What Methods Were Used To Treat Individuals Who Were Suffering From Mental Illness Before The Renaissance Period? What Was The Rationale Behind These Methods?


3 Answers

Samuel Chiltern Profile
Samuel Chiltern answered
Archaeologists have found evidence of attempts to treat mental illness as far back as 5,000 BC. We believe that early humans thought that mental health issues were caused by supernatural phenomena.

The earliest evidence of treatment for these conditions show that attempts were made to release spirits believed to be in possession of a person - by chipping holes into the sufferer's skull.

This process is called trepanning, and may have been effective in some cases. This is because it allowed for a release of pressure that had built-up inside the skull.

There is also evidence of trepanned skulls that had healed, so at least this intervention wasn't always fatal!

The Role of Religion Within Issues of Mental Illness
Ancient Mesopotamians and Hebrews believed that mental illness was either caused by demonic possession, or by a curse from God. Both groups used prayers, exorcisms and atonement to try to cure sufferers.

The ancient Persians believed that good hygiene, and carrying out good deeds was key to preserving mental health.

Advances in Treatments for Mental Illness
The Ancient Egyptians started the ball rolling with a more progressive stance on treating mental disorders. They advocated participation in the arts as a way to achieve balance.

The Egyptians were also sophisticated surgeons, and seemed to understand that the brain was the centre of mental processes.

The ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, was the first to denounce supernatural forces as the source of mental illness, and instead proposed that the cause was rooted within the brain and body.

Things stagnated through the middle ages, however, as people continued to rely upon the notions put forward by Hippocrates, namely the presence of the four humours: Blood, phlegm, bile and black bile.

The treatments that were still used attempted to bring these four substances back into balance, and these included a number of unappealing methods, including taking laxatives and blood-letting.
Jeanette Cauldwell Profile
Trepanning, bleeding and religious rituals such as exorcisms.

The ancient Greeks were highly-sophisticated, and had institutions designed to care of the mentally ill, which resembled the luxury rehabilitation centers that exist today in Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara.

It was thought that the best way to cure mental illness was to allow people to roam freely across beautifully landscaped gardens, to paint, listen to music, and do other recreational activities like swimming.

Interestingly, this method was much more effective and humane than some of the mental hospitals that exist today.
rosa baez Profile
rosa baez answered
Unfortunately, mentally ill people were put in into some pretty terrible places with no way of improving their plights. Conditions were horrible, and these places harboured neglect and abuse.

There was very little understanding of mental illness, and therefore the sick were contained in terrible conditions.

Answer Question