Celebrating 175 Years Since the Founding of the American Psychiatric Association

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Oct. 16, 1844, 13 superintendents of U.S. institutions for people with mental illness came together in Philadelphia for a four-day meeting that led to the creation of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane. It was the first national medical society in the U.S. In 1892, the Association’s name was changed to the American Medico-Psychological Association, and in 1921, it became the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

“The APA’s founders were determined to provide their patients with psychosocial care in a humane environment,” said APA President Bruce Schwartz, M.D. “They gathered to talk about the common challenges they faced and to advance treatments to improve the lives of their patients. In the 175 years since, the APA and its members have worked to promote the highest quality of care for individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders.”

Over the past 175 years, the APA has advanced the field of psychiatry by establishing important publications and programs that are now essential to researchers, mental health practitioners and the public. Among the highlights:

  • In 1917, the American Medico–Psychological Association—working with the National Committee for Mental Hygiene—created a formal system for classifying mental illnesses. These original classification standards were revised and organized into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), first published in 1952. Further revisions over the years, most recently in 2013 with DSM-5, reflect significant clinical and scientific advances made in understanding and diagnosing mental illness.
  • In 1966, the APA established Psychiatric News as its news service.
  • In 1981, American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., APA’s publishing company, was created to produce and distribute books, journals and multimedia on psychiatry, mental health and behavioral science.
  • In 1992, the APA created a foundation, now called the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, to advance mental health through public education programs, investing in the future leaders of psychiatry and supporting research and clinical training.
  • Additionally, to help preserve some of the rich history of the field of psychiatry, the APA today houses a library, the Melvin Sabshin, M.D. Library & Archives. The library includes an extensive collection of texts, documents, images and oral histories. Long held in storage, the library recently found a permanent home in the APA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Today, APA’s more than 38,500 psychiatrist members lead the way in advancing psychiatry and mental health.

The APA kicked off celebrating its 175th Anniversary during its Annual Meeting earlier this year in San Francisco. The year of commemoration concludes at the organization’s next Annual Meeting in Philadelphia in April 2020.

“We are proud to be recognizing our rich and deep history,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “By exploring our past, we can see how far we have come as a medical organization and the great potential we have moving forward.”

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,500 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit www.psychiatry.org.

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