This article looks at the mental hygienic guidance centres of the Public Health Association of Swedish Finland (Samfundet Folkhälsan, or Folkhälsan for short). For Folkhälsan, mental hygiene was a part of a broader context, in which public health and racial hygiene were fundamentally motivated by Finland-Swedish minority nationalism. Folkhälsan’s mental hygienic ideas are illuminated through the interrelated frames of degeneration and social engineering. The former portrayed mental and social deviance as a social, biological and moral threat to the collective, whereas the latter saw social behaviour, including maladjustment, as a phenomenon that could be influenced. For Folkhälsan’s mental hygienists, it was central to determine type and degree of abnormality; whether the clients were socially maladjusted ‘problem children’ or ‘feeble-minded children’. In both cases, the problem was seen to be caused by (lower-class) parents: through incompetent parenting and/or by passing on poor mental qualities to their offspring.
Fields of Science
- 5201 Political History
- 5202 Economic and Social History
- 615 History and Archaeology