MISSION

Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier

The mission of the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier is to improve the quality of mental health of all residents in our community through advocacy, education, and support.

Our History

MHAST is a private non-profit organization founded in 1927 and is the oldest continuously operating Mental Health Association in New York State. MHAST is an affiliate of the Mental Health Association of New York State which currently has 26 affiliates in 50 counties across the state. We are also considered an affiliate of Mental Health America, which currently has 143 affiliates in 38 states. We are also a United Way agency.

The organization was granted 501(c)3 status in 1968, and was officially incorporated as the Broome County Mental Health Association in April of 1980. We amended our name in April of 1988 to the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier. Over the years, MHAST has offered programs such as Project Uplift, Project Renew, Project Hope, Compeer, the Self Help Independence Project, Rural Bear, the Beacon Drop-In Center, Housing Services, the Fundamental Follies Theater Company, Do it for Daron, and many more. In the decades of our operation, MHAST has and remains committed to enhancing the lives of individuals struggling with their mental health through peer services, wellness programs, crisis intervention, advocacy, education, and referrals.

The History of the Mental Health Movement and the Mental Health Bell

Clifford Beers sparked the mental health reform movement in 1908 with an insightful autobiography, A Mind That Found Itself, which chronicled his struggle with mental illness and the shameful conditions he and millions of others endured in mental institutions throughout the country. He then went on to found the Connecticut Society for Mental Hygiene, which would expand a year later to form the National Committee for Mental Hygiene. The Committee was the predecessor to the National Mental Health Association, which later became Mental Health America in 2006.

During the early days of mental health treatment, asylums often restrained people who had mental illnesses with iron chains and shackles around their ankles and wrists. With better understanding and treatments, this cruel practice eventually stopped.

In the early 1950s, Mental Health America issued a call to asylums across the country for their discarded chains and shackles. All of these restraints were then shipped to the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland, where they were recast into a sign of hope known as the Mental Health Bell.

Now the symbol of Mental Health America and located at MHA Headquarters in Virginia, the 300-pound bell serves as a powerful reminder that the invisible chains of misunderstanding and discrimination continue to bind people with mental illnesses. Over the years, national mental health leaders and other prominent individuals have rung the bell to mark the continued progress in the fight for victory over mental illnesses.

The inscription on the bell reads:

“Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.”

This bell will ring for hope, freedom, and victory.