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Featured Article Of The Week

Kew Lunatic Asylum


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The Kew Asylum was first opened in 1871 as a ward of Yarra Bend. For a short period Kew was also known as the "Metropolitan Asylum". Many of Kew's early patients were transferred from Yarra Bend and the Collingwood Asylum. In October 1872 Kew was proclaimed a separate institution from Yarra Bend.

After World War II there was a period of significant change in the treatment and prognosis for people with a mental illness. Drugs such as Lithium carbonate (discovered in 1948 by Australian psychiatrist Dr John Cade) and chlorpromazine (discovered in 1950's) lead to improvements in treatment. Thus many people with a mental illness could in many cases be treated in hospital for a shorter period and return to the community. The Mental Health Act of 1959 designated hospitals providing short-term diagnosis and accommodation as "psychiatric hospitals". Therefore any institution could have a section designated as a mental hospital for long-term or indefinite hospitalisation and a section designated as a psychiatric hospital for short term diagnosis and treatment of acute psychiatric illness.

In 1962 the decision was made to no longer house acute or short-term patients at Kew and therefore it was formally proclaimed a Mental Hospital under the Mental Health Act of 1959. Up until this time, Kew Mental Hospital was still colloquially known as 'Kew Asylum'. Click here for more...