Monday, August 15, 2011

Bedlam/Bethlehem Hospital

I have always been drawn to the way our minds work. I'm fascinated with movies and/or books like A Beautiful Mind, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Inception, Shutter Island, Ordinary People and even the humorous side of mental illness in What About Bob? rings true to life for patients when their therapists or psychiatrists leave for vacation. If you've never seen the movie K-PAX it's very interesting, and Jack Nicholson in, As Good As It Gets, can teach us all a little bit about the difficulties of mental illness for the person with the illness and for those around them.

My first historical romance, Secrets of the Heart, Book One in the Ravensmoore Chronicles, released in May 2011 and will take you on a journey where some of the aspects of mental health and mental illness are explored in England during 1817. The more I researched for this book and my next, with the current working title of Chameleon, the more fascinated I became. Of course the treatment of mental illness was in its infancy in those days and the days prior to that. Many thought mental illness was due to demon possession. The archaic methods of treatment were barbaric for centuries.

Originally the priory of St. Mary Bethlehem, Bethlem Royal Hospital, also known as Bedlam began admitting patients who were considered unbalanced or mentally ill in 1357.  Unlike the United States Bethlem was admitting patients when we were keeping patients in jails and alms houses.This hospital originally stood at Bishopsgate and then moved to Moorfields and eventually to St George’s Fields, Southwark.

If you would like to explore more about the fascinating facts of this institution please follow this link.

What book or movie influenced the way you think about mental illness?


Bruce Hennigan said...

When I was an intern in the ER I always ended up evaluating the mentally ill patients. To me, it was interesting to meet them and to try and understand how their minds worked, or in there cases, malfunctioned.
One incident I use in my presentations involved a young woman who had destroyed the examining room. I met her on a cold, dark night and this tiny, 80 pound woman had torn the sink off the wall, broken the micro above the sink, ripped the cover off the examining table and broken out the light fixtures. The policemen who brought her in were frightened of her.
I met her and instantly felt the presence of evil. I believe to this day she was possessed by a demon.
But, that was one patient out of a hundred. However, that one experience has stayed with me and given me some insight into the nature of evil and the nature of mental illness. I look forward to reading your book!

Bruce Hennigan said...

Sorry, broke the mirror, not the micro. I hate spellcheck programs that correct the words for you!

Beth Shriver said...

It's amazing to me how barbaric the mentally ill used to be treated. Your story sounds very interesting. BTW I got that book you posted about, 100 Ways to Stay Motivated, what a great book. I'm loving it. Thanks for sharing it with us:)

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar said...

I'm interested in how the mind works too, Jillian. I believe what author Joyce Meyer has to say about the battlefield being the mind. That's where the enemy of our souls wars. But God's word says that He does not give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind. So anything other is of devil. However, I do believe good, godly people can suffer from mental illness due to chemical imbalances in the brain. After all, we live in a sin-cursed earth, a polluted, chemical-ridden world. So interesting. Thanks for this post. Now I know where the term "it's bedlam!" comes from. LOL

Bruce Hennigan said...

Bedlam indeed!
I became very familiar with brain chemistry and depression on a personal basis and God used my "mental illness" for good when God gave me the opportunity to "redeem" my depression and co-author "Conquering Depression". I know from personal experience what it is like to be so frightened, so anxious, so disconnected from reality. It is not a pleasant experience and I'm thankful God pulled me out of it. Many people are not so fortunate!!!

Jillian Kent said...

Hey Gang,
I just returned from Texas where my 19 year old Meghan (the baby) graduated from the School of Evangelism at Youth With A Mission. I'm enjoying all your responses.

I've fought my own demons with depression through the years and my oldest daughter struggles with it as well. It's so important to recognize it and get help. I think so many people think they should just be able to manage it, but true depression can take the wind out of your sails and out of your life.

Bruce, I've seen a lot in the hospitals over the years too, and more than I ever wanted to see and hear on adult, children, and adolescent psychiatry units. One night at Children's Hospital years ago I was there when 7 children had tried to kill themselves. All from different families and different situations. The situation you experienced with the 80 pound woman in the er was very scary, but the mentally ill can be very strong. It's hard to know where psychosis leaves off and possible demon possession takes over. I don't know if I'd know the difference.

Beth, the more I research the more sad and barbaric pracices I uncover throughout history. Glad you like 100 Ways to Stay Motivated; it's a keeper.

