Showing Restraint

You guys know what I’m like with old photographs.

I came across these three when writing my ‘Claws For The Weekend:Admissions’ last Friday. Although that was a light-hearted post, this is an altogether darker post, if not a little disturbing.

This first photograph is from around 1869, and was taken by Henry Clarke of a patient in a restraint chair at the West Ryding Lunatic Asylum in Wakefield, Yorkshire.

Does this old man have an air of defiance, or of being subdued, about him? Or was he incapable of experiencing either feeling?


This is another photograph by Clarke, from around the same time, of a patient being restrained by warders. I know that sometimes restraining patients was done for their own safety, or for the safety of others, but there is something about how he is being held by the hair to be captured by the camera that is disturbing.


This last photograph, of which I know neither the photographer nor the location,shows a seemingly isolated patient in restraints.

Looks like a still from a horror film doesn’t it?


My wife worked for a while in a psychiatric hospital. And even though she and colleagues were trained on how to restrain patients for the safety of everyone concerned, the term used was ‘care and restraint’, with the emphasis on care.

Thankfully today, the practice is, or should be, done in a more dignified manner for everybody involved.