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Arch Hellen Med, 31(6), November-December 2014, 678-685


From madness to mental illness. The historical development of legal terminology

D. Mylonopoulos
Department of Business Management, Technological Educational Institute of Piraeus, Piraeus, Greece

The definition of mental health has been a subject of dispute in different cultures over the centuries. Cultures and societies treat mentally ill people differently. In the past in Greece the mentally ill person was considered dangerous and was characterized by terms such "lunatic", "psycho", "insane", "mad" and others derogatory to the human personality. Usually this characterization led to the incarceration of that person in a "Frenocomeion" (Bedlam). This situation now appears to have changed. This is a review of the Greek legal framework and the use and evolution of legal terms from the establishment of the modern Greek state up until the present day, highlighting the initiatives and actions and the changes that have been made in the characterization and the treatment of people suffering from mental disorders and in the protection and assistance they need in the management of their affairs. A search of the legislative framework was made through the national printing office, the legal database "Nomos", the archives of the Greek Parliament and scientific studies and articles published by distinguished lawyers and psychiatrists. The review shows that the terminology has changed significantly, as has the treatment of the mentally ill, with priority now being given to the protection of the human personality and dignity. In conclusion, the concept of "mental disorder or mental illness" has replaced the words "madness", "paranoia", "insanity" and other relevant characterizations and has been adopted as a stable and simple legal concept, consistent with the protection of the individual personality and suited to contemporary scientific medical opinion.

Key words: Guardianship, Mental disorder, Mental health, Mental illness.

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