The first hospital in the U.S. opened its doors in 1753 in Philadelphia. While it treated a variety of patients, six of its first patients suffered from mental illness. In fact, Pennsylvania Hospital would have a pivotal impact on psychiatry.
Benjamin Rush, a physician who has been referred to as “the father of modern psychiatry” largely due to his book, Medical Inquiries and Observations on the Diseases of the Mind, worked at the hospital. He believed in treating mentally ill patients with bloodletting, a treatment that was used by Ancient civilizations. He dismissed demonic theories behind mental illness, and instead thought that psychiatric disorders originated from “hypertension in the brain’s blood vessels” (as cited in Goodwin, 1999).
It was thought that removing blood from the body would help to ease the tension. Patients would indeed typically calm down after a bloodletting, but that was mainly because they were just too weak.
Today, such treatments seem incredibly cruel. But during earlier times, professionals genuinely believed that they were helping patients.
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