Help for people with mental illness arrives late
in North Carolina.
Dix Hospital, 1872, Labeled “Lunatic Asylum”
In my research for second book in The Nash Sisters series, I learned much about mental illness diagnosis and treatment. One author I discovered in the process was Natasha Tracy. In an article on HealthyPlace , she wrote this in The History of Mental Illness.
The history of mental illness goes back as far as written records and perhaps took its first major leap forward in 400 B.C. when Greek physician, Hippocrates, began to treat mental illness as physiological diseases rather than evidence of demonic possession or displeasure from the gods as they had previously been believed to be. Asylums for the mentally ill were established as early as the 8th century by Muslim Arabs.
As I kept digging to understand mental illness treatment, I found that North Carolina was slow to address the problem until Dorothea Lynne Dix came to town.* In 1825 and 1838, NC was one of only two states that had not allocated dollars to build or create hospital space to care for those with mental illness. In the 1840s, Dorothea Dix made North Carolina her focus. She worked to bring awareness to the General Assembly of the treatment needs for those with mental illness. It wasn’t until 1849 that legislation passed. The first state hospital opened to its first patients as Dix Hill Asylum.
One of the Nash Sisters was sent to Dix Hill for the first time in 1931. Because of advances in understanding mental illness and improved treatment, Caroline Nash learned to manage her illness.
* Harry McKown, UNC – North Carolina Collection