First, let’s talk about Mad Pride Month, which MindFreedom Oregon has launched. Why July? The month of July has many connections to the movement for mental health consumers/psychiatric survivors (C/S), here are a few:
- Several decades ago, some activists in New York State were looking for a day to hold an annual protest in Albany of the mental health system. At first, they were about to choose July 4, but psychiatric survivor Myra Kovary encouraged them to choose a non-US-centered date, Bastille Day, July 14, 1981. C/S movement groups still often choose events on July 14.
- When MindFreedom International looked for a week to celebrate the concept, invented by Martin Luther King, Jr., of “creative maladjustment,” they chose a week from July 7 to 14.
- By happy coincidence, the birthdate of one of the most amazing psychiatric survivor activists in history, Leonard Roy Frank, is on July 15.
- As we learned more about our history of the Mad Pride Movement, Wikipedia carried an interesting fact about one of the first known psychiatric survivor groups: “On 7 July 1845, Richard Paternoster, John Perceval and a number of others formed the Alleged Lunatics’ Friend Society.”
- And in Oregon, of course, the infamous Oregon Country Fair is always shortly after the 4th of July. MindFreedom has held events in the heart of OCF, the Community Village, for many years. Dissident physician/psychiatric survivor Patch Adams has often spoken. In the past, the late dissident psychiatrist, Carl Hammerschlag, has also joined Patch.
So, when MindFreedom Oregon, a small affiliate of MindFreedom International, discussed having a Mad Pride Month, July was the obvious choice.
But Why is July Disability Pride Month?
Meanwhile, the disability movement was engaged in a wonderful simultaneous action: Naming July as Disability Pride Month. Because the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990, when the disability movement created a month to celebrate disability pride, they chose July.
As an individual with quadriplegia and several additional extreme disabilities, the concept of “disability pride” resonates with me. But at first, I can easily imagine someone thinking, “What is there to be proud about when you have a disability? Proud to lose a leg? Proud to go blind?”
Disability pride does not mean every impairment one might experience is somehow splendid. Here is the description of disability pride from the organization, AmeriDisability: “‘Disability pride’ has been defined as accepting and honoring each person’s uniqueness and seeing it as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity.”
In other words, my applying the lessons I learned from decades in the psychiatric survivor movement, to empowerment after I broke my neck one decade ago, is indeed one thing to be proud of. Resilience, the amazing global disability community, uniqueness of every human being… are a few more of the many reasons to have disability pride.
Why Mad Pride?
As a psychiatric survivor, I know that I spent many years rebelling & resisting the bizarre, ridiculous, unscientific, goofy, demeaning labels found in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM).
So, some might ask, “If you rebel against labels, then isn’t ‘mad pride’ hypocritical?”
No. The psychiatric establishment generally runs away from the use of words like “mad” and “crazy.” Whole books could be written on the topic of language, but just let me say that the only love that I would consider real is being “madly in love.”
We know that social change movements of marginalized people must build bridges to other communities of disenfranchised, such as LGBT and BIPOC. What about the disability movement, one of the biggest in the world? One of the surest connections between the psychiatric survivor movement and the disability movement, is that we human rights activists claim that every type of psychiatric oppression and goofy label, result in disability. For example, electroshock causes massive head injury and memory loss. Sounds like a disability to me.
I am ashamed that a few of my fellow psychiatric survivors have a kind of “brain bigotry” on the issue of disability, also known as ableism. These psychiatric survivors say that because their label is fictional, they cannot and should not be oppressed and forcibly treated. Hey, here’s a concept for you: Whether or not your label is true or goofy, you do not deserve oppression!
Many of us psychiatric survivors point out that many psychiatric labels are fictional, like the unicorn. But folks, even if you are missing a limb and are obviously disabled, you deserve human rights, choice, dignity, support, healthcare.
Yes, you can be a Leader in Both Mad Pride Month & Disability Pride Month!
It is totally OK if you personally choose not to celebrate Mad Pride Month or Disability Pride Month. Perhaps there should be a “Normal Shame Month”? Let me know if anyone organizes that, I’m too busy.
