In 1814, the Richmond Lunatic Asylum at Grangegorman in Dublin started an extraordinary program of asylum building across Ireland, aimed at alleviating the suffering of people with mental illness who were homeless, in prison, or confined in appalling circumstances. By the mid-twentieth century, Ireland had proportionately more people in ‘mental hospitals’ than any other country in the world. On a given night, the number of people in Ireland’s psychiatric hospitals was more than double those in all our other institutions put together: prisons, laundries, mother and baby homes, industrial schools, orphanages.
What was the life of a patient in an asylum really like? Through letters, medical records and doctors' notes, Brendan Kelly gives us a glimpse inside Grangegorman and the lives of those who lived and worked there, up until it closed its doors in 2013.
Brendan Kelly is Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin, Consultant Psychiatrist at Tallaght University Hospital, Dublin, and UCD Visiting Full Clinical Professor at UCD School of Medicine, University College Dublin. In addition to his medical degree (MB BCh BAO), he holds masters degrees in epidemiology (MSc), healthcare management (MA), and Buddhist studies (MA), and an MA (jure officii) from Trinity College Dublin; doctorates in medicine (MD), history (PhD), governance (DGov), and law (PhD); and a higher doctorate in history (DLitt). He has authored and co-authored over 300 publications in peer-reviewed journals, over 600 non-peer-reviewed publications, 21 book chapters and book contributions, and 17 books (11 as sole author). His recent books include ‘Asylum: Inside Grangegorman’ (2023). He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, and Trinity College Dublin. In 2018, he became Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry and in 2020 was elected as Dun’s Librarian at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.