The concept of mental health education was drawn up by Teodóra Tomcsányi in 1986. Courses were first launched at the Institute for Leadership Education of the Hungarian Ministry of Education; later the programme was overseen by the National Institute for Health Prevention. Degrees had been issued by the University of Physical Education in Hungary from the very start, and this was the institution that took over the programme staff organizing the course in 1995. The team formed the basis of the first independent Department for Mental Health in Hungary established in 1998.

As a result of university integrational processes, the Department was joined to Semmelweis University in 2000, and from 2004 onwards it continued its operation as one of the central organizational units of the university. In the autumn of the same year it was restructured into the Institute of Mental Health, which became part of the newly established Faculty of Health and Public Services on 1st April 2010.

The founder and first director of the Institute, Prof. Teodóra Tomcsányi was succeeded in this position by Péter Török PhD habil. in 2008. The current Director of the Institute, Prof. Beáta Dávid, started in her office in 2013.