Psychiatric Quarterly

, 80:219 | Cite as

From Beauty to Despair: The Rise and Fall of the American State Mental Hospital

  • Lawrence A. Osborn
Original Paper


The American State Hospital has survived over 200 years. Society once viewed state hospitals as an absolute necessity and each state constructed numerous hospitals. Over time, the image of the state hospital as a means to cure the mentally ill changed drastically. The public perceived state hospitals as snake pits that warehoused the mentally ill and the state hospital was nearly destroyed. Nevertheless, the state hospital remains today with purposes similar to its ancestors and some that are very different. This paper examines the many influences that created the state hospital. Additionally, this paper addresses the Kirkbride Model, treatment methods and practices over time, and how the state hospital fell into disfavor as a means to treat the mentally ill. The paper concludes with comments on the mental health system today, in relation to the state hospital’s role in treatment.


Moral treatment State hospital Asylum Kirkbride Model Deinstitutionalization 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The College of William and MaryHamptonUSA

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