Tuesday, 19 January 2010

National Public Radio on Judi Chamberlin, Mad Pride Activist

MindFreedom International News - http://www.mindfreedom.org
United Independent Activism in Mental Health - please forward

   19 January 2009

   USA National Public Radio (NPR) Covers Death of Judi Chamberlin

   Mad Pride Activist Remembered

NPR aired a remembrance this morning of mad movement activist and
psychiatric survivor Judi Chamberlin, who died on 16 January 2010 at
the age of 65.

BELOW is the text from the NPR web site story, which is a little
longer than the one that aired. At BOTTOM are updates and actions you
can take.

You may listen to and comment on the NPR radio story here:



National Public Radio

January 19, 2010

Advocate For People With Mental Illnesses Dies


Judi Chamberlin, who died this weekend at age 65, was a civil rights
hero from a civil rights movement you may have never heard of. She
took her inspiration from the heroes of other civil rights movements
to start something she liked to call Mad Pride — a movement for the
rights and dignity of people with mental illness.

It started in 1966, when Chamberlin was 21 years old and seeing her
doctor because she was dealing with a deep depression. "After a while,
he suggested I sign myself into a hospital because I was just not
functioning, I was so depressed. And I just thought, 'Oh a hospital's
a place where you get help.' And you know, I'd been in hospitals for
surgery and things like that, and didn't think of it as having
anything to do with your fundamental rights. So I just said, 'OK, I'll
try it.' "

Chamberlin told her story in a 2006 interview with Will Hall, host of
Madness Radio, a program by people like Chamberlin who call themselves
"psychiatric survivors."

"And very quickly, [I] found out that once you sign papers to go in on
a voluntary basis, but then you can't leave when you want to leave,
which was absolutely shocking to me," she said.
She got out of that state hospital and moved to Vancouver, British
Columbia, where she lived with other people who'd been diagnosed with
mental illness but who'd then gotten government money to develop their
own treatments. She recovered and eventually moved to Boston, where
she started working with other former American patients who wanted to
change the system. They called themselves the Mental Patients
Liberation Front.

"When I arrived at this storefront in Cambridge, Mass., I was a senior
Harvard student, had been locked up five times, so I was referred by
Harvard to volunteer there," recalls David Oaks, who came to the group
in 1976. "And I walked in, and it was a little radical ragtag group,
Mental Patients Liberation Front. And Judi was right in the thick of
folks, just really warm, community organizer."

Oaks now runs his own advocacy group, MindFreedom International.
Chamberlin was a mentor. "One thing she immediately helped teach a lot
of people was basic 101 about mental health liberation: That we're
equal; that we have rights."

Chamberlin put that basic thinking into a book called On Our Own,
which published in 1978. In it, she argued that, as she'd experienced
in Canada, just the ability to have some say in your own treatment was
a key part of making that treatment work.

Chamberlin's book became a manifesto for other patients. But it
influenced lots of people in the mental health establishment, too.
Today, notes Oaks, it's common for people with mental illness to have
a say. "Most U.S. states now have an office of mental health consumer
affairs or something to hear the voice of mental health clients," says
Oaks. "And it certainly is people like Judi that did that."

Robert Whitaker, the author of Mad in America, a history of the
treatment of people with mental illness in America, says Chamberlin
was "a seminal figure in the rise of the consumer movement." She was
able to get across the patient's point of view in a way that was
strong, but also clear. And that appealed to people in the mental
health field who were often the target of her criticism.
"Judi was fierce, incredibly fierce," says Whitaker. "And by that I
mean she knew her mind, she spoke her mind, and she didn't worry if
she offended people who were listening."

Chamberlin, he says, was irreverent, "brilliant" and "a joy to be
around." He also says she was "incredibly brave," because "it
obviously takes a lot of bravery to confront a society that's had a
different belief before."

Chamberlin told people with mental illness that they were, like
everyone else, people with quirks and differences, but with strengths
and abilities, too. She wanted people to reclaim the description "mad"
as something that was OK.

"She changed it from a word that was a pejorative word," says
Whitaker. "That was saying to the world at large: We are worthy
individuals, and our minds our worthy, and they're to be respected."
Chamberlin even used "mad pride" as her e-mail address. "And you can
see the historical echoes with 'black pride' as well," says Whitaker.
"It absolutely followed in the footsteps of the civil rights movement."

Chamberlin traveled the world as an advocate, even in the months
before her death. She worked at Boston University on mental health
issues and started a center with federal funding to support other
psychiatric survivors.

More recently, Chamberlin faced another illness: lung disease. And
last year, when her insurance company told her she'd exhausted her
hospice benefit, she faced going into a nursing home. She started a
blog she called Life as a Hospice Patient about her fight to die at

Late Saturday night, she died as she wished: at home, in her favorite
chair, surrounded by friends and family.


     *** ACTION *** ACTION *** ACTION ***

*** Please forward this NPR news story to interested people on and off
the Internet.

*** You may listen to and comment on this story on the NPR web site


*** Judi's friends and relatives have posted updates on Judi's hospice
blog, where you may also post remembrances and tributes:


*** You may listen to the Will Hall interview in 2006 with Judi on
Madness Radio here:


*** Statement by MindFreedom's director David Oaks about Judi's death
is here:




When Judi was told that her lung illness would probably end her life,
Judi asked to distribute the below statement of support she created
for MindFreedom International:

"Today, it is perfectly okay to lock us up, to drug us and to shock
us against our will just because we have a label.

"That doesn’t happen to anyone else.

"MindFreedom International is critically important because it is one
of the few organizations that is upholding the principle upon which
our movement was founded:

"The need to fight for our rights!

"Many activists who were formerly involved in our movement have moved
into providing direct services. But we have to remember that, as long
as we don’t have the rights that other people have, we have to keep
fighting for them.

"We know that alternatives are important and MindFreedom works for
alternatives as well. But MindFreedom does this work with a focus on
the fact that this is fundamentally a civil rights issue.

"This is a civil rights movement!

"MindFreedom knows that, until we have equality, we cannot rest.
Please join or renew your membership today!"



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I want to add to this Darby Penney's comment on NPR's article and radio story:

"Thank you, NPR, for this tribute to the life and work of Judi Chamberlin, who inspired thousands of people with psychiatric labels worldwide to demand their rights and to demand recognition of their humanity. She was a brilliant advocate and a thoughtful writer and strategist. But Judi would have cringed at your title and your use of the term "people with mental illness." She didn't believe people who experienced extreme mental and meotional states were "mentally ill," and she thought the medical model, and especially forced treatment, was a root cause of our oppression. To her, we were survivors of psychiatry, but never "the mentally ill." Still, thank you for recognizing the importance of Jud's life and work."

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