CONFRONTING THE POWER OF PSYCHIATRY: THE PSYCHIATRIC SURVIVORS’ MOVEMENT, 1972-1986
Allen, Madeleine Marie Parra
Muncy, Robyn L
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This thesis explores the history of the mental patients’ liberation movement in the 1970s-1980s. It shows how psychiatric survivors successfully contested the power and legitimacy of psychiatry via mutual support and self-help; activism as a grassroots social movement; and the creation of alternate conceptions of madness and patient-controlled alternatives to the mental health system. Ex-patients utilized their distinct knowledge to make the personal political, moving beyond the critiques of anti-psychiatrists, to fight psychiatric abuses such as electroshock and forced drugging. It covers the movement’s tactics, most successful local and national activism, and cross-movement alliances – especially its anti-incarceration work with the prisoners’ rights movement. It offers a nuanced understanding of the tensions that led to the movement’s fracturing, and argues that activists adapted by retaining a “tempered liberation focus” that enabled them to work towards change and human rights within the psychiatric system while remaining true to their original liberatory goals.