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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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THE field is before us! The disgrace of the facts (of which I have related but a few) still cries to Heaven. Though the days of dungeons, manacles, shackles, ropes, straps, and chains have, in the main, passed, it should yet be borne in mind that our great hospitals, with their beautiful grounds, are too often but cloaks wherewith a well-intentioned but blind civilization still covers a hideous nakedness. This cruel and deceptive cloak must be torn off. Let these mysteries be converted into open Truth and Fairness. That the public has long been deceived by appearances is not surprising. For, even I, in walking casually through the wards of such a hospital, find it well-nigh impossible to realize that many of the inmates are subjected to even mild abuse. Even I, who have suffered the most exquisite torture from "muffs" and strait-jackets (camisoles), have, in my several tours of inspection at State Hospitals, looked upon a patient so bound with a feeling rather akin to curiosity than sympathy. So innocent do these instruments of restraint appear when one views a victim for the few moments it takes to pass him by, it is little wonder that a glib-tongued apologist of "Restraint" may easily convince one that the bound patient is, in fact, better so. Nevertheless, he is not better so. The few seconds that the observer beholds him are but an infinitesimal fraction of the long hours, days or weeks, that he must endure the embrace of what soon becomes an engine of torture. There is but one remedy for the evils attending the mechanical restraint of the insane. At once and forever abandon the vicious and crude principle which makes its use possible.


The question is: will the reader help to bring about improved conditions? If so, let him take his stand as an advocate of Non-Restraint. So will he befriend those unfortunates whose one great need may best be epitomized in these words -- the words of a man who for a score of years worked among the insane in the capacity of assistant physician, and later as superintendent of a state hospital. His simple though vital remark to me was: "After all, what the insane most need is a friend!"


These words, so spoken, came with a certain startling freshness. And yet it was the sublime and healing power of this same love which received its most signal demonstration two thousand years ago at the hands of one who restored to reason and his home that man of Scripture "who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the Most High God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not."


For twenty centuries the cry of the insane has been and to-day is: "Torment me not! Torment me not!"




May 1, 1910.


On pages 295 and 296 of this book, I recommended that a permanent agency for education and betterment in the hitherto neglected field of nervous and mental disorders should be brought into existence in the form of a National Committee, and that this agency should undertake a work akin to that which had already been undertaken so successfully with regard to tuberculosis. This suggestion was offered to the public on March 16, 1908, when the first edition of "A Mind That Found Itself" was published. It had been my original purpose to include in this recommendation the statement that the projected National Committee for Mental Hygiene had, even prior to the publication of my book, been partially organized, at least to the extent of my having secured acceptances of membership from more than twenty persons of national reputation whose interest in the work had been enlisted during the preceding year. This announcement, however, regarding the National Committee was not made at that time, as it was deemed advisable to work out the problem in one State before attempting to inaugurate an active national movement. Therefore, I concentrated my efforts on the work in my native State, and The Connecticut Society for Mental Hygiene, which was formally founded on May 6, 1908, was soon completely organized and actively engaged in work.


During the first year and a half, the work consisted chiefly of a study of those aspects of the problem directly related to the work of a State Society. Thanks to the invaluable advice and assistance given by hospital physicians of wide experience and by interested lay workers, I am now able to report that a model and effective plan for work has not only been evolved but actually put into operation. With slight changes, to meet varying conditions in given States, the Scope of the Work adopted by the Connecticut Society for Mental Hygiene can, it is believed, be adopted by any State Society that may be founded. Before presenting the plans of the pioneer State Society, however, I desire to submit for consideration the chief objects and the personnel of the parent organization, the National Committee.

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