During the early days of mental health treatment, asylums often restrained patients with iron chains and shackles around their ankles and wrists. With better understanding and treatment, this cruel practice eventually stopped.
In the early 1950s, National Mental Health America (NMHA) issued a call to asylums across the country for their discarded chains and shackles. On April 13, 1953, at the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland, NMHA melted down these inhumane bindings and recast them into a sign of hope.
Now the symbol of NMHA, the 300-pound bell serves as a powerful reminder that the invisible chains of stigma and discrimination continue to bind people with mental illnesses. Today, the Mental Health Bell rings out hope for improving mental health and achieving victory over mental illnesses. Following tradition, national mental health leaders and other prominent individuals now ring the bell to mark the continued progress in the fight for victory over mental illnesses.
“Cast from the shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.” – Printed inscription on the NMHA bell