Program to explore impact of Mennonites on mental health care

A program of alternative service that came about because of World War II also led to significant changes in mental health care in the United States.

On July 19, Kauffman Museum at Bethel College will host ?From Resisters to Reformers: How Kansas Mennonites Changed Mental Health Care,? a presentation and discussion by Aaron Barnhart.

The program, at 3 p.m. in the museum auditorium, is made possible by the Kansas Humanities Council and is a part of Kauffman Museum?s regular Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum series. It is free and open to the public.

Few people in the United States were as unprepared for World War I as Kansas Mennonites. Predominantly farmers, they were opposed to military service for religious reasons and were largely of German descent, causing them to come under suspicion.

Later, with World War II looming, the Mennonites, Quakers and the Church of the Brethren proposed a system of alternative service called Civilian Public Service.

Through CPS, many conscientious objectors were assigned to mental-health facilities. Barnhart?s presentation examines how CPS workers helped expose intolerable conditions at these institutions, leading to postwar reforms and a transformation of psychiatric care.

Barnhart, former TV and movie critic for the Kansas City Star, is a freelance writer who lives in Kansas City, Mo.

?This talk is not just for Mennonites,? Barnhart said, ?but for anyone interested in the issues of personal conscience versus authority to the state, which is a theme as old as human history.?

?How Kansas Menno?nites Changed Mental Health Care? is part of the Kansas Humanities Coun?cil?s Speakers Bureau, featuring presentations and discussions that examine shared human experience?innovations, culture, heritage and conflicts.

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