Meet the mental illness survivors who want to outlaw the UK’s psychiatric system

Get to know the self proclaimed ‘mad’ people that are fighting against the psychiatric system.
Banner Image Credits: Unsplash

The Campaign for Psychiatric Abolition is coming together to take down CAMHS, Springfields and the rest of the psychiatry industry. Sounds pretty mad right? But that’s the energy needed to drive a movement that’s making waves in the world mental health and criminal justice. 

The Campaign for Psychiatric Abolition aka the CPA (@cpaabolition) was created in August 2021 and was started by psychiatric survivors. As an abolition group, they are against all forms of policing, incarceration and state violence – which includes psychiatry and the system. “We are fighting for patient-centred, community care, where the violence of poverty, racism, incarceration and colonialism do not drive us to insanity.” The group is made up of individuals of different ages, ethnicities and backgrounds united by either their support for ending psychiatry or personal experiences surviving it.

Anna* who suffers from depression and anxiety from the age of 11 had been sectioned at Springfields hospital in 2023, tells HUNGER: “I didn’t want to be there. It still hasn’t solved anything. My friends were smuggling in drugs for me whilst I stayed there.” 

Psychiatry abolition is all about tearing down the asylum, violent psychiatry and psychological systems and building alternative forms of care without involvement from the state. It’s an incredibly bold vision that seeks to challenge the structures that have for decades defined how society deals with mental health and those who are deemed ‘different.’ This means, no more padded cells, no more straitjackets, and no more involuntary treatments. The sobering reality of fatalities within psychiatric care and detention centres in the United Kingdom paints a distressing picture of challenges faced within the mental health system. Thousands of people die in psychiatric care and detention centres across the UK every year. The Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody shows that in 10 years, 3,540 of those detained in NHS facilities, including high-security psychiatric hospitals.

Lily, an advocate of psychiatric abolition tells HUNGER: “The system is completely faulted. I don’t like the way they measure mental health with a 0-5 scale. The solutions are so short term and building a relationship with your therapist takes a long time.”

The first MAD Pride was held in Toronto, Canada in 1993. Known as ‘Psychiatry Survivor’s Day’ held workshops, performances and protests, and the success of the MAD Pride spread to the UK shortly after. The MAD Pride participants are also at the forefront of reclaiming the term ‘mad.’ For too long, this word has been employed as a derogatory term, carrying stigma but the CPA and Mad Pride wholeheartedly embraces ‘madness’ as a form of self-empowerment. 

A big question to ask is, if not psychiatry, police or prison, then what else? Abolition of the entire psychiatric system would mean psychiatric wards, sectioning, isolation, seclusion, forced treatment and pathologization. The CPA says: “We are fighting for patient-centred, community care, where the violence of poverty, racism, incarceration and colonialism do not drive us to insanity.”

As The Mad Movement gains momentum, its future looks both challenging and promising. On the other hand, they must navigate resistance from entrenched interests within the psychiatric establishment and confront societal norms ingrained over centuries. Armed with the collective voices of the mad, the survivors and their shared experience to a successful future without state enforced mental wellbeing services. 

*Names have been changed.

WriterEmily Grenade
Banner Image CreditUnsplash