Mental Health Nursing

      3 Comments on Mental Health Nursing

The place of nursing staff in psychiatric care past (and present) remains under-researched. Yet patients’ day-to-day lives were profoundly affected by those in regular contact with them. Until formal training was introduced around 1900, nurses based what they did mostly on patient behaviour and their own subjective ideas of why their charges spoke and acted as they did.  The level of formal training required was not high; the job requirements were patience, self-control, emotional toughness, and physical strength. Early male psychiatric attendants acted primarily as bodyguards, preventing patients from harming themselves and others in their more manic phases.  Training for all mental health nurses was not revolutionized to include therapeutic elements until the 1970s.

Image of the week: Nursing Staff. Royal Western Counties Institution, [Idiot Asylum] Star Cross, Devon, late nineteenth century
Full Bibliographic Record: Wellcome Library Catalogue L0000665
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

3 thoughts on “Mental Health Nursing

  1. john

    Hello Professor Houston, I have been really enjoying the course and especially the latest one on the history of psychiatric nursing. I was wondering what texts have shaped your insights in this episode?

    Thanks John

    1. Morag Allan Campbell

      Good to hear you’re enjoying the podcasts!

      Specific to this episode:

      Borsay, A. and Dale, P. (eds), Mental health nursing: the working lives of paid carers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Manchester, 2015).

      Dingwall, R., Rafferty, M. and Webster, C., An introduction to the social history of nursing (London, 1988), 123-44.

      McCrae, N. & Nolan, P., The story of nursing in British mental hospitals: echoes from the corridors (London, 2016).

      Nolan, P., A history of mental health nursing (London, 1993/1998).

      Plus lots of articles and books about individual asylums (check the background reading list on our website for further information). Nolan 1993/1998 is the best starting point.



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