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of Mental Health

6500 BC 

2700 BC 

1900 BC 

Chinese medicine circulated around the concept of both positive and negative forces of "ying and yang", and that physical and mental illnesses impacted the forces. They believed that a person who had a balance of "ying and yang" were the people who lived a good life.

Prehistoric skulls and cave art has been examined and what is seen is that surgical drilling was used to treat head injuries and epilepsy, they also believed that it would release evil spirits trapped from within.

Mesopotamian and Egyptian papyri described women suffering from a mental illness, called wandering uterus.

1100 BC 

Mental disorders were mostly treated using Traditional Chinese Medicine. These treatments included aromatherapy, acupuncture, or emotional therapy. There were noted connections between organs and emotions.

1100-800 BC 

Roots were often used in Ancient Greek medicine. Claudius Galen believed that disease and illness were caused by imbalanced humors in a person's body - one of his solutions was bloodletting.

600 BC 

Ancient Hindu scriptures called Ramayana and Mahabharata contained descriptions of depression and anxiety which were fictional. Often times mental disorders were thought to have been supernatural, and full of witchcraft.

400 BC 

Hippocrates attempted to separate the supernatural, superstition, and religion from medicine. He believed that what caused both mental and physical illness was the four important bodily fluids of blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm.

Ancient Mesopotamia where diseases and mental disorders were believed to be caused by deities. 

100 BC 

In Europe, many people who were affected by psychological disorders were put into madhouses, asylums, and workhouses because families thought it was too tiring to take care of them.



The religious Reformation caused Europe to fall into a religious conflict all across Europe. Two monks in the Dominican wrote a book about witch hunting. 


In the early 16th century, many hospital and asylums had begun to become established. These hospitals were most commonly used these systems to confine the poor, the homeless, and the criminal.


Engravings from 1525 showed trephination, which was drilling into the skull, which they believed would cure various mental disorders.


Two people called Johann Weyer and Reginald Scot tried to convince people that were accused as witches were actually women who had mental illnesses, but the church banned their writing.

At the Medieval times, isolation was the preferred method of treatment for mental illnesses, and therefore insane asylums were the most common place that people were sent.


People often attempted to protect themselves against mental illness through prayers, exorcisms, talisman and various religious methods.

Mental disorders were commonly treated with sedatives were made up of unguents, laudanum, opium grains.

Mental illness was not the family's responsibility nor the person suffering from it. Cases of mental illnesses were sent to be handled by the government.

Around this time, those who did not have mental illnesses began to isolate those suffering from mental disorders and stigma was growing very quickly. 


In the 1700s people truly began to become worried about those with mental illnesses, and they also started to get treated with more respect. In some places, the act of harassing mentally ill people was forbidden.


An Italian physician named Vincenzo Chiarughi released his patients from the confinement that they were in and encouraged patients to keep good hygiene and train for occupations.

There were many newly established asylums which had doctors who treated the patients with kindness and care.


Dorothea Dix was a retired school teacher who discovered how the mentally ill people were treated so poorly and advocated for state hospitals. In her time as an advocate, she helped open over 30 mental institutions.


In the United States of America, there were only 178 hospitals, of which about a third of were only treating the mentally ill. In these hospitals, there were less than 50,000.


Emil Krapelin, a German psychiatrist published an evaluation of psychological disorders with specific symptoms listed that were often indicating factors of the disorders, which essentially was a book that allowed doctors to be able to diagnose the patients.



Two men, named Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud tried the method of treating mentally ill patients with hypnosis, which then led to the first type of psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalysis was the main treatment of illnesses during the first half of the century.

Shell-shock was the term for what we call PTSD today which was the bodies reaction to the fear and panic that soldiers faced in World War I. It often lead to inability to sleep, nightmares, violent illusions. 


Insulin coma therapy that was introduced in 1927 and used for several decades. This treatment was essentially when people were injected with insulin to create daily comas. 


Mental illness treatments had just begun to become developed insulin coma therapy, malaria injections, and electroshock, and removing parts of the brain.

President Harry Truman signed the National Mental Health Act which was an act that encouraged and called doctors to research brain and behavior.


Lobotomies were designed to disrupt circuits in the brain, but they came with lots of risks. This treatment won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.


Lithium was also used as a medication for mental illnesses which was used to treat bipolar disorder.

The peak number of mentally ill patients who were hospitalized, which was 560,000.


The first antipsychotic drug which was called chlorpromazine was discovered and sold on the market. The drug did not cure psychosis but the symptoms were controlled and 70% of patients with schizophrenia saw an improvement after using the drug.


The Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1963 were passed so that only people who were a danger to themselves or others were those who were hospitalized. 


Many severely mentally ill people were moved from psychiatric institutions into local mental health homes.



The number of institutionalized people dropped to 130,000.

Present-Day Mental Health

Today, while stigma has lessened around  mental health, there is still plenty of room for growth and to learn more about the brain, which still holds a lot of mystery.

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