Clifford Beers and the Mental Health Bell April 24, 2013Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Uncategorized.
In 1900, Clifford Beers, a Yale graduate and young businessman, suffered an acute breakdown brought on by the illness and death of his brother. Shortly after a suicide attempt, Beers was hospitalized in a private Connecticut mental institution. At the mercy of untrained, incompetent attendants, he was subject to degrading treatment and mental and physical abuses.
Beers spent the next few years hospitalized in various institutions, the worst being a state hospital in Middletown, Connecticut. The deplorable treatment he received in these institutions sparked a fearless determination to reform care for individuals with mental illnesses in the United States and abroad.
In 1908, Beers changed mental health care forever with the publication of A Mind That Found Itself, an autobiography chronicling his struggle with mental illness and the shameful state of mental health care in America. The book had an immediate impact, spreading his vision of a massive mental health reform movement across land and oceans.
“I must fight in the open.” Clifford Beers, in 1909, used those words to respond to critics who suggested he start his consumer movement anonymously. During his stays in public and private mental institutions, Beers witnessed and was subjected to horrible abuse. From these experiences, Beers set into motion a reform movement that took shape as Mental Health America.
During the early days of mental health treatment, asylums often restrained people who had mental illnesses with iron chains and shackles around their ankles and wrists. With better understanding and treatments, this cruel practice eventually stopped.
In the early 1950s, Mental Health America issued a call to asylums across the country for their discarded chains and shackles. On April 13, 1956, at the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Md., Mental Health America melted down these inhumane bindings and recast them into a sign of hope: the Mental Health Bell.
Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.
—Inscription on Mental Health Bell
Now the symbol of Mental Health America, the 300 pound Bell serves as a powerful reminder that the invisible chains of misunderstanding and discrimination continue to bind people with mental illnesses. Today, the Mental Health Bell rings out hope for improving mental health and achieving victory over mental illness.
(Note: A Mind that Found Itself is a free Kindle book on Amazon).