In The Asylum: Experience of Mental Health Nursing in London

I have a strong interest in Victorian Mental Health and Asylums, but unfortunately, as of last week, there are no more Victorians alive today. As such I have been brought into the 20th century and plan on interviewing a retired mental health nurse from one of the asylums along the ‘Surrey Belt’ (an area home to most of London’s asylums). I want to focus the interview on the experience of the asylum across the 20th Century; what changed, the treatment of the patients and the attitudes towards mental illness (and those who suffered with it), but also why the nurse chose to go into this particular field of nursing. I also hope to be able to spend some time focusing on male patients that the nurse has come into contact with, commenting on any stigma that they may have faced in relation to their gender, as masculinity and mental health is a specific area of interest for me, although the main goal of this interview is to understand the changes in the asylum. I had initially thought about interviewing a male patient about his experience in the asylum/psychiatric hospital or of mental illness more generally; however, I was concerned about the ethical issues that might accompany an interview like this.

I want to try and trace the shift from the idea of the asylum to the psychiatric hospital, and from the limited understanding of ‘madness’ to a knowledge of mental illness. Although, this transition has not been a smooth one, and, even today, people suffereing still face a strong stigma about their illnesses.

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