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Suicide, lunacy and the asylum in nineteenth-century England

York, Sarah Hayley (2010)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Suicidal patients constituted a significant proportion of the annual admissions to nineteenth-century public lunatic asylums. They formed a distinct patient category that required treatment and management strategies that were capable of frustrating their suicidal propensity and alleviating their mental affliction. Yet despite being relatively large in number, the suicidal population of public asylums has received only nominal attention in the history of nineteenth-century psychiatry. This thesis examines the admission, discharge, treatment and management of suicidal lunatics over the course of the nineteenth century. It locates suicide and suicidal behaviour within the context of the asylum and uncovers the experiences of patients, their families and asylum staff. There is a distinct appreciation of the broader social and political context in which the asylum operated and how this affected suicide prevention and management. This thesis argues that suicidal behaviour, because of the danger associated with it, triggered admission to the asylum and, once admitted, dangerousness and risk continued to dictate the asylum’s handling of suicidal patients. Rather than cure and custody, it was protection and prevention versus control that dominated the asylum’s treatment of suicidal lunatics. Conclusions are drawn based on evidence from five asylum case studies and contemporary publications.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Smith, Leonard
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Medical & Dental Sciences
Department:School of Health and Population Sciences, History of Medicine Unit
Subjects:R Medicine (General)
RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:801
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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