We sometimes like to see MindFreedom Ireland (MFI) as a candle, shining and flickering in the darkness and always a symbol of light and hope. The past year has been a trying one for us having had to face and overcome many obstacles, including the passing of some of our staunchest members. But the flame still flickers and, as we enter the 20’s, it is timely that we re-dedicate our efforts to ensure that it will never be extinguished.
Due to circumstances, our Stand by Me group was forced to curtail its weekly schedule back to a monthly one. It still continues to meet in Costas, Douglas, Cork on the first Wednesday of every month at 4 pm. Its guiding principle of mutual support was well exercised during the year with the provision of moral and practical sustenance.
MFI was privileged to make personal contact with the indefatigable John Read on his visit to Cork in February. John, who is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of East London, is an outspoken opponent of electroshock and his prominent endorsement of our campaign was greatly appreciated and further fired us in organising our annual Shock Protest which went ahead as usual in May. Held on our now traditional spot on The Grand Parade, Cork, this year (for a change) we had the benefit of a lovely summer’s day which facilitated our message reaching a wider audience among the passing public who were addressed by members giving their personal testimonies of the still utilised inhuman, traumatic and outdated procedure. Media coverage of the event was given by The Cork Independent and also by two journalists from a Swedish publication who, in addition, did personal interviews with members the following day. Further accounts of the day were provided on social media while in September, a Hot Press journalist did a feature on our activities.
In June, MFI was delighted to welcome Karen McCarthy and 15 of her occupational therapy students from California. Karen had been a close associate of MFI from her days as an occupational therapist lecturer in UCC and a most successful morning’s work was achieved to the extent that a similar visit is already planned for next June.
In September, Mary Maddock was invited, as a survivor of psychiatry, to speak at a conference entitled ‘Productive Justice – Gender and Disability Perspectives’ in Dublin organised by Eilionior Flynn of University College Galway law department. The following month, MFI was happy, if only in a small way, to cooperate in Dylan Tighe’s project Passolini’s Salo Redubbed as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival and shown in the Peacock Theatre, Dublin. MFI had previously worked with Dylan in his Record project during the Cork Midsummer Festival some years ago. In his latest project, Dylan used evidence provided by the late Helena King, one of our founder members in his shocking exposure of the brutal exercise of power and control in Irish state-run institutions, including psychiatric ‘hospitals’ in the years since independence.
In November, MFI presented a workshop at the annual Critical Voices Network Ireland conference in UCC, the theme of which this year was ‘Challenging mental health systems – critical perspectives from inside out and outside in’. Among the audience were Mary and Carlo from Mullingar and Robert Whittaker from Mad in America.
Two further initiatives were the launching of a petition campaign by MFI member Gavin Bushe calling on Minister Jim Daly to repeal the coercive powers enshrined in Sections 3 and 9 of the Mental Health Act and a collaboration with Jo Watson of A Disorder4Everyone in contributing a joint chapter for her upcoming book ‘Drop the Disorder – Challenging the culture of psychiatric diagnosis.’
Sad to report, the year was marked by a number of deaths. There was the passing of Gerry Hamilton, husband of Joan with whom we had collaborated in the early days of Sli Eile in Charleville. Abroad, we learned of the death of Janet Foner, a former board member of MindFreedom International and inspirational activist who we had first met at the historic Wisdom House conference in Connecticut in 2007. We would also like to extend our sympathy to another member who lost her father and to Patrice, a longstanding and fervent member of MFI, on the passing of her beloved mother and to Richard, our tireless campaigner and voice in the west on the death of his brother-in-law. Two other MFI stalwarts also departed during the year – Tim Nyhan in February and Greg White in April. Tim had been a very active campaigner, speaking publicly at seminars in UCC and playing his violin at our Little Help from my Friends musical group. Greg was an inspirational founder member of MFI back in 2003. It was he who first introduced us to David Oaks and MFInternational. Wise and philosophical, he was also an empathetic psychotherapist and by his words, actions and practical initiatives, did so much to spread our message, not least of which was to rise from his sickbed in 2013 to give a keynote address at our 10th Anniversary conference in Cork. In 2006, he was part of a MFI group which presented evidence to the Oireachtas Committee on Health which resulted in the publication of its Report on the Adverse Effect of Pharmaceuticals. May they all rest in peace.
On a happier note, the year concluded with our Christmas get-together in the Quay Co-op where all enjoyed a relaxed and entertaining evening.
So as the curtain falls on another year, we are glad to report that MFI is still standing, still active and still educating the public with our message on forced treatment, choice and the abuse of human rights. Let us keep the flame burning and someday, though later rather than sooner, the darkness will become light.
31st December 2019.