Asylums: 1873- Napa State Hospital for the Insane

Napa State Asylum
Napa State Asylum

Treatment of the Insane

During the time of the Greeks, the insane were treated cruelly and tortured. Their illness was not understood. Then in the 5th Century, the monks of Jerusalem established hospitals where the insane patients were treated with humanity.

Later, during the Middle Ages, the insane were once again treated cruelly and tortured. Their illness once again not being understood and instead blamed on foolish beliefs, such as being possessed by the devil.

After such long suffering; came the teachings of a great man. Dr. Philippe Pinel, of France who brought to light the treatment of the insane. He felt they were treated worse that criminals and animals. He showed how ignorance and prejudice was the cause for mistreatment of the insane. Dr. Pinel believed that diseases of the brain could be helped with humane treatment, exercise and stimulating the mind. He taught this and applied it as he was in charge of two asylums in France. It was his teachings that spread throughout the world and became the model for the American Asylums.

But just as history has shown, we are doomed to repeat the past if we don't continue to learn from it. Some of the institutions of today are found to be following the ancient ideas and cruelty of long ago. It is time once again to look into these treatments and give the insane back their dignity.

Asylums, Institutions, Sanatoriums

When you say the word "asylum", scary movies or words like looney, nuts, psycho come to mind. Some people take comfort in making jokes about "crazy" people. However, to be institutionalized is never a joking matter.

The word asylum by definition has several meanings; an institution for the care of the mentally ill or the aged, a place that provides protection or safety- refuge. That is not always the case when you an overrun of patients, understaffed facilities, under funded facilities and people looking to make a buck. The amoral can make an innocent individuals life a living hell.

Our mentally ill are supposed to be cared for and yet their care even today is still as demeaning as it was with the inception of Asylums, Sanatoriums, Institutions or as they refer to them in present time, State Hospitals.

Changing what you call it will never change the treatment until there is actually government oversight and compassion from our government. Throwing money in it's direction just leads to corruption, mismanagement and ill treatment. The "hippocratic oath" is forgotten when greed takes over.

Would you institutionalize a loved one?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Maybe
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Are you scared yet?

Well, you should be. Making the decision to institutionalize a loved one is never easy. Financially it can be devastating and emotionally it can be heartbreaking. To leave someone you love in the care of others is always a hard decision.

Ask the tough questions, never leave until you are satisfied and comfortable with the decisions you have made.

Things that will make you think twice.

Ca1868, California authorized a commissioner to visit existing asylums in the U.S. and Europe to create a model for future asylums. The city of Napa was chosen to build their prototype. Construction of the Napa State Hospital began in 1873 and by 1875 it would open for business. The Gothic building would house approximately 600 beds and expanded as the need arose.

By 1910, electrical railway stops gave it easier access and it became a self-sufficient community, up until 1924 when a group of researchers found an area that they believed held up to 4368 bodies of patients and indigents of the area. Not known when, but at some point in time a crematorium was built on the premisses and another 5000 individuals were disposed of.

Sadly, the asylum never remained the way that Dr. Wilkins had envisioned it. Fast forward to the 1990s and the "three strikes you're out" law, then the asylum becomes a true nightmare. Criminals began pleading guilty rather than going to prison and so they were sent to the Napa State Hospital. From 1995-2005, 79% of the patients were criminals and only 21% were civil/mental patients. Now, housing murderers, pedophiles and other hardcore criminals escaping their fate to reap terror on the mentally ill. In 2006, reports of assaults on staff members as well as drug dealing to the point where patient records showed overdoses.

This is just one of thousands throughout the country.



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