Indian Journal of PsychiatryIndian Journal of Psychiatry
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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 60  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 183-191

Kilpauk Mental Hospital: The Bethlem of South Asia – A recall of its history prior to 1970

1 Former Superintendent, Institute of Mental Health, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Former Dean and Director, Institute of Mental Health, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ponnudurai Ratnaraj
24/3-B, T. T. K. Road, Chennai - 600 018, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_431_17

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Period of Custodial Care Only: The magnificent “Institute of Mental Health” has its history almost from 1795 when the East India company appointed Surgeon Valentine Conolly to be in charge of a “House for accommodating persons of unsound mind.” After a few transitions, backed by a government order for the construction of a lunatic asylum in a 66 1/2 acre site, the asylum started functioning from 1871. The period of about six decades from its inception could be referred to as “the period of custodial care.” However, the quality of care for the general medical problems gradually improved with the creation of separate facilities for some common ailments and also one for seriously ill. Separate wards were also conceptualized for criminal patients and female inmates. Towards Modern Comprehensive Patient Care: Thanks to Government sanctions, the staff strength gradually increased with regularization of bed strength to 1800, and by 1948-1957, the hospital had 14 medical officers and a host of other staff. The period from 1939 to 1948 witnessed the introduction of electroconvulsive therapy and insulin coma therapy including the modified one and also insulin histamine therapy. During the prephenothiazine era, the drugs used were barbiturates, paraldehyde, opiates, and Rauwolfia serpentina, which were discontinued after the use of Chlorpromazine from 1954. Psychosurgery was also undertaken in selected cases from 1948, but the procedure went out of vogue soon due to the quality of outcome being poor and development of complications. Rehabilitation of patients got a fillip with the introduction of occupation therapy in 1949 and industrial therapy center in 1970. Extension of psychiatric services to general hospitals began from 1949. Advances in Academic Spheres And Research Activities: Regular training was imparted to paramedical and undergraduate medical students from 1948. The institute had the privilege of hosting the Annual National Conference of Indian Psychiatric Society - 1957. The institute also spearheaded in several pioneering researches such as insulin coma therapy, syphilis, and Alzheimer's dementia, to name a few. The pivotal role played by the State Psychiatric Institutes in patient care, training, and research, should speak for adequate empowerment of these government institutes.



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