Inside Britain’s psychiatric nightmare

This article by Ian Birrell has been published on the UnHerd website. It begins:

“There were still grim Victorian-era asylums dotted around Britain when Penelope Campling started out as a young psychiatrist almost 40 years ago. She began her career in The Towers, one of two such places in Leicester. It was bleak: filled with people admitted decades earlier, often on barbaric grounds such as having an illegitimate baby, who were then forced into effective imprisonment and forgotten. They were rigidly controlled, chemically coshed and often subjected to cruelty. Many staff seemed as robotically institutionalised as their patients; one consultant would prescribe electric shocks as punishment for crying.

Campling moved six months later to a new mental health unit tied to a general hospital. This building seemed to embody a brave new chapter in the history of psychiatry as the huge old institutions began being emptied in Britain. The drive to shift their 100,000 patients into community settings had started in the Sixties as the counter culture confronted traditional institutions across society. Radical psychiatrists such as RD Laing — who described insanity as ‘a perfectly rational response to an insane world’ — challenged the core concepts of control, while a series of scandals exposed the brutal realities lurking behind the locked doors of some state ‘care’ …”

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