Photo by National Cancer Institute

Receiving mental health care nowadays can be a double-edged sword, but compared to the history of mental illness treatment timeline in the past, we certainly got it better.

The treatments and torture procedures that we have today are way better than it was before. Back in the day, there were a lot of inhumane procedures and treatments that didn’t help patients at all. Now, therapy and medicine are more widely available than ever. Numerous individuals are now more honest and open regarding their challenges.

Unfortunately, the stigma we’ve tied to mental health disorders in our society remains very real. With that in mind, let’s look at the history of mental health care.

image of doctor discussing to the client how she’s feeling about the treatment displaying a good track of the history of mental illness treatment timeline
Photo by National Cancer Institute

Early Treatment Methods for Mental Illness in the Middle Ages

The increased discussion of mental health in the past few decades may lead some people to conclude that these issues simply did not exist until we began talking about them. But this could not be farther from what is true.

Mental diseases have existed since the beginning of humankind. However, a few of the most important early treatments appeared in the Middle Ages. From the outbreak of the plague to the Holy Crusades, living in this era was difficult, and dealing with mental disorders was not an exemption.

People with mental health problems were typically social outcasts, at best. They were sometimes even, in the worst-case scenario, believed to be inhabited by witches or demons. Exorcisms, hunger, imprisonment, and other horrific mistreatments were frequently utilized in an attempt to force the “evil” out of afflicted individuals.

The Drastic Measures Back in the 16th Century

When the 16th century came around, greater and more extreme procedures were used to treat mentally ill patients. Social seclusion and jail remained pervasive, albeit mental hospitals were becoming more common than criminal incarcerations. Around this time, Henry VIII gave the city of London control of Bedlam, one of history’s most infamous mental asylums.

Bedlam had been housing people with mental illnesses for several centuries. Furthermore, this is around the period when surgical methods, such as drilling holes in the skull, were first tried as therapies for mental illnesses. The history of mental illness treatment timeline certainly didn’t start great, especially the treatments and torture procedures these asylums did.

Patricia Lubeck, author of Asylum Scandals Abuse, Torture, Corruption and Murder in Minnesota’s State Hospitals, covers some of the darkest controversies and secrets these asylums have. It tackles a more abominable history of mental illness treatment and atrocities.

image of a black bed close to a tiled window with ominous items portraying the history of mental illness treatment timeline
Photo by Peter Herrmann

Early Treatment Methods for Mental Illness Back in the 19th and 20th Centuries

The term “mental hygiene” originated in the nineteenth century. Although illnesses like depression and substance misuse existed before then, there was no common phrase to describe them.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, mental hospitals underwent significant change. Nellie Bly and Dorothea Dix were both well-known activists during this period. They experienced deplorable circumstances inside mental facilities and actively advocated for improvements.

Yet there was still quite a ways to go. Why? Because invasive therapies such as lobotomies continued to be used well into the twentieth century. But its utility began to die down back in the 1950s.

Talk therapy grew more popular at this time. A few of the earliest clinical trials for psychological therapies began in the 1920s. Throughout the 1950s, the very first antidepressants were produced. During the 20th century’s latter half came around, other medications like stimulants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers were developed.

Mental Health Treatment Breakthroughs in Today’s Time

Mental health therapy is at its peak in the twenty-first century, particularly in recent years. Psychotherapy has evolved into several diverse ways that are well adapted to different diseases. We can see a much wider range of mental health medicines that are readily available today, too. The conditions inside today’s mental hospitals are exponentially better compared to the past.

Mental health advocates are more vocal than ever before. This made the stigma surrounding mental health and getting help slowly but steadily disappear.

image of doctors examining a patient greatly shows the history of mental illness treatment timeline in the past
Photo by Austrian National Library

We Certainly Have an Interesting History of Mental Illness Treatment Timeline

The ubiquity of research studies in today’s mental health strategy has been particularly beneficial in terms of therapeutic improvement. Clinical trials and committed researchers are responsible for the many therapy alternatives.

Now that you know the mental health timeline for hundreds of years, it’s time to narrow down on a single state and learn its mental asylum treatments and torture procedures. We suggest getting a copy of Patricia Lubeck’s Asylum Scandals Abuse, Torture, Corruption and Murder in Minnesota’s State Hospitals by visiting her website at

Don’t forget to check out our other articles, too, and discover the dark side of asylum treatment!