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Ennis hospital’s place in history of psychiatry

ENNIS Mental Hospital, the now closed Our Lady’s Hospital, features prominently in a new history of psychiatry in Ireland. Brendan Kelly, consultant psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry in Trinity College, Dublin, in his new book, Hearing Voices: The History of Psychiatry in Ireland (Irish Academic Press), gives an insight into what life was like in “public asylums” in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In Ireland, the history of psychiatry is dominated by the vast network of public asylums that opened across the country during the 1800s. This extraordinary mass institutionalisation was underpinned by genuine concern for the destitute mentally ill, who lived lives of vagrancy or languished in prisons in the early 1800s. Despite the initial idealism, however, the asylums were soon overcrowded, anti-therapeutic and extremely unhealthy places. This large gap between rhetoric and reality was demonstrated vividly in 1843, when a select committee of the House of Lords provided a hard-hitting report on the “state of the lunatic …

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