McLean Celebrates 200 Years; Reaffirms its Mission

February 25, 2011

With an historic charter renewal ceremony held at the State House on Friday, February 25, McLean Hospital, the first psychiatric hospital in New England and the third oldest in the country, celebrated its 200th birthday and reaffirmed its mission to improve the lives of individuals with psychiatric illness. The ceremony marked the exact day two centuries ago in 1811 that McLean and its partner institution Massachusetts General Hospital were chartered by the Massachusetts Legislature.

“While many things have changed since our founding, our commitment to the people we serve remains the focal point of our mission today” said McLean Hospital President and Psychiatrist in Chief Scott L. Rauch, MD. “Speaking for the hundreds of members of staff of our beloved institution, I reaffirm our dedication to McLean’s precious mission of compassionate clinical care, scientific discovery, professional training, and public education in order to improve the lives of people with psychiatric illness and their families.”

A Look Back

Originally located in Charlestown, the Asylum, which was renamed McLean in 1826, accepted its first patient on October 6, 1818.

According to McLean Hospital Historian Terry Bragg, prior to McLean, individuals with mental illness were most often hidden and housed in jails, almshouses and private homes, where they received minimal medical or humane care. However, under the guidance of its first superintendent, Dr. Rufus Wyman, McLean forever changed how New Englanders with mental illness were treated.

“Dr. Wyman believed in a more enlightened approach to treating the mentally ill and introduced to New England a revolution in treatment, based on kindness and compassion. The aim of treatment was to cure not subdue” explained Bragg. “The first tenet of the hospital was and remains today that patients be treated with compassionate care, with dignity and respect.”

Filling the Needs of the Mentally Ill, Yesterday and Today

In its first three months, McLean admitted 13 patients, including a 22-year-old man from Wrentham, a 32-year-old merchant from Newbury Port and a 37-year-old woman from Malden. By 1821, 149 people had received care at the Asylum. Today, McLean annually admits more than 9,000 children and adults to inpatient and residential levels of care, renders more than 58,000 day treatment and outpatient visits and provides support in the community through seven satellite programs across the state.

“Meeting the mental health needs of communities across the Commonwealth is a role McLean has played throughout the years, making specialized psychiatric care more accessible” said Rauch. “And though the region we serve has expanded beyond Massachusetts, with patients coming from New England, across the United States, and around the globe, our tradition of providing compassionate care endures. Our bicentennial is as much about the future as it is about our history. As we enter our third century, we remain devoted to developing ever-better therapies, to pursue prevention, and to eliminate stigma.”

On its birthday, McLean received a joint resolution from the House and Senate and a citation from Governor Deval Patrick commending the hospital and its staff for their continued commitment. In addition, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared February 25, 2011, Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital Day in the city of Boston.


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