Writing about mental health issues

DA Neeling hospital The_Algona_Upper_Des_Moines_Wed__May_25__1892_

Current statistics about mental illness in America estimate “1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.” – See more at: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers#sthash.SVhkrOSJ.dpuf

Doing genealogy research means that one uncovers facts about behavior that can be difficult to talk about, much less write about. One such example is Daniel Austin Neelings, the cousin of Daniel T Nelings (the Nelings had three common spellings of their name: Neilings, Nelings, and Neelings).

Daniel A Neelings fought in the Civil War with the 27th Iowa. While fighting in the south he suffered heat stroke which left him with debilitating headaches for the rest of his life. Another consequence was repeated, involuntary commitments to the Iowa State Hospital in Independence.

At the end of the 19th century, especially with veterans from the Civil War, mental illness existed, but the treatment was different than in the 20th century. As Grob writes, individuals with a mental illness were generally cared for at home and only the most serious cases were hospitalized. The hospitalizations were generally short, patients were admitted and then released after a short stay (http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/11/3/7.full.pdf). Daniel A’s illness fits this pattern. According to the newspapers, Daniel A. was admitted in 1892, after a daughter died, and 1894, for “religious notions” following a revival meeting.

Mental illness, along with disease, affairs, and bankruptcies, all happened to our ancestors. They are part of our family history as much as ruling nations, starting nations and founding towns. I believe it is important to be honest about our family history, even when the stories may be uncomfortable.

da neelings asylum The_Algona_Upper_Des_Moines_Wed__Feb_28__1894_

This entry was posted in 1890s, Iowa, Nelings/Neilings/Neelings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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