Content Warning – This article discusses mental health facilities including the experiences of previous patients and may be triggering to some readers. Should you wish to talk, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
In 1838, Sydney’s first ever psychiatric hospital opened its doors for the first time.
The asylum, which was built on the shores of the Parramatta River, was created in the hopes of treating and rehabilitating the mentally ill.
But very soon, the Gladesville Mental Hospital, also known as the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum, soon became something much more sinister.
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From the very beginning, Gladesville was plagued by overcrowding.
Although the institution was built to house up to 60 patients, there were almost 150 patients housed there by 1844.
There were also reports of patients being abused and restrained for hours on end within the facility.
In one case, in 1843, it was discovered that two male convict keepers had been routinely sexually abusing a number of female patients.
Even after the institution changed its name from Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum to Gladesville Mental Hospital, the abuse still continued.
According to a newspaper article published in 1954, a patient’s head was left burnt after she was given constant electric shock treatments.
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“While perfectly sane, only suffering from depression and too many sleeping tablets, she was subjected to so much violent shock treatment which frightens her so badly, like others, she tries to resist,” the article read, according to the Daily Telegraph.