Mental Health America,
D.C. Department of Mental Health
To Dedicate National Memorial at
Saint Elizabeths Hospital
For Thousand of Patients Buried at State Psychiatric Hospitals Nationwide
Contact: Steve Vetzner, (703) 797-2588 or email@example.com
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (May 27, 2009)-As part of its Centennial Celebration and Conference, Mental Health America-in partnership with the District of Columbia Department of Mental Health-will hold a dedication ceremony on June 10 at 10 a.m. for a memorial planned on the grounds of Saint Elizabeths Hospital for hundreds of thousands of patients who were buried, many with unmarked graves, at state psychiatric hospitals nationwide.
The service will also dedicate a quote from Mental Health America founder Clifford W. Beers that will be part of the national memorial. The quote, "I must fight in the open," was the adamant response Beers gave to the suggestion that he launch his mental health movement anonymously. Individuals with mental illness had long been considered the lowest caste of individuals in society. Instead of hiding from the discrimination and the stigma, Beers openly confronted it.
The Gardens at Saint Elizabeths-A National Memorial of Recovered Dignity designed by the University of Georgia's School of Environmental Design, under the supervision of Professor Scott S. Weinberg, Associate Dean and recent graduate Elizabeth Brunelli-will be woven into an existing 10-acre cemetery that inters some 4,500 psychiatric patients who died at the federal facility. Nearly half of those with military grave markers are veterans dating back to the Civil War; the rest are civilians from the District of Columbia with no grave markers. Under the plan for the memorial, metal markers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia will list the numbers buried and at which institutions surrounded by gardens and a pool of water.
Mental Health America was founded a century ago this year by Clifford W. Beers, who experienced firsthand the treatment of individuals with mental health conditions in state hospitals and whose vision and groundbreaking work transformed the face of mental health care.
"It is hard to imagine a more fitting tribute to Mental Health America's centennial and to the legacy of Clifford Beers than dedicating a Beers quote for this new memorial," said David L. Shern, Ph.D. President and CEO of Mental Health America. "Like the Tomb of the Unknowns, they stand as a tribute to the hundreds of thousands lost to custodial institutions and the hope for all during our next hundred years. We must embrace our past, appreciate our accomplishments and envision a new future."
"This memorial will offer the respect due thousands of individuals who were shunned in life and until now were often disrespected in death, while helping to remove stigma and false beliefs," said John Allen, President of the National Association of Consumer/Survivor Mental Health Administrators, the organization that started the national memorial project.
Opened in 1855, Saint Elizabeths was the first federally funded asylum and was originally called the National Asylum for the Veterans of the Army and Navy and Residents of the District of Columbia. Overlooking the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, Saint Elizabeths was designed to be a model moral treatment asylum with peaceful gardens promoted by English Quakers in the 1800s. The Quakers rejected harsh treatments such as chains and straightjackets, believing patients were inherently good regardless of their behavior and healing came from emotional and spiritual recovery which was "moral."
Plans are underway for Mental Health America to sign a long-term lease of the cemetery and memorial site supported by an advisory council made up of representatives of six other national mental health organizations, including the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the National Association of Consumer/Survivor Mental Health Administrators, the U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, the National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Organizations, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Consumer Council and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.
Tax exempt donations for the national memorial can be sent to Mental Health America; 2000 North Beauregard St.; 6th Floor; Alexandria, VA 22311.
For more information about the memorial, contact Larry Fricks at 404-375-1813.
Celebrating 100 years of mental health education and advocacy, Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 300 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation-every day and in times of crisis. In 2009, we are marking a century of achievement with a year-long Centennial Observance: "Celebrating the Legacy, Forging the Future."