Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tip tapping through the lists of the lunatics

So, what does your average history nut do on a lovely Autumnal Tuesday?
Why, we stay indoors trawling through the digitalised records of the mentally ill patients admitted to the Bendigo Hospital!
Of course, as you do...

Digitalised or not, the spidery copperplate scrawl is still difficult to make out at times.
And, no, sticking your tongue out the side of your mouth whilst almost twisting your neck/head into a pretzel doesn't help, either.

Most were diagnosed as having "dementia", "mania", "acute mania", "epileptic mania" or "melancholia"...there was the odd one or 10 who suffered from "religious mania", another huge-ish bunch were in the grip of "del tremens" (aka good old reliable Delirium Tremens).
Imagine, a goldfield where they self-medicated with grog!
Of course, the poor diet mainly consisted of starchy things like damper (no minerals/vitamins) salted beef/bacon (again no vitamins/minerals) black tea and loads of sugar....and loads of alcohol which depleted the body of what little vitamins and minerals that may be lurking in some dim dark cranny of the nether regions.

This is where many Chinese market gardeners probably saved the lives of miners on the various goldfields, growing vegetables that weren't the dried, aged or tasteless muck many single men cooked/heated up at the end of a long tiring day of digging for (often) little return.
Or didn't bother cooking at all but dove straight into the bottle to hide from the crushing defeat of lack of gold...

Back to the lunatics...sorry, mentally ill.
Most were transferred to Kew, few had next of kin, most averaged in the age range of late 20s to mid-50s and there were about a third of women included in the revolving door of the hospital.
Maybe there were a few successes with the treatment of the day.

For more of a fun time, I shall trawl through the index of male prisoners next.


  1. That made for interesting reading. The treatment for the DT's was interesting. So by "religious mania", did that mean they were convinced they were god? or just preached it 24/7 to no one and everyone? BTW finished watching Cloudstreet. Interesting, I migt have to hunt down the book.

  2. I'm wondering how many of these people might have been okay if they'd only eaten a better diet. The brain needs the vitamins and minerals just as much as the body does.

  3. Bit of both with the religious mania, Janine.

    River, this book <a href="http://ourgreatsouthernlandreadingmatters.blogspot.com.au/2008/01/last-of-lunatics.html>HERE</a> stated that Australia was the world leader in death from alcoholism for many years due to the fact it took 20 years after the rest of the world to pass legislation to put vitamins into flour.

  4. ooer, remain a lunatic on the loose ..erk. Definition of sanity -remaining one step in front of the men in white coats .... heh.

  5. or is 'religious mania' simply a tautology?

  6. I've often wondered just how many 'manias' and poor souls admitted to lunatic asylums just needed better food, healthcare and examination.

    If my tumour had arrived in 1895 instead of 1995 I would have been blind and insane, not well and treated.

  7. You certainly have a penchant for peculiar pastimes.
    I agree a healthy diet is the way to go, however, restrictions on how much you eat is another problem, even when one restricts their self to a non fat diet. My problem is; I like to feel full.

    The Faith Industry is riddled with
    eccleslastic lunatic story tellers.

  8. Nothing like dipping into others misfortunes to cheer yourself up!!! Insanity covered a lot more ground back then, didn't it!! Although I think we should reintroduce 'religious mania' as an incarcerable offence ...

  9. Red Nomad. What beats me is the fact most of these pompous preachers of fairy tales are aware of the unlikelihood of their gobbledygook being true. Most was recorded on dried goat skins prior to it being recorded on Vellum in the 5Th century and 600 year old goat skins must get a bit tatty by then. Messages passed from person to person become distorted quickly.
    Example: Officer commanding troops in the front line orders, " pass this message from trench to trench to the General. "Send reinforcements we are going to advance".
    The final distorted message given to the general was.
    "Send three dollars and four cents we are going to a dance.

  10. wow! I know what I will be reading for the rest of the evening.


  11. a goldfield where they self-medicated with grog!

    Heh. Guess that self remains one step in front of "the men in white coats". Had to giggle (hysteria, apparently, is a "female problem").

    Heh. mmmm, thinks.

  12. Brilliant. I shall have a look. Probably a forbear or three there... there were a few antecedents, of sorts, living in the district at that time.