Asylum Tourism – Looking through Asylums from the Outside In

Several Hollywood movies have taken up themes concerning psychological disorders and insanity, bringing moviegoers to a virtual journey into the confines of those deemed mentally disabled or challenged. More often than not, asylums and mental hospitals are portrayed as horrific and eerie structures that embody hostility, discrimination and inhumane treatment, painting an awful picture of those caring for patients.

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Today’s asylum tourism provides opportunities for people from the outside to check out these mental institutions, not to entertain themselves by the goofy and the abnormal sights of patients, but to admire the architecture and designs of asylums.

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Many years ago, asylum tourism was geared towards viewing the so-called “human zoo”, but that has slowly shifted thanks to the enlightenment brought about by humanitarian efforts and monitoring of medical practices.

The opportunity to visit mental institutions sheds light to controversies clouding the treatment and care of patients. Guests can see for themselves how patients are handled, examined, treated and cared for on a daily basis. This helps clear doubts about the way asylum administrators and staff deal with those who are mentally ill.

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Beyond that, asylum tourism also brings “normal” people to a world that, although is still part of their own, used to be off-limits and remained mysterious for a very long while. Now guests can peek inside what is commonly portrayed in cinemas as “prisons for the psychotic” to see for themselves whether these institutions really are prisons or made comfortable like a second home.

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Not all asylum administrators encourage and welcome this kind of tourism, of course. Detractors and doubters believe that the surge of tourists in mental hospitals cause unnecessary distractions to the critical procedures of monitoring and caring of patients. However, some are opening their doors to those who want to have a glimpse of their institutions – architecture, procedure, management and even the patients. But everything is restricted to some degree, and these asylums could never be as open and as public to safeguard privacy of patients and to ensure that their much needed treatment are administered uninterrupted.

Photos by: Mike LawrenceSkin – ubxVicWei Tchou

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