In Memoriam

This section of the blog is reserved for commemorating the lives of those who have contributed to the struggle for civil and human rights for people who have had those rights violated by the mental health system.

John McCarthy

Powerful voice for mentally ill people
The Irish Times – Saturday, January 21, 2012

John McCarthy: JOHN McCARTHY, who has died aged 61, founded the mental health lobby group Mad Pride. Having been affected by mental illness himself, he became a powerful advocate for the rights of people similarly afflicted.

Fearful he would lose his home in Cork, he suffered a mental breakdown in the 1980s and spent time in a psychiatric hospital. Surviving depression and a suicide attempt, he was deeply moved by the plight of those living with mental illness. He believed their problem was not lack of resources but “an ethos based on the right to force a cure on victims who are patients. I will fight that abusive ethos as long as I have a breath in me”, he said.

Critical of the laws relating to mental health, he claimed they empowered “two psychiatrists to sign a piece of paper and lock you up for the rest of your life because you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health problem. It’s based on nothing more than opinion, and that’s part of the cruelty of the mental-health system. You can be incarcerated and force-treated against your will.”

He was a born campaigner, and had the quick wit of Cork’s northside, expressing his views in forthright columns and stirring up public debate on mental health issues. The central tenet of his Mad Pride philosophy is the “normality of madness”, a theme adopted by thousands of supporters at annual festivals in Cork, Portlaoise and Tullamore.

Charismatic, outspoken and colourful, he was relentlessly cheerful in his fight with cancer, a battle he won two years ago, only to learn two hours after getting the all-clear that he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Despite his illness, he continued to campaign tirelessly.

He also championed the cause of immigrants seeking asylum and citizenship in Ireland, and became a director of Concern.

He was educated by the Christian Brothers at the North Mon in Cork, and in a busy life he worked as an auctioneer and a publican.

When Mad Pride made submissions to the Department of Justice on proposed mental health legislation, McCarthy was appointed by Kathleen Lynch, Minister of State for Disability and Mental Health, to a body charged with implementing the national disability strategy.

In a tribute, she described him as having the “drive, determination and infectious enthusiasm needed to bring about meaningful change . . . any time I met John, I always came away with a smile and a laugh”. In similar vein, the leader of Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin, said McCarthy had “helped bring about a major change in how people view mental illness”.

As a delegate for the Irish branch of MindFreedom, an international coalition of 100 campaign groups, he addressed a UN convention in New York in 2006 on the rights of the disabled.

Putting his money where his mouth was, he ran as an Independent candidate in the 2007 general election in Cork North Central to highlight mental health issues. After getting 702 first-preference votes, he quipped his two fears had been “first that I wouldn’t get a vote and my even bigger fear was that I would get elected”.

He is survived by his wife Liz, children David and Jill, his mother Agnes, sisters Eleanor, Betty and Mona, and brothers Liam, Thomas and Derry.

Death of tireless campaigner for the vulnerable

By Jennifer Hough

Wednesday, January 11, 2012, Irish Examiner

HE spent his life fighting for the rights of the most vulnerable in society.

He liked to be known as a human rights activist, author, poet, columnist — and he was all of those, as well as a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather.

John McCarthy, 61, passed away at his home at 11am yesterday following a two-year battle with motor neurone disease.

His health deteriorated over Christmas and it is understood he had been suffering with respiratory problems, which, in the end, caused his death.

John’s legacy will be his dogged attempts to show up what he deemed the country’s biggest hidden abuse scandal — the treatment of those with mental health problems. Or what he simply termed, people suffering emotional distress.

Despite his illness, he continued to campaign and advocate for people who contacted him with stories of abuse and mistreatment within the system. He made significant contributions to the Irish Examiner over the past year, assisting with contacts, opinion and time. He also wrote a column in the Cork Independent, The Human Condition, mainly about mental health issues, and published a book of these late last year.

When John suffered a breakdown and spent time in a psychiatric hospital, his mission in life became to fight for a human rights-based approach to care for people who are emotionally distressed.

He spoke out against the power structures within psychiatry, and campaigned relentlessly to stop forced treatment such as electroshock therapy.

John founded Mad Pride Ireland in 2008. Thous-ands turned out for the first Mad Pride day in Fitzgerald Park and 20,000 attended last year’s event.

He was candid about his situation, saying he had survived depression and a suicide attempt.

He had had a kidney removed due to cancer, and two hours later was told he had motor neurone disease.

“The irony was that I could live when I wanted to die, and now I want to live, I am dying,” he said recently. “You learn from surviving the first effort of dying, and I learned that life is beautiful.”

Junior Health Minister Kathleen Lynch said John was an inspiration: “In recognition of his work and contribution, I recently appointed him to the implementation group for the national disability strategy and I was very much looking forward to working with him.”

She added: “I regret that I will not now have that opportunity.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said John was “an intelligent advocate for mental health and a tireless campaigner for those living with mental health issues”.

John is survived by his wife Liz, children David and Jill, and four grandchildren.

