14. There Was No Privacy
In addition to being exposed to the public outdoors through asylum tourism, patients could also find no privacy inside the asylums. Patients were routinely stripped and checked for diseases, with no consideration given to their privacy. Patients were, at all times, viewed more as prisoners than sick people in need of aid. Patients also were kept in small sleeping rooms at night that often slept as many as ten people. Mealtimes were also taken communally in large dining areas. Bathing was often seen as a form of treatment and would be conducted by staff in an open area with multiple patients being treated at once.
Given that 1900 was decades before the creation of health care privacy laws, patients could also find no privacy in who was told about their condition and progress. Women’s husbands would be told of their condition and treatment regardless of their relationship with their spouse. An asylum patient could not expect any secrecy on their status, the fact that they were an inmate, what they had been diagnosed with, and so on. With the pervasive social stigmas towards mental illnesses in the era, this lack of privacy was doubtless very harmful to those who found themselves committed.