Mental Health America Recognizes Contributions of Dorothea Dix as Part of National Women's History Month, 100th Anniversary
Contact: Steve Vetzner, (703) 797-2588 or email@example.com
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (March 2, 2009)-As part of National Women's History Month and its 100th Anniversary celebration, Mental Health America is honoring the enormous contributions of mental health advocate Dorothea Dix.
Dorothea Dix is recognized as a groundbreaking figure in the treatment of individuals with a mental health condition and one of the most influential social reformers of the 19th Century. Dix has been previously honored during National Women's History Month, which is celebrated each year in March.
"Dorothea Dix was a crusader for humane treatment and a voice of conscience," said David Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. "We will always remember her work and accomplishments."
In 1841, Dix, then a teacher, volunteered to teach a Sunday school class to the women in the East Cambridge Jail in Massachusetts. When she entered the jail to teach, she was appalled at the conditions the inmates were forced to endure. At the time, people with mental health conditions were viewed as incurable and generally unaware of their surroundings.
Dix found similar conditions in prisons throughout Massachusetts and convinced the state legislature to increase funding for the state psychiatric hospital to accommodate additional residents. During the next 40 years, Dix persuaded legislatures in 15 states as well as in Canada and Europe to establish 32 public psychiatric hospitals and stop imprisoning people with mental illnesses. She also successfully lobbied Congress to establish the first and only national federal mental health facility, which grew to be a world-class mental health and research center.
She founded several hospitals and schools for those with mental illness as well as specialized schools for nurses. Her reforms were put into practice in Europe as well. In 1887, she passed away in a hospital she had founded.
Mental Health America, celebrating its 100th Anniversary, was founded Clifford Beers, who personally experienced the conditions Dix exposed. Beers is thought to have had bipolar disorder and, after attempting to take his own life, ended up in public and private hospitals in Connecticut. In his biography published in 1908, A Mind That Found Itself, he chronicled the cruelties of his handling in those institutions. His story opened the nation's eyes to the shameful state of mental health care in America.
Determined to reform care and end maltreatment, Beers on February 19, 1909, founded the National Committee for Mental Hygiene (now known as Mental Health America), which was the beginning of the organized mental health movement in America. Beers started a worldwide movement and his groundbreaking work transformed the face of mental health care.
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 are marking a century of achievement with a year-long Centennial Observance: "Celebrating the Legacy. Forging the Future."