Peter Bryce



Alabama's first psychiatrist. Medical Superintendent, Alabama Hospital for the Insane from its inception to his death, 1860-1892. His pioneering treatment of the mentally ill with humane care, non-restraint and occupational therapy became a basic practice of modern psychiatry.

Peter Bryce laid the groundwork for the care of the mentally ill in Alabama, not by the mere holding of a position, but by his own sensitive, patient nature and by the inauguration of treatment methods that mark him as a pioneer in psychiatry.

Bryce, a native of South Carolina, was elected superintendent of the newly created, not yet completed, Alabama Insane Hospital in 1860, when he was only 26 years old. He gave the remaining 32 years of his life to the hospital that now bears his name. The idea of "moral treatment" of the insane, discarding the use of shackles, jackets and other medical restraints was 70 years old but still virtually unknown in this country when the first person was admitted by Bryce in 1861. The young physician enforced strict discipline among his attendants, requiring nothing short of absolute courtesy, kindness and respect toward the patients. This conscientious nursing bore fruit in the form of warm relationships and by 1882 a policy of absolute non-restraint could be initiated. Bryce set up programs of work - farming, sewing, maintenance - and of amusement for his patients; programs valuable both as therapy and as a means of making ends meet. The very survival of the hospital during its early years, when the state's interest and finances were directed to other needs, must be listed as one of the superintendent's greatest accomplishments.

Bryce created a mental institution recognized as one of the best managed in the country. An understatement, but nonetheless true, is Bryce's own assessment, written just before his death: "I feel that I have done my work, and hope, without selfpraise, to be permitted to say I have done it well."

Elected 1965

Alabama Hall of Fame, 1968

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Revised: 5/8/96