Sample Film Studies Paper on A History of the Madhouse

This is a true story film that seeks to unearth the facts about the Britain or the Victorian Asylums. These were confinements for the mentally ill patients, and the documentary takes a broad approach to explaining how they functioned and the ultimate reason for their closure. In the society today, mentally ill patients are treated with dignity and respect as any other patients. They are equal members of a society like everyone else. This was not the case during the past decades when the madhouses or asylums were being used in Britain. Mentally ill patients were dumped by their loved ones in these confinements, and the psychiatrists were left to care for them. The documentary takes two distinct approaches in explaining the history of the Asylums. First, they were hubs for medical discoveries and second, they were centers of brutality and abuse. Whereas the current medical approach to successful treatment of medical illnesses has its origin from the asylums, the brutality and abuse that happened in them is the most memorable experience.

The British Asylums were meant for the mentally challenged patients. However, some of the people confined in these facilities showed no sign of mental illness. For instance, Joan Tugwell who had previously served in the army went to the asylum seeking medical attention after suffering from trauma due to the effects of the war. She met people in the facility with no mental problems. She only had a minor problem, but the psychiatrists in the asylum would turn it to be a lifetime illness where she would stay confined for over 30 years. The mentally ill were treated as inmates instead of patients. For example, the doors remained closed always. One of the leading researchers in High Royds Asylum gives testimony about an experience he witnessed when he first entered the facility. A patient who had acted hysterically was abused to the extent of being put under the water (“BBC Mental a History of the Madhouse Full Documentary.”). The asylums were made to look like prisons instead of hospitals.

Crude treatment methods were being discovered now and then. The public did not care about the patients in the Asylums. This gave room for the nurses to abuse the patients. New methods of treatment that were brutal would be tested on the patients (Hambrook).  For example, Electro Convulsive Therapy, Insulin Therapy, and Open Brain surgery were among the crude treatment methods that claimed the lives of innocent patients after disastrous side effects. In the late 1950s, new drugs were invented despite having some drawbacks due to side effects. The invention of Largactil and Lithium as mental illnesses drugs marked the beginning of a revolution where the asylums would be shut down. Other feasible treatment therapies such as occupational therapy were invented. In the 1950s, the closure of the asylums was looming.

In conclusion, the documentary makes a consistent approach on the reasons leading to the closure of the Asylums. The politicians realized that a lot of revenues were being channeled to the facilities and their morality became questionable. In the 1970s, the parliament passed a law to face out the asylums gradually, and in 1980s, few were closed. However, in the 1990s, they started closing down and in 2003; High Royds was the last to be shut down. Being mentality ill is not a condition that an individual chooses. Therefore, there is no reason to victimize such patients. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and closure of the British asylums was a great step towards respecting the mentally ill.


Work cited

“BBC Mental a History of the Madhouse Full Documentary.” YouTube, Uploaded by JLO Productions, 15 August 2014,

Hambrook, Colin. Mental: A History of the Madhouse. 11 Jan 2011. 23 March 2017 <>.