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We can de-stigmatise mental ill health if we’re willing to learn from the past

History has so much to tell us about modern medical and social attitudes to mental health
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History has so much to tell us about modern medical and social attitudes to mental health

I am an ‘ivory tower’ academic historian who decided to try to reach out and do some good in the world before I retire. One of my fields is history of psychiatry and I launched, at the end of 2016, a five-year project called ‘Promoting mental health through the lessons of history’.

I wanted to provide a balanced and historically reliable account of the development of medical and cultural understandings of mental disorder, against a background of dramatically changing political, scientific, economic, legal, and social environments in the British Isles over the last five centuries.

I hoped to raise awareness of attitudes towards mental health and the care of people with mental disorders, not only among the caring professions, but also the general public, including patients and

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