Milestones in the History of Mental Health
1733 - English Malady by George Cheyne was published, introducing the reading public to a personality type marked by "weak, loose and feeble or relax'd nerves." Afterwards, the usage of "nervous" as a medical and lay term expanded.
1762 - "I feel before I think," wrote Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Many came to identify with Rousseau's quest to get "in touch" with their inner, natural selves. In The Social Contract, Rousseau also famously argued that since civilization destroyed "individual authenticity," it was obligated to make its citizens happier.
1802 - Dorothea Dix born. Up until her death in 1887, Dix became the leading advocate for mental health care reform, joining other prominent Unitarians (such as Horace Mann and Samuel Gridley Howe) in the social reform movement to upgrade U.S. prisons, schools, and asylums.
1808 - German physician Johann Christian Reil (1759-1813) coined the term "psychiatrist," based on the Greek word meaning "healing the soul."
1822 - Through the postmortem dissection of patients' brains, researchers found the anatomical lesions responsible for tertiary syphilis (a.k.a. general paralysis of the insane). a disease that produced pronounced psychiatric symptoms. For the first time, a cluster of physical and psychiatric symptoms could be traced to a verifiable injury of brain matter-enabling psychiatrists to establish their field as a medical profession.
1838 - France passed a law that established its modern asylum system; other countries like England, Germany, and the U.S. quickly followed suit. In the U.S., there were almost 140 of such institutions caring for nearly 41,000 patients by 1880.
1859 - On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin published. With social scientists increasingly viewing human thought and behavior through the lens of evolution, the mentally ill and mentally disabled were increasingly perceived as "human relics."
1900 - The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud published, which also popularized his theory of psychoanalysis.
1906 - Birth of Emmanuel movement, led by Reverend Elwood Worcester. Worcester challenged medical resistance to lay treatment of mental illnesses, and triggered interest in group therapy. The movement led to the formation of the Jacoby Club, which became Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935.1915 - In the midst of World War I, Charles S. Myers, an English psychologist who also served in the British military, coined "shell shock."
1938 - Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), a.k.a "shock therapy," was first used, and would continue until the 21st century.
1941 - U.S. Congress passed the National Mental Health Act (NMHA), laying the founding of the National Institute of Mental Health in 1946 (NIMH).
1944 - Thomas Clement Douglas elected as premier of Saskatchewan. Leading the "deinstitutionalization" movement in mental health care, Douglas backed plans to move patients out of mental hospitals and into smaller homes throughout the province.
1946 - Egas Moniz received the Nobel Prize in Physiology for his promotion of lobotomy.
1953 - German-born Canadian psychiatrist Heinz Lehmann administered chlorpromazine, a "mood-calming" drug, to 70 patients; it was licensed in the U.S a year later. It also marked the advent of the pharmaceutical industry's burgeoning clout in mental health care.
1961 - Michel Foucault's Madness and Civilization published, reflecting the growing counter-cultural backlash against psychiatry.
1967 - I'm OK-You're OK by Thomas A. Harris became a bestseller, triggering the growth of the self-help industry.
1979 - Senator Ted Kennedy chaired U.S. congressional hearings on tranquilizer use. Other prominent figures, such as Gloria Steinem and former first lady Betty Ford, spoke out about drug and alcohol addiction, which became rampant in the 1970s and 80s.
1980 - DSM-III, psychiatry's "bible," marks the shift in clinical psychiatry from a largely Freudian approach to a more biological orientation, as well as the advent of PTSD, a good example of how psychiatry was becoming politicized in the late 20th century.
1999 - Prozac became the third best-selling prescription drug.
2008 - The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities declared that "[A]ll persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms."