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“Strategic Planning for Mental Health” by J.R. Rees

Strategic Planning for Mental Health” is a summary of an address given at the Annual Meeting of the National Council for Mental Hygiene on 18 June 1940.

The summary is four pages long at around 2,300 words. It is arguably easier to just read it rather than what is quoted below. The point, as the title indicates, is how to “sell” mental health to the public and tell them how to think.

By the way, Dr J.R. Rees was a military psychiatrist who was involved in Tavistock’s aims of social engineering and psychological warfare.

First, Rees suggests infiltration of various bodies as a “fifth column” without mentioning “mental health” so as to not give away the real aim.

Especially since the last world war we have done much to infiltrate the various social organizations throughout the country, and in their work and in their point of view one can see clearly how the principles for which this society and others stood in the past have become accepted as part of the ordinary working plan of these various bodies. That is as it should be, and while we can take heart from this we must be healthily discontented and realize that there is still more work to be done along this line. Similarly we have made a useful attack upon a number of professions. The two easiest of them naturally are the teaching profession and the Church: the two most difficult are law and medicine. …
If we are to infiltrate the professional and social activities of other people I think we must imitate the Totalitarians and organize some kind of fifth column activity! If better ideas on mental health are to progress and spread we, as the salesmen, must lose our identity. By that I mean that we cannot help so effectively if speaking for a National Council or any other body as we can when we make a more subtle approach adapted to the particular circumstances of the moment. It really wouldn’t matter if no one ever heard of this Council again provided that the work was done. Let us all, therefore, very secretly be “fifth columnists”.

There has to be a long-term propaganda plan using the press and, of course, the government. As part of the infiltration, this includes influencing the selection of candidates for government positions.

Parliament, the Press and other publications, are the most obvious ways by which our propaganda can be got across, and it needs the thought and work of every one of us to get this going. Medical Members of Parliament are always ready to help with any well thought out plan of campaign which is clearly for the good of the country, but we need not limit ourselves to them. … I still live in the hope that some day we shall get Members of Parliament to submit themselves to personality and efficiency tests, for I feel sure that if they did they would then insist upon all candidates for Parliament going through the same elementary routine, and we might later have some chance of its being applied to the Civil Service!

Note the continued emphasis on hiding who they are and their goal of “mental health”. As for the technique, repetition and saturation seems to be order of the day: state it enough times and it becomes true. At the very least, it impacts those who run mainstream media even if not (yet) the public.

In the past we have made sporadic attempts to provide a Press service which can give statements on matters of topical interest and explain to the reporters, and through them to the public, the meaning of various phenomena which are “hot news” in our morning papers. Actually we have as a group not nearly enough alertness and enthusiasm about this matter of helping the Press and so influencing the times in which we live. … The policy of the Press, like that of the B.B.C., is affected by the size of its fan-mail. Even if our letters are not published, they still produce their effect upon the editorial mind, and some of them certainly will be published and in this way will make people think. Here again we had probably better be secretive and not mention this Council or any other body, but simply write or speak as individuals. Don’t let us mention Mental Hygiene (with capital letters), though we can safely write in terms of mental health and commonsense. When we do write it is important to remember that the Understatement of a case is much more likely to be effective than its overstatement.

In addition to the above, the gradual process expands to other media like films. Again, don’t mention “mental health”.

I am not suggesting, of course, that they should write propaganda novels it would be surprising if those had any circulation, but in an ordinary human story it should not be difficult to give some emphasis on a point of view, and the gradual building up of a series of such emphases over a period of years would be the soundest kind of propaganda. This Council has recently been co-operating in some experiments with films, and there the same idea has been emphasized that just one point can be got across to the public through this medium. Those of you who know books and their authors, and films and their makers, might be doing some long term planning of the right kind of propaganda.
I have said several times that I believe we should be careful about the mention of the Council or any other body which might be thought to be furthering some particular point. Many people don’t like to be “saved”, “changed” or made healthy. I have a feeling, however, that “efficiency and economy” would make rather a good appeal because there are very few people who would not welcome these two suggestions. It has even crossed my mind whether we ought not to have a subsidiary company called the Social Efficiency Board and get Mr. Bevin or someone like that in as Chairman!

Of course, it’s more “efficient” to think like “they” want us to. This is one of those things that reads like satire but is sadly and perhaps disturbingly, though not surprisingly, not.

“Strategic Planning for Mental Health” by J.R. Rees

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