John will repose at his home today where friends and family are welcome from 2pm. A humanist service will take place at Val O’Connor’s funeral home on Shandon St at 11am tomorrow, followed by burial at Curragh-kippane graveyard.

Death of mental health campaigner John McCarthy

Updated: 19:44, Tuesday, 10 January 2012, RTE News

The founder of the mental health lobby group Mad Pride, John McCarthy, has died aged 61.

Mr McCarthy was an outspoken and colourful advocate for the rights of those touched by mental illness.

He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease two years ago.

According to his son, David, Mr McCarthy died at his home in Montenotte in Cork city this morning.

Mr McCarthy’s first Mad Pride Festival celebrating “the normality of madness” took place in Cork in 2008 and was held in Tullamore, Portlaoise and Cork this summer.

He is survived by his wife Liz, children David and Jill, and grandchildren.

A humanist ceremony marking his life will take place at midday in Cork city on Thursday, followed by his burial at Curraghkippane cemetery

Mad Pride founder John McCarthy has died

January 10, 2012 By Editor, West Cork Times

THE founder of the Mad Pride movement for mental health awareness and proud Corkman John McCarthy has passed away at the age of 61.

Mr McCarthy who had been a tireless campaigner for mental health awareness had been suffering from Motor Neurone Disease.

Paying tribute to John, Frances O’Keeffe, Chairperson of Concern Worldwide said, “John McCarthy was a great friend of Concern, serving on our governing council for a number of years, working overseas as a volunteer in Kosovo in 1999 and as a very active member of Concern’s Cork support group.

“His last public engagement with Concern was in December when, wheelchair bound, he acted as master of ceremonies for the annual Carols by Candlelight concert, a role which he has fulfilled for a number of years.

“As always, his capacity to lead and enthuse meant that the event was a huge success. We offer our sincerest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. We will miss John.”

He is survived by his wife Liz, son David and daughter Jill as well as grandchildren and extended family.

He will be waked at the family home in Montenotte from 2pm tomorrow (Wednesday).

There will be a funeral service at Val O’Connor’s funeral home, Shandon St, at 11pm on Thursday followed by burial at Curraghkippane Cemetery at Kerrypike.


Ricky Wyatt

Ricky Wyatt, 57, Dies; Plaintiff in Landmark Mental Care Suit

Published: November 3, 2011

Ricky Wyatt was a rambunctious Alabama teenager who had broken windows, overturned a school desk or two, and been in and out of group homes. His probation officer decided he needed to be committed to a mental institution. His aunt, his legal guardian, agreed.

So Ricky found himself at 14 in a crowded and understaffed hell, the Bryce State Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Among more than 5,000 patients, he was the youngest by a decade. Though he was never found to have any illness, he was given large doses of Thorazine and other psychoactive drugs regularly.

Mr. Wyatt, who died on Tuesday [Novemeber 1, 2011] at 57, became the lead plaintiff in a landmark class-action federal lawsuit protesting conditions in the hospital. The suit led to a judgment in 1971 that gave the federal government control of Alabama’s mental institutions and set national guidelines for mental care that came to be called the Wyatt Standards.

“The enormity of what this case accomplished cannot be overstated,” Judge Myron Thompson of Federal District Court in Montgomery, Ala., said when he returned Alabama’s mental health system to state control in 2003. “The principles of humane treatment of people with mental illness and mental retardation embodied in this litigation have become part of the fabric of law in this country and, indeed, international law.”

James Tucker, the legal director of the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, said Mr. Wyatt had died in a Tuscaloosa hospital. He did not know the cause, he said.

Ricky J. Wyatt was born in Tuscaloosa in 1954 and reared by his great-grandmother because his mother, Sylvia Hunter, “got in trouble,” he said in 2009 in an interview with Listen, an Alabama Department of Mental Health newsletter. Sylvia Hunter was in prison for forgery when the landmark suit was filed on his behalf, she told The Decatur Daily, an Alabama newspaper.

Ricky described himself as a “hell-raiser” who had been sent to reform school. While he was living at a children’s home, he said, his probation officer decided he needed to be committed to Bryce and his aunt, Mildred Rawlins, beset with problems of her own, agreed.

Paul Davis, a journalist who covered the case, wrote in Law and Psychology Review in January this year that Alabama law had made it easy to put people in mental institutions at the time. “If Aunt Bessie regularly burned the biscuits, or if Grandma Smith said the same things over and over again, a relative could simply go to a doctor and tell him their kin needed to go to the mental hospital,” he said. In a sense, Ricky was coming home when he was committed to Bryce. He counted 56 relatives who had worked there, starting with his great-great-grandfather. Mildred Rawlins worked there. Ricky played there as a child.

Being a patient was different. Ricky, 15 at the time of the trial, testified that he had been made to sleep on wet floors and locked in a cell-like room. He told of supervisors making people fight so they could bet on the winners. He was awakened by being poked with a broom. Hot water was thrown on him, he said. He was placed in a rehabilitation program for drugs and alcohol, though he had used neither.

“The worst thing was that I knew there was nothing wrong with me,” he told Listen.

