Biographical / Historical
This survey was designed to be the first of its kind within Britain, mimicking those undertaken across Western Europe and the U.S.A. By choosing the Dumfriesshire area as a sample representative of rural communities across Britain, this project attempted to survey the incidence of perceived mental abnormalities within the population. Stemming from eugenicist anxieties about a farming population in numerical, moral, and medical decline, it hoped to identify casual hereditary and social factors in order to prevent, contain, and cure mental illness. To do so, a number of patients previously admitted to the Crichton Royal were followed up by a psychiatric social worker, and questioned. Taking into account the opinions of respected authorities in the local area, the social worker attempted to again an idea of subjects' mental health issues, familial relationships, and social conditions.
In 1946 the Dumfries and Galloway Development Association carried out a pilot survey in the three Solway Counties (Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire) to find out why people were leaving the countryside and while people wished to remain in rural areas. This survey though psychologically sound vis a vis certain sections of the community was not on a scientific sampling basis so at the suggestion of Dr. Mayer-Gross of the Crichton Royal, who had carried out a psychiatric survey in Dumfriesshire, it was thought that more definite information was required as to this subject as to which so many people had so many different opinions. Accordingly the Secretary of State was approached with a view to the Social Survey carrying out on a scientific basis. Eventually in 1947 after preparatory field work by the Department of Health carried out by the Misses Thomson and Jones, assisted possibly by a conference with members of the Dumfries and Galloway Department Association, the Survey was initiated under the auspices of the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture at St. Andrews House.
It was proposed that the last 500 admissions from the area could be taken as a suitable nucleus from which the survey could be started, or if advisable to avoid the war years, all admissions between 1930 and 1935. Discharged cases would be followed up, the families of those still in hospital visited by Psychiatric Social Worker.
Additional persons were identified through speaking to professionals in each parish. District nurses were to be asked for all chronic invalids without marked physical disabilities. Doctors to be asked about patients considered to be psychiatric. The Labour Exchange was to provide information on those not attending the doctor but with a limited capacity for work due to suspected neurosis. Policeman were to be asked for names of all troublesome people in the district, "including alcoholics, idlers, shirkers ne’er do wells and gamblers. They should be asked about the most untrustworthy people in the district which may lead to the assessment of pathological liars and swindlers. Generally speaking everybody who gets into trouble with the police or the courts must be suspected of being abnormal with the exception of traffic offences, alcoholic excesses and other petty and single offences. The police have also probably the best knowledge of suicidal attempts and sexual offences".
5111 persons were finally included, being 9 percent of the total population.
Source: Administrative files EUA IN1/ACU/S2/17