1. Gonaver tells us that analysis of race is missing from the declension narratives that are typical of asylum historiography. (17) Is this another example of systemic racism or are their other factors in place?
2. Dr. McClurken’s chapter 5 reading mentions the “social stigma” attached to mental illness in Civil War veterans (139). It states that the stigma of a mentally ill family member could undermine a family’s chance of obtaining economic support from their community. As a nation, do you believe we have come to understand veterans suffering from PTSD? Are we doing enough to help?
Submitted by Bonnie Akkerman I pledge…
1. Although pg. 120 of this “Jeff McClurken” guy's book claims that the Civil War's trauma directly caused or exacerbated mental illnesses in its survivors, much of this chapter focuses on the interesting fact that post-war mental asylums served as a sort of proto-welfare system for bereaved family members. Was this trend a net positive, or did it continue a dangerous precedent of forcing these facilities to work beyond their original boundaries/capabilities?
2. What do you think of the 19th-century mental hospitals this work studies classifying mental illness into: “mania,” “melancholia,” or “dementia”? Were these categories prescient/insightful in any way, or were they wholly reductive?
Submitted by Theron Gertz I pledge…
1. Wendy Gonaver's The Peculiar Institution is another example of a scholarly work from this field that focuses on the evolution of modern psychiatry through the lens of a particular institution with a key figurehead. How does her analysis of Superintendent John Galt compare to Nancy Tomes' analysis of Thomas Story Kirkbride? What are some notable differences you noticed as you read Gonaver's work?
2. I find it interesting that the Eastern Lunatic Asylum was the only Antebellum Asylum to accept both enslaved and freed peoples as patients, as well as having enslaved African Americans as attendants. This is really the first time we have discussed African Americans as patients, particularly those enslaved. This is to be expected considering this asylum was located in Virginia.
3. In the McClurken reading (who is this guy?!) it is mentioned that in the cases of John Reed and Charles White that when they were conscripted they appeared to suffer severe anxiety or a psychological breakdown. I could not help but find this resembles similar cases I have heard about from World War II and the Vietnam War.
Submitted by Lyndsey Clark. I pledge…
1. I find it fascinating that there was such a thing as being a “paid patient”. What could a paid patient have looked like in the Eastern Lunatic Asylum, or in any of the asylums we have read about?
2. Were there any other forms of economic benefits of being the first mixed-patient asylum?
3. What were the influences of gender and religion in the E.L.A.? Besides who gets treated first and the quality of care and treatment.
4. I don't know about you guys, but this McClurken guy sounds so familiar…I can't put my finger on it…oh well. One of the factors which interests me in McClurken's reading is its take on white masculinity, and how it was affected by the Civil War. How could've white masculinity been affected by the war and its conflicts?
Submitted by Erica Banks. I pledge…
Question 1: How widespread was religious discrimination in asylums? Did superintendents treat other religious-affiliated patients differently?
Question 2: Was the civil war the beginning of studying PTSD even if they did not know what it was at the time?
Submitted by Griffin Nameroff
1.Why was Galt so certain that having unrestricted social interacted would not have a negative effect on how the community treated the mentally ill? Would the stigma around mental health at the time allow for communities in America to be able to accept the responsibility to treat the mentally ill in their towns and homes? Did having other asylums like Kirkbride’s complicate this because they offered the community a way to treat the insane away from their homes and families?
2. Gonaver mentions that the availability of slaves for hire was entirely dependent on the willingness of masters to employ them. What do you think would be some of the reasons as to why a slave owner would be willing to send one of their enslaved to work in an insane asylum?
Submitted by Jack Kurz
1. The status and treatment of white veterans and others are shown in the asylum records. However, was there any African Americans also being treated at the asylum at the same time as this in flux of patients occurred? And if so what was their level of treatment and care?
2. Could have some of the patients that were readmitted to the asylum following the Civil War have suffered relapses not brought on by the Civil War in any way? And was there any major cases related to this in asylum records?
Submitted by Parker Siebenschuh
1. What would be the reason why “calm” patients like Martha Lewis and Randolph Shelton were institutionalized by their families?
2. Why are historians reluctant to analyze southern institutions? Is it because they think they're not important or is there not enough documentation from the institutions?
Submitted By Audrey Schroeder. I pledge…
1) On page 60, Gonaver mentions the work that the patients did while they were inside the asylum. Do you think this was beneficial for the patients? Was it safe? (this was pre any workplace safety laws; would these even apply?)
2) Gonaver mentions that domestic violence played a role in the population that ended up being patients at the asylum. Why do you think this happened? Did this persist into the future of psychiatry?
Carson Berrier (I pledge…)