Although understanding mental illness has come leaps and bounds in the last 50 years, the brain is still largely misunderstood. Nobody knows exactly HOW it functions, or WHY certain things happen. We have only a rudimentary understanding of how dopamine and serotonin help to regulate thought patterns and keep us down to earth. Less than a century ago, none of this was understood, and this is how doctors tried to treat mental illness.
Electroshock Therapy The idea here was that the electrical impulses in the brain were not firing properly. In order to get things back on track a sudden electrical shock was needed. Sort of like how an old TV would get the wavy lines in it and need a good smack to get it back on track, the brain needed a good smack to get the thinking back on track.
Lobotomy For the extreme cases, where violence was often present, the doctors needed a way to calm the patient down. They couldnt let him run around the mental institution subject to fits of rage. By inserting an ice pick through the eye socket and severing the frontal lobes, nearly all thought was gone. What was left was a human with basic functions, but that is about all.
Pray it Out Many people thought that mental illness was just the result of demonic activity. By getting that person in church and having them pray more often they thought the illness would simply leave. While many people believe there are spiritual beings, we now know that mental illness is caused by hormone imbalances.
Strait Jackets The old idea of being put in a strait jacket and a padded room came about because that is what was often necessary. Some patients couldnt be controlled, so rather than have them be a risk to themselves and others, they were simply detained. The idea was that by letting them calm down they would return to normal.
Trepanation This one is a bit older than most treatments. In fact, it dates back thousands of years. People once thought that mental illness (as well as chronic headaches) were caused by evil spirits trapped inside the head. By carefully drilling a hole in the head the spirit could escape and the craziness would go with it. It didnt work, of course, and the practice was eventually phased out.
Mental illness is no laughing matter. It affects nearly everyone in some form or another, and battles with mental illness are lost through suicide hundreds of times every day. Fortunately, there are modern methods of combating various forms of mental illness. Drugs help to regulate the neurohoromones, and to keep a persons thinking on track. Of course, even those drugs are not without their dangers.