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Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, Philadelphia, PA, 1933.[View Image]
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Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, Philadelphia, PA, 1933.
Photo:Library of Congress
Digital ID pa1042

Mental Health 

Although mental health and mental illness are related, they represent different psychological states.

Mental health isa state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” It is estimated that only about 17% of U.S adults are considered to be in a state of optimal mental health. There is emerging evidence that positive mental health is associated with improved health outcomes.

Mental illness is defined as “collectively all diagnosable mental disorders” or “health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.” Depression is the most common type of mental illness, affecting more than 26% of the U.S. adult population. It has been estimated that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world, trailing only ischemic heart disease. Source: Centers for Disease Control:


  • Beers, Clifford WhittinghamThis entry is about Clifford Whittingham Beers, the founder of Mental Health America and a pioneer in advocating for improved treatment of mental illness. It was excerpted from the booklet “Clifford W. Beers: The Founding of Mental Health 1908-1935” produced by The Human Spirit Initiative, an organization with a mission to inspire people to desire to make a difference and then act on it. Note: Michael Gray, working with Ted Deutsch, Deutsch Communications Group authored the narrative from which this entry is taken.
  • Care Of The Insane In New York (1736 - 1912)Written by Linda S. Stuhler. "...the hospital was an institution of great public utility and humanity, and that the general interests of the state required that fit and adequate provision be made for the support of an infirmary for sick and insane persons."
  • Education For Community Mental Health Practice: Problems And ProspectsThe problem of professional education for community mental health practice is one that poses a number of intricate questions for both educators and practitioners. The complexity and size of the mental health problem and the growing support for mental health programs throughout the country together indicate that the field of social work must make a major effort to relate soundly to the educational needs in this field. The work of the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Mental Health clearly indicates the need for useful data on which to assess and evaluate the current and future directions of mental health programs. There is a strong feeling among those who have some awareness of where we now stand that current efforts in mental health fall far short of meeting the vast needs. There is continued questioning of the nature and content of service available and there is a high degree of curiosity about the effectiveness of current services. We now face the disconcerting fact that we may not really be meeting these needs just by increasing the number of known and existing services; rather the implication of present-day thinking is that we need to bring about some radical changes in our working philosophy and in our practice if we are to make any realistic impression on mental health problems.
  • Meeting The Manpower Crisis In Staffing The Mental Health Facilities: The Role Of The Federal Government (1963) Speech given by Milton Wittman, D.S.W. at the Annual Meeting of Conference of Chief Social Workers in State and Territorial Mental Health Programs, Cleveland, Ohio, May 17, 1963. "It seems inappropriate to consider the “manpower crisis” only in terms of numbers of social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, and nurses. Rather, it seems more important to discuss the use which is made of these professions in the structure of mental health programs as they function today and as they may function in the future."
  • Mental Health America - OriginsIn 1908, Clifford Whittingham Beers published his autobiography “A Mind That Found Itself.” The publication chronicled his struggle with mental illness and the shameful state of mental health care in America. In the first page of his book, Beers reveals why he wrote the book: "...I am not telling the story of my life just to write a book. I tell it because it seems my plain duty to do so. A narrow escape from death and a seemingly miraculous return to health after an apparently fatal illness are enough to make a man ask himself: For what purpose was my life spared? That question I have asked myself, and this book is, in part, an answer...."
  • Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital: New York - 1891This is a lengthy "Letter to the Editor" of The New York Times written by "Index Medicus," a medical society and journal. If New York State was transferring patients out of their district to another state hospital, why couldn’t the State pay for the transportation of patients whose family and friends wanted them to receive homeopathic medical care as opposed to allopathic medical care?
  • Scientific Charity Movement and Charity Organization Societies“Scientific charity built on Americans’ notion of self-reliance, limited government, and economic freedom. Proponents of scientific charity shared the poorhouse advocates’ goals of cutting relief expenses and reducing the number of able-bodied who were receiving assistance, as well as the moral reformers’ goal of uplifting people from poverty through discipline and religious education via private charity. In this model, individuals responded to charity and the government stayed out of the economic sphere.
  • Social Work and Aftercare of the Mentally Ill in Maryland"The question of affording proper care for patients discharged from hospitals for the insane is by no means a new one. The best and most satisfactory method of administering this aid has not yet been entirely decided…" (Arthur P. Herring, Secretary of the Maryland Lunacy Commission, September 14, 1910).
  • The Place Of Mental Health Clinics In Settlements And Neighborhood Houses"The settlement psychiatric clinic is significantly different from that in any other setting. It not only offers a more broadly based service in prevention and treatment, but it is the one place where the clinic has the opportunity to work with the total individual in his total situation – a basic treatment principle."
  • Willard State Hospital, New York. Primary Sources
  • Willard, Sylvester D.Sylvester David Willard, M.D., LL. D. (June 19, 1825 – April 2, 1865) — Volunteer Surgeon in Civil War, Founder of Willard Asylum for the Insane
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