The Rest Cure and other “treatments”…

In class today, we discussed past treatments for mental illnesses.

Check out this amazing online exhibit from UVA: The Neurasthenia Rest Cure and Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell

Very telling — look at the cures for men (outdoors, exercise) versus for women (quiet, retreat from society).

Here’s another description of the Rest Cure:

The rest cure usually lasted six to eight weeks. It involved isolation from friends and family. It also enforced bed rest, and nearly constant feeding on a fatty, milk-based diet. Patients were force-fed if necessary – effectively reduced to the dependency of an infant. Nurses cleaned and fed them, and turned them over in bed. Doctors used massage and electrotherapy to maintain muscle tone. Patients were sometimes prohibited from talking, reading, writing and even sewing.

Mitchell believed the point of the rest cure was physical and moral. It boosted the patient’s weight and increased blood supply. It also removed the patient from a potentially toxic social atmosphere at home. However, the implicit point was the neurologist breaking his (almost always female) patient’s will.


Here’s a link to the SYSK podcast episode on lobotomies. A few years back, a student did their NHD project on Dr. Moneece because of this podcast!

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Here’s an article on Rosemary Kennedy.

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