THE PREVENTION OF INSANITY.
Prevention is, for the public, a much more important question than treatment. Parents, guardians, and individuals can wield here a great influence, if they only know how.
First of all, all parents and guardians should so nourish, train, and educate children of whom they have the care, so as to develop to the utmost their strength of body and soundness of mind.
Secondly, parents and guardians should take special precautions in the rearing of children any of whose relatives in a direct line have shown tendencies to, or have been actually affected by, insanity.
Thirdly, individuals who are of an age to regulate their own lives ought to beware of excesses likely to lead to nervous exhaustion or degeneration, and, where a bad tendency exists in the family, ought to, if possible, so frame their lives as regards business, amuse ments, and other pursuits as to secure a calm and equable frame of mind, free from sudden strains or strong excitements.
As regard the duties of parents and guar dians, it is t be feared that the extent to which oversight. 's demanded is not properly realized. It involves attention to diet, to clothing, to exercise ; it should have strict regard to the due proportion of work and play, study and amuse ment, and not that only, but also the kind of work and play, the species of study, and sort of amusement. Among the better classes the tendency is to leave a good deal at home in the hands of upper servants and nurses, and to leave the education of the child entirely in the hands of the masters at school. The result is, that at school the child is carried on with the rest in its class, it being impossible for a master at school to deal with individual peculiarities in a large class, and at home the child is at the mercy of servants, a large number of whom certainly are actuated by good motives, and ex ercise their power to the advantage of the child, but some of whom may obtain obedience by threats and rule by fear. Many children owe a nervous disposition and unstable mind to terrors produced by tales told by its nurse, or by being left in a dark nursery for hours alone, and in other similar ways. For like reasons the influence of companions must be watched. Among the poorer classes it is not an uncommon spectacle to see the eldest of a large family of little ones, herself quite young, being compelled, in order to help her mother (I), to assume herself the cares of a mother, and to be responsible for the other children. In these days education worries are not limited to the children of the rich. In Great Britain the operation of the
School Boards is limited to no class, and under the code system a scientific species of cram is taking the place of education. Large classes of children are taught together—taught in bulk- all to come up to one standard, as if they were all made in one mould. Under this system the weak must suffer. Parents, therefore, must not think that state regulation of education re lieves them of responsibility. It only increases the responsibility. The responsibility of the state is for the mass, the responsibility of the parent is for the individual child. It becomes, therefore, the urgent duty of parents to watch their children, and if the fear of undue pres. sure at school arise, to seek the opinion of a physician, and if so advised to get the child relieved from some of its burden of lessons. Another thing to which parents ought to give their attention is the school hours. It is not an infrequent thing for children to be engaged at school from 9 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m., with no sufficiently long interval in which to go home and get dinner without undue haste. In these circumstances it would be best, if care be taken that the child has a good breakfast, that the child should get a light lunch, in summer of milk with bread and butter or preserves, and in winter of soup or broth and toast, and that dinner should be postponed till after school. But in such an arrangement care must be taken that the child is up and dressed early enough to permit of breakfast being leisurely taken.
Special care must be given to children in whom there is a probability of hereditary disease. In particular, they ought to be kept under a wise control, and trained to a proper self-control, So that angry fits and passions are subdued and held in check. With them educa tion may be all-powerful, if badly directed, to hasten the development of the disease, if pru dently conducted to strengthen and develop what may be naturally weak.
Individuals who guide their own lives, and have in view the fact that madness has been in their family, and that therefore for them it may be a prospect, or who, for other reasons, fear its advent, should face the risk. If they do so boldly, they will choose occupations and engage in amusements that are unexciting in character ; they will avoid excess of all kinds, and especially avoid indulgence in strong drinks and animal passions, and will find means for quiet but profitable occupation in leisure hours.