THIS is preeminently the day of preventive medicine. The campaign started many years ago to educate the people in the manner of avoiding contagious diseases has gradually been extended to other fields, until now the prophylaxis of insanity is almost as freely discussed as that of puerperal fever. And this is as it should be. Though the recovery of the already insane and the feeble-minded is seldom permanently accomplished, the outlook for the final prevention of these conditions among the potentially insane is by no means hopeless. The work undertaken by such organizations as the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, and the various allied state organizations and societies having the same general end in view are well known, and although the good already accomplished in the way of educating the people in those habits of life and thought which tend to make the development of mental afflictions less likely, is as yet inconsiderable, it promises, in the long run, to bring forth excellent results.
More and more we are coming to a realization of the importance of a good heredity. All medical men are practically agreed upon this subject. In the prevention of feeble-mindedness it is the one essential factor. It is of hardly less importance in the prevention of insanity. In an article on the hygiene of the mind, a recent writer has said "An individual who comes from normal stock, abstains from alcohol, and is free from syphilis, and escapes accidental head injury is not threatened with mental alienation."
Conklin in the "Mating of the Unfit" refers to the offspring of one normal man by two separate women, one a feeble-minded girl and the other a perfectly well-balanced individual. The descendants of the feeble-minded woman were 480 in number, and of these 143 inherited the tainted mentality. The normal woman had 365 descendants and not one of them was to be classed among the mentally defective.
It is also universally agreed that the propagation of tainted stock is much more likely when there is a close inbreeding of such stock. The best should be bred to the best, but different types of the same strain and close blood affinities should be avoided.
A fact so generally conceded should be applied as far as possible to the principles of marriage between individuals of both the same and
- A. J. Rosanoff, reprint from New York State Hospital Bulletin, November, 1911.
- Editorial, The Lancet Clinic, March 7, 1912.