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Timeline: Treatments for Mental Illness

400 B.C. - 1949 | 1950s - 1992  



1950s

%A series of successful anti-psychotic drugs are introduced that do not cure psychosis but control its symptoms. The first of the anti-psychotics, the major class of drug used to treat psychosis, is discovered in France in 1952 and is named chlorpromazine (Thorazine). Studies show that 70 percent of patients with schizophrenia clearly improve on anti-psychotic drugs.

Mid-1950s

The numbers of hospitalized mentally ill people in Europe and America peaks. In England and Wales, there were 7,000 patients in 1850, 120,000 in 1930, and nearly 150,000 in 1954. In the United States, the number peaks at 560,000 in 1955.

A new type of therapy, called behavior therapy, is developed, which holds that people with phobias can be trained to overcome them.

1961

Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz's book, The Myth of Mental Illness, argues that there is no such disease as schizophrenia. Sociologist Erving Goffman's book, Asylums, also comes out. Another critic of the mental health establishment's approach, Goffman claims that most people in mental hospitals exhibit their psychotic symptoms and behavior as a direct result of being hospitalized.

1962

Counterculture author Ken Kesey's best-selling novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is based on his experiences working in the psychiatric ward of a Veterans' Administration hospital. Kesey is motivated by the premise that the patients he sees don't really have mental illnesses; they simply behave in ways a rigid society is unwilling to accept. In 1975, Kesey's book will be made into an influential movie starring Jack Nicholson as anti-authoritarian anti-hero Randle McMurphy.

Mid-1960s

Many seriously mentally ill people are removed from institutions. In the United States they are directed toward local mental health homes and facilities. The number of institutionalized mentally ill people in the United States will drop from a peak of 560,000 to just over 130,000 in 1980. Some of this deinstitutionalization is possible because of anti-psychotic drugs, which allow many psychotic patients to live more successfully and independently. However, many people suffering from mental illness become homeless because of inadequate housing and follow-up care.

1963

In the U.S., passage of the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act provides the first federal money for developing a network of community-based mental health services. Advocates for deinstitutionalization believe that people with mental illness will voluntarily seek out treatment at these facilities if they need it, although in practice this will not always be the case.

1979

A support and advocacy organization, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, is founded to provide support, education, advocacy, and research services for people with serious psychiatric illnesses.

1980s

%An estimated one-third of all homeless people are considered seriously mentally ill, the vast majority of them suffering from schizophrenia.

1986

Advocacy groups band together to form the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression. In pursuit of improved treatments and cures for schizophrenia and depression, it will become the largest non-government, donor-supported organization that distributes funds for brain disorder research.

1990s

A new generation of anti-psychotic drugs is introduced. These drugs prove to be more effective in treating schizophrenia and have fewer side effects.

1992

A survey of American jails reports that 7.2 percent of inmates are overtly and seriously mentally ill, meaning that 100,000 seriously mentally ill people have been incarcerated. Over a quarter of them are held without charges, often awaiting a bed in a psychiatric hospital.



400 B.C. - 1949 | 1950s - 1992



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