About MHA Putnam

The Mental Health Association in Putnam County (MHA in Putnam) was founded and incorporated in 1993 by a group of concerned citizens including mental health service recipients, their family members and mental health service providers.  They identified unmet service needs in the community and worked to develop peer run services and family support services for the Putnam Community, well ahead of the peer support movement.

MHA in Putnam has grown and evolved, now providing peer support not only for the mental health community, but also for youth, Veterans, law enforcement, first responders, and their family members.

MHA in Putnam was initially funded through reinvestment dollars- monies that were redirected from closures of long-term psychiatric hospitals.  Law makers and community members finally recognizing that recovery is possible…not only an expectation, but a right.  Please read about the history of the MHA bell which is an important part of our organizational history, both nationally and locally.  “Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.”

Over the years, MHA has expanded its funding to include the NYS Office of Mental Health, Putnam County, the Suicide Prevention Center of NY, the Dyson Foundation and the Community Foundation of Hudson Valley.  In addition, we are fortunate to receive contributions from a growing list of individuals and businesses who recognize and support our unique and valuable work.

MHA has a dedicated group of volunteers who serve on the MHA Board of Directors.  The MHA Board meets bi-monthly to support the growth and stability of the agency.

MHA continues to grow and be responsive to the changing needs of our community, providing over 6,000 service visits annually including outreach, support and community education.  We continue to be a leader in mental health advocacy.

The Mental Health Bell: The Story of Our Symbol

bell“Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.”

In 1950, the leaders of the National Mental Health Association chose the bell as the organization’s symbol. They wanted a symbol which people already associated with freedom and liberty. Among these leaders were those intimately familiar with the deplorable and inhumane conditions in the locked state mental hospitals during the 1940’s, because they had worked in them as conscientious objectors during World War II.

Others in this newly formed organization knew that although we were halfway through the 20th century, it was only recently that shackles, chains, handcuffs and other barbarous relics of the days when mentally ill patients were treated like criminals had been removed.

There was a need to proclaim to the country that Clifford Beers’ “Mental Health Movement” was responsible for this measure of progress and, most importantly, to proclaim to people with mental illnesses that they had hope for recovery: that there was now a revitalized nationwide army of volunteers fighting for them, for better treatment, for more facilities, for wider research and for more help for an individual in recovery.

In 1952, the Mental Health Association collected in the lobby of their National Headquarters in New York City the metal restraints from hundreds of mental hospitals all across the country. That lobby has been described as looking like a “chamber of horrors” for the collection piled up.

All of these restraints were then shipped to the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, MD, where they were dropped into a crucible and cast into a 300-pound bell in 1953.

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 in a not-so-distant past. The bell bears the following inscription:

“Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.”

The bell has been rung on countless occasions to mark continued progress in the mental health consumer movement. We ring the bell with pride in our past history of achievements, with confidence in our present actions, and with hope in the promise of a future when we shall witness ‘victory over mental illness.’ When it is not in use for special events, the bell is on display in the Association’s National Center in Alexandria, Virginia.