The Original Dr. Karl

“…we must encourage each individual to see himself not as a mere spectator of cosmic events but as a prime mover; to regard himself not as a passive incident in the indefinite universe but as one important unit possessing the power to influence great decisions by making small ones.”

– Karl Menninger, 1963 (The Vital Balance: The Life Process in Mental Health and Illness, p. 399)

Dr. Karl Menninger (1893-1990) was one of the foremost practitioners and advocates of psychiatry in the USA. One of his accomplishments was explaining psychiatry to the general public, challenging the idea held by many that the mentally ill or emotionally disturbed were ‘lunatics’ to be confined to insane asylums.

Menninger felt that psychiatric treatment, in the proper circumstances, was helpful for virtually every emotionally disturbed individual. In founding the Menninger Clinic and Foundation in Topeka, he emphasised creating a humane environment for patients to reside in during treatment.

Dr. Francis Braceland, a fellow psychiatrist, wrote that Karl Menninger saw “patients not as bearers of bizarre diseases, but rather as human beings, somewhat isolated from their fellow men, harassed by faulty techniques of living and making awkward manoeuvres to keep themselves emotionally intact.”

Karl Menninger was clearly an extraordinary man and a pioneer in the field of humanist psychiatry.

You can read more about him and his life here.


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