Dix 's Interest On Mental Health Reform Didn 't Materialize Out Of The Ether

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Dix’s interest in mental health reform didn’t materialize out of the ether. It had roots in her personality, as well as experiences she had while in England. Dix’s personality had the desire to make some sort of mission out of her life, hungering to find a cause to devote herself to. Without any solid purpose in her life, she floated, untethered. In 1838, in response to a letter that Dix had sent her, Dix’s friend Anne noted that Dix was a “…wanderer, doomed to know many a thing of grief and pain” (qtd in Gollaher, Voice for the Mad 118). Despite her despair in 1838, her mental state then was better than it had been in 1836, when she had entered a depression. In 1836, her search for purpose was so desperate that she drove herself to exhaustion and eventually had a mental breakdown (“Origins of the English Asylum Movement”). However, Dix was a woman of privilege, and she had friends that sent her to England to recover with the Rathbone family. It was there in England that she was exposed to the ideas of asylum reform. The Rathbones were friends with William Tuke, who had created the York Retreat for mentally ill individuals. In Tuke’s facility, the patients underwent moral treatment that Dix would come to advocate (Gollaher, “Origins of the English Asylum Movement”). Dix’s stay with the Rathbones was cut short by the death of the grandmother she had been living with from the age of 14 to the age of 16 (Norbury 15). Her grandmother’s death was one of the things that allowed…

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