Clifford Beers

An American reformer and founder of the mental hygiene movement.

Mental health reformer Clifford Whittingham Beers.

Mental health reformer Clifford Whittingham Beers.
(© Corbis)

By 1903 Beers was able to return to his previous career, but continued to work diligently to reform the treatment of the mentally ill, particularly those in institutional settings. In 1908 Beers published A Mind That Found Itself, a popular autobiographical study of his confinement and recovery, which was praised by the prominent psychologist and philosopher William James (1842–1910). After the publication of this work, and with widespread support of both the medical and lay communities, Beers became a leading figure in the mental hygiene movement, seeking to reform the treatment of, and attitudes toward, those with mental illness. In the same year his book was first published, Beers founded the Connecticut Society for Mental Hygiene (a name suggested by psychologist Adolf Meyer [1866–1950], another supporter of Beers' efforts). This organization lobbied for improved treatment of psychiatric inpatients and increased public awareness of mental illness. In 1909, Beers organized the National Committee for Mental Hygiene and served as its secretary until 1939. He also helped establish the American Foundation for Mental Hygiene in 1928.

In time, Beers' sphere of influence extended beyond the United States, and in 1918 he assisted Clarence M. Hincks (1885–1964) in founding the Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene. Beers played a pivotal role in organizing the International Congress on Mental Health in 1930, and three years later he received an award for his achievements in the mental health field from the National Institute of Social Science. Beers’ autobiography remained popular and influential, having gone into 26 printings by the time of his death in 1943. The book continued in the twentyfirst century to be reprinted and remains widely read.

See also Mental health ; Mental hospitals ; Mental illness .



Beers, Clifford Whittingham. A Mind That Found Itself. Amazon: Create Space, 2013.

Beers, Clifford Whittingham. The Mental Hygiene Movement. Port Chester, NY: Elibron/Adegi Graphics LLC, 2011.

Szasz, Thomas Stephen. Psychiatry: The Science of Lies. New York: Syracuse University Press, 2008.


Beers, Clifford. “A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography.” American Journal of Public Health 100, no. 12 (December 2010): 2354–56.

Parry, Manon. “From a Patient's Perspective: Clifford Whittingham Beers’ Work to Reform Mental Health Services.” American Journal of Public Health 100, no. 12 (December 2010): 2356–2357.


Clifford Beers Clinic: 100 Years. “The History of the Clifford Beers Clinic.” (accessed September 9, 2015).

Mental Health America. “Our History.” (accessed September 9, 2015).