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Edith Morgan: a life’s work in mental health

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23/10/2015

By | From the Collections

Edith Morgan was a prominent figure in the field of mental health for over 40 years, both in the UK and internationally. Her personal papers, documenting her remarkable career, have just been catalogued and are available to view at the Wellcome Library.

Edith Morgan 1996

Edith Morgan with volunteers on World Mental Health Day, 1996. Wellcome Library reference: PP/EDM/B/3/5/1.

This collection offers a unique research opportunity, showcasing Morgan’s work and association with many different organisations in the sphere of mental health. The organisations include Mind (the mental health charity), the World Federation for Mental Health and Good Practices in Mental Health. The collection also reflects the evolution of mental health policies and treatments during the 20th century in the UK and throughout the world.

After graduating and working for three years as a social worker in childcare in London, Morgan joined Mind (then the National Association for Mental Health) in 1954. She would go on to serve as Mind’s Deputy Director in 1965 before retiring in 1980. Much changed during Morgan’s 40 years of association with the charity, notably the closure of asylums. Significantly, there was the establishment of Mind regional offices and local associations, which placed an emphasis on community care for people with mental health problems.

Morgan’s personal interests are reflected in her papers. The interests included community mental health services; legislation of civil and human rights of people with mental health problems; the promotion of good practices in mental health care; the mental health of women; and ensuring black and ethnic minority groups were given due attention.

Throughout her life, Morgan fought for the rights of people with mental health problems. In her early work, when faced with the out-of-date institutions, her approach was revolutionary: she had a fundamental belief in the establishment of a collaborative mental health care service between professionals, volunteers, user groups and their families.

When reflecting on her own career, Morgan publicly acknowledged that her most fulfilling work was her role in developing the local associations that came to symbolise Mind. These associations helped towards transforming mental health treatment in Britain.

Following her work with Mind, Morgan went on to take her mission globally. She began her close association with the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) whilst organising its World Congress in London in 1968. She then went on to serve a term as President of WFMH from 1985 to 1987. Morgan also took a secondment from Mind to set up the internationally reaching Good Practices in Mental Health. Her work with both of these organisations is heavily documented in the archive.

The papers truly reflect Morgan’s passion for improving the treatment and care for people living with mental health problems throughout the world. They show her attendance at conferences and meetings in Australia, visits at asylums in Greece, and her following the press coverage of psychiatric care in former Soviet Republics.

Morgan’s papers are closely associated with the papers of Mind, which are currently being catalogued and made available in phases at the Library.

Authors: Anna Ostrowska, Special Collections Assistant, and Alice Mountfort, Assistant Archivist at the Wellcome Library.

Anna Ostrowska

Anna Ostrowska is a Library Assistant at the Wellcome Library.

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