60 years of change

Treatment of mental health problems has changed greatly in the past 60 years. The Victorian asylums were closed in the 1980s and 1990s as part of the care in the community policy. The service user movement has become vocal and there is more emphasis on psychotherapy and treatments that take account of social and emotional factors.

In 1946 asylums housed more than 100,000 people who were treated with rudimentary medication and often held for life. The development of anti-psychotic medication in the 1950s allowed many people who would have remained in long-stay hospitals to leave.

At the same time as insulin shock therapy was introduced for people with schizophrenia in the 1930s, electro-convulsive therapy was used without anaesthetic to treat mood disorders. It was also misused to control or punish patients.

Medication has developed significantly and psychotropic drugs have been replaced with more effective drugs with fewer
side-effects. Psychotherapy has also evolved, and more mental disorders are treated in primary care.

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