© 2019

Preventing Mental Illness

Past, Present and Future

  • Despo Kritsotaki
  • Vicky Long
  • Matthew Smith
  • Explores how societies have attempted to prevent mental illness during the twentieth century, addressing a gap in the historiography and spurring further debate about prevention today

  • Presents a diverse range of preventative strategies from from North America and Europe

  • Demonstrates that preventive psychiatry has not always been particularly positive or progressive


Part of the Mental Health in Historical Perspective book series (MHHP)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvi
  2. Matthew Smith, Vicky Long, Oonagh Walsh, Despo Kritsotaki
    Pages 1-38
  3. Lucas Richert, Matthew DeCloedt
    Pages 187-207
  4. Ali Haggett
    Pages 257-280 Open Access
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 281-292

About this book


This book provides an overview of a diverse array of preventive strategies relating to mental illness, and identifies their achievements and shortcomings. The chapters in this collection illustrate how researchers, clinicians and policy makers drew inspiration from divergent fields of knowledge and practice: from eugenics, genetics and medication to mental hygiene, child guidance, social welfare, public health and education; from risk management to radical and social psychiatry, architectural design and environmental psychology. It highlights the shifting patterns of biological, social and psychodynamic models, while adopting a gender perspective and considering professional developments as well as changing social and legal contexts, including deinstitutionalisation and social movements. Through vigorous research, the contributors demonstrate that preventive approaches to mental health have a long history, and point to the conclusion that it might well be possible to learn from such historical attempts. The book also explores which of these approaches are worth considering in future and which are best confined to the past. Within this context, the book aims at stoking and informing debate and conversation about how to prevent mental illness and improve mental health in the years to come. 

Chapters 3, 10, and 12 of this book are available open access under a CC BY 4.0 license at


Depression Prevention rather than cure Mental health professionals Policy makers Europe North America Health Service Welfare Mental hygiene Childhood Illness, disease Psychiatry Eugenics

Editors and affiliations

  • Despo Kritsotaki
    • 1
  • Vicky Long
    • 2
  • Matthew Smith
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of History and Archaeology, University of CreteRethymno, CreteGreece
  2. 2.School of History, Classics and ArchaeologyNewcastle UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK
  3. 3.Centre for the Social History of Health and HealthcareUniversity of StrathclydeGlasgowUK

About the editors

Despo Kritsotaki is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Crete, Greece.  


Vicky Long is Senior Lecturer in Twentieth-Century British History at Newcastle University, UK.


Matthew Smith is Professor of Health History at the University of Strathclyde, UK.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Preventing Mental Illness
  • Book Subtitle Past, Present and Future
  • Editors Despo Kritsotaki
    Vicky Long
    Matthew Smith
  • Series Title Mental Health in Historical Perspective
  • Series Abbreviated Title Mental Health in Historical Perspective
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-98698-2
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-07522-4
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-98699-9
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XVI, 292
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Social History
    History of Medicine
    History of Science
    Modern History
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“This engaging volume will be of interest to historians, interdisciplinary health researchers, policymakers, and mental health professionals alike —all who would benefit from learning about the seldom heard lessons of past endeavors. This important work will help to redress the gap in the historiography of preventive approaches to mental health that has largely been overlooked.” (Verusca Calabria, H-Net Reviews Humanities and Social Sciences,, October, 2020)