For years they’ve faced unending prejudice.

Shunned by society. Locked away in psychiatric facilities. Forcibly medicated. Abandoned by their families and society at large.

Because they’re different. Because they don’t conform to psychiatry’s definition of “normal” behavior. 

And for that they’re punished. Labeled in dozens of ways in an ever growing “bible” of psychiatric disorders.

The 2000 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes 283 disorders which is almost three times the number reported in 1952. 

And that number continues to grow.

In a society that pretends to value individual rights and freedoms, psychiatric survivors have been robbed of theirs time and time again, simply because they’ve “violated” so-called behavioral norms.

And they’ve suffered immeasurably for it. 

Psychiatric medications that cause patients to go for days without sleep. Diagnoses that cause patients to see themselves as something less than human. That something was wrong with them. That led to feelings of despair.

There’s no end to the horror stories.

To make matters worse, psychiatric survivors are mostly portrayed on television or in the news media as harmful to themselves or others. So there’s little or no empathy for them in times of distress. 

This compelling connection between psychiatric survivors and violence also makes citizens and police fearful of them which, in turn, increases the probability of violence against survivors.

On Sunday May 6 at 1pm, the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault CAPA) and Occupy Toronto are organizing Occupy Psychiatry, a non-violent action during which survivors and activists will occupy the front grounds of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) College Street Site at 250 College St near Spadina. 

CAPA is an organization that is focused on strategic activism. Formed in 2003, CAPA is a coalition of activists, psychiatric survivors, dramatists, academics, and professionals who see the very concept of mental illness as flawed. 

They object to incarceration, electroshock, and the vast array of brain-damaging drugs. They oppose the violation of human rights.

The world they strive to co-create is one where people are not pathologized, where care is neither commodified nor professionalized, where choice and integrity are respected, and where we are all joined in caring and creative community to each other and to the planet earth.

CAPA and their supporters will be taking up space with tents and other Occupy symbols complete with speeches, testimonies, entertainment, and food in protest of psychiatric imperialism.

All are welcome to attend.

Occupy Toronto is part of the international Occupy movement, which protests against economic inequality, corporate greed, and the influence of corporations and lobbyists on government.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital.

John Bonnar

John Bonnar is an independent journalist producing print, photo, video and audio stories about social justice issues in and around Toronto.