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Digital Subscriptions > Psychologies > No. 158 > MORAL OF THE STORY


Author David Hamilton is an advocate of kindness. Here, he examines the power of compassion and helping each other


Thought-provoking culture, creative ideas, insightful science and inspiring gifts

Be Nice, Be Kind’ print, £12 Native State

IN 1796, WILLIAM TUKE founded ‘moral treatment’ for people with mental health problems. He set up the York Retreat where, as opposed to inhumane asylums of the time, treatment was kindness, trust, respect and autonomy. With no conventional medical care, patients were encouraged to assist each other, looking after their ‘family’ of other residents.

The retreat was so successful, the model spread to the US, where it gained huge popularity, with psychiatrists believing it caused ‘organic changes in brain matter’. Moral treatment has been forgotten in our modern world, but there is growing scientific evidence that helping others boosts mental health. For example, a study* found that people who did volunteering work had much lower rates of depression than those who didn’t. What’s the connection? You decide.

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