Remembering a radical experiment: The Vancouver Mental Patients Association of the 1970s

The rabble podcast network offers an alternative take on politics, entertainment, society, stories, community and life in general. All opinions belong to the podcaster; however, podcasters are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new podcasters -- contact us for details.

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, activist Jackie Hooper and historian Megan Davies talk about the radical early years of the Vancouver Mental Patients Association in the 1970s and about a recent film project that recovers some of that history.

In the early 1970s, the so-called mental health system was busily shifting people out of institutions, but doing far too little to support them in their new lives on the outside. The system was very hierarchical and many people had experiences with it that were far from positive. At the same time, it was an era of radical possibility, with many social movements that were strong and growing. One such movement that is often forgotten in histories of the New Left era is amazing self-organizing that happened among people who had experience of the mental health system -- mental patients or ex-inmates, as some people identified in that era, or psychiatric survivors or mad people as some identify today. One of the earliest and most inspiring of these experiments in self-organization and mutual aid was the Vancouver MPA, which until its structure was forced to change by governments later in the decade, was democratic, largely non-hierarchical, radically political, and most important of all, incredibly effective.

Hooper was an activist with the MPA in those years, and one of the group that actively shaped the recent film project. Davies is a historian at York University in Toronto who was centrally involved in making the film. They talk about the radical early years of the Vancouver MPA, and about the film, called The Inmaes Are Running the Asylum: Stories From MPA.

For more information about the film and about the early MPA, click here. To watch the movie online, click here. If you wish to set up a viewing in your town, you can email Davies at daviesmj[at]yorku.ca.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada through in-depth interviews that concentrate not on current events or the crisis of the moment, but on giving people involved in a broad range of social change work a chance to take a longer view as they talk about what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. To learn more about the show in general, click here.

You can also learn more about ways to listen or go to the show's page on rabble.ca. To learn more about suggesting grassroots groups and organizations for future shows, click here. For details on the show's theme music, click here.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.