Case Study III (1930-1958)

Female patient No 254 was admitted to the Devon County Mental Hospital (DCMH), as it had been renamed under the 1930 Mental Treatment Act (MTA), in 1933, suffering from ‘mania’. As many other patients, she came from a loving home and had been gainfully employed before her illness. Her attack had lasted for two weeks during which time she had been ‘very abusive and excitable’ and did ‘not behave like a sane person’. This final statement coming from the patient’s sister illustrates that even at the beginning of the 20th century decisions about the fine line between sanity and insanity were often taken in the community. She was subsequently certified as ‘a person of unsound mind’. About one month after her admission she was granted voluntary status and remained in hospital for another month before being recommended for discharge. Her total stay in hospital lasted about ten weeks. It is, however, interesting to note that this was already her fifth admission, the first one being in 1924, and she would have multiple admissions before she died in the DCMH aged 76 from a combination of influenza and bronchopneumonia. While she had to enter hospital as a certified patient on several occasions, the majority of her admissions occurred on her own volition. During her stays in hospital, she was given a variety of treatments, including social and physical therapies as well as psychoactive drug treatment.