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A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography

Creator: Clifford Whittingham Beers (author)
Date: 1910
Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co., New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

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An effective beginning might be made if the Government would establish a Federal Commission for the adequate statistical investigation of insanity. (18) Such a Commission, supported by governmental prestige and having at its disposal the wonderful machinery of the Census Bureau, could secure information which would be denied any private agency. And later, similar Commissions representing the nations of the world could form an International Commission which should become a clearing-house for the world's best thought on the subject of insanity, its cause, cure, and eventual defeat as a common foe to mankind.

(18) See Appendix III for quotations from a report issued (July, 1906) by the Department of Commerce and Labor under the heading: "Insane and Feeble-minded in Hospitals and Institutions, 1904." The compiler of this report complains of the inadequate data on which he had to base his conclusions.


A permanent agency for reform and education in the field of nervous and mental diseases is one of the great needs of the day. Such an agency -- whatever its form -- could do in its own field what the National Society for the Prevention and Cure of Tuberculosis has done, and is doing, in its sphere of activity. Though the improvement of conditions among those actually insane and confined should ever be an important factor in shaping the policy of such an organization, its most important work would be the waging of an educative war against the prevailing ignorance regarding insanity. This, to cure the disease by preventing it, is the only effective cure known. The watchword of such an organization might well be the significant phrase: Mental Hygiene. Its purpose: the spreading of a common-sense gospel of right thinking in order to bring about right living, knowledge of which is needed by the public at large if the population of our asylums is to be controlled and eventually decreased. A campaign of education, rigorously carried on, would, in time, lead to the rescue of thousands who, if left in ignorance, must, of necessity, drift into a state of actual and perhaps incurable insanity. Editors, ministers, educators, philanthropists, and members of the medical profession, as well, could do much to further such a work of enlightenment.


Having promised the reader a "remedy," I dare to offer a definite recommendation, based on the advice of interested supporters who, for years, have been actively engaged in successful works of reform and education. I suggest that a "National Committee" (modeled after the very efficient "National Child Labor Committee") shall, without delay, be brought to a working perfection. Such a "Committee" could co-operate with Federal, State, and local agencies -- and do so in such a manner that representative men and women in each State may, when it takes shape, control the movement in their respective communities.


The ramifications of the proposed organization would be so numerous as not to admit of detailed description here. Suffice it to say that the "National Committee for Mental Hygiene" (I present the name for consideration) would be equally the friend of the physician and the patient; also the friend of a patient's relatives, to whom, when burdened with an actual or impending affliction, it would become an unfailing source of information, advice, and comfort. In a word, it would be a friend to Humanity, for no man knows when he himself may have to look to it for assistance.




THE history of the development of Non-Restraint is intensely interesting, but too long a story to admit of its incorporation in this book. However, the reader may gain a comprehensive idea of the inception of this humane principle, its scientific value and practicability, if he will but turn to Appendix I and read the opinion of an earnest believer in Non-Restraint, Dr. Charles W. Page, Superintendent of the Danvers State Hospital for the Insane, at Hathorne, Massachusetts. An active superintendent of wide experience, he testifies that since deliberately introducing Non-Restraint, "I have been responsible for the custody and treatment of more than six thousand insane persons, not one of whom was restrained with mechanical appliances by my orders or within my knowledge." How, then, can any superintendents, worthy of support, continue to use apologetically that cruel method which they dare not freely advocate? The mere fact that their attitude is apologetic proves that these unprogressive men (to use a mild term) can be converted, provided Public Opinion will do its right work.


Though the universal adoption and continued use of Non-Restraint will contribute to the well-being, even happiness, of the inmates of our hospitals, its use alone cannot materially decrease the total number of insane persons, except in so far as the resulting recoveries will more than offset the average greater number of years a patient is likely to live in an institution where he is treated kindly and scientifically from the moment of commitment. Of course, if, in a supposedly humane age, it is the policy of the public to treat the unfortunate insane harshly, even brutally, with the hope of killing some and cutting short the lives of others, destined to live long under favorable conditions, Restraint is the method of treatment to use, and the more cruel and repressive it is, the easier will it be for some cold-blooded calculator to prove that by its means, money has been saved the State. But it will be at the cost of killing many patients who might recover; and, further, such an accountant in arriving at his heartless result would certainly have to disregard the economically sound law that it is cheaper for the State to spend any amount of money for the prevention and cure of insanity than it is to neglect those threatened or afflicted with it.

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