MINDFREEDOM IRELAND 2012 ANNUAL REPORT.
Two thousand and twelve was another busy year for MindFreedom Ireland (MFIrl). From our base in Cork we continued our work on a number of fronts, thanks to the efforts and dedication of our core group, all of whom voluntarily contribute with their time and support.
MEDIA. Two of our members featured on national television programmes. In April Colette Ni Dhuinneacha appeared on TV3’s Morning Show where she gave an excellent performance in a head to head debate with psychiatrist Dr Anne Jeffers of the Irish College of Psychiatry on the issue of electroshock. The same issue was again featured on RTE’s Prime Time programme in July when Mary Maddock argued strongly for its abolition. MFIrl members and supporters also participated in The Niall Boylan Show on Classic 4FM when psychiatry in general and drugs in particular were discussed.
In the printed media, MFIrl engaged with Carl O’Brien of The Irish Times for his excellent 3 part series on Drugs which apppeaared in April and again in December when Miriam O’Shea was featured in an article critical of existing mental health services. Anne Keohane and Mary Maddock also had letters published in The Irish Times. MFIrl was again mentioned in an article in the online publication The Journal on the subject of electroshock and yet again in a prominent article by Harry Leech on the same subject in The Sunday Times while we had an article on the history of critical psychiatry in Ireland published on the Mad in America website blog. Completing our anti shock campaign was a further MFIrl article which appeared in Asylum magazine. We also lead three pages on Facebook – Stop the Forceful Use of Electroshock, Sing it from the Mountains and MindFreedom Ireland. While the departure of sympathetic journalist Jennifer Hough from The Irish Examiner left a void, MFIrl continued to receive coverage in the local press.
EVENTS This was particularly so during the advance publicity for the Cork launch of Dr. Terry Lynch’s new book Selfhood which we organised in January, an event which attracted a sizable audience and which was also attended by Kathleen LynchTD, Minister responsible for Mental Health. MFIrl was also delighted to participate in an innovative and original project that was part of the Cork Midsummer Arts Festival in June. The project was entitled Record, a personal dramatic/musical account of actor/musician Dylan Tighe’s encounter with the psychiatric system and which, in addition to the night-time performances, also featured a series of public lunch-time debates – Samples -, one of which was exclusively devoted to a discussion with five members of MFIrl, a discussion which was repeated when the play had another run at the Dublin Theatre Festival in October.
In June, MFIrl organised a Label Rip as its contribution to the Occupy Psychiatry Day when similar protests took place worldwide. Finally, MFIrl members were out in force during the two day Critical Voices Network Ireland (CVNI) conference ‘Critical Perspectives and Creative Responses to Experiences of Trauma and Distress’ in UCC in November to participate in the many excellent workshops and listen to a hard-hitting keynote presentation entitled Time for Change – Bury Forced Psychiatry Not People’ from MFIrl activist Richard Patterson. MFIrl is affiliated to the CVNI and attended many of the CVNI (South) meetings in the course of the year.
ACTIVITIES AND MUTUAL SUPPORT. The ‘Stand by Me’ support group continued to meet every Wednesday in Costa Coffee shop in Douglas. While numbers fluctuated, there was always a core group which continued to offer company, support, advice and information. MFIrl also visited people in hospital in Cork and mobilised peer support for a supporter involuntarily detained in a Dublin hospital. Importantly, we also made a submission on the proposed Mental Capacity Bill presently being prepared by the government. The ‘Little Help from my Friends’ music group also met on a weekly basis throughout the year, their hours of practice culminating in a public performance for the students of Dr. Karen McNulty’s occupational therapy class in UCC in December. (You Tube) A well attended general meeting in November reviewed our progress since our foundation in 2003 and set out a blueprint for our future.
In August, MFIrl accepted an invitation to meet with representatives of the Irish College of Psychiatry. In a two hour exchange of views, we laid out our many concerns with psychiatry as presently practiced but, not surprisingly, came away from the meeting with little expectation of any future change.
However, morale boosting contact was maintained with many other old and new friends, many of them active on the CVNI Facebook page, including Bernie Bushe, Patrice Campion, Richard Patterson, Dylan Tighe and Gordon Lucas. We also worked closely with Cheryl Prax and Speak Out Against Psychiatry (SOAP) and hosted one member of the group Sharon Racklyeft, who was in Cork for the CVNI conference. Other visitors during the year included Rhonda and Bruce Urdang from MindFreedom Arizona, Tsuyoshi Matsuo from MindFreedom Japan, Jackie Proctor from Scotland and Louisa Putnam and Kermit Cole who were in Cork as part of a film project commissioned by Mad in America.
In another encouraging step, Mary Maddock was invited by Rick Deady of the UCC School of Psychiatric Nursing to become in Rick’s words a “part of the curriculum presentation in an inclusive rather than tokenistic manner.” The module ‘Recovery: Theory, Concepts and Principles’ is to continue for the next four years.
Finally, in December MFIrl members established a local ‘Selfhood’ discussion group with plans for regular meetings in 2013 and the year concluded with a very enjoyable and well attended Christmas lunch in Blarney.
DEPARTED FRIENDS. The year saw the untimely passing of John McCarthy who had been a very active member of MFIrl over the years before concentrating his efforts on building up Mad Pride. We had also established contact with Dr. Thomas Szasz whose death in New York in September we deeply mourn and we would like to extend our sympathy to Louisa Putnam on the passing of her son Luke in September. May they all rest in peace.
CONCLUSION. The year concluded with the news of a serious accident involving David Oaks, Director of MindFreedom International. As we write, the latest reports of his condition are encouraging and we extend our united wishes for a speedy recovery. David has been a tireless and inspiring activist for over 30 years and as MFIrl begins its 10th year in existence in 2013, we draw on his spirit to continue to sustain us. We hope it will be evident in our newly revamped website mindfreedomireland.com which should be up and running in January and for which we express our appreciation to Gordon and Noreen. Our many thanks again to all our other members and supporters in Cork, throughout Ireland and internationally.
December 31st, 2012.