“The doctors, from a humiliating consciousness of their uselessness in mental illness, vent their spite at the apparent incurability of mental disease in harshness toward innocent sufferers” – Samuel Hahnemann (2)
In the history of mental illness, Samuel Hahnemann was the first person to show compassion and advocate humane treatment of mentally ill persons. Prior to his time asylums were indecipherable from prisons. Patients were crowded into cramped quarters with little food and no medical attention. They were publicly humiliated and flogged for the “amusement” of spectators. There were no efficacious treatments in conventional medicine at that time, and so people with mental illness were cast off as incurable or even “possessed”. Many physicians even believed “insanity” was contagious and so refused to treat it. (1)
Hahnemann saw mental illness as any other disease, a weakness or imbalance in the vital force, which expressed itself as individual symptoms. He hypothesized that true mental illness stemmed from an original physical illness which progressed to the point where physical symptoms diminished, until all that appeared left were strong mental symptoms. He also observed that in some cases, if faulty education, bad morals, neglect, superstition, or ignorance were to blame, then the patient’s disease may be ameliorated simply from the offering of “sensible advice” from the physician. This theory may hold some validity today, in that in some cases of mental illness, patients are helped far more from counseling than from drugs or any other therapy. This may be because the disease is related more to error in thought than an actual physical illness. Of course, in cases of a true imbalance in the vital force, the correct homeopathic medicines must be given in order to ameliorate symptoms of the disease and bring about cure. (2)
Hahnemann started what was actually the first humane asylum for the mentally ill. This asylum was located in Georgenthal, in a wing of the castle of Duke Ernst of Gotha. The Duke had given this wing of his castle to Hahnemann to use as he wished to treat patients. He had only one patient during this time, the author Klockenbring of Hannover, who was suffering from severe mania. Hahnemann cured him completely within seven months of treatment.
First Homeopathic Psychiatric Hospital in USA
The Middletown Asylum (later changed to Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital) was the first homeopathic psychiatric hospital in the US, founded April 20, 1874. The success rate of this hospital was considerably higher than the success rate of its neighboring allopathic asylums. Middletown boasted a 40.59% recovery rate and 4.37% death rate in 1883, compared to a 25.37% average recovery rate and 6.49% death rate of surrounding non-homeopathic hospitals. These statistics may be less impressive considering the conventional treatment options of this time period, however still significant. The superiority of treatment at Middletown was touted nation-wide and led to the development of homeopathic hospitals throughout NY and other states. (2)
The Middletown Homeopathic hospital still exists today, known as Middletown Psychiatric Center. It is unclear at what point management as a homeopathic hospital was dissolved. It most likely occurred gradually with the fall of homeopathic schools in the US and subsequent decline in well trained homeopaths. From historic accounts, it seems the hospital operated according to its homeopathic principles from the time of its opening in 1874 until sometime around the early 1950s. A substantial number of homeopathic hospitals followed suit during the period between the late 1800s to early 1900s, but sadly, met the same demise as their predecessors.
Cured cases of mania and “melancholy” litter the historic pages of old homeopathic journals, showing that the idea of treating mental illness with homeopathy is not a new one. Impressive as Middletown’s success rates were for their time, we feel that the homeopathic treatment of mental illness was still in its infancy during this period. We now have a much deeper understanding of how homeopathy works in mental illness, and also a much broader scope of proven homeopathic medicines to choose from.
1. Schepper L: Hahnemann Revisited;
2. Perez CB, Tomosko PL: Homeopathy and the Treatment of Mental Illness in the 19th
Century. Hospital and Community Psychiatry, Vol 45. No. 10, October 1994.