MHASC is an affiliate of Mental Health America, a national organization founded by former psychiatric patient and Yale graduate Clifford W. Beers to expose and correct the injustices he experienced and observed during hospitalizations for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Clifford Beers called for a national change in the care of the mentally ill which were often in prisons or very bad institutions. In 1901 Mental Health Association of the USA was founded. In later years the Bell of Hope would come to represent MHA and still stands in the National office today.
Mental Health America of South Carolina (MHASC) has served the state of South Carolina since 1954 as a private, not for profit, 501(c) 3 organization. In 2014, MHASC will celebrate 60 years as an affiliate of the oldest mental health advocacy organization in the nation. MHASC was started by the Spartanburg Chapter of Mental Health Association in 1954 after they had been established as the Mental Hygiene Society in 1952. They changed their name and became an affiliate of the National Chapter of Mental Health Association. MHASC continues to work as an affiliate system model and now has 23 affiliates across the state.
The first two programs of MHASC were Operation Santa and Spring Showers. During “Operation Santa”, MHASC made sure that all patients in the state hospital received at least one gift at the annual Christmas party hosted by MHASC. Today, MHASC continues this wonderful tradition, even as people have moved away from state facilities and now reside in local communities across the state. Held in the month of May on the State Hospital grounds on Bull Street in Columbia, Spring Showers started in 1959 and was an annual spring fling for those at the State Hospital. This program continued until 1990.
Legislative Education and Advocacy have always played a huge role in MHASC’s history. The first march to the State House from the Bull Street Hospital grounds was organized in 1970. In a joint effort with advocates from across the state, MHASC now participates in an annual Legislative Education Day. Budget Hearing Chambers are packed on this day with individuals and groups eager to interact with their representatives.
After 5,000 people were discharged from the state hospital on Bull Street in 1989, MHASC and affiliates around the state became involved in housing. In the years that followed MHASC has become the single largest sponsor for housing in the state of South Carolina. As long as there is a need, MHASC will continue to develop housing for persons with Mental Illness.
In 1994, MHASC recognized the need for clients to have a place to go to learn new skills and develop friendships.“Bridges Clubhouse” was founded to fill this need in the Columbia area. Bridges offers an array of psychological, social and vocational programs, housing assistance, and case management services.More recently in 2013 “Our Place Clubhouse” began offering the same services in the Charleston area. It has 75 members and serves about 55 a day.
MHASC has a long and rich history of volunteers, programs, and advocacy for persons with mental illness. For over 60 years this agency has fought the fight of stigma and overcome the many obstacles to create a fair South Carolina for persons in the state with mental illness.