Take a look below for a brief summary of the progress we’ve made in mental health treatment.
- Mental illness was largely considered to be the result of possession by demons, punishment from an angry God or spells cast by witches.
- “Remedies” for mental illness included executions, imprisonments, exorcisms, and trephining (drilling a hole in the skull to allow demons to escape).
- “Lunatic” or “insane” asylums grew in popularity as a new “solution” for mental illness. Mainly, asylums served to ostracize those who were “different.”
- Patients were often treated inhumanely (chained, beaten, isolated, etc.).
- It was not unusual for a patient to become institutionalized for decades.
- Controversial treatments such as electroshock therapy (without anesthesia), insulin coma therapy and lobotomies were performed.
- Human rights activists and social reformers like Dorothea Dix advocated for the fair treatment of those with mental illness. Dix’s work was believed to be influential in the development of numerous state psychiatric hospitals.
- 1844: The “Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane” was formed (now known as the American Psychiatric Association) which specialized in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illness.
- Late 1800s: Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” became popularized through the work of Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer.
- 1908: The “mental hygiene” movement to improve the quality of mental health treatment was spurred by the publication of Clifford Beers ’A Mind That Found Itself, which was based on his experience as a patient in mental hospitals. (Read an excerpt here.)
- 1949: The National Institute of Mental Health is formed with a mission to better understand and treat mental illness through research and evidence-based practices.
- 1950s: Modern psychopharmacology begins with the introduction of such as lithium and Thorazine.
- 1952: The first edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is developed (32 pages with 106 diagnoses) as the first official reference tool for clinical diagnosis of mental disorders.
- Mid-1950s: Deinstitutionalization began the process of moving people with mental illness out of inpatient settings and into less restrictive care like community mental health outpatient treatment. Institutions themselves were also shut down during this process.
- Throughout the 1900s, our understanding of psychology and the treatments offered for mental illness continued to evolve with developments such as behaviorism (John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner), Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (Albert Ellis), and cognitive behavioral therapy (Aaron T. Beck).
Mental Health Treatment Today
In 2022, an update to the fifth edition of the DSM (called the DSM-5-TR, which is over 1,000 pages) was published. Although not without controversy, this manual does provide a standardized way to diagnose and conceptualize approximately 300 mental conditions.
Access to mental health care has improved over time with the availability of telehealth (a shift that really took hold during the pandemic).
Progress continues to be made regarding mental health parity (rules that prevent health insurance coverage from being more restrictive for mental health vs. medical benefits).
Overall, we’ve made significant gains in our knowledge of causes, symptoms and evidence-based treatments for mental disorders. We’ve also made progress as a society in normalizing symptoms of mental illness and decreasing stigma.
Still, we have work to do. The field of mental health can continue to improve by increasing prevention practices and education, providing earlier intervention, training more treatment professionals and performing ongoing advocacy aimed at decreasing stigma and increasing awareness about mental health treatment.
If you are looking for quality, compassionate mental health treatment, Travco Behavioral Health can help. Contact us today at 330.286.0050!