The Backstories

Do you want to learn about the stories and meanings behind the symbols and messages on our site? We would love to share more. 

An Enduring Motto: Fight in the Open 

Two people standing wearing black shirts with written design reading "fight in the open"

Over 100 years ago, Mental Health America's founder, Clifford Beers, was told to share his story of living with mental illness and hospitalizations anonymously to avoid negative consequences. He refused to share his story anonymously, and instead replied, "I must fight in the open." He refused to give power to the shame and stigma surrounding mental illness and went on to write a book, A Mind that Found Itself, to help others understand the need to address mental illness and mental health openly. 

To this day, Mental Health America honors this message and encourages everyone to do the same. Share this message and show everyone that you choose to fight in the open. 

The Mental Health Bell: A Symbol of Hope

During the early days of mental health treatment, asylums often used iron chains and shackles to restrain people living with mental illness. With improved understanding and advanced treatments, this cruel practice eventually stopped.

In the early 1950s, Mental Health America requested the discarded chains and shackles from asylums and psychiatric hospitals across the United States. On April 13, 1953, at the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland, Mental Health America melted down these inhumane bindings and recast them into a sign of hope: the Mental Health Bell.

B4Stage4 Philosophy 

Much of MHA’s work is guided by its Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4) philosophy – that mental health conditions should be treated long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process. When we think about diseases like cancer or heart disease, we don’t wait for years to treat them.

We start before Stage 4—we begin with prevention, identify symptoms, and develop a plan of action to stop and hopefully reverse the progression of the disease. Like other diseases, it is critical to address symptoms early and plan an appropriate course of action on a path towards overall health.

MHA Store Collaborations 

We are proud to partner with artists and various organizations to create products that increase mental health awareness. Our partners are as dedicated as we are in combating the shame and stigma surrounding mental health concerns, and for that we are grateful! 

If you are an artist or company dedicated to supporting mental health and want to discuss a collaboration, please contact store@mhanational.org