The lawsuit began after the hospital laid off workers, leaving only one nurse for every 250 patients. Workers, including his aunt, decided to file a class-action suit and asked Ricky to be its human face.

Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr., who had earlier ordered that Alabama’s schools and prisons be placed under federal control on civil rights grounds, heard the case. He threw out the issue of the layoffs, saying the state had the right to hire and fire. But he let the claim of patient mistreatment go forward.

Judge Johnson’s ruling required humane treatment of patients, sufficient staffing, individualized treatment plans and as little reduction in patient freedom as practicable. It set 35 specific standards in areas like diet and nutrition.

Mr. Wyatt’s survivors include his mother; his sister, Kathy King; and his brother, Ronnie.

After the case, Mr. Wyatt found jobs in Florida and other states. He fell from a ladder while working as a painter and afterward used a walker or a wheelchair. He lived his last years in a trailer next door to his mother’s house in Cottondale, Ala.

When federal control of Alabama’s mental health programs ended on Dec. 5, 2003, there were 1,500 patients in state institutions, compared with more than 10,000 when it began. The next day, Mr. Wyatt visited Bryce. “It changed so much I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

Judi Chamberlin

Judi Chamberlin, 65, Is Dead; Fought for Rights for Mental Health Patients

Published: January 26, 2010

Judi Chamberlin, whose involuntary confinement in a mental hospital in the 1960s propelled her into a lifelong leading role in the movement to guarantee basic human rights to psychiatric patients, died on Jan. 16 at her home in Arlington, Mass. She was 65.

The cause was pulmonary disease, said Martin Federman, her companion since 2006.

“It was not into one of those horror-story-type places” that Ms. Chamberlin was committed in 1966, Mr. Federman said. Still, those five months in a state hospital in New York City for a diagnosis of chronic depression were enough to shock her into action.

She was then Judi Ross, 22 years old, and had suffered a miscarriage. “She didn’t get over that, as people kept telling her she would,” Mr. Federman said. After several voluntary hospitalizations, she was involuntarily committed.

“There are real indignities and real problems when all facets of life are controlled — when to get up, to eat, to shower — and chemicals are put inside our bodies against our will,” Ms. Chamberlin told The New York Times in 1981.

There was a lack of activity, of fresh air. There were seclusion rooms and wards for noncompliant patients, even those who were in no way violent. The drugs, which made her lethargic and affected her memory, seemed more intended to control than cure. And she could not sign herself out.

She had become, she said, “a prisoner of the system.”

After her release, Ms. Chamberlin began working with several organizations in the budding rights movement for mental health patients. She gave speeches and interviews throughout the country. Then, in 1978, her book “On Our Own” (Hawthorne) was published.

“It became the bible of the movement,” Daniel B. Fisher, executive director of the National Empowerment Center, said in an interview. The center, run by people who have experienced mental health issues, is a federally financed organization that provides support, teaches recovery skills and works to reduce the stigma faced by psychiatric patients and those who have recovered.

Ms. Chamberlin’s book “is a set of beliefs and principles,” said Mr. Fisher, who recovered from schizophrenia. “The most fundamental is in the subtitle: ‘Patient-Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System.’

“Embodied in that,” he continued, “is consumer control of not only the treatment but of the new paradigm for recovery, which goes beyond what the system provides and encompasses all the support and services needed to lead a full and meaningful life in the community: education, housing, jobs.”

Not surprisingly, Ms. Chamberlin was a critic of the old system, of large institutions in which people were given little hope of recovery and essentially told to accept that they would always lead a limited life.

In 2000, she was a primary author of a federal report by the National Council on Disability called “From Privileges to Rights.” The report made clear that within the traditional system patients had to earn privileges, among them to see visitors, to leave the grounds and to have their own clothes. Those should be basic rights, not earned privileges, the report said.

Ms. Chamberlin was also a member of the team that framed the mental health recommendations in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. The convention, adopted by the General Assembly in 2006, calls for mental patients to be treated with dignity and for a reduction in forced treatment.

In 1992, President George Bush presented Ms. Chamberlin with the Distinguished Service Award.

Born in Brooklyn on Oct. 30, 1944, Judi Ross was the only child of Harold and Shirley Jaffe Ross. Her father was an advertising executive, her mother a school administrator.

Her marriages to Howard Cahn and Robert Chamberlin ended in divorce. Besides Mr. Federman, she is survived by a daughter, Juli Chamberlin of Medford, Mass., and three grandchildren.

“The public dislikes mental patients, mentally retarded people, the physically disabled, the deformed or disfigured — and often such people are incarcerated in institutions euphemistically called hospitals, schools and homes,” Ms. Chamberlin wrote in her book. “The public’s aversion to people who are different is not sufficient reason to justify locking them up.”

Advocate For People With Mental Illnesses Dies

by Joseph Shapiro

January 19, 2010

Judi Chamberlin, who died this weekend at age 65, was a civil rights hero from a civil rights movement you may have never heard of. She took her inspiration from the heroes of other civil rights movements to start something she liked to call Mad Pride — a movement for the rights and dignity of people with mental illness.

