Clifford Whittingham Beers (1876-1943) was the founder of the American mental hygiene movement. Beers was born in New Haven, Connecticut to Ida and Robert Beers on March 30, 1876. He was one of five children, all of whom would suffer from psychological distress and would die in mental institutions, including Beers himself (see "Clifford W. Beers, Advocate for the Insane"). He graduated from the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale in 1897. In 1900 he was first confined to a private mental institution for depression and paranoia. He would later be confined to another private hospital as well as a state institution. During these periods he experienced and witnessed serious maltreatment at the hands of the staff. After the publication of A Mind That Found Itself (1908), an autobiographical account of his hospitalization and the abuses he suffered during, he gained the support of the medical profession and others in the work to reform the treatment of the mentally ill. In 1909 Beers founded the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, now named Mental Health America, in order to continue the reform for the treatment of the mentally ill. He also started the Clifford Beers Clinic in New Haven in 1913, the first outpatient mental health clinic in the United States. He was a leader in the field until his retirement in 1939.
A Mind That Found Itselfby Clifford Beers
This story is derived from as human a document as ever existed; and, because of its
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This story is derived from as human a document as ever existed; and, because of its uncommon nature, perhaps no one thing contributes so much to its value as its authenticity. It is an autobiography, and more: in part it is a biography; for, in telling the story of my life, I must relate the history of another self, a self which was dominant from my twenty-fourth to my twenty-sixth year. During that period I was unlike what I had been, or what I have been since. The biographical part of my autobiography might be called the history of a mental civil war, which I fought single-handed on a battlefield that lay within the compass of my skull. An Army of Unreason, composed of the cunning and treacherous thoughts of an unfair foe, attacked my bewildered consciousness with cruel persistency, and would have destroyed me, had not a triumphant Reason finally interposed a superior strategy that saved me from my unnatural self.
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