For Mental Health Awareness Month 2023 we’re partnering with the Connecticut Historical Society and taking it waaaaay back every Thursday with #ThrowbackThursday to share a few stories of how people faced life’s challenges throughout history.
“Each person’s mind and experience are unique. But mental health has a history, shared by those in the past and in the present. You are not alone.” – a quote from the Intro Label of Common Struggle, Individual Experience: An Exhibition About Mental Health at the Connecticut Historical Society
The roots of advocacy run deep at MHC thanks to our founder, Clifford Beers, who is also often referred to as the “grandfather of recovery.”
For those in the mental health and recovery field, Beers is a name that comes up often, yet he is not widely known outside of the mental health world. We are sharing his story with the community this Mental Health Awareness Month because we believe it’s a powerful one that deserves to be known in more circles.
In the early 1900s, Beers was experiencing symptoms of what today may be diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder. After attempting to die by suicide, Beers was subjected to ineffective treatments and cruel conditions in Connecticut’s mental health institutions during three years of hospitalizations. Upon recovery, Beers vowed to make a difference in the mental health system and set out on the task of reform. His autobiography, A Mind That Found Itself, chronicled the harsh and unscientific treatments he had endured and his journey back to health.
Clifford Beers did not believe that his fate was to live and die in an institution. The inhumane treatment he received and witnessed at psychiatric hospitals was an experience that he promised to share with the world. He left institutions committed to telling the world of his experiences and driven to change minds and the system.
Beers gained the support of the medical profession and others in the work to reform the treatment of people living with mental illness. In 1908 Beers founded the “Connecticut Society for Mental Hygiene”, now named Mental Health Connecticut. In 1909 Beers founded the “National Committee for Mental Hygiene”, now named Mental Health America.He also started the Clifford Beers Clinic in New Haven in 1913, the first outpatient mental health clinic in the United States.
Fast forward 111 years from the day he founded MHC (originally as the “CT Society for Mental Hygiene). The system has changed and across the U.S. Community-based programs such as MHC’s are supporting individuals of all ages. However, MHC’s work – and the work of so many caring and smart leaders in this field – is often hampered by stigma and discrimination, lack of funds, and a deep level of misunderstanding about what mental health is and is not.
On Saturday, May 6th, Mental Health Connecticut will celebrate our Founder’s Day anniversary and 115 years of partnering with individuals, families and communities to create environments that support long-term health and wellness. We would not be able to support the community without community support itself. Thank you to our amazing sponsors, donors and supporters.
“Until some one tells just such a story as mine and tells it sanely, needless abuse of helpless thousands will continue.”
Clifford Beers, A Mind That Found Itself
New Haven, 1908
Learn more about Clifford Beers and other faces of resilience by checking out the virtual tour of the Connecticut Historical Society exhibit, “Common Struggle, Individual Experience: An Exhibition About Mental Health” https://chs.org/exhibition/virtual-commonstruggleindividualexperience/
Be a part of MHC’s history of supporting Connecticut residents for over 100 years, set up a fundraising page or making a donation today!
Stay in touch with us on social media @mentalhealthct and keep up with our blog posts so you don’t miss a #ThrowbackThursday in May!