Members of the public will have an unique opportunity to learn about the history of mental health – from the perspective of patients and doctors.

“Moonstruck” - a free public exhibition at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh - will feature interactive touchscreens, illustrations, books and objects exploring how society’s understanding and perception of mental health has changed over the past 500 years.

The exhibition will implore visitors to reflect on their own understandings and preconceptions about mental health. It will examine how the treatment of mental health has changed since the time of witchcraft and demonology, and how treatments could vary depending on the social class and gender of patients.

Stories will be shared of patients who were institutionalised for conditions we would not consider today to be mental illnesses, including nymphomania and homosexuality.

And original illustrations of patients at London’s infamous Bethlem Hospital (known in popular culture as “Bedlam”) will be on display to the public for the first time, along with fascinating illustrations and letters from an artist incarcerated at the Crichton Asylum, Dumfries and artwork by a patient at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital from the 1800s.

Patient art will be displayed alongside historic artefacts, encouraging viewers to examine their own understanding of mental health, and to show how many older stereotypes and ideas about mental health may remain unchanged. Moonstruck will include an interactive element, with touchscreens showing short interviews with modern-day patients and practitioners, and displaying portraits of patients from 19th century asylums.

Daisy Cunynghame, curator of “Moonstruck”, said:

Mental health is a challenging subject to discuss. We made sure when developing this exhibition that we consulted with those with lived experiences, practitioners and mental health charities to ensure that different viewpoints were represented.

Alongside some of the more famous names, such as Sigmund Freud, we’ve included artwork and letters from asylum patients to uncover the patient’s voice. A major aim of this exhibition is to challenge stigma around mental health and give it a human face.

Professor Derek Bell, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh said:

The College has played a key role in supporting people with mental illness for centuries. Past Presidents of this College are scatted throughout our exhibition, including Andrew Duncan who was integral to the foundation of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Mental health continues to be an important part of every physician’s work, regardless of their medical specialty: from confused patients arriving in A&E, to the long-term care of the chronically ill.

It’s also important not to forget the mental welfare of physicians themselves, as mental health problems are rising amongst junior doctors due to long hours, increased stress and the extreme pressure they regularly experience on hospital wards across the UK.

The overarching aim of Moonstruck is to enable visitors to delve into a bygone era, and the stories of patients and doctors while raising awareness of mental health stigma.

Moonstruck will launch on 13th June at 6pm, at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Tickets for the launch event can be booked via the College’s website.


1. Moonstruck will launch on 13th June at 6pm, at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Tickets can be booked via our website. The exhibition will run 14 June 2019 – Spring 2020.

2. The exhibition launch will begin in the College foyer with a drinks reception. Visitors will then have the opportunity to hear from two speakers, Jo McFarlane and Dr Allan Beveridge. Jo will discuss her lived experiences of mental health while Allan will uncover the use of illustrations of nineteenth-century asylum patients in their diagnosis. The drinks reception will then continue with tours of our Moonstruck exhibition.

3. In planning Moonstruck, the College worked with patients, practitioners and mental health charities to accurately reflect experiences of mental health and to ensure that content is appropriate for public consumption. The whole point of Moonstruck is to break down stigma around mental health, by looking back at how history has viewed and treated mental illness.

Paul Gillen

Contact: Paul Gillen 0131 247 3658