When a patient was admitted to St Finan’s Hospital, they were given a diagnosis of a mental illness and an underlying cause. This material gives us insight into the behavior and antecedents that were recognised by the medical profession over a hundred years ago. Click on the diagram to uncover the frequency of the diagnosis or cause. The diagram follows a 30 year timeframe.
The underlying causes (Figure 1) for the mental illness were broad with hereditary being one of the most common cited reasons, following by the vague term of ‘previous attacks’. Alcohol and masturbation were commonly cited, as were female reproduction issues that we would presently class as pregnancy, lactation and menopause.
Figure 2 gives information about the different diagnosis of mental disorders in St Finan’s Hospital. It gives a timeline from 1900 to 1930. Mania remained the most common diagnosis of patients in Killarney District Lunatic Asylum Diagnosis. Mania was usually labelled as chronic, acute or recurrent. Mania is marked by periods of great excitement or euphoria, delusions, and over-activity. The diagnosis with the consistent high levels is mania. Acute, chronic and recurrent mania were labelled together as they should mean the same illness but with different frequencies, repetitiveness or lengths of time. Melancholia is the next most common. Note that some forms of mania and melancholia have their own category. This is because they have a different quality not necessarily related to pure mania or melancholia, for example, mania a potu, is related to mania from excessive alcohol consumption or alcoholic mania.
Mental illnesses were broad with hereditary being one of the most common cited reasons, following by the vague term of ‘previous attacks’. Alcohol and masturbation were commonly cited, as were female reproduction issues that we would presently class as pregnancy, lactation and menopause.
There are many cases where the patient feels that they are being haunted or spirits were trying to get out of them. Though not logged in the admission books, the individual case books have recorded a significant amount of histories of trying to commit suicide, cut their own throat or attack someone else. Cases of predominately males have masturbation listed as the cause of their insanity. Ill health, anaemia, under-nourishment are listed regularly as well as young adults with congenital mental deficiency. Treatment protocol are rarely listed in the KDLA case books, unlike other institutes. There are, however, numerous references to force feeding if the patient refuses to eat.