Archive for the ‘Mental Health Legislation’ Category

Call for Papers – Alberta Conference – “Are WeMad?”

Call for Papers

“Are We Mad? Critical Analyses of the Canadian Mental Health System” is organized by the Legal Activist Collective at the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta.


The purpose of the Conference is to bring together researchers and practitioners from various disciplines that share an interest in the Canadian mental health system, and the problems this system poses to individuals and society at large.
The treatment of the mentally ill in Canada, both by the law and by larger societal forces, is an ongoing source of concern. This conference will examine this treatment and provide critical perspectives which, although prevalent in much academic literature, are generally not understood or appreciated by the public. In particular, the legal, social and ethical implications of the medicalisation of mental illness, disease mongering by the pharmaceutical industry, the inherent power disparities and grievous dangers attendant to the idea of involuntary hospitalization, revisionistic and patient-centric positions on patient rights, and the ramifications of widespread xenophobia with respect to the mentally ill will all be addressed.
“Are We Mad? Critical Analyses of the Canadian Mental Health System” is a forum designed to bring together those sharing these, and other, concerns with the current state of the mental health system in Canada. Authors are encouraged to submit papers on any of the conference topics listed below. Accepted papers will be presented at the conference by one of the authors and published in the proceedings. Acceptance will be based on quality, relevance and originality.


– Medicalisation of mental illness
– Patient rights
– Disease mongering in areas of mental health
– Involuntary hospitalization.
– Xenophobia and the mentally ill


Robert Whitaker, authour of Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill
Don Weitz, co-founder of the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA)


Authors should submit an abstract of a paper in English of up to 1000 words in length, carefully checked for correct grammar and spelling, using the on-line submission procedure indicated below.
The program committee will review all papers and the contact author (the author who submits the paper) of each paper will be notified of the result, by e-mail.

Submission procedure:
A “double-blind” paper evaluation method will be used. To facilitate that, the authors are kindly requested to produce and provide the paper abstract, WITHOUT any reference to any of the authors.
The file sent must be a zip containing two files: author(s) information in one and the paper abstract, without any author(s) information, in another. PS/PDF/DOC format are accepted.


All accepted abstracts will be required to provide a paper at the time of the conference. The papers are not to exceed 20 A4 pages in length (double spaced) and will be published in the conference proceedings, which will be published as a special edition of the Alberta Law Review in 2008.


Paper Submission: February 1, 2008
Authors Notification: February 8, 2008
Final Paper Submission and Registration Deadline: February 22, 2008
Conference date: March 1 & 2, 2008


The conference will be held in the Law Centre on the campus of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta.



conference website:


Writer Rob Wipond supports Laurel House, blasts CMHA & FIHA

Can Laurel House Be Saved?


The decision to close Laurel House by October is, simply, bizarre.

Victoria’s last remaining drop-in, education and training centre for people diagnosed with mental illnesses is a rare success story (see June’s Focus) in a beleaguered system. While the Eric Martin psychiatric hospital and Archie Courtnall Centre endure psychiatrist resignations, and while police-backed psychiatric emergency responders are greeted with fear as often as gratefulness, Laurel House’s voluntary options for leisure, peer networking, skills development, and just being oneself in a therapeutic atmosphere stand out as popular amongst both front-line workers and consumers alike. There’s no better evidence of this than the support emerging in city media coverage and letters to the editor.

Kathleen Sumilas voices the sentiments of many clients when she says, “Laurel House saved my life.”

So why have the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the funders, and the Capital Mental Health Association, the independent organization running Laurel House, recently blindsided everyone with this announcement? Yes, new programs will run from CMHA’s offices and around the city. However, everyone recognizes our lack of community supports for people diagnosed with mental illnesses has contributed dramatically to other problems like suicides, homelessness and emergency room line-ups, so why axe our most successful program?!

The answers have been dubious.

Laurel House is scientifically “outdated”, wrote VIHA CEO Howard Waldner to the Victoria Times-Colonist.

A UBC psychiatric rehabilitation specialist corrected Waldner, noting formal evaluations show Laurel House is extremely progressive.

The “decision to shift the programming”, Waldner also stated, “rests with CMHA”.

However, in a tense meeting, CMHA executive director Liam McEnery told Laurel House members the closure was “non-negotiable” and forced on CMHA by VIHA.

Conversely, Alan Campbell, director of VIHA’s adult mental health division, told me the decision had been mutually arrived at after months of strategizing with CMHA about improving job placement and youth outreach.

When I immediately thereafter asked McEnery who or what had really motivated the changes, his first response was, “What did Alan say?” He, too, then insisted it was all about improving services.

Later, under intense questioning at another meeting with Laurel House members, McEnery suggested high maintenance costs drove a “shared” decision.

Certainly, in today’s market, public services abruptly vacating two beautiful, donated heritage buildings near an upscale Rockland neighbourhood appears suspect.

In any case, what’s most exasperating to Laurel House members is that they were never even consulted. Indeed, no mental health consumers were. And since CMHA gets two-thirds of VIHA’s contract funding for area rehabilitation services, that means our community’s mental health rehabilitation system has just undergone extensive restructuring without any consultations with the people these organizations are professing to help. Further, CMHA executives have deeply hurt most Laurel House users, leaving them frightened and distraught about losing what is partly their second home, family and social life. Many clients also feel viciously undermined because, after working for years developing progressive policies, practices and relationships amongst themselves, staff and volunteers, they rightly feel a sense of prideful “ownership”, too.

