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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Youthful Over-Study. — Degeneration and Lunacy. — Dr King Quotes Examples

Youthful Over-Study.

Degeneration and Lunacy.

Dr King Quotes Examples.

Towards the end of Dr Truby King's lecture at the Froebel Club last evening (May 10) he touched dramatically on the effect of overexertion of the mind on a child's future He said that people expressed pity for the hardened brute who, after years during which he consistently ill-treated his wife, at last murdered her, and was hanged. But it never occurred to them to pity those who were allowed to kill themselves with overwork. He had to quote the cases of two persons—a boy and girl—sent to Seacliff in one year. These two victims were insane, and it was the duty of the community to protect others from being allowed to share their fate. Not only had human lives been blasted; it appealed in an economic way, too. Every young person sent to the asylum who did not recover cost the State an average of from £500 to £1,000. "Fancy," said the doctor, "a possible sixty years of life spent in an asylum because of your system of education!"

The following is an extract from Dr King's report to his Minister in 1897, and below are appended the doctor's case-book accounts of the two cases referred to by him :—

In the apparent causes of insanity among patients admitted that of "over-study" is of special interest. It is extremely important that parents and guardians should clearly recognise that prolonged and excessive mental strain and neglect of exercise, recreation, and rest, especially among girls, during the period of rapid growth and development, cannot be continued without an ultimate dwarfing of both mind and body, and grave peril to the integrity of the organism. In the stress of competition for honors and prizes the brain is so often worked at the verge of the breaking strain, to the neglect of everything else, that one is inclined to wonder that entire mental collapse does not result more frequently. If the secondary effects of over-pressure among girls in impairing the potentialities of reproduction and healthy maternity were more widely known, it would possibly prove a greater incentive to moderation than the more striking but comparatively rare causation of insanity.