Being a patient in Exminster Hospital

Exminster Hospital was opened to male patients on 14th July 1845 and to female patients on 28th July 1845 with the official opening day on 22nd July 1845.

The struggle to turn ‘asylums’ into ‘hospitals’ gained increasing importance in the early 20th century, so occupational therapy and entertainment were introduced and going from strength to strength.

How a patient would spend their time depended upon their mental illness, their physical health, and their age.

The first stage of a patient's admission was the treatment of any acute disturbance, drugs, rest, nursing and physical treatments.  After this phase the patient would be observed for their skills and aptitudes, interests and temperament and to assess which course of treatment should follow.

In addition to these treatments, various other observations were made of their occupation, recreation and amusement, this was known as Occupational Therapy.

Tennis courts and and cricket fields were introduced as well as a Recreation Halls/Ballrooms and Cinema.  Billiard tables were also provided from as early as 1894.

The employment of convalescing patients of a mental illness on the farm, gardens, kitchen and laundry or at their own trades was the custom in Mental Hospitals in this country and was especially so at Exminster Hospital. It was found to be more beneficial to give them suitable occupation than to lock them up in enforced idleness. But it was not until 1906 that this was recognised and therefore this was not wholly introduced in Mental Hospitals until 1930.

The importance of the ward itself was noted from reports of how patients interacted with other patients and staff. Other factors came into fruition towards the healing of the patient such as mealtimes, these were of great significance along with visitors, outings,  personal possessions and clothing, as well as the medical interventions such as drugs, shock therapies and psychosurgery.

There were many different factors that went towards the treatment of a psychiatric patient and they all played an important part towards the healing and eventually, where possible, the discharge of the patient to their own homes and environments again.