The aim of this paper will be to endeavour to show that neighbours of public asylums for the insane—occasionally using the term neighbours with some latitude—may, under certain circumstances, contribute to the well-being of selected patients, by services of various kinds; moreover, that not only residents in the vicinity, but also friends at a distance, may have a share in alleviating the affliction, perhaps even of promoting the convalescence, of inmates of these hospitals. Among 65,000 persons approximately computed as the number of patients in asylums and other institutions, there are many who are absolutely friendless and unvisited. Some come from distant counties, or even from foreign countries, beyond the range of practicable visits; others have outlived their relatives and friends; or these have, in course of time, discontinued their intercourse; others, again, saddest case of all, are perhaps deliberately deserted, purposely shunned, from selfish apprehension lest responsibility of maintenance or of assistance should be incurred, or from reluctance that their acquaintanceship with an inmate of a lunatic asylum should become known. So, from one cause or another, there are not a few patients who become, abruptly or gradually, cut off from communication with the outside world, practically forgotten as “dead men out of mind.” Yet, in many of these, there must surely exist yearnings after sympathy and that disinterested friendship which, “all for love and nothing for reward,” would take a personal interest in themselves.
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