(This applies to medieval and early Tudor England.)
Early Tudor medical opinion believed there were 5 types of mental disease: MELANCHOLIA (depression and apathy); MANIA (violent action); DELIRIUM (abnormal behavior accompanied by fever); AMENTIA (lack or complete loss of mental abilities); and PHRENITIS (inflammation of the brain.) Also, epilepsy was believed to be a mental illness. (Also, there was a disease called lycanthropy – a fascination with cemeteries and wild animals.) All of these were supposedly caused by an abundance of black bile in the body. The bile caused evil ‘humors’ to flood the brain, thus resulting in mental illness. The most common of these illnesses was melancholy. Women were far more likely to suffer from it than men.
In some cases, demonic possession was also a possibility; priests were often summoned to ‘exorcise’ an epileptic fit. In other cases, people were regarded as ‘holy fools’, possessed by Christ and displaying the sort of extreme behavior long noted in pious fanatics. There were also victims of lunacy (or moon-struck); this illness hearkened back to pre-Christian traditions in England.
What happened to these people, victims of such disturbing illnesses – which resulted in equally disturbed behavior? In some cases, herbal remedies were prescribed (such as peony root worn around the neck.) Soothing music and warm baths were also popular (and remain so today!) Blood-letting was far more popular, however; it was believed to be as effective with mental diseases as physical. Combined with purgatives, bleeding reduced the ill to some degree of weakness – and quiet. In extreme cases, the evil ‘humor’ was drained from the brain in a process called trepanation.
Early Tudor England responded to mental illnesses much the same as our society does – by asking whether the individual posed a threat to society at large. It the person was non-violent, they were left free or in custody of their families.
If the person was poor or had no family, they roamed the streets as ‘eccentric’ beggars – much like the urban homeless today. But if the victim was violent, they were confined, most likely in a hospital like St Mary of Bethlehem in London, called Bedlam.
Note: Under the law, the mentally ill were divided into 2 groups. (1) IDIOTS, whose illness was evident from birth; the king had custody of these people – and their property. The king was responsible for their care until death; then the property reverted to their heirs. If there were no heirs, the property remained with the king. (2) LUNATICS (non compos mentis), whose illness developed after birth. Since they were considered capable of becoming sane again, their lands remained under their control (with familial supervision.)
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Tudor England Mental Illness Types & Facts" https://englishhistory.net/tudor/mental-illness-facts/, March 4, 2015