In a wooded area on the lakeshore a few kilometers outside of Bedford, England, lies Bedford Lunatic Asylum, the second mental hospital of its kind in Queen’s Britain.
The hospital, which opened in 1812, has a proud history of dealing with patients with mental health problems, and everyone knows it’s much thanks to Dr. Samuel Whitbread.
Motivated by a pure willingness to do the best for his city, he drives the hospital with a firm hand, and that something attracts negative attention among Whitbread’s critics. Rumors are spreading that he only does the job for his own sake, after his political career stranded.
Doctor Whitbread knows this, and it makes his efforts to drive the hospital increase on par with his whiskey drinking.
In the 1920s England, mental health is still in its infancy. Methods such as electric shocks, cold baths and forced vomiting are common, and everyone knows that the patients are not able to control themselves. They can not do anything about their behavior, and so they should not be held accountable for what they say or do. The staff know this, but they rarely show it. Violence is often used, and other abusive forms of power, such as straitjackets and handcuffs are commonly used. The patients are sick, they will never be cured, so why bother?
Because behind the nice words of care, human treatment and a promise of cure rests the simple basic fact: The patients at Bedford Lunatic Asylum are not taken in to get healthy. They are taken in because the society does not want them anymore for one reason or other. Their destiny is to be locked up in the red wooden house on the lake shore, constantly subjected to Whitbread’s loving treatments.
Patients are many in numbers. They come not only from Bedford, oh no – a fruitful cooperation with the nearby cities bring the mentally ill from the entire region to Bedford. Places that do not have their own mental asylums are sending their sick to Bedford, which means that the patient’s numbers have long ago exceeded what the hospital was originally built for. At the same time, more healthcare professionals have not been found, so the Asylum is hopelessly understaffed.
The negative feelings from an unjust system and inhumane working conditions and too long hours often result in frustration being taken out on the patients.
The days continue, one just like the other, and the worst cases are placed under the surgeon William Miller’s sclpell for lobotomy. The year is now 1929, and inmates and staff wake up to another day at Bedford Lunatic Asylum.