Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/457

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MODERN LIFE AND INSANITY.

two were students, one being "an Oxford man who had exhausted himself in getting a double first, and the other a medical student preparing for his second college." Of the women, five were teachers, one a school-girl, and two dressmakers. Three of the teachers were in elementary schools, one a governess and the other a teacher of music and languages. If overwork alone did not, strictly speaking, cause the mental breakdown, still the concomitants must be blamed for these melancholy results.

A late medical officer to Rugby School (Dr. Farquharson), in defending that institution from a charge of injury in the direction of which we now speak, considers that instances of mental strain are more common at the universities, "for not only are the young men at a more sensitive period of life, but they naturally feel that to many of them this is the great opportunity—the great crisis of their existence—and that their success or failure will now effectually make or mar their career. Here the element of anxiety comes into play, sleep is disturbed, exercise neglected, digestion suffers, and the inevitable result follows of total collapse, from which recovery is slow and perhaps never complete."—(Lancet, January 1, 1876.) He thinks he has seen an increase of headaches and nervous complaints among poor children since compulsory attendance at board schools was adopted, and records a warning against too suddenly forcing the minds of wretchedly-feeble, ill-fed and ill-housed children, and against attempts to make bricks too rapidly out of the straw which is placed in our hands.

The psychological mischief done by excessive cramming both in some schools and at home is sufficiently serious to show that the reckless course pursued in many instances ought to be loudly protested against. As we write, four cases come to our knowledge of girls seriously injured by this folly and unintentional wickedness. In one, the brain is utterly unable to bear the burden put upon it, and the pupil is removed from school in a highly-excitable state; in another, epileptic fits have followed the host of subjects pressed upon the scholar; in the third, the symptoms of brain-fog have become so obvious that the amount of schooling has been greatly reduced; and, in a fourth, fits have been induced and complete prostration of brain has followed. These cases are merely illustrations of a class, coming to hand in one day, familiar to most physicians. The enormous number of subjects which are forced into the curriculum of some schools and are required by some professional examinations, confuse and distract the mind, and by lowering its healthy tone often unfit it for the world. While insanity may not directly result from this stuffing, and very likely will not, exciting causes of mental disorder occurring in later life may upset a brain which, had it been subjected to more moderate pressure, would have escaped unscathed. Training in its highest sense is forgotten in the multiplicity of subjects, originality is stunted