Physical Therapies

The second, and probably more commonly known, strand of therapeutic intervention between the 1930s and 1960s concerns the often hazardous physical treatments, many of which patient 254 underwent. In the DCMH they were carried out under increasing difficulties due to overcrowding and staff shortages as the Medical Superintendent’s quote from 1944 shows: ‘special treatments which require great attention on the part of the medical and nursing staff […] have been carried out on appropriate patients, but not to the extent we would like if the staff were sufficient in numbers’ (Medical Superintendent’s Annual Report, 1944).

All the treatments trialled in the DCMH between the 1930s and 1950s were symptomatic, but primarily unspecific attempts to ameliorate mental disturbances and patients had very little control about which treatment they received. The introduction of a new treatment was usually based on its more favourable comparison over existing therapies in terms of outcomes or risks involved. Their application, however, was commented on favourably the Visiting Committee in 1951: ‘the recognised forms of modern treatment are available and the results compare favourably with those of other similar establishments’ (Visitors’ Handbook, 1951). During the same visit they also commented on the good behaviour of patients in the DCMH.