It started in 1966, when Chamberlin was 21 years old and seeing her doctor because she was dealing with a deep depression. “After a while, he suggested I sign myself into a hospital because I was just not functioning, I was so depressed. And I just thought, ‘Oh a hospital’s a place where you get help.’ And you know, I’d been in hospitals for surgery and things like that, and didn’t think of it as having anything to do with your fundamental rights. So I just said, ‘OK, I’ll try it.’ ”

Chamberlin told her story in a 2006 interview with Will Hall, host of Madness Radio, a program by people like Chamberlin who call themselves “psychiatric survivors.”

“And very quickly, [I] found out that once you sign papers to go in on a voluntary basis, but then you can’t leave when you want to leave, which was absolutely shocking to me,” she said.

She got out of that state hospital and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where she lived with other people who’d been diagnosed with mental illness but who’d then gotten government money to develop their own treatments. She recovered and eventually moved to Boston, where she started working with other former American patients who wanted to change the system. They called themselves the Mental Patients Liberation Front.

“When I arrived at this storefront in Cambridge, Mass., I was a senior Harvard student, had been locked up five times, so I was referred by Harvard to volunteer there,” recalls David Oaks, who came to the group in 1976. “And I walked in, and it was a little radical ragtag group, Mental Patients Liberation Front. And Judi was right in the thick of folks, just really warm, community organizer.”

Oaks now runs his own advocacy group, MindFreedom International. Chamberlin was a mentor. “One thing she immediately helped teach a lot of people was basic 101 about mental health liberation: That we’re equal; that we have rights.”

Chamberlin put that basic thinking into a book called On Our Own, which published in 1978. In it, she argued that, as she’d experienced in Canada, just the ability to have some say in your own treatment was a key part of making that treatment work.

Chamberlin’s book became a manifesto for other patients. But it influenced lots of people in the mental health establishment, too. Today, notes Oaks, it’s common for people with mental illness to have a say. “Most U.S. states now have an office of mental health consumer affairs or something to hear the voice of mental health clients,” says Oaks. “And it certainly is people like Judi that did that.”

Robert Whitaker, the author of Mad in America, a history of the treatment of people with mental illness in America, says Chamberlin was “a seminal figure in the rise of the consumer movement.” She was able to get across the patient’s point of view in a way that was strong, but also clear. And that appealed to people in the mental health field who were often the target of her criticism.

“Judi was fierce, incredibly fierce,” says Whitaker. “And by that I mean she knew her mind, she spoke her mind, and she didn’t worry if she offended people who were listening.”

Chamberlin, he says, was irreverent, “brilliant” and “a joy to be around.” He also says she was “incredibly brave,” because “it obviously takes a lot of bravery to confront a society that’s had a different belief before.”

Chamberlin told people with mental illness that they were, like everyone else, people with quirks and differences, but with strengths and abilities, too. She wanted people to reclaim the description “mad” as something that was OK.

“She changed it from a word that was a pejorative word,” says Whitaker. “That was saying to the world at large: We are worthy individuals, and our minds our worthy, and they’re to be respected.”

Chamberlin even used “mad pride” as her e-mail address. “And you can see the historical echoes with ‘black pride’ as well,” says Whitaker. “It absolutely followed in the footsteps of the civil rights movement.”

Chamberlin traveled the world as an advocate, even in the months before her death. She worked at Boston University on mental health issues and started a center with federal funding to support other psychiatric survivors.

More recently, Chamberlin faced another illness: lung disease. And last year, when her insurance company told her she’d exhausted her hospice benefit, she faced going into a nursing home. She started a blog she called Life as a Hospice Patient about her fight to die at home.

Late Saturday night, she died as she wished: at home, in her favorite chair, surrounded by friends and family.

Patients’ rights advocate dies

Posted by Kay Lazar January 19, 2010 12:43 PM

Judi Chamberlin, who was hospitalized against her will for depression four decades ago and championed patients’ rights ever since, died on Saturday the way she wanted — at home, in Arlington, with family.

The 65-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y. native authored a seminal book touting patient control in mental health treatment, helped mobilize a movement and won a following.

Chamberlin spent much of her life advocating for the rights of the mentally ill, but in the last year she took on another cause — end of life care. Suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an incurable lung disorder, Chamberlin battled her health insurance company for the right to die at home.

In the process, she started a blog, Life as a Hospice Patient, that attracted quite a following.

“I am sitting at the computer, and the comments on the blog, and the emails, it’s just hitting me, even more powerfully, the number — the depth and breadth — of people she affected,” her long-time companion, Marty Federman said in a phone interview today.

Federman said that shortly before her death, Chamberlin was talking about culling her blog to focus on the essence of her most recent fight — end-of-life care — and publish that material because, he said, she was angry that such care got short-shrift in the national health reform debate.

Federman said he intends to see that project through.