I love Joyce Meyer's Battlefield of the Mind. I wish I'd written it for I couldn't agree more that our minds are on the front line of the battle between good and evil. It makes such a difference also regarding what we put into our minds and what our minds are exposed to today.

Bruce, I think a lot of writers and creative people deal with depression. I'm not sure why. I'm sure I'll explore it more thorougly in years to come. I pray our medical experts and spiritual experts can help find a cure for the awful mental illnesses that take such a toll on our society today.

Bruce Hennigan said...

The first book I read after I went into my depression was Joyce's book. It was fantastic and so helpful. I try to read it now, and it brings back too many bad memories, but for where I was in my life right then, the book was perfect.

I agree on the possession/mental ill front. I'm just not sure. During my internship two month rotation in the ER, I saw probably 100 mentally ill patients. Only two of them exhibited bizarre enough behavior I thought they might be demon possessed. In both cases, there was an unmistakable spiritual sensation I had that I was in the presence of incredible evil. That was thirty years ago and it took me a couple of decades to realize what that sensation was. I attribute it to a discerning spirit or the Holy Spirit groaning within while I was in the presence of evil. Today, that happens only rarely, but when it does, inevitably Satan is hard at work around me and something horrendous happens! I try and listen to that voice within me now and it is not the voice of a hallucination!

Jillian Kent said...

You said: "In both cases, there was an unmistakable spiritual sensation I had that I was in the presence of incredible evil."

I think that's probably the most significant and meaningful explanation (for me anyway) that I've heard so far.

It's so hard for me to discern things we hear about on tv that are horrible and most likely based in mental illness and/or drug abuse, rather than an evil deed. But we've all seen evil at work, the planes hitting the towers, the bombing of the Federal Building in Okalahoma City, etc. I know people that would say every evil deed is because of mental illness, but I think that's far from the truth.

I hope some day that we can stamp out the stigma of mental illness to encourage treatment so others do not suffer needlessly. I really like this video:

You've probably all seen it but if not I think its excellent to pass on to others.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Bruce and all.

Bruce Hennigan said...

Not to prolong this discussion too much, but I reread all of the demonic references in the Gospels. I found it interesting that there are only a very few documented encounters between Jesus and the demon possessed. In each case, the demonic presence recognized Jesus' authority even before Jesus spoke.

However, there are numerous accounts of Jesus healing and "casting out demons" in people who sound like they are mentally ill. I believe, and I have no proof of this, that Jesus healed many people with mental illness and the disciples attributed that healing to Jesus casting out demons because their mindset at the time was that all mental illness was due to demon possession. I can't prove this and I've never read any theological discussion of this particular angle. But, it is interesting that actual demon possession encounters seemed to be spoken of very rarely in the Gospels leading me to believe that most of the "demon possessed" were really people with mental illness.

Again, not sure. Just something to think about!

Jillian Kent said...

Hi Bruce,
I think I could talk about this all day. These are the kind of discussions I would like to see each of our churches tackle. I hope some of this discussion makes a positive difference in someone's life. I'm a member of NAMI so I went to the website and found this:,_Whose_Fault_Is_It_&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=32376&MicrositeID=176

This minister says what is in my heart: "What does God want me to do in order that His Power and Purpose can be seen working in our lives? I pray that whenever you have the opportunity, God will help you to become a
part of God's Purpose in ministering to the needs of those suffering brain disorders."

I believe I'm doing what God wants me to do by writing the stories I write that include aspects of mental illness.

I felt much the same way he did when my oldest child was diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses. I echo this minister's prayer at the end of the article.

Bruce Hennigan said...

I'm excited you are doing this. Someone needs to tackle this issue from a Christian perspective who is caring and passionate about it and you fit the bill. I'll be praying for you as you continue to write about this issue. I know that when I went through my depression I faced the stigma that I didn't have enough faith to get over my depression. But, mental illness is a real, physical illness; not a lack of faith! Christians need to hear that! Press on!

Jillian Kent said...

Thanks Bruce! I appreciate your encouragement and your prayers for my stories.

Martha W. Rogers said...

It's amazing what we can learn on the internet. I've seen mental illness up close and personal in an aunt and a cousin's son. Hard to believe how horrible it was to have mental sickness and to be treated the way they were. In some areas there's only been slight improvements.

Jillian Kent said...

Hi Martha,
Mental illness is horrible for all that deal with it. It's hard on the families and I don't think most people understand how difficult it is for the sufferer unless they do see it up close. This country still has far to go with treatment of patients and making care affordable.