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I was answering the question on why Harry Potter wears glasses and I got to thinking about how the healing of physical injuries is discussed and debated fairly regularly, but mental illness is never addressed. Harry, Moaning Myrtle (before she died, presuming her personality was the same) and Cho Chang experience depression at one point or another in the series. Snape was an anxious kid/teen. Ariana Dumbledore had uncontrollable PTSD (for lack of a better description) There may be more examples that I'm not thinking of. ETA: The Dementors, of course! How could I forget about the Dementors? According to JK Rowling, Dementors are analogous to depression.

Is magical psychological treatment available in Potterverse? If so, what methods are used? How are persons with a mental illness treated in the Wizarding world?

ETA: 02.01.12 While researching another question, I found a spell that is used to treat mental illness in Potterverse. I'll leave this question open, to give the opportunity for someone to answer it.

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    A flip side to that, which may bring an answer, is the question of whether magic can cause depression, PTSD, depression, or any other mental issue. If it can cause such problems, that may lead to it solving such issues. (But my guess would be no, since a major theme to the series is the need to take responsibility for one's actions and deal with life as it is, not as you wish it were.)
    – Tango
    Jan 23 '12 at 7:23
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    Cho wasn't depressed. She was agnsty. Jan 23 '12 at 8:16
  • @DVK: She was a teenager. She's supposed to be angsty. (Is that a word?)
    – Tango
    Feb 1 '12 at 3:16
  • I think Cho was experiencing situational depression -- she was depressed due to Cedric's murder, but time helped her to overcome it. (Sayeth my inner armchair psychologist!) Feb 1 '12 at 13:43
  • Wasn't there in OotP a wizard's mental ward, where Gilderoy Lockhart was a patient?
    – Nu'Daq
    Oct 8 '16 at 23:09
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+50

From the Harry Potter Wiki

The Shock Spell is a healing spell that is presumably used to treat mental illness. A witch wrote to Harry Potter in March 1996 after the The Quibbler published his interview concerning the murder of Cedric Diggory and the return of Lord Voldemort. She suggested that he undergo a course of Shock Spells at St. Mungo's.

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    We now have to ask: Is there any effective magical treatment for mental illness?
    – user867
    Feb 9 '16 at 6:58
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It depends somewhat on the nature of the illness.

For example, IIRC some mental issues stem from the brain trying to handle a specific traumatic memory. "Obliviate" just might fix that. To quote from MIB: "I've just been down the gullet of an interstellar cockroach, kid. That's one of a hundred memories that I don't want". But I don't know of any canon examples.

On the other hand, whatever Ariadne had (this doesn't sound like a simple PTSD, but I'm so far away fro being a mental health expert I can't even play one on Internet), was definitely NOT treatable, since her family hid her away lest she be forever locked in a hospital. The same applies to Neville's parents.

One reason is that Wizarding world seems to be mostly stuck in medieval times when they didn't know about mental illnesses. Another reason is, if you can majick away teenage agnst, you loose all the character development and plot possibilities.

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  • +1 for the MiB quote! And the point of teen angst is an excellent one. (And I'd think if they could use magic, then the Longbottoms would be in better shape than they are.)
    – Tango
    Jan 23 '12 at 9:14
  • But the Longbottoms condition resulted from a curse. Since physical injuries caused by curses are a lot harder to treat, I guess the same will apply for mental conditions.
    – Eowyn12
    Nov 16 '15 at 6:52
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On 10.06.16, J.K. Rowling wrote the following about psychiatric hospitals in her Pottermore update about American witches and wizards:

It might not be coincidence that Williamsburg was the first city in the US to have a dedicated psychiatric hospital. Sightings of odd happenings around President Harkaway’s residence might account for the admission of No-Majs¹ who were, in fact, perfectly sane.

The way the paragraph is written suggests to me that there might be other psychiatric hospitals in the wizarding world.

So, both magic (As Jack B Nimble noted in his answer) and psychiatric hospitals are used to treat mental illness in the wizarding world. This would imply that perhaps other traditional mental health treatments, such as psychiatric potions (medical potions are used at St. Mungo's), talk therapy, or electroconvulsive therapy (I just got the image of Palpatine and his magical electrical fingers! Wrong canon, I know, I know ... ).

¹As a general FYI, "No-Maj" is another way of referring to a person without magic. It's akin to "Muggle". Likely most of you already know this, but there might be a few out there who haven't heard the term yet.

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No, for the most part mental illnesses can't be treated by magic.

Magic can be used to temporarily treat some symptoms, such as through a Memory Charm or the Cheering Charm, but they only mask symptoms, rather than actually treat the underlying illness.

The strongest evidence present in the books/movies against magical treatment of mental illnesses are Alice and Frank Longbottom. The couple were tortured by Death Eaters with the Cruciatus Curse to the point of insanity, and were thereafter confined to St. Mungo's with no hope of restoration.

It is also worth noting that St. Mungo's has no section for the treatment of mental illnesses, based upon the descriptions given within the books.

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  • Thing is, Frank and Alice Longbottom don't have mental illness. They are in a mostly vegetative state more akin to traumatic brain injury. There's a huge difference between TBI and MI; one is a physical injury, the other a biologically occurring illness. That said, it is definitely true that TBI can induce symptoms that mirror those of mental illness; however, the Longbottoms are just in a vegetative state really. :) ETA: It keeps niggling at me that there is a ward for mental illness at St. Mungo's. . . I might be wrong, of course. But I think I'm going to see what I can dig up. Jan 23 '12 at 17:58
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    @Slytherincess I always assumed their vegetative state was some form of severe PTSD, as the cruciatus causes raw pain, without discrete sources of physical trauma. Indication that St. Mungo's has a mental illness ward, though, would certainly be a fairly definitive indication. The Harrypotter.wikia entry I linked suggests it does not, but it may very well be incomplete.
    – Beofett
    Jan 23 '12 at 18:32
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I think that there is a well defined ( in JKRs head ) limit to the power of magic. It can make things back to as they were, it can alter and change things in form and shape, and it can alter ones perceptions of the outside world.

What is cannot do, AFAICS, is change the core person. It could not make Voldemort good, it could not turn a muggle into a wizard. And mental illness is a complex issue, changing it would be changing some of the core of a person ( I know, I suffer from it myself ). So I think that this would be beyond the direct treatment from magic.

What magic could do is provide comfort and support for recovery. So, for the Longbottoms, it could provide a safe and secure environment for them to live in ( OK, recovery not what they are doing, but they still need a good environment to spend their time in ).

And I think the inability of magic to change the core of a person was a critical issue for JKR.

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  • I definitely agree with you that there is a deliberate limit to the healing powers of magic. And I'll make the same argument to you as I did to Beofett, that the Longbottoms are not technically mentally ill, but rather have what I would classify as traumatic brain injuries. I do think it's important to differentiate. I'm on the fence about MI being essential to a person's core; there's that fine line between having an illness and being an illness, where a person gets consumed by their diagnosis. I believe that MI is biological, just as MS, autism, or Crohn's Disease is. :) Jan 23 '12 at 18:33
  • What I meant is that if you resolve a mental illness, you will have a significant effect on the person. It is not core in the sense of "essential", more in the sense of "affecting every part of life". Jan 23 '12 at 18:59

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