Al Siebert

While a graduate student Al Siebert was diagnosed schizophrenic and entered the psychiatric system. He wasn’t in the psychiatric system long before he managed to escape. Al once called getting locked up in a hospital the best thing that ever happened to him.

Lawrence Albert “Al” Siebert

Jan. 21, 1934 ~ June 25, 2009

Lawrence Albert “Al” Siebert was born Jan. 21, 1934, in Portland, Ore., to Donald and Mildred Siebert. After a long battle with colon cancer, he died peacefully at his home overlooking the river on June 25, 2009, with his family surrounding him.

A lifelong resident of Portland, Al graduated from Grant High School, received his BA in psychology from Willamette University, and his MA and PhD from the University of Michigan. He was an ex-paratrooper, a volunteer recovery group leader with Vietnam veterans, served as chairman of the Multnomah County School Board, and spoke about survivor resiliency at NW tribal gatherings. He served as a volunteer consultant to the World Trade Center 9/11 Survivors Network. He currently was one of three senior advisors working with the US Army Medical Service to create “Provider Resiliency Training” workshops for the working staff in US Army Medical installations, and was the lead resiliency trainer for the Eastern Management Development Center for federal managers.

Dr. Siebert, Director of The Resiliency Center, was internationally recognized for his research into the inner nature of highly resilient survivors. His books include: The Resiliency Advantage, Winner of the Independent Publishers “2006 Best Self-Help Book of the Year” award and published in three languages; The Survivor Personality, now in its eighteenth printing and published in seven languages; and The Adult Student’s Guide to Survival & Success, 2008 USA Book News Award Finalist, Education/Academic category.

Articles by him, books and magazines quoting his work, and use of his popular quiz “How Resilient Are You?” have appeared in many media, including The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and Oprah.

Al is survived by his wife, Molly, his stepson Elton Barksdale, his sister and brother-in-law Mary and Chad Karr, uncle Harold Slane, nieces Leslie and Kristin Pintarich, Cherie Costello, nephew Dan Pintarich, grand-nieces Erin and Kimberly Costello, Elizabeth Pintarich, and grand-nephew Matthew Pintarich.

At his request, no service is planned. Al asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Providence Cancer Center and Hospice where he received outstanding, compassionate care. For more about Al and his work and to leave comments for the family, see

Pete Shaughnessy

In Memoriam: Pete Shaughnessy – founder of Mad Pride

—– Original Message —–
From: Prof Phil Barker
To: a great many people
Sent: Sunday, December 22, 2002 9:18 PM
Subject: In Memoriam: Pete Shaughnessy – founder of Mad Pride

Pete Shaughnessy, one of the founders of seminal mental health activists Mad Pride, died on Saturday (December 14 2002). Pete, was a legendary figure in the mental health world in the UK and beyond. His campaigning and direct actions helped push the government on to the back foot over their plans for forced drug treatment for the mentally ill in the community. He fought against the stigma surrounding mental illness with passion, compassion and humour. Pete knew the value of reclaiming ‘madness’ from the psychiatric establishment, and through MAD PRIDE showed that humour, creativity and basic humanity, are some of the most powerful tools at our disposal in addressing the ‘mental health problems’ of a post-modern world.

I shared a platform with him some years ago when he kept interrupting the panel discussion by standing up and removing another of the seven T-shorts he was wearing. Each one said something ruder, and funnier than the one before – most of them about psychiatrists, all of the about psychiatry and the colonisation of ‘people’ by the medical process. He cut a disruptive, disturbing and delightful figure. I gave up trying to be ‘serious’. He was sufficiently funny/serious enough for us all that night.

My friend, Rufus May, passed on the sad news earlier tonight and now I pass the news to you. Post this message on to anyone you think might be interested. Maybe in Pete’s passing (and your passing of the ‘story’ of his death) the movement towards an honest and just appreciation of madness, might be accelerated. Pete was one of those who led the way. Now that he is no longer here the need to remain in the light that shone through him, is all the more important.

Let us think of the loss to his family and close friends but, most of all, let us think of Pete, and the emancipation of the so-called ‘mentally ill’. In his death let us all breathe renewed life into the ideal which meant so much to him. *


Phil Barker

23 Jan 2003 : Pete Shaughnessy – Campaigner who took the stigma out of insanity.

Pete Shaughnessy, who has died aged 40, was one of the founders and driving forces behind Mad Pride, which emerged in 1999 to challenge government moves towards what it saw as more coercive mental health legislation.

The concept of Mad Pride was simple: like Gay Pride or Black Pride, a stigmatised, stereotyped group – the mentally ill – reappropriated language and forced society to face its prejudices. At last, the voices of patients themselves, not just psychiatrists or government ministers or charity spokespeople, were heard in policy debates. And in the formidably articulate Shaughnessy, Mad Pride had a master of the pithy soundbite and the well-staged, often humorous, direct action protest.

Born in south London, Pete grew up in a working-class Irish household in East Dulwich, and was educated in Dulwich and Battersea.

After studying drama at the Rose Bruford College, Sidcup, from 1983 to 1986, he worked in a children’s home, and then as a carer for people with disabilities.

