Detecting and Treating Mental Disorders: The History

In the 1800s Elizabeth Cochrane posed as Nellie Bly and was admitted into a mental institution. Here she exposed some of the horrific practises used at the time to treat mentally ill people. She led the charge in changing the attitude towards mental illness but it wasn’t for another century in 1975 that David Rosehan appeared with an astonishing experiment.

He sent pseudo-patients into mental institutions to see how long it would take before doctors and nurses realised they were sane and, well, they didn’t. The patients were held for an average over 19 days and discharged with the label of being in remission of paranoid schizophrenia.

It has been decades since then and we have vastly advanced our techniques in detecting diagnosing, classifying and treating mental disorders, and a science is gradually being built around this area.