Like the flame at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, the flickering flame of MindFreedom Ireland (MFI) has been burning non-stop now for 14 years. Sometimes it has burned brightly, sometimes not so brightly, but it has never been extinguished. The reason for that is the selfless work of a relatively small number of loyal and true supporters over the years, inspired by their desire to someday achieve MFI’s goal of a non-violent revolution that will ultimately see a humane approach to people experiencing emotional distress, fully rooted in a bedrock of genuine human rights and offering a non-coercive and empathetic alternative.
In furtherance of this, MFI was delighted to welcome Tina Minkowitz to Cork in January where, in addition to being interviewed on Cork 96FM, she also spoke to an audience in Bru Columbanus on her work with the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). Tina is a founder of The Centre for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, a survivor run organisation which is currently running an ‘Absolute Prohibition Campaign’ which calls for a total ban on involuntary detention and forced treatment. We would also like to acknowledge the trojan work of Fiona Walsh in this area and were happy to cooperate with her, Recovery Experts by Experience and Our Voice, Our Rights in making a joint submission for Review of Ireland’s Adherence to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment which took place in Geneva in June.
‘Mutual Support Keeps Us Afloat’ is the thinking behind our ‘Stand By Me’ group which met regularly throughout the year. Meetings take place in a warm and welcoming atmosphere in Costas in Douglas every Wednesday at 3pm. Members of the group provided practical and emotional support to friends going through hard times.
Our annual public electroshock protest took place in May. Like the previous year, we were once again hit by bad weather but it did not dampen in any way the strong message sent out by the speakers on the day, all of whom gave personal testimony of an outdated and dehumanising practice.
MFI continued to operate its website and Facebook pages. Members of the public, unhappy with their experience of the current system, contacted MFI where they were given a listening ear and pointed in the direction of people and places in line with our own aims and philosophy. Dorothee Krien had a number of campaigning letters published in The Irish Examiner.
MFI members Miriam O’Shea and Mary Maddock presented workshops at the Critical Voices Network Ireland two day conference in University College, Cork in November and we acknowledge the great work done by Lydia Sapouna and Harry Gijbels in putting the conference together every year. MFI members also attended two other human rights conferences in solidarity with Tehmina Kazi and Cork Equal and Sustainable Communities Alliance (CESCA). http://www.cvni.ie/
In October, Mary and Jim Maddock accepted an invitation to speak at the World Psychiatric Congress in Berlin along with Peter Lehmann, publisher and editor of ‘Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs’. Like Yeats’s ‘peace’, ‘change’ comes dropping slow but nonetheless, MFI is proud to be part of the ever-expanding and challenging international movement. We will also be involved with a new initiative being launched by MindFreedom International in the new year. Co-ordinated by Sarah Smith, it is designed to solicit information from MFInternational members, most of whom identify as psychiatric survivors and will use the information to develop two webinar trainings, a series of organising videos and a pocket sized handbook for activists.
We also maintain close links with Mad in America and the excellent work they do and will also support Laura Delano and her forthcoming Inner Compass Initiative, an organisation which will focus on supporting people who want to leave, bypass or build community within and beyond the mental health system. MFI had hosted both Laura and Robert Whittaker at events in Cork a few years ago. We have links too with the ‘Drop the Disorder’ group and their A Disorder for Everyone (AD4E ) campaign which explores the current culture of ‘diagnosis and disorder’. Having already organised events in a number of UK cities, they will hold a one day event in UCC on June 1st, their first in Ireland and a testimony to Cork’s standing in the movement. Mary Maddock and another close associate of MFI Terry Lynch, have been invited to join the panel of speakers on the day. At home, we are ever grateful for the unstinting support of activists like Patrice Campion, Richard Patterson, Aine Nibhern, the indomitable Greg White and recently, Martin McManus, one time worker with the Simon Community.
Operating as we do on a shoestring, MFI was delighted to receive a generous donation in April which we used to purchase some new weatherproof signs and banners and which, we are glad to say, passed the test on their inaugural outing at our rain-drenched electroshock protest.
It was with great sadness that we learned of the untimely death of our good friend Carmel Delaney in January. Carmel was ultimately a victim of all that we are campaigning against and unable to attend her funeral, we were later able to visit her grave and lay a wreath on behalf of MFI. We are also mindful every January of the anniversary of one of our founder members Helena King whose spirit continues to inspire us.
On a happier note, the year concluded with our annual Christmas party, attended by members old and new. Thanks to Helena and Miriam for helping to organise it and to Susan for her festive season singing.
As 2018 dawns, MFI will hopefully continue to be deeply involved in the ever-growing movement that is challenging bio-psychiatry, both nationally and internationally. As the song says ‘Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone’!
January 2nd, 2018.