Modern researchers sometimes pass judgment on whether or not a person should have been committed to an insane asylum–but It isn’t always an easy call. Reading patient notes can lead one to believe that disruptiveness rather than insanity caused a commitment (see last post), or that patients were committed for conditions that we realize today have nothing to do with insanity, such as epilepsy.
Some patient notes make it hard to understand what may have been going on with a patient. Notes on a woman at the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum in 1887 show the following: “Symptoms of insanity first appeared about Jan. 1885. She imagines that some one was going to kill her [and] would try to get out of her room and try to hide. The disease appears to increase–sometimes she would not know any of her family–at other times she appears sane and rational.”
This woman’s family may have been worried that she would hurt herself, run away and come to harm, or that she would hurt or otherwise cause trouble for other family members in her delusional state. Sometimes an asylum did seem to be the only solution to 24-hour care if families felt it was needed for a loved one.