Psychiatric Prophylaxis and the Emergence of Mental Hygiene

  • David FreisEmail author
Part of the Mental Health in Historical Perspective book series (MHHP)


This chapter shifts the focus to the psycho-political project that had the most direct influence on policy and patients from the second half of the 1920s: ‘mental hygiene’. Setting the stage for the following chapter and introducing some of the main ideas and protagonists, this chapter traces the history of preventive psychiatry from the first half of the nineteenth century to the aftermath of the First World War. In particular, it examines the lives and works of three pioneers of preventive psychiatry in the German-speaking countries around the turn of the century, Auguste Forel, Emil Kraepelin, and Robert Sommer. Although their respective approaches were grounded in very different political ideologies, for all three, advocating a new prophylactic role for psychiatry meant changing the relationship between medicine, society, and the state. The idea of preventive psychiatry was inherently political, but it cut through the usual categories of political history.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Ethics, History and Theory of MedicineUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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