Mental Patients' Union

01/03/1973View on timeline


As mentioned, the neurodiversity movement also draws on antipsychiatry and the C/S/X, including radical strands such as Mad Pride and its appropriation of traditionally derogatory terms such as “psycho,” “crazy,” and “nut.” These movements wish to deconstruct stereotyped and stigmatizing representations in science, medicine, and public culture at large (Rowland 2015). While they developed as “revolts from below” (Crossley 1998), they historically followed the “revolt from above” that began within professional psychiatry with Robert Laing and David Cooper in the United Kingdom, Thomas Szasz in the United States, and Franco Basaglia in Italy. Laing’s The Divided Self was published in 1960, Cooper’s Psychiatry and AntiPsychiatry in 1967, and the first C/S/X, the Mental Patients’ Union, appeared in Britain in 1973.


Vidal, Fernando and Ortega, Francisco. Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Forms of Living)....

Andrew Roberts, the man at the middle, was one of the founding members of the Mental Patients' Union...

A crusade for dignity
Andrew Roberts recalls his involvement in the foundation of the Mental Patients Union

The idea of a Mental Patients Union was first developed by a small group of mental patients and supporters back in December 1972. A pamphlet was produced — which came to be known as the Fish Pamphlet (it had a picture of a fish struggling on a hook on the cover) — that was strongly Marxist in its analysis. Its argument was that psychiatry was a form of social control of the working classes in a capitalist state, and that the psychiatrist was the "high priest" of technological society, exorcising the "devils" of social distress through electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), lobotomy and medication. The thinking was that, in the same way that workers formed trade unions, mental patients also needed a union to fight for their rights against political oppression and social control.

Continue reading the story by Andrew Roberts on The Guardian below:

A crusade for dignity

The Mental Patients' Union Demands
We Demand

  1. The abolition of compulsory treatment i.e. we demand the effective right of patients to refuse any specific treatment.
  2. The abolition of the right of any authorities to treat patients in the face of opposition of relatives or closest friends unless it is clearly shown that the patient of his own volition desires the treatment.
  3. The abolition of irreversible psychiatric treatments (ECT, brain surgery, specific drugs)
  4. Higher standards in the testing of treatments before use on us.
  5. That patients be told what treatments they are receiving are experimental and should have the effective right to refuse to be experimented on.
  6. That patients be told what treatments they are receiving and what the long-term effects are.
  7. Also the abolition of isolation treatment (seclusion in locked side rooms, padded cells, etc.)
  8. The right of any patient to inspect his case notes and the right to take legal action relating to the contents and consequences of them.
  9. That the authorities should not discharge any patient against his will because they refuse treatment or any other reason.
  10. That all patients should have the right to have any treatment which we believe will help them.
  11. That local authorities should provide housing for patients wishng to leave hospital and that adequate security benefits should be provided. We will support any mental patients or ex-patients in their struggle to get these facilities and any person who is at risk of becoming a mental patient because of inadequate accommodation, financial support, social pressures,etc.
  12. We call for the abolition of compulsory hospitalisation.
  13. An end to the indiscriminate use of the term ‘mental subnormality’. We intend to fight the condemnation of people as ‘mentally subnormal’ in the absence of any real practical work to tackle the problem with active social understanding and help.
  14. The abolition of the concept of ‘psychopath’ as a legal or medical category.
  15. The right of patients to retain their personal clothing in hospitals and to secure their personal possessions without interference by hospital staff.
  16. The abolition of compulsory work in hospitals and outside and the abolition of the right of the hospital to withhold and control patients’ money.
  17. The right of patients to join and participate fully in the trade union of their choice.
  18. That trade union rates are paid to patients for any work done where such rates do not exist.
  19. That patients should have recourse to a room where they can enjoy their own privacy or have privacy with others, of either sex, of their own choosing.
  20. The abolition of censorship by hospital authorities of patients’ communications with society outside the hospital and in particular the abolition of telephone and letter censorship.
  21. We demand the abolition of any power to restrict patients’ visiting rights by the hospital authorities.
  22. 22, The right of Mental Patients Union representatives to inspect all areas of hospitals or equivalent institutions.
  23. We deny that there is any such thing as ‘incurable’ mental illness and demand the right to investigate the circumstances of any mental hospital patient who believes he or she is being treated as incurable
  24. We demand that every mental patient or ex-patient should have the right to a free second opinion by a psychiatrist of the patient’s or Mental Patients Union representatives’ choice, if he or she disagrees with the diagnosis and that every patient or ex-patient should have the right to an effective appeal machinery.

Learn more about the history of the Mental Patients' Union below:

The Mental Patients Union, 1973

Centreprise by Andrew Roberts

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Published in 18/02/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

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