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Key made by psychiatric patient, Haywards Heath, England, 1900-1960

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A patient at St. Francis Hospital, formerly Brighton County Borough Asylum, carved this small key from a spoon. Details of the patient are unknown. He or she clearly took considerable time to carve the key. We can assume it was for an escape attempt. Before the 1930 Mental Health Act, psychiatric patients in Britain were certified insane and lost their legal rights. However, the Act let patients be admitted to institutions of their own free will and without forfeiting their rights. This included regular reviews into their mental health and the potential for release.

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Glossary: psychiatric hospital

Psychiatric hospital specialising in the treatment of serious mental illness, usually for relatively long-term patients.

Glossary: asylum

A historic term for a psychiatric hospital. The term in this context was common in the 1700s and 1800s, but is no longer in use.

Glossary: key - hardware

The removable actuating devices of locks. For hand tools used for opening and closing devices other than locks and that do not have a jaw and do not fit into screws, use "keys (adjusting equipment)."