The concept of mental health emerged over a thousand years ago, when asylums were used to treat mentally ill people. However, their primary purpose was to exclude them from society. Most of the time, prisoners were forced to live in windowless cells, chained to beds. In the late 1700s, French physician Philippe Pinel advocated a more humane treatment for these patients. In 1795, he unchained patients at the La Salpetriere mental hospital. This change in treatment was immensely beneficial for patients, and many eventually left the hospital.
Although the modern concept of mental health has its roots in the ancient world, it was not widely accepted for centuries. Ancient cultures regarded mental illness as a result of a violent god. Although this view was criticized, some scientists have argued that mental illness is a biological disorder. In the eighteenth century, Europe’s trade in lunacy soared. The insane in Britain were confined to private madhouses, and doctors had little input. During a bout of mental illness during the reign of King George III in 1788, he sought treatment from a renowned psychiatrist, Francis Willis. As a result, a parliament investigation was commissioned to examine the care of the mentally ill in general.
During the 19th century, the idea of a moral treatment became popular. Physicians began to address the social, occupational, and individual needs of patients, focusing on rehabilitation. They also encouraged patients to engage in manual labor and intellectual conversation. Ultimately, this approach would eventually lead to the creation of “traitement moral” in the late nineteenth century. It has evolved into what we know today as “mental health.”