Apparently it’s not that difficult. According to this list of reasons for admitting people to the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane in the late 1800s, you could get locked up for anything from living an immoral life to egotism, even laziness. I think that covers just about all of us.
But a few of these are particularly hilarious.
- Imprisonment: Really? You’re locking me up for having been locked up? That makes perfect sense.
- Novel Reading: I know people who don’t think much of fiction, but this is going a tad far.
- Over action of the mind and over taxing of mental powers: Apparently lots of people got locked up back then for thinking too hard. As a matter of fact, hard study alone could get you locked up.
- Religious enthusiasm: Anyone who gets excited about their religion should clearly be confined. And if you’re so messed up that you combined this with the previous one and end up in over study of religion, then you’re hopeless.
- Bad whiskey: Ha! If anything could get you locked up for a while, this would be it.
- Women trouble: Enough said.
- Time of Life: This is one of my favorites. Why are you in here? I don’t know, it’s just that time of life.
- Snuff eating for two years: Yep, seems like that would do the trick.
- Asthma: Oh right, a little stay in a mental institution will clear that right up.
- Masturbation: The list has a real issue with this one as it pops up no less than five times. As far as I can tell, the following are dangerous: mixing it with tobacco, doing it while having syphilis, doing it for 30 years or more, and doing it in a “deranged” manner, whatever that means. But whatever you do, don’t “suppress” it either. No mixed messages there.
On a more serious note, I found it fascinating how many of these are issues that many struggle with today. It’s always interesting to see how much people are people no matter what era we live in, and the deep problems and challenges we face in every generation are so often the same.
- Abuse (ill treatment by husband, excessive sexual abuse, self abuse)
- Drug use (opium habit)
- Sexual problems (nymphomania, venereal excesses, sexual derangement)
- Brain dysfunctions (kicked in the head by a horse, brain fever, congestion of brain, gathering in the head)
- Relational problems (desertion by husband, domestic trouble)
- Stress (business nerves, desertion by husband)
- Grief (death of sons in war, shooting of daughter, grief)
- Traumatic Stress (exposure in army, fighting fire, the war, gunshot wound)
I was particularly intrigued to see “self abuse” on the list. Having worked with teens for many years, I’m well aware of how widespread this problem is today. But for some reason I had never considered the history of self abuse or wondered if it was a problem that people had wrestled with in prior generations. Unsurprisingly, we have.
I realize that in this post I mixed funny and tragic together. But life is like that.