The national public asylum system in Ireland was established during the early nineteenth century and continued to operate up to the close of the twentieth century. These asylums / mental hospitals were a significant physical and social feature of Irish communities. They were used intensively and provided a convenient form of institutional intervention to manage a host of social problems.
Irish Insanity identifies the long-term trends in institutional residency through the development of a detailed empirical data set, based on an analysis of original copies of the reports of Inspector of Asylums/Mental Hospitals in Ireland. Damien Brennan explores core social and historical features linked to this data including:
- the political context
- governance and social policy
- the relationship between church and state
- changing economic structures and social deprivation
- legislation and systems of admission and discharge
- categorisation and diagnostic criteria
- international developments
- family dynamics
This book demonstrates that the actual rate of asylum utilisation in Ireland was the highest by international standards, but challenges the idea that an "epidemic of Irish insanity" actually existed. Offering a historical and sociological insight into an institutional legacy that is unusual within the international context, this book will be of particular relevance and interest to scholars within the fields of sociology, criminology, law, history, Irish studies, social policy, anthropology, nursing and medicine.
Table of Contents
Introduction. 1. Theories of Irish Insanity 2. Irish Asylum Utilisation 1800–2000 3. The Irish Insanity ‘Epidemic’ 1800–1956 4. The Demise of Irish Insanity – 1956–2000 5. Conclusion. Appendix 1: Tables of Data. Bibliography
Damien Brennan is Assistant Professor in Sociology at the School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies at Trinity College, Dublin.