Just returned yesterday from a trip to Akron, Ohio to give a talk at the Archives of the History of American Psychology. The folks there were very friendly and helpful. The talk was a big hit as well. I was a bit nervous because most of those who attended my Cheiron session last summer didn’t seem to get be that interested in clinical issues, and completely missed the point of the disability perspective (John Burnham, for example, said he agreed with most of it but said the seriously mentally ill should really be locked up for their own good — okay he was a bit more tactful than that but it was the general drift).
Most of the audience members at AHAP were graduate students and faculty in counseling or clinical psychology. Some of the most intriguing questions were from a fellow named Fred Frese, who is a clinical professor of psychology at Case Western who is also a recovering schizophrenic and advocate for other mentally ill individuals. He introduced himself right before my talk, which gave me the courage to “come out” right away as a person with bipolar disorder. He suggested looking at the Association on Higher Education and Disability which has a special interest group on psychiatric disability. He also mentioned attempts to reform the Javits-Wagner-O’Day act to include mental illness (originally this legislation was created in 1930s to assist the blind, then was extended to physically disabled in 1970s). As Frese put it, mentally ill individuals want to be on the bus, even if it’s at the back. He asked if I was willing to work for this, to which I said “absolutely!”
Other things to look into: Andrew Sperling, legal counsel at NAMI,
Tony Young, Senior Public Policy Analyst at NISH, decriminalizing mental illness (apparently the LA county jail is one of the largest psychiatric facilities in the country by default!)