Bethlem Sanatorium, The Ride?

Mental Health

The Perth Royal Show is facing community backlash after proposing to host a ride based on London’s infamous mental health institution, Bethlem Sanatorium, commonly referred to as Bedlam.

Bethlem was founded in the 13th Century, not initially as a hospital, but as a Christian centre for the collection of alms for the Crusader Church. Over the years it became a hospital specialising in the treatment of people with mental illnesses.

At this year’s Perth Royal Show, the Bethlem Sanatorium ride will debut featuring a ward with actors pretending to be mental health patients. Patrons will be invited to poke the patients with sticks.

This ride promotes the stereotype of ‘scary mental health patients’ and stigmatises those seeking help for a mental illness. Backlash has come across the mental health sector and the community at large. Bethlem Sanatorium, currently a working hospital, has also contributed to the conversation calling for the ride to be changed.

A decision has been made to rename the ride ‘Mayhem Manor’ and change the theme of the ride to the outbreak of a deadly contagion. Historical references to mental health or the Sanatorium have been removed.

The Royal Agricultural Society responded to criticisms and public backlash saying they did not wish to cause offence.

The idea that this ride may have existed just down the road from Graylands Hospital, a place synonymous with the poor history of treating mental health patients is astounding.

In the end this has been a win for the mental health sector and for those suffering mental illness. The issue was brought to the fore in the media and public attitudes were made. Until the stigma associated with mental illness and seeking help and treatment disappears, we must continue reinforcing the positive message of treatment whenever possible.

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2 thoughts on “Bethlem Sanatorium, The Ride?

  1. When I first heard about it, I thought the Bethlem Sanatorium ride sounded so offensive that I was surprised the the Royal Agricultural Society approved it in the first place. However on a more positive note, I think the massive backlash from mental health services and members of the community was a really good sign as it strongly reinforced the message that stigmatising mental illness is unacceptable nowadays. It shows that while there are still problems with the way that mental illnesses are viewed progress is being made and attitudes are actually changing.

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    1. Yes, it is definitely a positive outcome and an opportunity to raise awareness taken by the mental health industry. But it is because of things like the Bethlem ride that we need advocates and communicators fighting to de-stigmatise mental illness. These people would essentially be working themselves out of a job, but when that job doesn’t need to exist anymore, it will be a great day for humanity!

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