Tuesday, January 26, 2016


EUGENICS-("well-born" from "good, well" and "race, stock, kin) Is a set of beliefs and practices that aims at improving the genetic quality of the human population.  Eugenics is the idea that one can improve the human race by careful selection of those who mate and produce offspring.  This movement played a major role in history and culture of the U.S. prior to its involvement in WWII.  Eugenics was practiced in the U.S. many years before the programs in Nazi Germany.  The United States' programs provided much of the inspiration for Germany.  After the eugenics movement was well established in this country, it spread to Germany.  California eugenicists began producing literature promoting eugenics and sterilization and sending it overseas to German scientists and medical professionals.  The forced sterilization program engineered by the Nazis was partly inspired by California's.  By 1933 California had forced sterilization on more people than all of the other states combined.  The Rockefeller Foundation helped develop and fund various German eugenics programs.  Researcher Harry H Laughlin often bragged that his Model Eugenic Sterilization laws had been implemented in the 1935 Nurembers racial hygiene laws.  With these laws, by 1934 more than 5,000 people per month were being forcibly sterilized.  Our country's eugenics movement was started in part by racial attitudes toward the large amounts of immigrants arriving from Asia and Southern and Eastern Europe.  Although the eugenics movement was scientifically discredited after revelations of Nazi experiments, the last state law was not repealed until 1981.  In that time, an estimated 70,000 men and women underwent forced sterilizations and thousands were institutionalized against their will.         As mental health advocates it is important to remove the stigma of mental illness.  But I believe it is also important to see how far we have come.  We need to learn from history's mistakes.  That is why I am doing a series of posts on this topic.  We know that years ago, anyone suffering from mental illness was locked away and forgotten.  In this era, I have know doubt that for many of us that would be our fate.  If you have not heard of this part of our nations history, it will be shocking.  But I believe it will help us to move forward with our determination to educate the public about our illnesses.  We have a voice and we will use it to make sure this terrible treatment of the mentally ill never happens again.

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