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Mental Health America Celebrates 100 Years of Mental Health Advocacy and Support
Date:12/15/2008

Achievements of Past Century Include Major Milestones in the Advancement of Rights and Treatment for Individuals with Mental Health Conditions

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Dec. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mental Health America, today announced the launch of its Centennial Year: "Celebrating the Legacy, Forging the Future." The 100-year history of Mental Health America is the remarkable story of one person who turned a personal struggle with mental illness into a national movement and of the millions of others who came together to fulfill his vision.

Founded in 1909 by Clifford W. Beers, a young businessman who experienced firsthand the treatment of individuals with mental illness, Mental Health America and its over 300 affiliates nationwide have a 100-year record of achievement advancing the cause of people with mental health issues. The National Committee for Mental Hygiene, as it was called in the early years, was the first association of its kind and the beginning of the organized mental health movement in America.

"Our groundbreaking work has transformed how the country approaches mental health care," said David L. Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. "The recent passage of mental health parity is a milestone that builds on our history of advocacy. Now we must move on other fronts so the nation approaches the issue of mental health with the same urgency as other health problems. Good mental health is fundamental to the health and well-being of every person and of the nation as a whole."

Mental Health America will continue its vital work into a new century to end discrimination against persons with mental illnesses, increase research into the causes and cures of mental illnesses and expand access to effective, high quality treatment and prevention programming.

The year-long anniversary will recognize major accomplishments, highlight the organization's continuing work and focus on the challenges and needs of Americans with mental health and substance use conditions.

Over the course of a century, Mental Health America led the way on major advancements and improvements in research, prevention, and treatment surrounding mental health care.

Major accomplishments include:

  • Convened the First International Congress on Mental Hygiene in Washington D.C. (1930)
  • Advocated for passage of the "National Mental Health Act," which created the National Institute of Mental Health. (1946)
  • Launched Mental Health Week (which eventually became May is Mental Health Month) with the Jaycees to educate Americans about mental illness and mental health. (1949)
  • Commissioned the casting of the Mental Health Bell from chains and shackles that restrained people with mental illnesses in decades past. (1953)
  • Convened the National Leadership Conference on Action for Mental Health. (1962)
  • Supported passage of the "Community Mental Health Centers Act" which called for deinstitutionalization and increased community services. (1963)
  • Advocated for inclusion of mandated mental illness services in Medicare. (1966)
  • Successfully demanded that a "Have you ever been mentally Ill?" question be removed from federal government employment forms. (1974)
  • Helped to form the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), a foundation formed with the purpose of raising private sector funds to support research on mental illnesses. (1985)
  • Promoted passage of the Protection and Advocacy for the Mentally Ill Act by Congress. (1985)
  • Organized the National Action Commission on the Mental Health of Rural Americans regarding the delivery of mental health services to citizens living in rural areas. (1987)
  • Played a leading role in the development of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects mentally and physically disabled Americans from discrimination. (1990)
  • In conjunction with the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Institute of Mental Health, organized the first comprehensive conference on The State of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Black America. (1994)
  • Helped secure passage of the "Mental Health Parity Act," the first federal legislation to bring more equity to health insurance coverage of mental health care and implementation of parity in mental health insurance coverage for 9 million federal workers and their families. (1996-1998)
  • Participated in the first-ever White House Conference on Mental Health. (1999)
  • Successfully advocated against the death penalty for juvenile offenders, resulting in a landmark Supreme Court ruling that removed 73 individuals from death row. (2005)
  • Along with a coalition of mental health agencies and advocates, succeeded in getting the Mental Health Parity Act signed into law. (2008)

About Mental Health America:

Celebrating 100 years of mental health advocacy, Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 300 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation -- everyday and in times of crisis. In 2009, we will mark a century of achievement with a year-long Centennial Observance: "Celebrating the Legacy. Forging the Future."


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SOURCE Mental Health America
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