.

But one Australian academic wants to remind people that the role insane asylums played in the community is often at odds with those depictions, and that mental health nurses should be proud of their roots.

Drawing on her PhD research, CQUniversity's Dr Julie Bradshaw used her address to the recent 45th International Mental Health Nursing Conference to describe how early lunatic asylums provided physical, mental, social and spiritual care.

Apart from movies, some of the negative perceptions of asylums came from their geographical isolation and resulting sense of silence, and connections to police action. "Asylums were seen as very punitive," Bradshaw said. "There's the idea that people stay in asylums forever. They get locked away because their relatives don't want them and they are not well cared for."

And Bradshaw said while there was a dark side to asylums, including violence and a dearth of medication, she added the work that happened there was the best staff could do at the time.

"People went to lunatic asylums because they were physically ill, or socially excluded or were victims of domestic violence, because they had nowhere else to go, and were provided with a sanctuary and care.

"We should celebrate our history and look at the positive things that we can take from that."

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