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4 Cases Where People Were Wrongfully Committed to Insane Asylums

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4 Cases Where People Were Wrongfully Committed to Insane Asylums

It is becoming increasingly popular to hear about people who have been wrongfully committed to a few years in prison. Celebrities and politicians are trying to raise awareness and it’s mentioned often in the media. But can you imagine being wrongfully committed to an insane asylum?

In a multitude of ways, that seems much worse. It’s not only scary, but would also affect you mentally for life. It’s crazy that there are so many cases of people within the United States and across the globe who have been put into a mental asylum against their will and more importantly, unjustifiably.

Here are 5 cases where people were wrongfully committed to a mental asylum. How would you convince the world you are sane?

Nellie Bly: The Woman Who Pretended

You might expect every case on this list to have been a mistake and a harrowing experience for the person who was committed to the asylum. Not this one though.

The very first case on our list is about a young female reporter in 1887, Nellie Bly, who pretended to be crazy so that she could witness first hand what goes on behind the closed doors of a mental asylum. Her aim was actually commendable.

She did it all so that she could improve conditions in New York’s mental asylums.

She documented every moment she was in there. Probably one of the most famous lines from her documentation was the most frightening of all:

The insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island is a human rat-trap. It is easy to get in, but once there, it is impossible to get out.

Her documentation of the events she witnessed was titled 10 days in a madhouse and garnered global attention pretty quickly. The book became a best-seller and her efforts reaped rewards. But what did she go through to get there?

The book follows her story right from the beginning when she had to dress up in second-hand clothes, practice looking crazy in her bathroom mirror, stop brushing her teeth or combing her hair, and wandering the streets with a faraway look in her eyes. She checked herself into a boarding home for women and was soon transferred to a mental asylum where she was diagnosed as ‘undoubtedly insane.’

nellie bly insane asylum

She discovered a couple of horrors lying in wait. Foreign women diagnosed because they could not be understood, doctors who beat patients, disgusting levels of hygiene, inedible food and the inability to ever get out.

Once she got to the asylum, she dropped her pretend act but there was no going back. She was only released when the magazine she worked for sent an attorney to get her out.

Nellie Bly lived an extraordinary life after the article gathered national interest. She became one of the leading female industrialists and was one of the first women to ever visit the war zone between Serbia and Austria. She died in 1922.

Anyone Who Critiqued the USSR

The Soviet Union does not have a great reputation, to say the least, and it’s a grim time to look back on. Whether it’s Chernobyl or the way the Russians treated psych patients, there was a lot that needed improvement.

The Soviets were even known to put any dissidents into psychiatric facilities just to get rid of them. It was a popular way of limiting political dissent and it worked. Pretend the problem does not exist.

soviet union insane asylum

If the Soviet Union chanced upon anyone with ideologies that did not mirror their own, there was hell to pay. The dissidents were quickly diagnosed with mental illness and their ideologies were labeled as nothing but the thoughts of a madman. This meant that healthy civilians were being sent to psych wards on account of having different political views.

Anyone living in a communist society who opposed the communist agenda was considered to have a mental state that wasn’t normal. It kept civilians in line and stopped dissidents from creating any real change.

The Doctor Who Washed His Hands

Ignaz Semmelweis was the first doctor that insisted doctors should wash their hand way back in 1847. As absurd as it may sound, not everyone agreed with him. It all started when he realized that pregnant women were desperate to give birth at midwife staffed clinics rather than clinics that were student-staffed.

Upon further inspection, he realized that the infant mortality rates at the student-staffed clinic were actually three times higher.

This led Ignaz to start a policy where every student would wash their hands before aiding a pregnant woman. This led to a fall in infant mortality rates from 18% to 1%. Even with this amazing difference, the group of doctors he was surrounded by were not impressed. Some even considered it insulting that he was insinuating that their hands were dirty and needed cleaning.

He eventually had to leave Vienna after being stripped of his position and laughed at by the medical community. Ignaz spent years trying to convince people that doctors needed to disinfect their hands and was finally committed to an insane asylum at the age of 47. He died 14 days after he was committed.

Best-Selling Author Paulo Coelho

The best -selling Brazillian author Paulo Coelho has had his books translated into many different languages and is one of the most notable authors the world has ever produced.

paulo coelho\

Unfortunately, his unconventional career path meant that his parents sent him to a mental asylum at the age of 17.

He escaped the facility an impressive three times before finally being released at the age of 20. Paulo described his parent’s decision as being a bad one that was made with good intentions:

It wasn’t that they wanted to hurt me, but they didn’t know what to do… They did not do that to destroy me, they did that to save me.

After leaving the asylum, he enrolled in law school to please his parents but eventually dropped out. After that, he went on to live life as a hippie, a songwriter, a director, an actor and even use drugs in the 1960s before finally become the best-selling author he is today.

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