Saturday, 23 January 2010

Don Weitz, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post on Judi Chamberlin

If you missed out on Don Weitz reading his tribute to Judi Chamberlin, yesterday on, here it is:


The death of Judi Chamberlin is a huge loss to the psychiatric survivor, Mad Pride, and disability rights movements. She was 65 and died at home on September 16, 2010. 

Together with her family, thousands of friends, activists and survivors are mourning her death and celebrating her life.

Judi was an immensely talented and dedicated activist, a fearless and courageous advocate for the civil rights and human rights of people labeled and stigmatized as  "mentally ill". 

Her 1978 book On Our Own: Patient-Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System  was and still is a movement classic, it demystifies "mental illness", validates the growing self-help movement based on independence and self-empowerment, and continues to inspire thousands of psychiatric survivors and activists around the world.

In her book and at public lectures, Judi spoke out against "sane chauvinism" or "mentalism" - the common public myth and stereotype that "mentally ill" people are incompetent, incapable of making decisions for themselves, unpredictable, and violent. At the same time, she strongly urged survivors to take control of their own lives and organize. On Our Own, the first self-help group of psychiatric survivors in Ontario, adopted her book title as its name. Judi first came to Toronto in the early 1980s to offer valuable support to On Our Own members, she gave an immensely empowering and inspiring talk in its drop-in. In the early 1970s, she supported the establishment of Vancouver's Emotional Emergency Centre for assaulted women survivors, and the Mental Patients Association - the first self-help group of psychiatric survivors in Canada. With several of us survivor-activists, she proudly and fearlessly participated in a number of nonviolent civil disobedience actions, including anti-shock protests in New York City, Syracuse, and Burlington, Vermont in the 1980s, and demonstrations against forced drugging and Big Pharma in Boston and Philadelphia. 

As a leader in the psychiatric survivor liberation movement, Judi was a keynote speaker and resource person during several annual Conferences for Human Rights and Against Psychiatric Oppression, including the 10th conference held in Toronto in May 1982. Judi was also Director of Education at the National Empowerment Center in Massachusetts; she helped establish the Ruby Rogers Dropin Center in Boston; was a consultant on Survivor Perspectives at Boston's Center of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA). She gave inspiring public lectures in Toronto in the mid-1990s and 2002, and was a featured speaker in national and international conferences in several European countries, During the last 10 years of her life, Judi was particularly active in trying to unite the psychiatric survivor and disability rights movements that share several basic issues and principles; she authored the groundbreaking and empowering report "From Privileges to Rights: People With Psychiatric Disabilities Speak For Themselves" for the U.S. government's National Council on Disability. 

For her outstanding work, Judi won several awards:
• 1992: Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States, National Council on Disability
• 1992: David J. Vail National Advocacy Award, Mental Health Association of Minnesota
• 1995: N. Neal Pike Prize for Services to People with Disabilities, Boston University School of Law
Judy Chamberlin spoke truth to power. She left us a rich legacy of advocacy, resistance and pride. Her spirit lives.

Don Weitz
co-founder, Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault 

Here's The Boston Globe's obituary, and here The Washington Post's.

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