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National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery | NCMHR

Transcript – Judi Chamberlin:
Her Life, Our Movement

We have a moral imperative to fight for justice. I believe we really have no choice.

Voiceover (Leah): In 1966, in severe emotional distress after a miscarriage, a 21 year old Judi Chamberlin was committed to a psychiatric hospital. Judi quickly discovered that once she became a patient, it was nearly impossible to regain her freedom. She was told that she would never be able to live outside an institution.

[Judi NARPA Conference, Hartford, CT 2007] The day that they took own freedom away was the day that I dedicated myself to this cause. I said “This is wrong. This is wrong! This should not happen to anyone.”

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Voiceover (Leah): Judi defied her prognosis and went on to help found what is known as the psychiatric user, survivor and ex-patient movement. It was the heady era of civil rights, consciousness-raising, women’s liberation, and gay liberation. Judi drew courage and inspiration from these popular movements. By 1971, she was working with the Mental Patient’s Liberation Project in New York. And the rest, as they say, is history.

[text] In 1978 Judi Chamberlin wrote “On Our Own: Patient Controlled Alternatives to the MH System,” a scathing critique of traditional mental health “treatment”.

[Will Hall-Psychiatric Survivor Activist] I first actually read “On Our Own” when I was in a mental health residence. I found the book in the library, and it was like discovering a magical escape tunnel from the psychic prison I was in.

[text] “On Our Own” contained a bold vision for self-help, mutual support, and non-coercive, peer-run alternatives.

[Judi] People are still being punished for being in pain, for feeling their pain and for trying to speak their pain; and that’s why there’s such a ginormus need for alternative crisis facilities that we need to develop. Because yeah, it is hard to be around somebody who is not sleeping, or crying all the time, or screaming or tearing at their flesh, or whatever. What’s so important is to try to connect people with that this is real and this is what they are feeling.

[Judi World Psychiatric Assoc. Dresden, Germany 2007] The [USIF] Survivor movement has certain basic principles and these are over-arching. They vary from organization to organization around the world but they basically fall into certain major categories. And the main one is that we speak for ourselves, that other people may claim to speak for us, but no one can speak in our voice, our own voice is our own authentic voice, the voice of people who themselves have been labeled - that freedom and self-determination are basic human rights that must not be eroded or ended because of a medical diagnosis.

[Judi] And like the farm workers and like the black people in the segregated south, people labeled with mental disabilities are largely invisible to the wider world. To the extent they think of us at all they usually think of us as a problem that someone has to do something about and not as human beings, individuals, each one of us deserving of human dignity.

[Judi] And we are now living in a time of a historical shift where people with mental illness, like other groups that have historically been without power, are in the process of claiming our right to self-determination.

Voiceover (Leah): For the rest of her life, Judi worked tirelessly with other users and survivors of psychiatry to achieve human rights, self-determination, and non-coercive alternatives. She also built many bridges with the cross-disability movement. Her legacy lives on today in an international movement of people who work to realize the courageous vision that she and other pioneers set in motion nearly 40 years ago.

[Judi] And the slogan of the Disability Movement worldwide I think best sums up what it is we that want and what it is that we believe is just and what we believe that will ultimately prevail which is “Nothing about us, without us.”

[text] Judi Chamberlin 1944-2010 Your dream lives on. We appreciate your contributions to help create a documentary about the history of the consumer/survivor movement. For more information or to donate to this effort, please visit www.ncmhcso.org Thank you.

Watch video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGT4xJXgmoE