Mental Health

July 9, 1948

Report Outline
Development of a Mental Health Program
Treatment and Prevention of Mental Illness
Social Aspects of Mental Health Advances

Development of a Mental Health Program

The rejection for military service in World War II of more men for neuro-psychiatric disorders than for any other medical reason was a striking demonstration that mental illness constitutes a major health problem in the United States. The fact that many of the men so rejected suffered from mental disorders which had not prevented them from holding jobs in civil life, and for which no medical care had been sought, showed that “the great majority of our mentally ill are not in hospital beds; they are out in the community working at this job or that job—50 per cent, 25 per cent, or 75 per cent efficient.”

Recognizing that mental ill-health is widespread and presents a problem that extends far beyond institutional care of the mentally sick, Congress authorized a broad mental health program in the National Mental Health Act of 1946. Appropriations for this program were increased about one-third at the 1948 session of Congress.

Lessons from the Military Psychiatric Program

The psychiatric work of the Army and Navy during World War II demonstrated the usefulness of early care for slight disorders as a means of preventing more serious mental illness. It has been estimated that 80 per cent of the psychiatric treatment in the Army was given to men with minor psychiatric problems for which help would not have been received in civilian life. Believing this to be the “most significant aspect of our experience,” Gen. William Menninger, then chief of the Army's Neuropsychiatric Division, told a Senate subcommittee on Mar, 7, 1946:

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