Curbing Psychiatry: Citizens Making a Choice

Saturday, June 5, 2004,10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

In June 2004, the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA) organized an event that would determine the top priorities of the group. This historical event was endorsed by CKLN, Mindfreedom Support Coalition International, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Resistance Against Psychiatry, Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, Transformative Learning Centre (OISE/University of Toronto), and Trouble with Sirens. Thanks to the help of City Councilor, Olivia Chow, the event took place in the Council Chambers at Toronto City Hall. In attendance was a large and diverse audience, comprised of psychiatric survivors, counselling professionals, academics, activists, artists, teachers, students, and parents.

Panel members presented four issues of concern: 1) electroshock therapy (presented by therapist and academic, Dr. Bonnie Burstow); 2) psychiatric use of restraints and seclusion (presented by criminal lawyer, Dan Brodsky); 3) psychiatric drugs (presented by Dr. Bonnie Burstow); and 4) legislative theatre (presented by activists, Lena Richardson and Jessica Bleuer). These four areas were connected with four possible directions for CAPA: 1) combating the use of electroshock; 2) combating the use of restraints and seclusion; 3) combating the use of psychiatric drugs; and 4) regardless of CAPA’s focus, using legislative theatre as a transformative education and organization strategy. Following these four presentations, the panel members invited audience members to ask questions or raise concerns for consideration.

After this discussion, we then proceeded to vote on which of the four issues CAPA should focus on. This democratic vote represented a historic first—no other anti-psychiatry organization had ever before given such decision making power to the community. The vote was almost a two way tie—27 votes for psychiatric drugs, 26 votes for electroshock therapy, 18 votes for restraint and seclusion, and 4 votes for legislative theatre.

CAPA called this Town Hall meeting, because we did not want to decide our priorities in isolation. We wanted a democratic mandate, and accordingly, we are now focusing our efforts on combating electroshock therapy and the use of psychiatric drugs. Based on this democratic mandate, CAPA is currently developing strategies to act on these two priorities.