A blue plaque was recently unveiled at 101 Round Hill Crescent, Brighton to commemorate the first hospital in England to offer mental health care and treatment to poorer women. Rachael Kenny, Director of Mental Health and Support at BHT Sussex, spoke at the unveiling ceremony alongside the Mayor, Councillor Alan Robins, and speakers from Mind and Healthwatch Brighton and Hove amongst others.
The hospital was founded by Dr Helen Boyle in 1905, when the only form of mental illness recognised by the medical profession was lunacy. At this time if you were poor and wanted medical support, you had to be willing to have a doctor declare you insane – only then was the publicly funded lunatic asylum available to you, while wealthier people could take a break in a private convalescent home.
This pioneering 10-bed hospital offered comprehensive residential health care and admitted poorer women without charge. It helped revolutionise the treatment of mental health disorders and slowly led the way to better and earlier mental health treatment.
By 1911 the hospital was successful, full and busy, taking patients from well outside of Sussex, and some women from more affluent backgrounds, seeking care for mental health issues still not recognised, and preferring care at the hands of female medics. In 1912 it moved to bigger premises in Hove, and after a further expansion the hospital was taken into the NHS in 1948.