Mental health in the 1950's was a very big and changing deal in this time. Many people were not happy about the way people suffering from mental heath problems were being treated and they wanted this to change. For the larger part, people with mental health problems were looked down upon and laughed at, they were not seen to be significant humans and were looked towards to help and add to the community, there was also a belief in the community that mental health was incurable, the assumption in this time was that they were scary to be with as they were expected to hurt you. Many teenage delinquents suffered from mental health problems but just did not know about it as the care for it was not there. But in 1953 things started to change, there were advertisements, government meetings, and associations like Mental Health America of Colorado were made for mental health patients. They raised awareness for the public trying to rule out bullying that was going on and the assumptions many people had on mental health in the 1950's. There is now a symbolic mental health bell which was a 300 pound bell which melted down inhumane bindings which held down people with mental illnesses so they couldn't be a part of the community and recast them into new hope for the future of mental health. It is now a symbolic act as it is a reminder of how America and the world tried to overcome how people felt about mental illness and how it is treated.
An element for mental health 1950's that is demonstrated through Holden Caulfield and how his character is seen as and what JD Salinger is trying to say about mental health is shown through his which is technically called characterisation. An Example of this is the repetition of the words Holden describe himself to feel throughout the text like him feeling nervous, anxious, depressed and he gets these headaches as well from worrying too much. JD Salinger is trying to prove that teenagers in 1950's culture were obviously struggling to try and keep their mental health under control as being nervous and feeling depressed are symptoms of anxiety and depression which are to major mental health issues. An example of Holden experiencing symptoms of depression is when Holden is talking to his sister and she is telling him how he hates everything, " 'You don't like anything that's happening.' It made me even more depressed when she said that. 'Yes I do. Yes I do. Sure I do. Don't say that. Why the hell do you say that?', 'Because you don't. You don't like any schools. You don't like a million things. You don't.'. 'I do! That's where you're wrong—that's exactly where you're wrong!' 'Why the hell do you have to say that?' I said. Boy, she was depressing me." JD Salinger is saying through this quote that Holden is feeling depressed, Phoebe is noticing it but Holden is denying the symptoms of it and therefore he is not aware of him feeling depressed and all. JD Salinger is challenging the cultural assumption of mental health through Holden by displaying Holden's negative thoughts and ways, as well as telling us that there were people trying to help as they were coming more aware of his issue, like Phoebe (his sister) and old Mr Spenser. There were also the others that would ignore what he was saying and told him to not worry about it and things like that, like Sradlater and Ackley, people of which he seemed to point out every negative thing about them, which is another sign of his mental illness issues.
http://www.shmoop.com/catcher-in-the-rye/summary.html - this is a great website with lots of information. Follow the prompts on it for more information and quotes.
This was the symbolic mental health bell...