In 1990, he realised a childhood dream by becoming a bus driver, and taking the number 36 out of Peckham garage; it was in the course of this work in April 1992 that he was launched on the spiral into mental illness. He was already under pressure: his long-term relationship with his partner Lucy had foundered a couple of years earlier, while the dispute over the privatisation of the bus service was also taking its toll. Pete, coming to the aid of a conductor who was being attacked by a passenger, was severely assaulted with an iron bar.

Shortly afterwards, he went on a silent hunger strike outside the bus garage, and by the end of the year he was hospitalised, having been found walking half-naked on a bridge in Ireland. He was diagnosed as suffering from manic depression. A life of constant medication, regular spells in hospital and brilliant activism followed.

In 1997, the Bethlem and Maudsley NHS Trust marked the Bethlem hospital’s 750th anniversary with a series of celebrations. Pete, who had been a patient at the Maudsley, saw nothing to celebrate in either the original Bedlam (“a symbol for man’s inhumanity to man, for callousness and cruelty,” in historian Roy Porter’s words), or the state of mental health care.

So he started a counter-movement: Reclaim Bedlam. Hundreds of mental patients around the country supported it, and the BBC2 series From The Edge made a programme about it. At a time of many community-care horror stories, a very different message was finally getting out.

Then came Mad Pride. “Telling people I am mad is taking control of my madness and accepting it,” Pete said. “By reclaiming language I’m turning my prison into a fortress.”

The group produced an anthology of writing (Mad Pride: A Celebration Of Mad Culture, 2001), a compilation CD (Nutters With Attitude) and put on frequent live gigs. Demonstrations were held to highlight prejudice against the mentally ill and register outrage at the government’s proposals to extend powers of compulsory treatment.

Pete also threw himself into the most contentious area in mental health care. In 1995 his younger sister Theresa had been killed by her boyfriend, whom psychiatrists later deemed to be in a state of paranoid psychosis.

Pete’s response was to immerse himself in the issue of how society treats the “criminally insane”. He worked as an advocate for patients at Broadmoor, and when a cluster of suicides at the high security hospital three years ago coincided with severe staffing shortages, brought the issue into the public domain.

In 1999 he moved to Worthing with his partner Penny, whom he married a year later, and her son Daniel. There he got involved with direct action newsletters and worked as a volunteer with vendors at the Big Issue.

Although his last months were marked by deep depression, Pete continued to campaign against the draft mental health bill. In November, his usual dynamism buffeted by illness and heavy medication, he still managed to manoeuvre himself into a position behind health minister Jacqui Smith on the platform at the Mind mental health conference in Cardiff.

The message on his T-shirt was visible to all: “No Force”. He is survived by his wife Penny, stepson Daniel, and his children Francesca, Sam and Nathan from his relationship with Lucy. Peter Anthony Thomas Shaughnessy, campaigner, born September 14 1962; died December 15 2002

Mark Olden
Source: GUARDIAN 23/01/2003 P22

Pete Shaughnessy RIP

CHARISMATIC campaigner and Worthing resident Pete Shaughnessy sadly took his own life just before Christmas, after a long spell of serious depression, at the age of 40. Pete was best known for his work in mental health campaigning, being one of the founders and driving forces of Mad Pride, an organisation that pushed for an end to the treatment of people suffering from an illness – mental ill health – as second class citizens to be abused and manipulated by those in power. He was also dead keen on football, particularly non-corporate lower-league stuff, and was a fan of Crystal Palace and Dulwich Hamlet, from his old stomping grounds in South East London, as well as Worthing FC, where he had become social secretary. Pete couldn’t stop himself getting involved with a good cause and was a regular helper with Brighton radical newsletter SchNEWS and with your very own Porkbolter and had been a regular at worthing eco-action meetings until he became ill last year. Ex-bus driver Pete was a great bloke who made loads of friends wherever he went – as witnessed by the packed-solid church in Dulwich for his funeral on Christmas Eve. Obituaries were published in The Big Issue and The Guardian (the national, not the Worthing one). There is to be a tree planting in his honour and a special memorial night at Brighton’s new social centre, The Cowley Club in London Road, on February 8. We’ll miss him, as of course will Penny, Daniel and many others, particularly his kids in London. Cheers, Pete. It was good to know you. Oh and by the way – it wasn’t you that was crazy. It was this porkin’ world we live in…

Howie “the Harp”

According to wikipedia the origin of the Psychiatric Survivor Movement had something to do with Howie “the Harp” Geld and his involvement in the founding of the Insane Liberation Front in Oregon. I’m sure more people than he alone were involved in this seminal event, but he must have figured pretty prominently in the formation of the movement somewhere along the line. If this little snippet of information is remotely true, then a number of people, including myself, owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Howie. Today an award at the annual Alternatives conference and a training facility in New York City are named after him. He died more than ten years ago. His New York Times obituary I am posting below:

Howard Geld, 42, Advocate for Mentally Ill, Dies

Published: Tuesday, February 14, 1995

Howard Geld, known as Howie the Harp to the mentally ill and homeless to whom he committed his life after spending time in institutions for the emotionally disturbed while a teen-ager, died on Feb. 5 at his home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He was 42.

