Mad studies brings a voice of sanity to psychiatry

Mad studies brings a voice of sanity to psychiatry

A movement to bring people with experience of mental distress into the discourse around care and treatment can revive services in the UK
By: Peter Beresford, The Guardian, Tuesday 7 October 2014 14.00 BST

If the American Psychiatrist Association’s diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5) is the global bible of psychiatry, with its ever-growing list of psychiatric categories, then Mad Matters, bringing together academic and experiential knowledge on mental distress in Canada, is the guiding text of mad studies.

Mad studies has been pioneered by Ryerson and York Universities in Toronto, with key figures such as mental health survivors, activists and educators David Reville and Geoffrey Reaume and academics Kathryn Church and Brenda le Francois. They challenged the way that psychiatry was shaping their lives and challenged the discrimination that went with being considered mentally ill.

“What we’re trying to do is offer a counterpoint to the history of psychiatry, which is sort of a professional and a disciplinary history, with the lived experience of madness,” says Church. Building on their own mad history and mad studies courses, which centred on service users’ experience, they held an international conference in 2012.

Church argues that it is time that people trained to work in mental health aren’t just steeped in formal knowledge, but in the knowledge of the personal narratives of people who have been through the system. She also says that higher education should be made more accommodating to those who have experience of mental illness and its shaming labels. However, the big breakthrough was the publication last year of Mad Matters. Mad studies is now being picked up worldwide and has arrived in the UK with the first ever programme at the International Disability Studies conference at Lancaster University earlier this year.


So pleased to be a part of this movement in Canada and have worked with some of the individuals mentioned!

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3 thoughts on “Mad studies brings a voice of sanity to psychiatry

  1. grasshopper aka pride-in-madness, this is so awesome! good for you!
    i am in the USA, i hope this country grows along with you all! i cannot wait to hear more and more!

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