A Family in Crisis: Why Committal was an Option

Family | The Pressing Need for Asylums  |  A Family in Crisis . . . why Commital?

There are a variety of reasons why people entered or were placed into an institution that provided care for those experiencing mental illness. During the Victorian era, social ideals were often reflected in reasons for committal. The refusal to work, and sexual promiscuity were examples of behaviours that were considered socially unacceptable and, in some cases, cause for institutional admittance.

More pressing concerns, such as economic difficulties, were also important factors in committal, and show how asylums often functioned as a mediator in trying times. The strategic use of the asylum by families during periods of financial challenges resulted in short-term stays for patients. Both motivations make it clear that families made use of the resources available to them when they were left with nowhere else to turn.

People suffering from complicated family situations were often admitted to provincial asylums. Loss of family members, particularly during periods of war, caused significant grief and was often cited as a reason one entered into institutional care. Domestic abuse and unhappy marriages also contributed to asylum committals. International examples point to the asylum as a sanctuary from violence for people in abusive situations and show how committals included not only the abused, but also the abusers. The asylum allowed the family to recuperate from alcohol induced violence while their relative was treated for a variety of aliments, mania being the most frequently cited.

Finally, preconceived notions of the hereditary nature of were reflected in committal. Social awareness was heightened in situations where there was a family history of treatment. This influenced a family's decision to commit members with recognizable mental illness to the asylum.