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She endured 10 days inside a psychiatric hospital
Bly convinced authorities that she was mentally ill so she could go undercover to investigate conditions inside a New York City psychiatric hospital, then known as an ‘insane asylum‘. After 10 excruciating days, The World finally sent a lawyer to get her released, In one of her biggest achievements (Brown, 2022)
But how did she do this?
Working under an assumed name, she took a room in a boarding house and set out to prove herself insane. She wandered the halls and nearby streets, refused to sleep, ranted and yelled incoherently, and even practiced looking “crazed” in her mirror
Within days, the boarding house owners called the police. Bly now claimed to be a Cuban immigrant, suffering from amnesia. A perplexed judge sent Bly to Bellevue Hospital, Bly was forced to eat spoiled food and live in hard conditions. When Bly was diagnosed with dementia and other psychological illnesses, she was sent to Blackwell’s Island, in the East River.
Blackwell was cramming more than 1,600 people into the asylum when Bly arrived in the fall of 1887 but originally it was built to hold 1,000 patients only. Low budget leave only 16 doctors on staff. But most disturbing of all was the prevailing wisdom of the age regarding both the causes of mental illness and how patients should be treated. Asylums like Blackwell’s were considered curiosities, where thrill seekers like Charles Dickens and others could visit those thought “mad.” Doctors and staff with little training — and in many cases, little compassion — ordered harsh and brutal treatments that did little to heal, and much to harm.
Patients were forced to take cold baths and remain in wet clothes for hours, leading to frequent illnesses. They were forced to sit still on benches, without speaking or moving, for stints lasting 12 hours or more. Bly even shocked to discover that many of the inmates were not insane at all and their treatments gave them a psychological damage
Bly’s articles were published and Her reporting not only raised awareness about mental health treatment and led to improvements in institutional conditions by increasing funding for mental institutions adding nearly $1 million ($24 million in today’s money) to the departmental budget. Abusive staff members were fired, translators were hired to assist immigrant patients, and changes were made to the system to help prevent those who did not actually suffer from mental illness from being committed


Original text

She endured 10 days inside a psychiatric hospital
Bly convinced authorities that she was mentally ill so she could go undercover to investigate conditions inside a New York City psychiatric hospital, then known as an ‘insane asylum‘. After 10 excruciating days, The World finally sent a lawyer to get her released, In one of her biggest achievements (Brown, 2022)
But how did she do this?
Working under an assumed name, she took a room in a boarding house and set out to prove herself insane. She wandered the halls and nearby streets, refused to sleep, ranted and yelled incoherently, and even practiced looking “crazed” in her mirror
Within days, the boarding house owners called the police. Bly now claimed to be a Cuban immigrant, suffering from amnesia. A perplexed judge sent Bly to Bellevue Hospital, Bly was forced to eat spoiled food and live in hard conditions. When Bly was diagnosed with dementia and other psychological illnesses, she was sent to Blackwell’s Island, in the East River.
Blackwell was cramming more than 1,600 people into the asylum when Bly arrived in the fall of 1887 but originally it was built to hold 1,000 patients only. Low budget leave only 16 doctors on staff. But most disturbing of all was the prevailing wisdom of the age regarding both the causes of mental illness and how patients should be treated. Asylums like Blackwell’s were considered curiosities, where thrill seekers like Charles Dickens and others could visit those thought “mad.” Doctors and staff with little training — and in many cases, little compassion — ordered harsh and brutal treatments that did little to heal, and much to harm.
Patients were forced to take cold baths and remain in wet clothes for hours, leading to frequent illnesses. They were forced to sit still on benches, without speaking or moving, for stints lasting 12 hours or more. Bly even shocked to discover that many of the inmates were not insane at all and their treatments gave them a psychological damage
Bly’s articles were published and Her reporting not only raised awareness about mental health treatment and led to improvements in institutional conditions by increasing funding for mental institutions adding nearly $1 million ($24 million in today’s money) to the departmental budget. Abusive staff members were fired, translators were hired to assist immigrant patients, and changes were made to the system to help prevent those who did not actually suffer from mental illness from being committed


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