A psychiatric survivor gives an eye-witness report of a warm and wonderful series of Mad Pride events in Vancouver in 2005.
2005 Mad Pride Vancouver Report
Mad Pride Vancouver was held at Gallery Gachet in Gastown. Over 30 people attended and, judging by the creativity and passion displayed on Saturday night, I would guess that most, if not all, of them were psychiatric assault survivors.
Celebrations began at 7:00 with a video by the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault about the recent hearings in Ontario on electroshock and was dedicated to “all those who testified and those who were not able to.” It’s the plight of those people “who were not able to” that got me involved in the Mad Movement.
We had brief introductions from Irwin Oostindie, General Manager of Gallery Gachet and Ron Carten, Coordinator of the Vancouver/Richmond Mental Health Network.
Poets Sharon Taylor, Rose Heart, Kagan Goh, Bruce Ray, Marie Baker and Jeannine Cook read their poems. Rose Heart performed a couple of her songs. Ron Carten sang the Psychiatric Anthem while he played the guitar.
The highlight of the evening (for this psychiatric survivor, anyway) was the presentation of a very moving and all too short video by Zola entitled “I Would Not Live in Heaven” which was, above all, a tribute to the indomitable human spirit.
When it was over, walking to my car around 10:30 on Saturday night, I am reminded that Vancouver’s East End can seem to some at times as alien as the surface of Mars. But not to me. I see the down and out and I can see that the vast majority of these lost souls are psychiatrized – battered, ignored, drugged, shocked, lost, abandoned, many of them refugees from Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam. I feel no fear. Something magical happens every time two crazy people make eye contact and I can’t begin to explain it, except to say that during that brief glance, much is exchanged. I beam down the mystic wire to him “I respect you. You’re a survivor. Just keep holding on. You will be okay,” and he flashes back “Wow, she’s one of us!” Indeed I am. And, were it not for the generosity of my family and friends, I too would have been living on the streets.
So I reserve my fear for actual dangers. I fear a society that segregates, humiliates and punishes the psychiatrically labelled. I fear pharmaceutical companies that place profits above all else. I fear a psychiatric system that is wilfully blind to human rights violations. I fear a society whose elite zip through the East End with their windows up and their doors locked, oblivious to the pain and suffering going on all around them. I fear a provincial government which slashed disability benefits as it scrambled to win the bid for the 2010 Olympics. I fear one of the richest societies on this planet that consistently fails to provide shelter, decent food and emotional support to those who need it the most. I feel plenty of fear and so should we all.
Mad Pride Vancouver demonstrated once again the enormous and only barely tapped power that our movement possesses. Just to walk into the room was to know instantly it’s okay, we’re all friends here. We’ve all experienced outrageous abuse. Just by the simple act of attending last night, we demonstrate that we’re still here, we count, we will not be silenced. We are writers, poets, musicians, painters, actors, activists and advocates. In such distinguished company, I have never been prouder to be a survivor.
Special thanks to Gallery Gachet for hosting Mad Pride Vancouver 2005, and to the Vancouver/Richmond Mental Health Network, Mental Health Action Research and Advocacy (ARA), Richmond Mental Health Consumers and Friends Society, Consumers/Survivors/Ex-Patients (CSX) and to MindFreedom Solidarity Coalition International.