The cause was apparently a heart attack, said Steve Coe, executive director of Community Access, a nonprofit housing and advocacy agency for the mentally ill.

Mr. Geld was widely credited with being a pioneer in advocacy for mental patients, founding or co-founding many organizations that are now part of national and international movements.

At his death, Mr. Geld was director of advocacy for Community Access. Since taking the job in 1993, Mr. Coe said, he began the New York City Recipients Coalition, a group dedicated to making former mental patients a political force. And he wrote proposals that led to $150,000 in financing from the state and other organizations for the Peer Specialists Training Center to train former patients to help others like them.

Mr. Geld was born in New York City. He was hospitalized for more than a year at 14 when he tried to commit suicide, his parents said, and spent a year in a school for emotionally disturbed adolescents before returning home. At 17, he ran off to experience life among others like him in single-room-occupancy hotels.

“I’ve been diagnosed as a schizophrenic, as psychotic, as manic-depressive and as psychotic depressive,” Mr. Geld said later. “I don’t really believe in those labels, but there have been times in my life when I went into what can be called a manic episode, and when I went into severe depressions. What I’m doing with my life right now is trying to learn how to control what I call manic energy. If it can be controlled and directed and channeled, it could be really valuable and real powerful. I’d rather learn how to control it, rather than be cured of it.”

While institutionalized, he had trouble sleeping, and a night attendant taught Mr. Geld to play the harmonica. He said he got his nickname, Howie the Harp, when he played his harmonica on the streets of Greenwich Village to earn money for food and a place to sleep.

Mr. Geld became involved in formal advocacy through the Insane Liberation Front in Oregon in 1971 and returned to New York shortly thereafter to begin the Mental Patients Liberation Project. He also founded or helped found Project Release in New York in 1975 and several advocacy groups in California in the 1980’s.

He is survived by his parents, Rose and Isadore Geld of San Diego, and his sister, Helen Geld of Seattle.

Andrew “The Naked Guy” Martinez

A male student at UC Berkeley gained notariety during the ninties for going around with out clothes on campus. He later knew hard times, going homeless and receiving a psychiatric label. He committed suicide in jail. Whether the initial exposure he was engaged in had anything to do with his later problems I suppose will always be a matter of speculation. This is his story.

County Settles Suit Over ‘Naked Guy’ Suicide

Daily Californian/File

Andrew Martinez was a famous campus personality known as ‘Naked Guy.’ Santa Clara County will pay $1 million as part of a settlement of a lawsuit over his jail suicide.

By Alexandra Wilcox
Contributing Writer
Thursday, May 21, 2009

Santa Clara County has agreed to pay $1 million as part of its settlement in the federal wrongful-death lawsuit over the jail suicide of UC Berkeley’s famous “Naked Guy” personality, case attorneys announced Monday.

Andrew Martinez, a student who attracted national attention in the early ’90s for walking around campus without clothes, suffocated himself with a plastic bag in May 2006 while incarcerated in Santa Clara County Main Jail. Then 33 years old, Martinez had also attempted to commit suicide more than two weeks prior to his death, according to the suit.

His mother, Esther Krenn, filed a suit against the county in May 2007, arguing that jail officials did not notify her of her son’s first suicide attempt and failed to provide adequate care to prevent his death.

Half of the settlement’s monetary compensation will come from the county, while the other half will be paid by the county’s insurer.

Martinez, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1997, had been held in the jail since December 2003 after he allegedly assaulted a staff person in a mental facility.

As part of the settlement, Santa Clara County also agreed to strengthen its practice in notifying family members of inmates’ suicide attempts.

While Martinez was in jail, the county had a routine practice of notifying family members when an inmate attempted suicide if that inmate had previously given consent, said John Winchester, lead deputy county counsel for Santa Clara County.

The settlement will make that practice a formal written policy, he said.

Winchester would not comment on whether Martinez had given consent to notify family members, citing privacy laws.

Geri Lynn Green, Krenn’s attorney, said the county’s willingness to confirm its notification practices was a “win-win for everybody” because it could help families become more involved in the process of caring for suicidal inmates.

“If can you manage to care for many acute mentally ill folks, it helps to have an extra pair of eyes,” Green said. “Family members are coming in and giving people a reason to leave, it helps you do your job.”

According to the lawsuit, after Martinez’s first suicide attempt on May 1, 2006, he told a nurse, “I’m getting prison time. I’m tired of hearing voices. I will do it again if I have the chance.”

Martinez was later taken off his medication for schizophrenia, the lawsuit stated.

He became famous in 1992 after attending class in the nude, which inspired nudist activists and led to his expulsion from UC Berkeley.

Henry K. Lee, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle who covered the “Naked Guy” as a reporter for The Daily Californian, said Martinez was “just part of the Berkeley experience.”

“People would stop and stare and look and laugh-just as the students now who stop and gawk at the preachers,” he said. “He was just a spectacle to behold both in class and in Sproul Plaza.”

