To the Editor:
In one lopsided article, filled with falsehoods, misconceptions, and outright lies, opinion columnist Joseph Brean did OISE’s PsychOUT conference a tremendous service. Better than the nearly 200 participants who attended the weekend conference at the University of Toronto, his “Mad Pride” story clearly demonstrated the profound importance of the conference’s message.
The conference participants were far more than the “motley crew” characterized in the article. They included PhD researchers, professors, health care professionals (nurses, psychologists, social workers and outreach workers), lawyers, delegates to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Person, among others from around the world. Research findings funded by multiple government agencies, including the Mental Health Commission of Canada, were presented together with testimony of both those who advocate for psychiatry’s abolition, and those who currently praise the care they receive. Unlike the bigoted opinions of “Mr.” Edward Shorter, who did not bother to lift himself out of his Hannah Chair, and “Mr.” Rohan Ganguli of CAMH, whose staff were apparently waiting for a special invitation (only the keynotes were specifically invited), all perspectives, views, and opinions were sought, welcomed, and given space throughout this inaugural event. That the obvious paranoia of the psychiatric establishment self-precluded their attendance may be a matter for their own diagnosis via the latest DSM (the so-called psychiatric bible whose main editor admits is problematic elsewhere in the newspaper). Throughout the conference, specific note was taken of the multiple, differing opinions relative to psychiatry that were represented; mutual respect and working in coalition for the improvement of the lives of those who have been marginalized by vested interests of power, control, and corporate profit were the primary outcomes sought by all attendees.
Brean – whose journalist contribution cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered objective reporting – made a point to denigrate and minimize Dr. Bonnie Burstow’s professional credentials, and her decades-long professorship at the University of Toronto, while emphasizing the credentials of those upon whom he wanted to bestow credibility. I take especial note that among the key critics quoted in the article, Edward Shorter’s role as a professor of psychiatry was conspicuous by its absence, hiding his obvious, but undisclosed, conflict of interest in the matter. But through his ridicule and fiction, Brean did the work of the conference in conveying its powerful message: Those who exercise power and control will seek any means possible to suppress the voices of those they oppress and marginalize, first by derision and humiliation, next through legislation – especially in the name of “helping” – and finally by employing the coercive force of the state—the police, judiciary, and (in the case of the academy) deans and provosts. The profound importance of PsychOUT’s message of coalition, inclusion, respect, agency, autonomy, and most of all, the primacy of human rights and dignity, can be made no clearer than through the whimpering complaints of the vested interests who decided to absent themselves, preferring ignorance to scholarly academic inquiry, and ridicule to engaged conversation.
Ph.D. Candidate, Adult Education and Counselling Psychology
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
University of Toronto
Update (11 May 2010): An excerpt of my letter was published, along with those of David Oaks, Geoffrey Reaume, and Don Weitz.
[Technorati tags: psychout | national post | joseph brean]