Central State Hospital


Central State Hospital was the first State mental hospital in Indiana. It opened in 1848 as the Indiana Hospital for the Insane. The name may not sound very progressive to modern ears, but it was for its time. Just using the word "hospital" implied that this was a place for healing. The hospital's goal was to help people recover from their mental disorders and return to their families to lead happy and productive lives.

Before this hospital opened, Hoosiers with severe mental illness frequently ended up in poor houses or in jails where they were treated the same as criminals. Where asylums existed, the goal was to keep the insane "inmates" out of sight and out of mind of the public.

Indiana Hospital for the Insane was established in line with the ideas of Moral Treatment. This widespread movement came in response to humanitarian reform efforts led by the Quakers and a changing idea in medicine that mental diseases were just that- diseases. They could be studied, treated, and prevented, as other diseases could. It was an early effort to get away from the idea that people with mental illnesses were just innately bad, that they were being punished by God for moral failings, or that they were beyond hope and unworthy of help. It stressed that with more care, beautiful surroundings, structured daily lives, and lots of fresh air and sunshine, a person's condition and their life could improve. Early supporters of the hospital were confident that this new hospital would be a great success and change many lives.


The image above is an early postcard showing the original building of the Indiana Hospital for the Insane as it was when completed.


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