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The Mental Health Bell


It is no surprise that the farther back in time we go, the more primitive our understandings of physical and mental illness were. A clear example of this has been seen in American asylums, where cruel and restrictive punishments were used as “treatment” to manage the symptoms of patients. The 1950s saw the barbaric nature of these actions and took steps to both symbolically and literally repurpose the methods that professionals relied on. Banyan Treatment Center in Boca Raton, FL, is looking at the Mental Health Bell. 

The Dark History of Mental Health Treatment 

From electric shock therapy to life-altering lobotomies, mental health patients have been subjected to various destructive and damaging treatments. In years past, once a person was committed to an asylum, they were at the mercy of the caretakers, many of whom were burdened with an influx of patients to attend to. This overcrowding created several sanitation issues, often contributing to the nature of a patient’s well-being.  

One of the more common methods used to manage the symptoms of asylum patients was restraint. Whether through strait jackets, freezing ice baths, or actual iron chains, people in severe emotional distress were treated more like caged animals than vulnerable human beings. It was not until the early 1950s that acknowledgment of these horrific practices took place. 

A Symbol of Hope Is Forged 

In 1952, the organization known as Mental Health America called on these facilities to rid themselves of the iron restraints used to subdue patients. The chains and shackles were to be dropped off in the lobby of the MHA’s national headquarters in New York City. As the collection grew, spectators described the lobby as a “chamber of horrors.”1 Using metal obtained from these shackles and chains, the McShane Bell Foundry forged what is now known as the Mental Health Bell.  

A bell was chosen as the symbol because of its common association with the concepts of liberty and freedom.1 Inscribed in the bell is a quote, “Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.”.1 This piece serves as a light of hope among those previously held back by cruelty and stigma around mental health disorders, like PTSD or psychosis. 

The bell is rung on many occasions to celebrate the continual improvements in the movement of mental health awareness. When not in use, it can be found on display at MHA’s National Center in Alexandria. Virginia.1 

Get Treatment With Banyan Boca Mental Health 

For those struggling with mental illness, there are a slew of treatment options available at our Palm Beach rehab. We have resources to address a variety of conditions, ensuring that those in need can get the care they deserve. The effective therapy methods we offer can also help to personalize the treatment experience and prioritize the individualization of the rehabilitation experience. No matter the case, our team of highly trained professionals will do everything in their power to give you a genuine chance at overcoming mental illness. 

To learn more about our available levels of care, call Banyan Boca Raton at 888-280-4763 today. 



  1. MHA - The Mental Health Bell: The Story of Our Symbol 


Related Reading 

The History of Addiction Treatment and Rehab 

Habits to Improve Your Mental Health 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
The Mental Health Bell
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