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mental hygiene

mental hygiene, the science of promoting mental health and preventing mental illness through the application of psychiatry and psychology. A more commonly used term today is mental health. In 1908, the modern mental hygiene movement took root as a result of public reaction to Clifford Beers's autobiography, A Mind That Found Itself, which described his experiences in institutions for the insane. Beers adopted the name "mental hygiene" (suggested by Adolf Meyer) to describe his ideas, and founded the Connecticut Society for Mental Hygiene (1908) and the National Committee for Mental Hygiene (1909), the group which organized the National Association for Mental Health in 1950. Each of these groups sought to improve the quality of care for the mentally ill, to prevent mental illness where possible, and to ensure that accurate information regarding mental health was widely available. The National Institute of Mental Health has been responsible, since 1949, for the major portion of U.S. research in mental illness. The mental hygiene movement has accomplished, among other advances, wide reforms in institutional care, the establishment of child-guidance clinics, and public education concerning mental hygiene. See also psychiatry; psychotherapy; psychosis.

See G. N. Grob, Mental Illness and American Society, 1875–1940 (1983); P. Brown, ed., Mental Health Care and Social Policy (1985); T. Richardson, The Century of the Child (1989); E. F. Torrey, Nowhere to Go (1992).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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