MHAKY Beers Award

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On October 29, 2010, Mental Health America of Kentucky, a/k/a the Mental Health Association of Kentucky, Kentucky’s oldest mental health education and advocacy organization, presented me with the Clifford W. Beers Mental Health Consumer Award for 2010.  The award recognizes my mental health advocacy work through my numerous speeches regarding the wrongfulness of the stigma against those with mental illnesses and the ability of some with severe mental illness who have proper treatment to be successful professionals.  These especially include my talks to nursing, social work, psychology, and law students.  The award is in the shape of a bell and is a facsimile of the 300 pound Mental Health America bell that was forged of melted chains and shackles that once restrained those confined in asylums because they had mental illnesses.  The MHA bell is a powerful reminder that the invisible chains of misunderstanding and discrimination continue to bind people with mental illnesses.  Today it rings out hope for improving mental health and achieving victory over mental illnesses.

In 1900 young Yale-educated businessman Clifford W. Beers, born in 1876, was first confined to a private mental institution.  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 hospital staff. After the publication of A Mind That Found Itself (1908), an autobiographical account of his hospitalizations and the abuses he suffered and saw during them, he gained the support of the medical profession and other prominent national leaders of the time, including the philosopher William James and the Rockefeller family, in the work to reform the treatment of those with mental illnesses.  In 1909 Beers founded the "National Committee for Mental Hygiene," now named Mental Health America, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization that addresses all aspects of mental health and mental illness through advocacy, education, research, and service.  He did so in order to continue the reform of the treatment of those with psychiatric diseases by promoting mental health and improving conditions for children and adults living with these health problems.  Beers was a leader in the mental health field until his 1939 retirement.  He died in 1943.