Friday, October 22, 2021

Comments by Maddie Allen

Showing 1 of 1 comments.

  • I’m so sad to hear this but appreciate you writing this beautiful eulogy. I became familiar with Jay Mahler’s activism as a psychiatric survivor while conducting my research for my thesis on the early activism and history of psychiatric survivors in the 1970s and 80s.

    I learned of his experiences and work (along with other early activist survivors like Judi Chamberlin) while reading the archives of Madness Network News, among many other important movement materials. It was clear how essential his decades of activism have been for the movement and the rights of ex-patients, survivors, consumers, and others who have had to deal with the damaging effects of the mental health system and psychiatry.

    I regret not getting the opportunity to reach out to Jay about his work and experiences. His devotion, activism, leadership, and work towards building alternatives to the mental health system (and the importance of this for furthering rights and compassion) became so obvious that it was a central part of my own thesis.

    As you stated, “His path was of those who work inside systems like Trojan horses, as in “the long march through the institutions.” If I may say so, I do believe that this attitude and perseverance is what made him and this segment of the movement (along with activists such as Sally Zinman and Judi Chamberlin) so successful at this period (at the juncture in the mid-1980s where the “movement” was splitting and the more “radical” survivors and ex-patients wanted to go their own way). This “tempered liberation focus” is evident in two of Jay’s quotes that really resonated with me:

    “When you think of the thousands of people still suffering, you can’t just talk about abolishing the system. You have to use every strategy you can to change it.”

    “I’m not going to be co-opted. I’m not going to forget what psychiatry did to me.”

    (And I hope it is okay to share a link to my thesis about the early activism of the psychiatric survivors’ movement: https://drum.lib.umd.edu/handle/1903/21421 – this is the first time I’m sharing it on this forum or anywhere really. But after reading this sad news, I realize how important it is to try and share this history with others who might be interested.)