Film Review: 10 Days in a Madhouse


10 Days in a Mad-House is an extremely sad story that delves into the harsh conditions of the unfortunate patients of Blackwell’s Insane Asylum. The film and handout are very similar and are told in practically the same manner. The handout and movie only seemed to differ slightly. For instance, the handout didn’t include the scene in which Nellie gets injected in order to fall asleep. Consequently, she dies, however, is revived in desperation when needed from an attorney toward the end of the story. Considering the utter torture these patients endured, not much could be dramatized in the film in order to make it more interesting because it already is so dramatic in real life.  

The treatment of the poor patients was insanely inhumane. They were simply treated like animals locked in a zoo (if not worse.) Asylums were used for anything but good. Population control and covering up things like cheating  were a big factor in women getting sent there. Literal murder was witnessed by many patients including Nellie and was so easily covered up every time. Any plea of sanity was not taken seriously since “every insane person pleas sanity.” People were stripped of their pride and beat into a state of forever silence right in front of Nellie’s eyes. Tillie, another patient in the ward, went from a friend of Nellie’s to an enemy as a result of the drugs they gave her. According to Nellie, some of the most “normal” people you could encounter enter Blackwell’s. Not only did sane people enter, but they also never left and were never given a sliver of a chance to. Admission into the asylum wasn’t very hard and there were a variety of different ways people were sent. Since men were always right, the simple act of signing a paper could open the door to torture among women who merely caught their men cheating. Many started out deathly sick which led to hallucinations and acting out. Ultimately, this cost them a lifelong sentence to Blackwell’s because of  “insanity.” Cases of true insanity were seen in the asylum occasionally. Nellie Brown, however, had to go through three doctors and a judge in order to be deemed insane. Therefore, it is very situation dependant how you end up in the asylum.

Modern asylums differ from asylums from back then in many ways. For starters, if a maid murders a patient, they will likely go to prison for the rest of their life rather than simply just getting away with no consequences. Things have most definitely changed for the better since Blackwell’s. Old asylums have been shut down, new ones allow more access to therapists for patients, provide more medical care for patients, etc. Some things have yet to change. The mentally ill are still seen as less than in the wards and can still be thrown around in some wards. Much more care is given to the patients and they receive actual medicine in comparison to the opium that they would force patients to consume back then. 

I think that the treatment of the patients is going to improve. You can fully gauge a mentally ill person and help them 100%, in my opinion, but I do believe that we can try to the best of our ability. We are getting a better understanding of the mentally ill and how to treat them as our technology and society improves.  However, I still think we have a long way left to go. We are getting better and more specific diagnoses which result in better and more specific medications and other treatments that aid people better. 

As a society, we still have much to learn in order to fully aid the mentally ill. We should start treating them as people and not lesser than. Improving our mental institutions to make them feel more like home and less prison-like would aid the patients greatly in my opinion. While we have greatly improved since 1887, we still have a lot to work on. Providing a more comfortable and personal living environment for the patients also couldn’t hurt. Most wards these days have one room dedicated to comfort and it’s not very nice or up-to-date. The voices of the patients should be heard more often, and they should get more of a say in what they can and cannot do. Many wards force medicines, clothes, sleep schedules, and more onto patients that can surely add on to the stress more than they think it’s taking away. I know that some of these things can be the root of their issues and need to be fixed, but if it is not, I don’t see why the ward feels the need to control that aspect of their life. I do think that wards give a decent amount of freedom to the patients, however, I think they can improve in some departments on how much they are giving or taking away. 

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