Documentation Priority Descriptions and Potential Records
The issue: Societal attitudes toward mental health issues and people with psychiatric histories have exerted enormous influence over all aspects of the history mental health, from methods of treatment, legislation, funding, and the design and operation of facilities to the personal behaviors of mental health workers, family, friends, and fellow citizens toward people considered mentally ill. The organized opposition of many people to the siting of mental health facilities and programs in their communities during the past quarter century is a dramatic and tragic case in point. Societal attitudes are pervasive in the historical record, embedded in case histories, professional communications, personal correspondence, newspaper accounts, and so on. But records have rarely been collected or described in order to document this topic.
Goal: To document societal attitudes toward mental health issues by collecting records of all kinds that reveal, express, or respond to such attitudes.
- Newspapers, books, and other print media; film, television, and radio; Internet sites
- Case histories, professional correspondence and documents of mental health workers
- Development of policy and legislation
- Records of organizations, groups and individuals who address stigma and related issues
- Records of recipients of services and consumers/survivors/ex-patients
- Records of families of people diagnosed with psychiatric conditions
Goal: To document societal attitudes toward mental health issues by including this topic in descriptions of records collected for other purposes (for example, in describing a collection that documents the development of mental health legislation, note that it contain significant statements referring to or expressing societal attitudes).
The State Archives search did not identify any collections explicitly documenting societal attitudes toward mental health issues.
Where to look for more records (preliminary suggestions only)
The items listed under the goals above suggest a number of places to seek documentation. Public debate around major legal and policy developments such as the deinstitutionalization of mental health services and the passage of "Kendras law" tend to include extensive public and private expressions of attitudes about mental health.