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Abstract

An examination of the history of mental illness and its treatment over the centuries reveals that the mentally ill have few advocates except each other and that their treatment has consisted of confinement and neglect. Reformers have pioneered for change, experienced brief success, but ultimately conditions for the mentally ill regress. Society continues to abhor mental illness as though its collective consciousness still believes in possession by evil spirits. Discussion of the early history moves from banishment to ships of fools, to European asylums, and to institutions run by the states in America. More recent history focuses on the National Committee for Mental Hygiene and its campaign for child guidance clinics, the Community Mental Health Centers legislation and community support projects. Meanwhile new research provides evidence of the genetic and biological roots of mental illness and advocacy organizations composed of patients and their families pressure for continued reform, public education and research.

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