One hundred and fifty years on, how, Professor Clare asked an invited audience of eminent non-psychiatrists at the Royal Society of Medicine, do we fare? Is there really a more positive attitude to mental illness, now than in the nineteenth century, or even the 1960s? The Victorian public image of madness was characterised by ignorance, intolerance and fear and the mentally ill regarded as less than human, available to be exploited or used to entertain; and also, dangerous and incurable, best put away in large mental hospitals or ‘bins’. The media colluded in maintaining such attitudes: a leader in The Times in 1900, commenting on the 30-fold increase in the mental hospital population, was anxious that soon the mad might outnumber the sane!
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