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Australians leaflet World Psychiatric Association conference

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When the World Psychiatric Association held a major meeting in Melbourne, Australia, psychiatric survivor activists representing three different groups were there to leaflet participants from all over the world on opening day, reports psychiatric survivor David Webb.

Australians leaflet World Psychiatric Association conference

Aussie psychiatric survivors protest at WPA conference with tshirt power and the Dresden Declaration -- David in his WNUSP tshirt, Tasman in the 'insane australia' Batty Is Beautiful tshirt, and Cath wearing MindFreedom's "Mad Pride." (Click to enlarge.)

28 November 2007

Movement Message to World Psychiatric Association: We Are Everywhere!

by David Webb, PhD

Mental health human rights activists staged a protest yesterday outside a conference of the World Psychiatric Association in Melbourne, Australia.

Organised by 'Insane Australia' (where "Batty Is Beautiful"), 500 copies of the Dresden Declaration were handed out to conference delegates as they arrived.

The Dresden Declaration is a united declaration of the international psychiatric survivor movement calling for an end to forced psychiatric treatment. Signed by MindFreedom, World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (WNUSP), European Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (ENUSP) and the German user/survivor group BPE, it was first delivered to the WPA at their conference in Dresden earlier this year. (See "Related Content" links at bottom.)

International solidarity was evident at the protest with the help of some 'tshirt power.' In the phto Cath is in a MindFreedom Mad Pride tshirt, I am wearing a WNUSP shirt, while Tasman proudly wore the Batty Is Beautiful tshirt of 'insane australia' (as did Mandy who was behind the camera).

It was a friendly encounter, with most delegates accepting the Dresden Declaration with interest, some pausing to have a chat, including quite a few who expressed their support for a psychiatric human rights campaign. But of course there were also a few who were outraged at the suggestion that mad people have human rights.

One delegate screwed the Declaration up and threw it on the pavement, so it was politely pointed to her that littering was illegal in Australia. But the biggest laugh was when a delegate told Mandy to get an education, when in fact Mandy felt that the conference was in desperate need of the knowledge and expertise she had through her personal experience of psychatric abuse.

It was a small and simple protest that was easy to organise, but everyone felt it was very successful.

It was good to remind the WPA that wherever they go in the world they will find psychiatric survivors who object to forced treatment. And it was felt that handing out the Declarations personally to delegates worked better than if it was included in the conference bag, along with all the pharmacuetical trash, because everyone read at least some of it.

But mostly, it was a bit of fun with a few unlikely encounters with delegates, some lively conversations, plenty of laughs, and inspirational feelings of international solidarity.

Until all forced psychiatric treatment is abolished around the world, the Dresden Declaration will remain a powerful statement for the human rights of mad people everywhere. The Aussies in Melbourne think it would be great if they were handed out at every WPA conference wherever they have them.

Photo: "Aussie survivors protest at WPA conference with tshirt power and the Dresden Declaration - David in his WNUSP tshirt, Tasman in the 'insane australia' Batty Is Beautiful tshirt, and Cath wearing MindFreedom'a Mad Pride."

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