A Hospital by any other name...

The large number of words for mental hospitals indicates that the idea of mental illness and the problems of what to do with mental patients are major preocuppations for society at large. This is not just because of the large percentage of people who are mentally ill but because the fear of losing one's mind is universal. Here are some of the words used:

  • the loony bin
  • the funhouse
  • Bedlam
  • the insane asylum
  • the madhouse
  • the snake pit
  • the psych ward
  • the mental hospital
  • the booby hatch
  • the cabbage farm
  • the garage
  • the funny farm
  • the back ward
  • a residential treatment center

Some of these names are official-sounding, while others put forth the mistaken idea that being mentally ill is fun or amusing. The remainder evoke terrible images of patients being tied up and locked in seclusion. It is perhaps this last group that is most accurate because many psych hospitals are abusive. Contrary to what most chronically normal people seem to assume, straight jackets (often euphemistically referred to as "safety coats"), isolation ("the quiet room") and restraints are not a thing of the past. Many others seem perfectly acceptable to an outsider or a visitor (one who is not locked in) but are a horrible to stay in because of nasty staff and poor treatment. Even the hospitals which truly are good are scenes of torment for patients whose illnesses are torturing them.

I would be interested in knowing of there are so many words for mantal hospitals in other languages...