5 Advocates Who Influenced Modern Mental Health Care – A person’s mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental health influences one’s reactions, relationships, and decisions. Today, we consider mental health an important aspect of each of our lives. It hasn’t always been this way, however. Throughout much of history, mental health has been greatly misunderstood. This misunderstanding has resulted in poor health care for those with mental health issues. Thankfully, due to important advocates in this field, mental health care has greatly improved.
And while there were many more, on this page we review 5 advocates who have influenced modern mental health care.
1. Dorothea Dix
Dorothea Dix was born in Hamden, Maine in 1802. Working as a nurse, Dix witnessed firsthand the unhealthy living conditions mental health patients were forced to live. These patients lived as prisoners in correction facilities. As a result of what she saw, she advocated for better care. Due to her efforts, the U.S government-funded 32 psychiatric hospitals. After serving as a nurse in the Civil War, Dix dedicated her remaining years to improving the lives of mental health patients.
2. Clifford Beers
Born in 1876, Clifford Beers and all four of his siblings suffered from psychiatric problems. They all spent time in mental institutions, too. In 1900, Beers was confined to a private mental institution. His diagnoses were paranoia and depression. His book “A Mind That Found Itself” discussed the abuses he suffered as a patient. In 1909, Beers founded the nonprofit organization, Mental Health America. In 1913, he started the first outpatient mental health clinic in the U.S.
3. Judi Chamberlain
In 1966, at 21, Judi Chamberlain voluntarily checked into to a psychiatric hospital for depression. She was shocked when she learned that she couldn’t leave when she wanted to. Once she did get out of the hospital, Chamberlain moved to Canada where she discovered she had a say in her treatment. Soon after, she moved to Boston where she helped form the Mental Patients Liberation Front. The group became a leading advocate for the rights of mental health patients.
4. Howie the Harp
Born in 1953, Howard Geld spent most of his teen years in institutions for the emotionally disturbed. As a mental health patient, a night attendant at one of the institutions taught Geld to play the harmonica. He eventually earned the nickname, Howie the Harp. Geld spent his life not wanting his psychiatric condition to define who he was. He is credited with developing a number of mental health advocacy groups. He died in 1995. That same year, Howie the Harp Advocacy Center was opened. The center trains individuals in mental health recovery to work as peer providers in Human Services.
5. Sally Zinman
Sally Zinman was born in 1937. As a young woman, Zinman suffered from anorexia. She was placed in a mental health institution for treatment. While there, her doctor diagnosed her with schizophrenia. As a patient, Zinman was physically abused by her doctor. She was also forced to stay in a cellar-like structure for 2 months. After her release, Zinman met others with similar stories. This caused her to become an activist in what she calls the militant madness movement. She spent over three decades forming several mental health organizations. Zinman also has credits in writing, film, and video. In 2016, at 79, Zinman became a recipient of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Voice Awards.