You are here

New York Mental Health Documentation Project

Documenting Mental Health in New York State

Missing treasures

The story of mental health in New York is a critical part of our history, but significant elements of that history are in danger of being lost. In organizations, groups, and families, there are rich resources that tell unique and compelling stories about people, families, communities and organizations involved — now and in the past — in mental health concerns. The kinds of records that may be of value include letters, diaries, newsletters, brochures, case files (with proper access restrictions), minutes of meetings, photographs, administrative files, reports, and a wide variety of other papers produced as a person or organization goes about daily life and work. Many people think they have nothing that is an "historical record"—but they may be unaware of the historically valuable treasures they hold.

Mental Health Documentation Project

The State Archives is working to identify the issues, people, organizations, and events in mental health that are most critical to document in New York State. We have enlisted advice and participation from many people and organizations in the mental health community, as well as from researchers in mental health, and from librarians, museums, historical societies and archives. Early in the project we commissioned an historical overview of mental health in New York. We also researched existing documentation and produced a Preliminary Guide to Mental Health Documentary Sources.

From the information we have gathered, we have developed a draft Strategic Plan for Documenting Mental Health in New York and begun to work with a range of people, organizations, and historical records repositories to implement the plan to ensure that important resources are identified, saved, and made accessible in appropriate ways.

Who will benefit

Historical records on mental health can be a resource for many, including:

  • mental health leaders and lawmakers developing practices and policies for the future;
  • advocacy, self-help, and support groups who wish to promote understanding and recognition of the experiences of people who have faced mental health issues;
  • researchers seeking longitudinal data and evidence regarding previous policies, practices, and treatments;
  • historians who need to present an even and equitable story of the experience of all New Yorkers;
  • teachers and students striving for a more complete understanding of who we are as families, communities, and a state.

This project is part of the New York Heritage Documentation Project which is also developing documentation plans for environmental affairs and Latino communities.

Products from the Mental Health Documentation Project