Understanding the Brain

Clifford Whittingham Beers

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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.


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