mental hygiene

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mental hygiene,

the science of promoting mental health and preventing mental illness through the application of psychiatry and psychology. A more commonly used term today is mental health. In 1908, the modern mental hygiene movement took root as a result of public reaction to Clifford BeersBeers, Clifford Whittingham,
1876–1943, American founder of the mental hygiene movement, b. New Haven, Conn., grad. Sheffield Scientific School, Yale, 1897. After the publication of A Mind That Found Itself
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's autobiography, A Mind That Found Itself, which described his experiences in institutions for the insane. Beers adopted the name "mental hygiene" (suggested by Adolf MeyerMeyer, Adolf
, 1866–1950, American neurologist and psychiatrist, b. Switzerland, M.D. Zürich, 1892. He emigrated to the United States in 1892 and was professor of psychiatry at Cornell (1904–9) and at Johns Hopkins (1910–41), where he was also director of
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) to describe his ideas, and founded the Connecticut Society for Mental Hygiene (1908) and the National Committee for Mental Hygiene (1909), the group which organized the National Association for Mental Health in 1950. Each of these groups sought to improve the quality of care for the mentally ill, to prevent mental illness where possible, and to ensure that accurate information regarding mental health was widely available. The National Institute of Mental Health has been responsible, since 1949, for the major portion of U.S. research in mental illness. The mental hygiene movement has accomplished, among other advances, wide reforms in institutional care, the establishment of child-guidance clinics, and public education concerning mental hygiene. See also psychiatrypsychiatry
, branch of medicine that concerns the diagnosis and treatment of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, including major depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety.
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; psychotherapypsychotherapy,
treatment of mental and emotional disorders using psychological methods. Psychotherapy, thus, does not include physiological interventions, such as drug therapy or electroconvulsive therapy, although it may be used in combination with such methods.
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; psychosispsychosis
, in psychiatry, a broad category of mental disorder encompassing the most serious emotional disturbances, often rendering the individual incapable of staying in contact with reality.
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See G. N. Grob, Mental Illness and American Society, 1875–1940 (1983); P. Brown, ed., Mental Health Care and Social Policy (1985); T. Richardson, The Century of the Child (1989); E. F. Torrey, Nowhere to Go (1992).

Mental Hygiene


a branch of hygiene that studies measures and means for creating, protecting, and strengthening mental health and preventing mental diseases. The theoretical foundation of mental hygiene includes social and general psychology, psychotherapy, social psychiatry, and the physiology of higher nervous activity.

Galen wrote the first specialized work on mental hygiene— Hygiene of Passions, or Moral Hygiene. The idea that mental health depends on social life was proposed by P. J. G. Cabanis. I. P. Merzheevskii, the founder of mental hygiene in Russia, regarded the high aspirations and the interests of the individual as the most important means of protecting mental health and increasing productive activity.

In the USSR, mental hygiene emphasizes social measures such as improvement of working and living conditions; the systematic inculcation of active, socially valuable attitudes in adolescents; and vocational guidance to promote the practical application of these attitudes. In addition, mental hygiene in the USSR emphasizes an educational approach and the teaching of specific methods of controlling one’s mental condition and sense of self. Observation of patients with nervous and mental disorders in dispensaries is an important method in mental hygiene.

The most pressing tasks of mental hygiene include the prevention of mental traumas in children and the development of methods of increasing the effectiveness of teaching in secondary and higher schools, in order to prevent excessive nervous and psychological stress.

The consequences of the scientific and technological revolution are increasing the importance of controlling the psychological climate in small and large groups and of finding ways to increase the mental stability of workers performing increasingly complex jobs. The branches of mental hygiene include industrial mental hygiene (the mental hygiene of work), as well as the mental hygiene of mental labor, sexuality and family relations, children and adolescents, and the elderly.


Kerbikov, O. V. Izbr. trudy. Moscow, 1971. Pages 300–11.
Opsikhogigienicheskoi rabote v shkole: Metodicheskoe pis’mo. Moscow, 1961.
Carroll, H. A. Mental Hygiene, 3rd ed. New York, 1956.
Stevenson, G. S. Mental Health Planning for Social Action. New York-Toronto-London, 1956.
English, O. S., and G. H. J. Pearson. Emotional Problems of Living: A voiding the Neurotic Pattern, 3rd ed. New York, 1963.


mental hygiene

[′men·təl ′hī‚jēn]
That branch of hygiene dealing with the preservation of mental and emotional health.
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