How The Victorians Were More Caring Than You Might Think

Dr. Wendy Sims-Schouten’s research reveals that our perception of the Victorians may not necessarily be the reality. The images conjured by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins were not necessarily a true reflection of how children were treated.

Children were often taken in to care as a result of dysfunctional family situations and parents with mental health issues. The research shows a stronger focus on helping the child than expected, especially those with mental health issues.

The phrase ‘mental health’ was first used in the late 1800s and the main difference is the language used to describe individuals with mental health conditions which was also used to describe those with learning difficulties and ‘peculiarities’.

The seriousness of mental health issues, among other factors, played a huge part in the decision making process. Catering for children with mental health issues was, and still is, a problem. Can we learn from the Victorian’s and Edwardian’s more caring approach?  By making sure we listen to children and give them a voice.

Approach to childhood mental health based on Victorian values

Dr. Wendy Sims-Schouten’s research, funded by The Wellcome Trust, reveals a different story than expected when it comes to the Victorian’s approach to children’s mental health.  In essence, little has changed over the last 100 years in our approach to these issues. The organisations and agencies involved struggled then, just as they do now. Although the use of language may have changed, many of the same stigmas surrounding mental health still exist today.

Approach to childhood mental health based on Victorian values