The 60 years since the
birth of the NHS have seen major changes in psychiatric treatment.
The 1950s are often held to be the crucial period, as it was during
this decade that the main drug treatments were developed and introduced.
For the first time drugs were available which did more than just
sedate agitated patients. Drugs with anti-psychotic, anti-depressant
and mood stabilising effects were introduced. These drugs have increased
the effectiveness of treatment and contributed to the rise of community-based
The most famous of Glasgow psychiatrists, R D
Laing, was involved in an experiment in social psychiatry at Gartnavel
Royal Hospital in the mid-1950s.
Researchers were appointed to look into the effect
of the environment on patients and the young R D Laing, fresh from
Army service, joined them with a suggestion. It was that twelve
of the most chronically ill patients spend each day with the same
two nurses in a pleasant room with opportunities for communication
and activity. If the patients became noisy, excited or abusive that
was to be met with acceptance.
As they grew fond of the nurses, the Rumpus
Room patients became less disruptive and they employed themselves
on what they saw the nurses doing. In a year or so they were well
enough to leave hospital. Laing concluded that social psychiatry
rather than drug therapy represented the way forward. His subsequent
writings, from The divided self onwards helped fuel
a public debate on psychiatry which still continues.
Recent years have seen a network of community
mental health resource centres being created. Psychiatry has been
brought closer to the population it serves and no longer works out
of remote institutions.
Return to the 1940 - 1950s
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