Asylum 20.4 – Winter 2013

Introduction

The asylum. Early 15c, from Latin asylum ‘sanctuary’, from Greek asylon ‘refuge’. Noun use of asylos: ‘inviolable, safe from
violence’; especially of persons seeking protection. From a- ‘without’ + syle ‘right of seizure’. So, literally: ‘an inviolable place’.

Inviolable.

The history of the asylum reads like a fairy tale, a once upon a time of incarceration, forced treatment, demented nurses, torturous contraptions, terror and secrets. A story about what we know now that we didn’t know then. A story of progress. A story of triumph.

The market-driven principles of mental health care under neo-liberalism have never been more obvious. With patients situated as consumers in a mental health system defined by concepts of risk, dominated by Big Pharma, and driven by profit, there is little acknowledgement of rights let alone any substantial resistance to a rapidly expanding mental health system.

Worse, many so-called ‘mental health activists’ have become consumed by assimilationist strategies, opting to promote the idea that change can be delivered from within, and advocating peer support and continuing professional education as the new solution to age-old systemic problems: coercion and forced treatment, racism and white supremacy, poverty, homelessness and social isolation … The list goes on.

When did we start seeing the mental health care ‘system’ in the likeness of a group of naïve and idiotic professionals – doctors, nurses, health practitioners, policy makers – who are at the same time well-intentioned and unknowing? And when did we decide that a seat at their table or a moment of their time would make even a bit of difference? What led us to believe that there was power in disclosing our stories, our experiences and our secrets? When did we start deluding ourselves that we
mattered that much – or at all, in truth? It would be laughable if it weren’t so pervasive. And dangerous.

Inviolable.

There is no institution, big or small, that can protect us from the violence and discrimination that we experience living in this world. No government, no justice system, no asylum. We need to stop looking to them for protection. We do that for each other. We do that for ourselves. We do that in spite of them. In families. In communities. On our own terms.

Tell me I am being idealistic, unrealistic. I don’t care. I would rather live my whole life plotting to bring down the asylum than another moment propping it up. And I am not the only one – in Toronto or around the world. Here in these pages, reading these pages.

Call us traitors.

We are tired of losing and angry enough to believe we can win.


CONTENTS

HOW DO WE WIN?
EDITORIAL ASYLYUM TORONTO
BRINGING MAD POSITIVE HOME: SOME LESSONS FROM TORONTO
Helen Spandler, Mick McKeown, Lou Rawcliffe, Keith Holt
& Kirsten Maclean
INTERGALACTIC SPIRITUALITY, HIP HOP & PSYCHIATRY: DIRECTING A DOCUMENTARY ON KHARI ‘CONSPIRACY’ STEWART Jonathan Balazs
PERFORMING MAD PRIDE IN TORONTO Ruth Ruth Stackhouse
MAD ARCHIVES IN CANADA, EH? Members & volunteers of PSAT
MAD PEOPLE’S HISTORY COMES TO SCOTLAND Nyla Mehdi
MADNESS: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE annu saini
NOT A REAL ACTIVIST: FINDING THE MAD ACTIVISM THAT WORKS FOR YOU PhebeAnn Wolframe
THE CONSUMER/SURVIVOR TIMEBANK: MADNESS MEETS MARXISM
Andrea White
WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT ORGANISING FROM ACTIVISTS IN TORONTO’S MAD MOVEMENT Danielle Landry
REMEMBERING MAD ACTIVISM IN TORONTO David Reville
POETRY
PURPLE IS THE COLOUR Michael Voronka
HEATED ARID EARTH Matilda Ramacieri
ABOUT THIS SUPPOSED HEALING Cat Fitzpatrick
THEY’RE WHISPERING Erika Hammel
SHOCK DOCTORS WHO CAN’T WAIT Don Weitz
DID YOU NOTICE WE’RE LOSING?
CAMPUSES ARE TREATMENT CENTRES – OR ARE THEY? Jenna Reid
ANTI-ANTI-STIGMA CAMPAIGNS
MAD PRIDE TREE annu saini, Louise Tam, Onar Usar, Rachel Gorman, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and others 26
MAD PEOPLE OF COLOUR – A MANIFESTO Rachel Gorman, annu saini, Louise Tam, Onyinyechukwu Udegbe & Onar Usar
IN WHOSE INTERESTS? COMPLICATING NARRATIVE RESEARCH Kathryn Church
DEAR MAD PRIDE, WITH GRATITUDE Catherine Fitzpatrick
ON GETTING PAID TO ‘PARTICIPATE’ Becky McFarlane


Sample article

MAD PEOPLE OF COLOUR: a manifesto


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