Valuing the past: The importance of an understanding of the history of psychiatry for healthcare professionals, service users and carers

Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2003 Dec;12(4):237-42. doi: 10.1046/j.1447-0349.2003.t01-1-.x.


Drawing primarily on examples from the UK, this paper argues that an under-standing of the history of psychiatry can be of practical use to clinicians, service users and carers. It can provide a window on the present and an explanation of some aspects of current practice. In addition, a study of the past can provide a vision of how things might be done differently in the present and in the future. Moreover, knowledge of the past can also serve to remind us of psychiatry's potential for misuse and the dangers inherent in a view of the world in which psychiatry is simply seen as a benevolent science destined to find an answer to mental illness.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services / history
  • Prejudice
  • Psychiatric Nursing / history
  • Psychiatry / history*
  • United Kingdom