Moral Treatment movement

Moral Treatment was an approach to mental disorder based on humane psychosocial care or moral discipline that emerged in the 18th century and came to the fore for much of the 19th century, deriving partly from psychiatry or psychology and partly from religious or moral concerns.

On July 6, 1860, the hospital’s board of directors selected Dr. Peter Bryce as the first superintendent at a salary of $2,000 plus rent and household expenses, with the stipulation that he must be married before assuming his duties.

By 1869 Bryce reported to the board of trustees that many new additions had been made to the hospital including a large corncrib, potato house, and houses for the engineer and machinist. He also reported that the farms and orchards had been extended, a bakery added, and the laundry improved.

In 1871 in an attempt to keep up with the latest developments in moral treatment therapy and modern hospital design Dr. Bryce had the Amusement Hall constructed on top of the original Boiler House. Assemblies were held in the hall and patients of both sexes who were able accompanied by their nurses were expected to attend. Entertainments consisted of dramatic recitations, tableaux, tea parties, and dances.

That same year Dr. Bryce recorded that the “pleasure grounds in front, embracing about twenty-five acres, have been enclosed, planted in oaks, evergreens, shrubbery, etc., and to some extent graded and otherwise improved.” He also noted that the flower gardens which extended eight hundred feet along the entire front of the building were enclosed by a “neat paling fence.” Tending these flowers “furnished the patients with healthy exercise, elevating diversion, and an unfailing, bounteous supply of beautiful flowers.”

In 1876 the hospital was illuminated by gas. The original gas lighting system had only been partly installed before the outbreak of the Civil War and had never functioned at full capacity. The new system used coal gas from the hospital’s own coal mines. It was so successful that by the following year it ran a pipe to the adjacent University of Alabama and sold gas to that institution for a profit.

In 1879 Dr. Bryce determined to connect the Amusement Hall with the main building. The new structure designed by architect H. A. Master contained a handsome domed Rotunda used as a patient library and reading room on the main floor and additional kitchen facilities on the ground floor.

In February 1881 a legislative appropriation of $100,000 made it possible to build large wings on either side of the original building. The new wings created accommodations for 350 additional patients, thus more than doubling the building’s inhabitants. These additions marked the beginning of a steady decline of the influence of the humanitarian, moral treatment principles of Dr. Kirkbride who had insisted that no hospital should house over 250 patients. Unlike the old section the new wings provided double rooms rather than single ones and wards contained between fifty and sixty patients rather than fifteen as Kirkbride had intended in the original hospital plan.

Mental health civil rights