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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Comparative Statistics

Comparative Statistics.

I have already indicated that out of an average of some 110 persons admitted per annum to Seacliff Mental Hospital on account of acquired insanity an average of one case directly attributable to adverse conditions of education occurs in youth. But such a bald statement can convey very little idea of the gravity of the situation unless we have some idea as to the relative frequency of insanity occurring before and after twenty years of age. Dr Clouston is the recognised authority on this subject. He says:—

In Scotland at the present time (1892) nearly one-half the population are under the age of twenty, while in the Royal Edinburgh Asylum we have, out of a total of 730 patients, only ten under that age. The contrast between 50 per cent. and 1.5 per cent. in the sane and insame populations is a very marked one. But, to show how different is the state of matters in the older periods of life, let us compare the number of persons over sixty in Scotland and in the asylum. In the general population there are just about 8 per cent. over that age, while in the asylum, out of 730, there are no less than 126, or 17 per cent. Or, to bring out the facts differently, it is found that the number of people so insane as to require to be sent to asylums is about 1 in 600 of the population. Now, at this rate, our 730 inmates represent on ordinary population of 438,000. One half of these, or 219,000 persons, are twenty years of age or under, and they have only supplied ten of our lunatics, insanity occurring it them at the rate of only 1 in 21,900, while the remaining half of the general population—that over twenty—had produced 720 lunatics, or 1 in 304—that is, in seventy times the proportion of those under twenty years of age.

Let us compare these figures with ours. The Registrar-General telegraphs :—"Population twenty years and under, census 1901, was 359,762." Our returns show that there were in the colony at that time seventy four asylum patients from one to twenty years of age out of a total asylum population of 2,672. Had our proportionate incidence of insanity been the same as quoted by Dr Clouston, there would have been only 57.6 cases instead of 74. This would indicate that an undue proportion of [unclear: o] young people are insane, but, as before stated, I attach little value to statisties which cannot be analysed. Many allowances would have to be made when [unclear: institioning] any comparison between an Old World city like Edinburgh and the whole of a young colony. We know, further, that there are bitter complaints as to school over pressure at Home, and I have at hand a data showing the relative degrees of stress prevalent in Scotland as compared with cent own schools. There are admitted to the Seacliff Mental Hospital (exclusive of congenitals), say, 110 patients per annum. Of these, so far as we can ascertain, there is an average of four per annum originally of average or more than average intelligence who have become insane before the age of twenty-one. Of these four I am satisfied that one patient becomes insane through the direct effects of faulty conditions of education. [Four-fifths of such cases are girls] About an equal number of cases is associated with marked sexual irregularities. As well be understood, from what I lave already indicated, it is impossible to state what proportion of these (nearly all males) would saved under a rational education system. I may say, however, that the almost invariable history one gets regarding such lads is that they have been sedentary, not given to playing games, and inclined to be bookish Lads made to take their part in school games rarely go seriously wrong in this way. Regarding the other half, some factor, such as injury to the head, sunstroke, seduction, [unclear: a] marked heredity, has been ascertained in the majority of cases, but there are a few instances where no cause is forthcoming.

It must be borne in mind, regarding young people belonging to the High School and University class, that the majority would not be sent to an asylum at all, especially page 39 to a public asylum, but would be treated at home or in private houses. The same applies more or less to young people in general, because in them what we call recovery usually takes place, though the system never regains its proper stability, and relapse is very liable to ensue later in life. Further, we have no means available for tracing the factor of past educational over-pressure in the causation of insanity occur-ring in adult life, although, as I have indicated, we have every reason to conclude that this is a leading factor. It is obvious that the ultimate effects of "cram" will operate increasingly in this direction as the adult population comes to be more and more composed of persons who have gone through the forcing machine. It is sufficiently grave that say from 20 to 30 or more per cent. of cases of acquired insanity occurring during youth in people not born below the average of intelligence should be attributable, as I have indicated, to faulty education; as well as an indefinite, unascertainable proportion of those occurring in adult life. However, as I have always maintained, it is not as a cause of actual insanity that school over-pressure concerns us most, but as a potent factor in giving rise to widespread degeneracy and a more or less universal dwarfing of the ultimate physical, mental, and moral stature of the whole community. Dr Lindo Ferguson was more than justified when, re-plying at the Brisbane Congress, he said: "They (the doctors) must do something. Such a state of affairs could not be permitted to continue without protest and effort at reform. If they could only get the first cut into the upas tree, they would do well."

Mr Wilson may reply that the blighting influence of school over-pressure is as mythical as the poisonous exhalations of the upas tree, but against such a comforting view, we have not only the scientific evidence of medical men and the practical conclusions of a large section of the public, but have actually the unhesitating testimony of the vast majority of teachers themselves. Of the latter, a few have boldly proclaimed their opinions in the Press, but in most cases teachers say they do not feel at liberty to publicly criticise a department and system under which they are working, though they speak freely enough in private. Such teachers, both in primary and secondary schools, have assured me that the work expected of free pupils sent to the high schools under the new regulations is so extensive and exacting that many pupils are called upon to overtake in fifteen months work which should be spread over a period of at least three years. When it is realised that this is the dictum of teachers long habituated to an over-pressure system (and inclined, therefore, to allow children to greatly overtax themselves), I think that most people will come to the conclusion that the new pressure, as affecting short-term free scholars, will not under any circumstances be less than three times the proper working pressure. If my informants are right, frequent breakdowns will be inevitable, though the rector manifests no anxiety.