Dorothea Dix: The Inhumane Treatment Of Mental Illness

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Dorothea Dix was at a young age relatively in charge of keeping house and taking care of her younger siblings due to her mother’s crippling depression and likely other mental illnesses and her father’s abusive achollisim. While her mother likely being her first and most formative experience with mental illness, she was in no way her last.
Having always had a fascination with the mentally ill Dorothea took a teaching position at the East Cambridge Women’s prison where she was shocked to see the inhumane treatment of the women there. Not only were some many of the inmates mentally ill people who had committed no real crime housed alongside actual criminals, the women there were subjected to harsh, corrupt, inhumane treatment. Many of the women
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She had a blunt, cold exterior, was often inflexible, would frighten her nurses, and frequently disregard military rules and orders from surgeons and military officials. Because of this and frequent complaints made by her superiors, in 1863 all nurses were now to report to the highest ranking hospital official in accordance with the General Orders No. 351- bypassing Dorothea completely.
After the war Dorothea resumed her work in the advocacy for the treatment of the mentally ill, finding that in the years after the war hospitals that had once been expanded for the care of the mentally ill were now overcrowded and the plight for those were now just as bad if not worse than when she had started. In 1867 she received a package containing a letter from Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, acknowledging and extolling her efforts as nursing superintendent as well as a United States flag.
While much of her life was unhappy, Dorothea’s work changed and shaped hundreds of lives, from her extensive research into prison and asylums, her hard work in prison and hospital reform, to her prompt and dedicated response to the need for medical treatment for those wounded in the Civil War .This knowledge adds an extra dimension to a woman often described as cold or frightening, revealing a person with a deep-set need to take care of those who were unable to whatever the circumstance

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