Shades of Insanity: The Treatment of Ohio’s African American Mental Patients From 1838-1900
CitationBerkley, Amy N. 2020. Shades of Insanity: The Treatment of Ohio’s African American Mental Patients From 1838-1900. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThe current disparities within Ohio’s mental healthcare system stem from a long history of barriers to access as well as racist diagnostic and treatment methods. Despite the impetus to provide care for Ohio’s mentally ill during the asylum movement of the early nineteenth century, discriminatory notions about who should receive care prevented African Americans from entering the asylums. Barred from Ohio’s public institutions, African Americans were forced to endure unsanitary conditions as well as abusive treatment within the local infirmaries and jailhouses. After a lengthy legislative battle, colored citizens in Ohio won the right to use the state-established mental institutions, although their access was limited to one facility within the state. Situated in Cincinnati, an area of diverse views regarding black rights, the Longview Insane Asylum paved the way for Ohio’s care of African American mentally ill. Although the first asylum in the state to admit African American patients in 1867, Longview’s Colored Department reinforced racist understandings of mental illness through their diagnostic and treatment patterns, in which they displayed a clear tendency to label colored patients as violent and boisterous. When Longview struggled for adequate state funding amidst postbellum political tensions, they limited the admission of African Americans and resorted to the use of antiquated manual restraint to deal with chronic overcrowding. Thus, Ohio’s African Americans who already suffered from mental “otherness,” were forced to bear the weight of social “otherness” while seeking healing throughout the nineteenth century.
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