Shouldn’t they have been consulted? “That would be the role of the CMHA,” replies VIHA’s Campbell.

McEnery grudgingly concedes, “That’s what we’re trying to do now.”

With Laurel House already closing, now is too late.

Both men know better. Our provincial health ministry’s “Best Practices in Mental Health” guides include a 42-page volume promoting consumer empowerment in mental health system planning. It emphasizes that mental health consumers must be given “meaningful involvement” in “democratic decision-making processes that value and actively include” their opinions. Indeed, every volume begins with an “Important Note” recognizing such consumer involvement as the foundation of modern psychosocial rehabilitation. CMHA’s professional accreditation also recognizes consumer empowerment as crucial.

And it makes sense. Imagine a group developing plans to “improve” social conditions for Aboriginal women, yet this group deliberately excluded all Aboriginal women from the discussions!

Both CMHA and VIHA had a responsibility to ensure consumers were meaningfully consulted. Instead, they’ve hacked the heart out of Laurel House, and now show little awareness of how hugely and inexcusably they’ve blundered. Campbell and Waldner have been misleading and evasive, and McEnery has been less apologetic than self-admittedly “angry”–angry with the negative media coverage, angry with the protests, and angry that few understand his grander vision.

VIHA and CMHA should mutually agree to keep Laurel House open, and then invite diverse consumers into discussions about its future and improving community services. They should encourage the Laurel House users’ fundraising campaign.

Nothing prevents this. But sadly, unilaterally closing Laurel House is symptomatic of a systemic problem.

Our health authority long ago axed its own mental health consumer advisory board, and only recently reinstated it in token fashion. They pulled funding from this city’s only consumer-run support centre. And, as strong supporters of pharmaceuticals, the CMHA and BC Schizophrenia Society (the only other prominent group supporting Laurel House’s closure) have lobbied against strengthening the legal rights of involuntary patients to opt for non-drug treatments.

Basically, despite noble philosophies on paper, there are frequently strong divisions between the people who use mental health services and the mental health professionals who typically run them. And the professionals don’t often willingly cede their powers.

Sumilas sums up the Laurel House situation: “I get the sense they think, ‘We know what’s good for you.’”

That’s why it’s the responsibility of all of us to ensure public money for serving people diagnosed with mental illnesses really does serve them, instead of serving agencies with their own agendas.

Contact Kathleen Sumilas and the group trying to save Laurel House in Victoria at 250-383-9693 or nova_agape at yahoo dot ca
Originally published in Focus magazine, August 2007.

Trackback Permanent link to Can Laurel House Be Saved?

Forced shock of Simone D stopped!

From MindFreedom International News – 28 August 2007:
For the second time in one month a forced electroshock is STOPPED!Simone D. wins! John Kelly wins!

Simone D. is a psychiatric inmate in the Creedmoor psychiatric institution in New York State. New York State’s Office of Mental Health (OMH), using taxpayer money, aggressively pursued obtaining a court order to give Simone D. forced electroshock against her expressed wishes.

Simone D. had clearly said electroshock caused her pain and suffering. She knew what she was talking about. Simone D. previously had 200 electroshocks, also known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Making matters worse, Simone D. speaks only Spanish, but for years she has been denied counseling or even staff fluent in Spanish, except for a short period of a few weeks.
Today, Simone D.’s attorneys announced that she won! This morning, 28 August 2007, a court ruled that the two-year-oldorder to give her forced electroshock had been set aside. Said Kim Darrow, one of her attorneys, “I was able to get the original judge to order a hearing, on the ground that his main reason for granting the shock order — that Simone might not eat and starve — no longer applies.”

Simone D.’s attorneys were able to show that during the nearly 20 month delay as they fought for her right to say “no” to electroshock, Simone did not starve as the doctors had predicted.

Far from it.

Free from electroshock during the court battle, Simone D. actually experienced a 34 pound weight gain! Kim explained, “The hearing was held this morning before a different judge. He ruled that Creedmoor failed to carry its burden of proof.” The judge canceled out OMH’s court order for Simone D.’s forced electroshock, that has hung over her head these past two years, since 2005.

This is the second person to win a victory in one month over forced electroshock by the New York State Office of Mental Health following a campaign of public alerts and court battles. David Oaks, director of MindFreedom International said, “Thank you to Simone D. and her great attorneys, Dennis Feld and Kim Darrow. And thank you to the many people who spoke out against her forced electroshock. The fact that John Kelly and now Simone D. have both been able to stop their planned forced electroshock shows there is hope! Keep up the pressure. Let’s end all forced electroshock!”

You are encouraged to read and act on the original alert for Simone D. This time, write your legislators and call for ending all future forced electroshock in New York State!

Read about John Kelly’s victory earlier this month here.

More updates will be on the MindFreedom Free Live Internet Radio Show tomorrow, Wednesday, 29 August 2007, at 4 pm ET when electroshock survivor Sue Clark of Canada is the guest. At that time click this link to listen in. You may phone in comments and questions live, or e-mail the show.

More info on the weekly MindFreedom Web Radio Show is here.