Psychiatry and the Community in Nineteenth-Century America: The Recurring Concern with the Environment in the Prevention and Treatment of Mental Illness

Psychiatry and the Community in Nineteenth-Century America: The Recurring Concern with the Environment in the Prevention and Treatment of Mental Illness

Psychiatry and the Community in Nineteenth-Century America: The Recurring Concern with the Environment in the Prevention and Treatment of Mental Illness

Psychiatry and the Community in Nineteenth-Century America: The Recurring Concern with the Environment in the Prevention and Treatment of Mental Illness

Excerpt

This book was originally intended to be a history of mid‐ twentieth-century American psychiatry. The authors felt that the rapid growth and change in this field since World War II had created a need for historical perspective and for maintaining contacts with the traditions of the profession. We hoped, therefore, to examine the origins and development of progressive psychiatric practices of our own day, such as milieu therapy, catchment areas, and community-based programs of prevention and after-care, and participation by psychiatrists in such nonpsychiatric institutions as schools, the Army, and the Peace Corps. We also hoped to trace the social, economic, and political currents that had produced the Mental Health Study Act of 1955, the report of the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Mental Health in 1961, the 1963 Kennedy Message, and the ensuing federal legislation that provided funds for a network of community mental health centers across the country.

Our book, however, does not deal directly with any of these topics. The sources we examined drew us further and further back into the nineteenth century, into the history of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane (now the American Psychiatric Association) and into the early volumes of the American Journal of Insanity (now the American Journal of Psychiatry). Most of the material was found in primary sources, in Journal articles, obituaries, asylum notices, accounts of Association meetings, and the books and records of individual nineteenth-century psychiatrists. What emerged was so unexpected that we abandoned all our preconceived plans. The material took command and molded the book into one quite different from what we had originally envisioned.

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