MHA Bell

The History of the MHA Bell

During the early days of mental health treatment, asylums often restrained persons with mental illnesses with iron chains and shackles around their ankles and wrists. Clifford Beers, the founder of the Mental Health Association movement, experienced and witnessed many of these and other abuses. After his own recovery, he became a leading figure in the movement to reform the treatment of, and attitudes toward, mental illness. With better understanding and treatments, cruel practices eventually stopped.

In the early 1950s, in the lobby of the National Headquarters in New York City, the Mental Health Association collected discarded chains and shackles from asylums across the country. All of these restraints were then shipped to the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland, where they were dropped into a crucible and cast into a 300 pound bell.

The inscription on the bell reads:

“Cast from shackles which bound them,
this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill
and victory over mental illness.”

As we seek the vision of victory over mental illness, we need the participation of all citizens in shaping the future of mental health services. We need to remove the shackles from the wisdom of recipients of mental health services and their families and recognize the value of their experience in shaping future policy. Through full citizen participation,

This bell will ring for hope,
This bell will ring for freedom,
This bell will ring for victory.

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