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In the mid-19th century, William Sweetser was the first to coin the term “mental hygiene” which can be seen as the precursor to contemporary approaches to work on promoting positive mental health. There are many “ideas” from different sources about the beginnings of Behavioral Health. Isaac Ray, one of the thirteen founders of the American Psychiatric Association, further defined mental hygiene as an art to preserve the mind against incidents and influences which would inhibit or destroy its energy, quality or development.
Dorothea Dix (1802–1887) was an important figure in the development of “mental hygiene” movement. Dix was a school teacher who endeavored throughout her life to help those suffering from mental illness, and to bring to light the deplorable conditions into which they were put. She was a founding person in the Behavioral Health field because of her involvement in it. This was known as the “mental hygiene movement”. Before this movement, it was not uncommon that people affected by mental illness in the 19th century would be considerably neglected, often left alone in deplorable conditions, barely even having sufficient clothing. Dix’s efforts were so great that there was a rise in the number of patients in mental health facilities, which sadly resulted in these patients receiving less attention and care, as these institutions were largely understaffed.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Clifford Beers founded the Mental Health America – National Committee for Mental Hygiene and opened the first outpatient mental health clinic in the United States of America.