Asylum Magazine (Volume 20 No 4) Autumn 2013

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 defned by concepts of risk, dominated by Big Pharma, and driven by proft, 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.

Asylum Toronto


Download Volume 20 No 4



  • Special Mad In Toronto Issue
  • Editorial. Asylum Toronto
  • Bringing Mad Positive Home: Some Lessons From Toronto By Helen Spandler, Mick Mckeown, Lou Rawcliffe, Keith Holt And Kirsten Maclean
  • Intergalactic Spirituality, Hip Hop And Psychiatry: Directing A Documentary On Khari ‘CONSPIRACY’ Stewart By Jonathan Balazs
  • Performing Mad Pride In Toronto By Ruth Ruth Stackhouse
  • Mad Archives In Canada, Eh? By Members And Volunteers Of Psat (Psychiatric Survivor Archive In Toronto)
  • Mad People’s History Comes To Scotland By Nyla Mehdi
  • Madness: A Beginner’s Guide By Annu Saini
  • Not A Real Activist: Finding The Mad Activism That Works For You By Phebeann Wolframe
  • The Consumer/Survivor Timebank: Madness Meets Marxism By Andrea White
  • What I’ve Learned About Organising From Activists In Toronto’s
  • Mad Movement By Danielle Landry
  • Remembering Mad Activism In Toronto By David Reville
  • Poetry: Michael Veronka; Matilda Ramaciera; Cat Fitzpatrick; Erika Hammel; Don Weitz
  • Campuses Are Treatment Centres – Or Are They? By Jenna Reid
  • The Mad Pride Tree
  • Mad People Of Colour – A Manifesto By Rachel Gorman, Annu Saini, Louise Tam, Onyinyechukwu Udegbe And Onar Usar
  • In Whose Interests? Complicating Narrative Research By Kathryn Church
  • Dear Mad Pride, With Gratitude: On The Affinities Between Mad And Trans Politics. By Catherine Fitzpatrick
  • On Getting Paid To ‘PARTICIPATE’ By Becky Mcfarlane