Alexandra Wilcox is the assistant news editor. Contact her at

Champion of nudity found dead in jail cell
‘Naked Guy’ won fame in Berkeley, challenged values

Carolyn Jones, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Naked Guy, whose au naturel jaunts through Berkeley spurred a nudity revolt in the early 1990s and earned him national fame, died in a San Jose jail cell, apparently of suicide.

While many chuckled at the exploits of Andrew Martinez, friends and family of the 33-year-old talked Saturday about a troubled man who struggled for years with mental illness.

“He was a person with tremendous gifts and charisma who could have been a great asset to our society, but instead I feel like society — me included — failed him,” said Martinez’s best friend, Bryan Schwartz, a civil rights lawyer in Washington, D.C. “It’s such a waste.”

After his days as the Naked Guy, Martinez spent the next decade bouncing among halfway houses, psychiatric institutions, occasional homelessness and jail, but never getting comprehensive treatment, his family said. His life ended in an apparent suicide Thursday morning.

“It was an endless cycle of trying to get answers but never getting any,” said his mother, who requested that her name not be used. “It was endless, endless, endless.”

Doctors were never able to give Martinez an exact diagnosis, and he struggled for years with his medication. Some periods he was his familiar, lucid self, but other times his mind “seemed to be commanded by an alien spirit,” Schwartz said.

But before his mental illness wreaked havoc on his and his family’s lives, Martinez was a bright, charismatic, sweet-natured youth with a promising future.

“He was such an adorable little boy, such a joy,” said longtime family friend Lee Ann Fagan, a nurse in Sonoma County. “His entire childhood his future seemed so bright.”

A star defensive lineman and straight-A student at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, Martinez was a popular — if nonconformist — figure on campus.

“Everyone loved him. He was warm, positive, brilliant. He was a math whiz even though he barely studied,” Schwartz said. “All the girls were asking him to the prom.”

He never adhered to social norms, however, always “staying true to himself,” Schwartz said. That originality and self-confidence endeared him to his classmates, largely because he was such a kindhearted person.

He planned to study business at UC Berkeley, but once he enrolled he became more interested in academic subjects like rhetoric and sociology.

Martinez earned the moniker “Naked Guy” in 1992 when he was a sophomore and started attending class in the buff, give or take a book bag and sandals. His nakedness was a form of free speech and a challenge to what he called the sexual repression of Western society, he told reporters.

At 6-foot-2, with an athletic physique and handsome face, he gained instant fame on campus and beyond. He appeared in Playgirl magazine, on national TV talk shows and in dozens of newspapers.

“He wanted us to question the things we take for granted about Western values,” Schwartz said. “He wanted to us challenge the norm.”

In typical Berkeley fashion, Martinez’s nudity soon hatched a political movement. In September 1992, Martinez organized a “nude-in” on campus, in which about two dozen people stripped down to their birthday suits to exert their right to free speech. Martinez became a hero to nudity advocates and garnered a devoted following, including the Berkeley performance troupe X-plicit Players.

But unlike many Berkeley radicals, Martinez was never preachy or hostile. He was good-natured, easygoing and upbeat, and didn’t try to force his opinions 0n others, friends said.

Martinez’s run-ins with the law began in the fall of 1992, when he was arrested for indecent exposure while jogging naked near southside dormitories at 11 on a Saturday night.

The charges were dropped, but he was arrested again when he showed up at his court date naked.

Three months later, he was expelled from UC Berkeley for violating a campus code of conduct.

Martinez continued with his academic and athletic activities, however, for about two more years. He competed in judo and was writing a book until his mental illness threw his life into disarray.

On Jan. 10, he was arrested after a fight at a halfway house where he was living and charged with two counts of battery and one count of assault with a deadly weapon. He was in maximum-security custody in Santa Clara County Jail in San Jose.

On Wednesday night, a guard checked on him at 11 p.m. and he was fine, but a few minutes later other inmates reported hearing sounds coming from his cell. An officer returned at 11:19 and found Martinez unconscious. He was taken to Valley Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead early Thursday.

Martinez had been through horrible times in the past 10 years, but even in the throes of psychosis he retained his charisma and generous spirit, his family said.

“I’d send him stuff in jail and he’d give it all away because he knew that so many people there have nothing — no one to visit them, send them things, fight for them,” his mother said. “He always had friends.”

The last time she saw her son was three weeks ago, when she visited him in jail.

“He was sad. He was tired. He said he had had enough,” she said. “I alerted everyone, but nothing happened.”

“You could see it in his eyes — the meds were taking a lot out of him,” Schwartz said. “It’s just such a waste. This never should have happened.”

4 Responses

  1. That is very unfair he spent almost 6 years in jail for an alleged crime. Violent sexual offenders spend less time in jail for their crimes. I guess being schizophrenic is a worse crime than rape. We live in a messed up world.

  2. Thank you very much!

  3. Fabulous, what a weblog it is! This website provides helpful facts to us, keep
    it up.

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