aimed at promoting better understanding of “mental illness” among the general population, diminishing discrimination, and changing public attitudes toward mental illness. At the same time, the Commission has set a general, and on the surface quite progressive, goal to place “individuals living with mental illness” at the “centre” of all its work. But what does this mean?
My research in general is to document the on-the-ground work of the Commission over its formative years, and to place both the Commission as an organization and its work on “transforming” public perception and mental health services in Canada, into a broader social, historical, and political context. In this paper I will focus on the issues currently arising from the Commission’s efforts to bring mental illness, and those living with mental illness, into the public spotlight. I draw particular attention to how various form of knowledge about mental illness are ordered and operationalized in the aim to educate the public and “erase” stigma, and to the politics of (in)visibility that will necessarily inform these official representations.
Rob Wipond. Freelance Writer, Victoria, BC
A “Patient-Centred” Way towards Ignoring Patient Rights -- The Kirby Report’s Dismissal of Legal Concerns and Psychiatric Survivor Perspectives
In 2004, the Federal Senate Committee on Mental Health was tasked with crossing the country to hear and consider as wide a range of perspectives as possible on the state of Canada’s mental health system and about possible avenues for improving it.
However, the three background documents the committee released as a starting point for public discussions were already heavily steeped in the language and conceptual frameworks of the biomedical model of mental illness and forcible psychiatric intervention. The documents also already contained many implicit and explicit attacks on perspectives that were critical of that model.
While making a presentation to the Committee alongside a psychiatric survivor, journalist Rob Wipond found that the committee did not show a willingness to seriously consider civil rights concerns or alternatives to forced psychiatric intervention.
A preliminary analysis of the Senate Committee’s public feedback shows a substantial disjuncture between the positions expressed regarding civil rights concerns and the problems with forced psychiatric interventions from consumers and survivors, and the extremely limited discussion of these topics in the Committee’s final report.