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The MHA Bell - A Symbol of Our Mission

During World War II, future leaders of the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) which is now Mental Health America, worked in state mental hospitals. There, they witnessed the deplorable and inhumane treatment of patients with mental illnesses who were chained to the hospital walls. This experience inspired these leaders to devote their time to improving the lives of all those who suffer from mental illnesses and changing the way America thinks about persons with mental illnesses.  

In 1950 MHA chose a bell as their symbol. Two years later, volunteers at the Mental Health Association’s National Headquarters in New York collected the metal restraints from hundreds of mental hospitals across the country and piled them in the building’s lobby. These restraints were then shipped to the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland, where in 1953 they were dropped into a crucible and cast into a 300-pound bell. Nothing could proclaim hope for those who have mental illness more dramatically than a bell cast from the actual chains and shackles used as restraints for persons with mental illnesses. Today, the Mental Health Bell rings out hope for improving mental health and achieving victory over mental illnesses.

To many, a bell symbolizes freedom and liberty. For the 40 million Americans affected by mental illnesses, the bell serves as a reminder of the more insidious chains of stigma and discrimination that still bind people with mental illnesses. Over the years, national mental health leaders and other prominent individuals have rung the Bell to mark the continued progress in the fight for victory over mental illnesses.

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© 2024 Mental Health Association in Orange County Inc.

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