Hidden gems from Asylum’s back-catalogue

Helen Spandler recently had the welcome task of reading through every single back issue of Asylum. Here she writes about what she found:

asylum 2.3

‘The first issue of the magazine was published in Spring 1986, so that’s over 30 years of magazines. I came across many articles I thought deserved another reading, so I’ve decided to re-publish a few stand-out pieces from our back catalogue. I’d like to prioritise: articles written by lesser known authors, especially service users and survivors; articles that still seem relevant; and those that develop experiential knowledge (knowledge generated from experience). In this regard, I suggest that these articles prefigure what has become known as Mad Studies.
Readers may agree or not with my choices. If you can remember any Asylum articles you think we should re-
publish then please let us know. We’ll hopefully publish more in future issues.

The first article I’ve decided to include has a nice story around it. A Chance Encounter I was helping run an Asylum stall at a Friends of East End Loonies (FEEL) event at Kingsley Hall in East London last year. I started chatting to the people around the Speak Out Against Psychiatry stall which was next to ours. I vaguely recognised one chap on the stall who turned out to be Donnard White. I hadn’t seen Donnard in well over 20 years. Describing himself as a ‘service evader’ (rather than a service user) Donnard had been involved in Asylum in the early days. I remembered he had fallen out with Alec Jenner (one of our founders) and Asylum, but we chatted and reminisced amicably. I told him I was reading all the early issues of the magazine and was considering publishing a ‘Best of Asylum’ collection. He asked what articles I’d include. I said I’d just read a great article that I’d love to include, but because it was written anonymously it’d be difficult to get the author’s permission to re-publish it. “What was it about?” he asked. When I said it was called “What to do if a friend goes mad” Donnard looked rather shocked, and I worried I’d put my foot in it. However, rather fortuitously, it turned out Donnard himself was the author. He explained why he’d written it anonymously and agreed we could re-publish it, this time with his name. I think the article is still very relevant today. In particular, it’s a nice antidote to the often patronising ‘anti-stigma’ campaigns & ‘let’s just talk’ advice that tends to be circulated today. These rarely deal with the practicalities of supporting people in extreme states without recourse
to dominant psychiatric frameworks’.

Read Donnard’s article, from Asylum 26.1.