Recently I met with a parent with two daughters.   One daughter has a severe disorder where she sees and hears things which aren’t there; the other daughter apparently complained she thought her sister was “just making things up.”  The parent added sadly, “I wish there was some way for us to get inside my daughter’s head to see what it’s like.”  “Yep, sure enough!” I replied.

This reminded me of the extraordinary story by Clifford Beers – written in 1907 at a time when psychiatric drugs didn’t exist and those considered mentally ill were locked behind bars. After Beers recovered enough entirely on his own, he wrote A Mind That Found Itself.  I read this book as an undergrad student; the account is so riveting, it stayed with me all these years.

So using my laptop, I Googled Beers name and was happy to find multiple links.  The parent clicked on this link (a note about Beers by the clinic which now bears his name) and noted, “Very interesting!”  I later found a link, as an e-book, entirely free!

This week is National Mental Health Awareness Week.  It seems befitting to add this blog as a reminder of the truly significant progress we have made as a society, and also to reflect on the exceptional tenacity and resiliency among so many of the mentally ill, often by necessity.  That said, it is too often true that the small percent of untreated mentally ill make headlines after committing horrific acts.  Then there are those claiming to be mentally ill who are not but want to escape harsh criminal consequences.  When someone bites a dog, that’s news – not v. versa. There’s a huge number of mentally ill who are stabilized by treatment.  Some might work beside you.  Others might be your neighbors.

3 thoughts on “Clifford Beers and the Progress of Mental Health

  1. Monica Beckett

    Thank you so very much for sharing this Dave….This really hit a chord with me today. I miss coming to Sage Neuroscience center! Due to my move to Massachusetts…I have quickly found out The Stigma of Mental Illness is in full force in MA. They feel Bipolar people should live in transitional housing! You know me I stood up for myself & said this is not happening. Then 2 wks. ago my new Psychiatrist decided I didn’t need my psych. meds anymore…nor could I afford them with my Social Security here in MA.! I am happy that I have had you & Heather & your whole office in my life….it has made me stronger. I am learning how to manage what is going on inside my head without meds. & without sleep. Our Mind is a Beautiful Thing & I know I have been through worse & I will show them I can do this. Just another Chapter in my Life & another chapter to a good book in which I would love too write. Having a Doctor tell me my meds are a crutch! I am able to share my thought’s …..but once again I am also able to disassociate with the world around me & only let me in! Just another day in a life When my diagnosis is used against me! Thanks for the great reads…. I am going to share this with my new Doctors & see how they can reinvent the wheel with it! Wishing you all a Happy Holiday Season.

    1. teresa

      thanks Monica for sharing your experience. i am counseling student who is also going through self development moments as a student and a mother. as i was reading your message, i mentally visited Kenyan mental hospital and i am afraid we are just where Beers began. it is in pathetic order. in the streets we have mentally sick people who are rejected, and stigmatized. i thinking in Africa there is no sensitization of mental disorder. we believe that it is witchcraft or is sad to think this is too happening in a civilized country but i hope with the help of mental health bodies, and cooperation of the affected,we are moving to a space.

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