National Mental Health Association History

National Mental Health Association was established in 1909 by a former psychiatric patient Clifford W. Beers. The founder experienced significant amount of abuse of mentally ill patients and this experience did not leave his mind after he had recovered completely from his condition. This was the time when individuals with mental illnesses were treated extremely badly by various other people of the society. These people were viewed as possessed by the demon or as animals and therefore the attitude continued through mental institutes and medical facilities as well.

The use of straight-jackets, leg and arm chains and such devices were commonly used in order to restrain mentally ill patients. Patients were not treated with dignity and when Beers suffered a breakdown due to his brother's illness and subsequent death, he was subjected to similar treatment at the hands of incompetent staff, untrained attendants and limited medical expertise.

The few years that Beers spent in these institutions made his mind even more determined about doing something about this condition. The first step towards this was the publication of "A Mind that Changed Itself", an autobiography that detailed the manner in which he struggled through his mental illness and the state of affairs at the mental care facilities. This was the foundation of what Beers had in mind with regards to his resolve. He followed up immediately by creating the Connecticut Society of Mental Hygiene that was expanded to the National Committee for Mental Hygiene.

Some significant reforms were brought about in the immediate future. In 1920, a set of model commitment laws were incorporated into statutes. There were also many studies that were initiated on mental health and specific mental illnesses that changed the entire landscape of the manner in which these illnesses were handled.

The first International Congress for Mental Health was conducted in 1930 and this was another significant achievement. Three notable organizations, namely the national Committee of Mental Hygiene, National Mental Health Foundation, and the Psychiatric Foundation came together to form the National Association of Mental Health (NAMH). This organization played a critical role in the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. Another great achievement was The Mental Health Parity Act of 1996.


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