It was at a performance of Dylan Tighe’s Record – a dramatic/musical account of his own psychiatric experiences – at the Cork Midsummer Festival in 2012 that links were first established between MindFreedom Ireland and American Dr Karen McNulty, then lecturing in Occupational Therapy in the Cork School of Nursing, UCC.
Karen’s innovative and creative approach led her to extend an invitation to MindFreedom Ireland (MFI) to address her students to give them a view of the survivor perspective, an exercise which proved to be of mutual benefit. MFI outlined its humane, empathetic approach as opposed to psychiatry’s pseudo-scientific medical model, the students asked questions and performances by the ‘A Little Help from my Friends’ musical group permeated the encounter.
The invitation from Karen became an annual event until she returned to America some years later to take up a new position as Assistant Professor at the Dominican University of California in San Rafael. Then last year, she returned with 25 of her students on an Irish psychiatry critical perspectives tour and once again linked up with MFI in Cork where they learned of our work and activism and our general underlying philosophy.
A similar trip had been organised for 2020 before COVID 19 forced a cancellation. Not to be outdone, the creative Karen suggested a Zoom get-together with the title ‘The Emerald Asylum: Critical Perspectives on Mental Health in Ireland.’ A trial run was held on June 5th in preparation for the actual event on Friday, June 12th at 7 pm Irish time, 11 am Pacific time. The get-together was addressed by 5 members of MFI – Mary, Miriam, Richard, Patrice and Jim – all of whom outlined their own experiences of the psychiatric system and encouraged the students to hold true to themselves and their own innate humanity in the course of their future careers while being aware of the many shortcomings of psychiatry’s medical model. Miriam displayed examples of her own astounding creative talents using Ballycotton beach pottery and the encounter was concluded in song including a rousing rendition of ‘Stand by Me’, also the name of our mutual support group and ‘Sailing’ which had often been played by our late member Tim Nyhan in those early days in UCC.
MFI would like to thank everybody who participated in the morale-boosting event and especially express our appreciation of Karen and Mary in bringing it all together.
We shall overcome.
June 13, 2020.