However, many of us do want to celebrate our differences, Mad Pride, and Disability Pride. I will not impose a psychiatric label on another person unwillingly. But please do not try to impose the label of “normal” on me. What is generally called “normal” is wrecking the planet’s environment and threatens life on Earth. What is generally called “normal” is actually, from my perspective, the worst, most dangerous altered state ever.
Mad Pride Events
Mad Pride is currently alive and well:
- Bern, Switzerland held a lively and large march on 18 June 2022. The website is not in English, but you get the idea: https://madpride.ch/. You can get a flavor of these events on YouTube: https://youtu.be/G6XyX6un6MQ and https://youtu.be/THiuPTziyBg. It was very impressive to see hundreds of people participating, with signs, balloons, and whistles.
- Mexico City had a Mad Pride March on 28 May 2022 (Marcha del Orgullo Loco en la Ciudad de México). The sponsors were: Redesfera Latinoamericana de la Diversidad Psicosocial & la Red Orgullo Loco México. You can email the organizers here: email@example.com
- An upcoming event will be held by Mad Pride Vermont on July 16, 2022 in Burlington: https://madfreedom.org/madpride/
- There is discussion by Mad Pride Netherlands: https://madpride.nl/
- Mad Pride Seoul in Korea has held events for years. Glad to see a song devoted to honoring their work: https://youtu.be/e1vEeQaCXNc
Wikipedia has reported that there have also been Mad Pride events over the last few decades in Australia, Canada, Ireland, USA, Portugal, Brazil, Madagascar, South Africa, and France.
This is only meant to be a partial listing. If you know of any Mad Pride events, please share this news with others. You can find a discussion about Mad Pride on Reddit at: www.reddit.com/r/madpride. Also, you will find an email address at the end this blog to be in touch with World Mad Pride, as supported by MindFreedom Oregon.
On Twitter, it was gratifying to see the hashtag #madpride was in use. Other hashtags to consider using are: #MadPrideMonth #MentalHealth #DisabilityPride #DisabilityPrideMonth
Personally, as a psychiatric survivor with extreme physical disabilities, I love the idea of building bridges between Mad Pride and Disability Pride. Think of one of the key leaders in fighting the climate crisis: Greta Thunberg. When Greta was younger, she and her family wrestled with many severe mental and emotional problems, including periods of not eating, isolating herself with just a few close family members, screaming and crying for long lengths of time, etc. Greta personally accepts the diagnosis of “autism.” But Greta’s perspective is that being “on the spectrum” is her “superpower,” because her uniqueness helps her see through the web of lies that seemingly control “normal people.”
More Information on Mad Pride?
If I were to look up Mad Pride info, I would do a google search with quote marks around the phrase: “mad pride”.
The Wikipedia link is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_Pride
MindFreedom International has been one of the main groups to champion Mad Pride: https://mindfreedom.org/campaign/frequently-asked-questions/
MindFreedom Oregon has voted to support Mad Pride Month as July. Part of July is IAACM Week. You can read about that week here: https://mindfreedom.org/mfi-taking-action/creative-maladjustment-week/
More information about MLK’s concept of creative maladjustment: https://mindfreedom.org/campaign/creative-maladjustment-week/
Vice did an article a few years ago, unfortunately using the phrase “mental illness,” but I remember there were some valuable points:
My own essay about why we encourage folks not to use the phrase “mental illness”: https://mindfreedom.org/kb/not-mentally-ill/
New York Times did an article in 2008 here: https://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/11/fashion/11madpride.html?ref=oembed
Off hand, over the years, I would say Toronto has had the most Mad Pride events. I believe you can find a number of recordings on YouTube. COVID slowed them down, but they may start again.
Ireland had the absolute biggest Mad Pride events, because of the poet John McCarthy. He died a few years ago, but you can find videos on YouTube about Mad Pride Ireland events. I hope Ireland has more Mad Pride events in the future. This would surely make my friend’s spirit soar! John often talked about the “normality of madness and the madness of normality.”
I consider both Mad Pride and Disability Pride to apply to anyone and everyone that chooses to take leadership in a positive sense.
You can be in touch with MindFreedom Oregon in promoting Mad Pride July by emailing to: MadPrideWorld@gmail.com. And please leave your comments below.