1st Edition

The Story of Nursing in British Mental Hospitals Echoes from the Corridors

By Niall McCrae, Peter Nolan Copyright 2016
    338 Pages
    by Routledge

    336 Pages
    by Routledge

    From their beginnings as the asylum attendants of the 19th century, mental health nurses have come a long way. This comprehensive volume is the first book in over twenty years to explore the history of mental health nursing, and during this period the landscape has transformed as the large institutions have been replaced by services in the community. McCrae and Nolan examine how the role of mental health nursing has evolved in a social and professional context, brought to life by an abundance of anecdotal accounts.

    Moving from the early nineteenth to the end of the twentieth century, the book’s nine chronologically-ordered chapters follow the development from untrained attendants in the pauper lunatic asylums to the professionally-qualified nurses of the twentieth century, and, finally, consider the rundown and closure of the mental hospitals from nurses’ perspectives. Throughout, the argument is made that whilst the training, organisation and environment of mental health nursing has changed, the aim has remained essentially the same: to develop a therapeutic relationship with people in distress.

    McCrae and Nolan look forward as well as back, and highlight significant messages for the future of mental health care. For mental health nursing to be meaningfully directed, we must first understand the place from which this field has developed. This scholarly but accessible book is aimed at anyone with an interest in mental health or social history, and will also act as a useful resource for policy-makers, managers and mental health workers.

    Preface  1. The Pauper Palace and its Servants 2. Professionalisation, or Organised Labour  3. Shocks to the System  4. Interregnum  5. A New Dawn  6. Time is Called  7. Irish Days, Mauritian Nights  8. Holding the Fort  9. End of the Asylum  10. Appendix


    Niall McCrae is a lecturer in mental health nursing at Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery, King’s College London. As well as the history of mental health care, his research interests include the therapeutic role of the nurse, and evaluation of training and treatment innovations in psychiatric services. His previous book, The Moon and Madness, examining the legendary notion of lunar influence on behaviour, featured on the BBC radio series, All in the Mind.

    Peter Nolan has worked for over fifty years in various capacities within mental health services, both in the UK and abroad. The focus of much of his research has been on how service users make sense of mental health services and the degree of understanding they bring to what is being provided. Though now retired, he continues to write about how and whether people with mental health problems benefit from interventions, how nurses interpret what they do and the likely changes that services will undergo in the future. He has a long-term interest in the evolution of psychiatric ideas and practices and the various factors that influence them. This book, he believes, is important in enabling the voices of the predecessors of mental health nurses to be heard, voices that for too long have been silent. 

    Niall McCrae and Peter Nolan have considerable expertise in the history of mental health services. The ‘readability’ of their book is one of its most pleasing features and the authors have the skill of making the complex simple and fascinating. This book, while of interest to mental health nurses, should be required reading for all members of the multi-professional mental healthcare team. Entering the mental health professions today without knowing their histories would be like starting a journey without a map. This book is one of the best maps of the historical terrain that I have come across.

    Hugh McKenna, Professor, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation) University of Ulster, UK

    At last, due credit to nurses who devoted their careers to the vulnerable in an impoverished yet caring environment: good work was done.

    Jo Brand, comedian and former psychiatric nurse

    A thought provoking and comprehensive history of mental health nursing based on a rich variety of sources, this is a detailed, far ranging and accessible overview. McCrae and Nolan have produced what should become the seminal work on the history of British mental health nursing.

    Claire Chatterton, Chair, RCN History of Nursing Society, UK