Well, we're at the beginning of an exciting new project and we're very excited to be working together.
'We' being a group of mental health service users who have been involved with a wide range of grass roots activities for a long time. We come from a multitude of backgrounds.. Between us, we have teaching and academic skills, mental health field based experience, extensive and gruelling experience at the hands of the more negative aspects of the mental health industry and many more kinds of experience that make us ideal for the job in hand. In other words: we actually do give a shit.
We're kicking things off with the aforementioned conference ... after that, we will be working on the creation and delivery of our first Mad Studies course, in July 2016. More details will follow in due, er, course!
Some of the basic themes that we will be covering in the course, from a critical perspective, will include:-
what is madness?
the history of madness
madness and identity
madness and mental health activism
madness and pharmacological interventions
We'll be delivering the sessions ourselves and we're in the process of finding the funding to cover things like room costs, facilitators' fees, refreshments, travel for attendees, and perhaps for 'making something' whether that be a joint project like a film, series of photographs etc.
We've got strong links right across the North of the UK through networks like NEt (North East together) / NSUN (National Survivors User Network), NTWSU&C (North of Tyne & Wear, Service Users and Carers Network), Launchpad PLUS loads of other acronyms, projects and associations. Then, of course, there are the bods at Nothumbria University who were involved in the MAD studies course that ran 2014-15 (see background page). We plan to start the ball rolling in Durham where we have some wonderful friends at the Waddington Street Centre who have great links with New College Durham, in addition to the links that already exist with Durham University.
To borrow a phrase from some friends north of the border, we see this as an 'opportunity to consider relationships, institutions, and events which inform who they are as individuals'.
This is not just an academic study, we consider it vital that we develop activism and links with the wider community i.e perhaps each session could involve 'doing' exercises or thinking about how certain things may work e.g. how to facilitate Mad Studies for people with learning disabilities. How can we hear those voices?