History of Institute of Mental Health Amritsar is linked to the history of mental health services in the erstwhile state of Punjab of Undivided British India. To understand it properly, it has to be viewed as before and after the Partition (1947) for convenience. Treatment for psychiatric patients by a medical doctor started with the arrival of Dr Honigberger. He belonged to Hungary and worked as state physician to Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1812. His services were initially limited to families and close relatives of nobles. After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Dr Honigberger was appointed in charge of the gunpowder factory located at Lahore and was also asked to treat general patients at the city's General Hospital, then called Al-Shifa, located outside the Delhi Gate at Lahore. Dr Honigberger set up a ward for psychiatric patients in this hospital at Lahore and it was in this way that the foundation was laid for future psychiatric services in this region. When the British took over Punjab, Dr Honigberger transferred his 12 patients to Dr Smith, the district civil surgeon in Lahore. In 1854, Mr Robert Montgomery, the judicial commissioner of united Punjab of British India floated the idea of building a mental hospital in Lahore , but this could not materialise for certain reasons.
Till 1900, these patients were shifted from place to place for various reasons till a new mental hospital was established at Lahore in 1900. The patients were given under the supervision of Col. Dr Ewen, a psychiatrist, who was appointed as the first medical superintendent. This gentleman headed the hospital till his death in 1914. The hospital remained without a psychiatrist till 1922. Dr Lodge Patch took over as in charge of the hospital. Dr Patch, a psychiatrist, worked hard to improve the prevailing conditions and added also new buildings. As a result, the number of patients increased to about 1400. A distinguished psychiatrist of his time, Dr Kraeplin, had also wished to come over to Mental Hospital Lahore to complete his research during that period. In 1947, the country was divided into India and Pakistan, and a decision was taken by the two governments to exchange mentally ill patients admitted in Mental Hospitals located in the two countries.
There were 14 mental hospitals in India at that time and there were three mental hospitals in Pakistan ( Lahore, Hyderabad and Peshawar) Non-muslim patients admitted in Pakistan were transferred to India and Muslim patients admitted in India were transferred to Pakistan. Since the number of patients available for exchange was large and there was no Mental Hospital in East Punjab of India, the government decided to establish a Mental Hospital at Amritsar. A large number of mentally ill patients were shifted from Pakistan and all of them were, to start with, lodged in tents erected in an open ground at Amritsar. An old dilapidated building of a borstal jail was lying vacant and the then Government of Punjab decided to convert it into Punjab Mental Hospital, Amritsar. With the passage of time, government acquired additional land lying vacant nearby and the hospital ultimately was converted into an 811 bedded hospital. The subject of mental health was in its infancy and there were no qualified psychiatrist available in the country with the result the treatment of mentally ill patients in those days was largely custodial in nature. But with the appointment of Dr Vidia Sagar as the Medical Superintendent of the hospital, there occurred an all round improvement of the hospital and it became so famous that patients from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu Kashmir, Rajasthan, Utter Pradesh and other neighbouring states started coming to Amritsar for treatment.
Punjab Mental Hospital came to acquire an iconic status in the city of Amritsar and became one of the three important places of Amritsar i.e. Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh and Mental Hospital, Amritsar. IN 1966, the state of Punjab was reorganised and divided into Punjab and Haryana. DR Vidia Sagar opted to join Haryana and was therefore transferred and posted as Professor and Head of Psychiatry Department at Medical College Rohtak. With the departure of Dr Vidia Sagar started the gradual deterioration of this hospital and a time came in the 1990 to 1998 when it was always in the news for bad reasons. There were reports of indiscipline and absenteeism on the part of staff, a few case of rape and sodomy of the patients, and a general decline in the upkeep of the hospital. After accepting the report and recommendations of a High Powered committee which was constituted by the government to suggest measures to improve the Mental Hospital, Punjab Govt. transferred the administrative control of Mental Hospital, Amritsar to Punjab Health Systems Corporation with all its assets and liabilities and authorised it establish an Institute Of Mental Health by constructing a new building with all the facilities.
The Government appointed DR. B. L. Goyal, a retired Professor and Head of Psychiatry department and Principal of Government Medical College, Amritsar as the new Director of Institute of Mental Health who assumed this charge on the 1st of January, 2001. A new, beautiful building with all the facilities for a 450 bedded hospital has been constructed and has been commissioned in 2003. The Institute of Mental Health now has a modern kitchen, an automatic laundry, dormitory accommodation for the patients, clean toilets and bath-rooms with the facility of hot water during winter. It has a separate administrative cum out patients block with a shopping complex. All the required medicines for the treatment of mentally ill patients are available. The hospital has a well equipped psychological laboratory, a biochemistry lab and well equipped centre for administration of Modified electroconvulsive therapy. The institute is affiliated to National Board of Examinations, New Delhi for imparting training to D.N.B. candidates and has a School of Nursing where 40 students are admitted every year for three years course of General Nursing and Midwifery. Admissions of mentally ill patients to the hospital are done strictly as per provisions of Mental Health Act, 1987 and patients belonging to states of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh can be admitted as per this act.