More than 100 years ago, Clifford W. Beers, a young businessman who struggled with a mental illness, founded an organization that would ultimately build a movement and forever affect our Tulsa community.
Beers, now known as one of the founders of the modern-day mental health movement, was hospitalized throughout his life in the brutal mental asylums that were common during his time. Rather than live in shame, Beers told his story and spread a message of injustice that changed the way we treat people who have mental illness.
The organization that Beers founded, the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, later became Mental Health America and spread across the country to local affiliates. More than 50 years ago, this movement included our community, which established the Mental Health Association in Tulsa in 1955. Our organizations fought for the rights of people living with a mental illness and broke down the barriers that confined them in asylums and hospitals.
As laws were passed to forbid the use of shackles and chains in our hospitals and asylums, Mental Health America gathered those symbols of oppression to forge a bell that symbolizes our mental health movement.
Today, the bell’s inscription reads: “Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.”