Research on Global Grass-roots Movements by Persons with Psychosocial Disabilities: For the World Which Does not Exclude Anyone
I have encountered activities by persons with psychosocial disabilities in some areas for two years after I entered Ritsumeikan University in April 2015. In a workshop a leader of the organization of persons with psychosocial disabilities in Nepal showed me a video introducing their activities to release persons who were forced to put in a cage with a size of only one person or who were bound to trees. At the plenary of the organization of persons with psychosocial disabilities in Asia, though I had been enthusiastic as an interpreter, I experienced a way of communication using not languages but a traditional musical instrument. I also knew via online that there was a campaign for collecting signatures by the organization of persons with psychosocial disabilities in South Africa, asking for government intervention in an incident that more than 30 persons died for unknown reasons after they were forced to move from a mental hospital to another institution for cost reduction. There is an organization called the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (hereafter WNUSP) which has been the world-scale organization of persons with psychosocial disabilities, who have conducted different activities in different regions, since its establishment in 1991.
I stayed at Wellington in New Zealand for four weeks from August through September 2016. The biggest goal of my visit was to meet Ms. Mary O'Hagan, who was the founding chair of the WNUSP (the name at the time of its inauguration was the World Federation of Psychiatric Users). Through her interview, I knew how the WNUSP was founded. She said that before its founding the World Federation for Mental Health (hereafter WFMH), which had been the joint organization with mental health professionals, persons with psychosocial disabilities and their family members, had had its activities since 1948. In the organization, however, voices of persons with psychosocial disabilities had been hardly heard, although issues concerning psychosocial disabilities had been discussed. The WNUSP was founded in order for opinions of persons with psychosocial disabilities to be reflected in the decision concerning their life. There were some family members who pleaded tearfully for participating in the founding meeting of the WNUSP. However, the WNUSP rejected it because the WNUSP was the organization for persons with psychosocial disabilities themselves. She said that although the WNUSP had hosted its general assembly at the same place where the world congress of the WFMH was held until 1999 due to its financial difficulty, the WNUSP had had its activities as the organization independent from the WFMH since its founding and its recognition had been shared among members of the WNUSP.
As just described, activities by persons with psychosocial disabilities have not necessarily had shared the way of thinking with people who are near them including family members and support professionals. However, research on activities by persons with psychosocial disabilities has been conducted in the framework of psychiatry and social welfare so far. Therefore, organizations and activities which have not been against the value of those studies have been mainly selected as the objects of research. In addition, the study and knowledge have been regarded as the reason that justifies involuntary intervention in persons with psychosocial disabilities for security measures. Thus, it can even be said that research on persons with psychosocial disabilities has been used to oppress them. I seek to reveal that what is a foundation of persons with psychosocial disabilities who are in various situations to build solidarity and how they are going to reform the society, through the history of activities of WNUSP. Members of WNUSP at its inauguration were active mainly in North America and Europe. It is since 2000s that the number of members who are active in Asia, Africa and South America has been increasing rapidly. One of the big issues is to reveal how activities of WNUSP have been changed in this process.
It is for the eight weeks I went to a mental hospital as a clinical trainee of occupational therapy that leads me to start this kind of research and becomes the driving force to keep doing it. At the mental hospital I stayed all doors were locked. When I exchanged waving hands with patients through the glass of the door which was locked or I took out a key to go out with patients, I felt sadness and shame because of the asymmetric relation between patients and me. It is the social movement by persons with psychosocial disabilities that question our norms—we have a key in the society where someone is excluded. In order to discuss the way of the society where people who I met at the mental hospital also can live their life in the places they would like to live, it is necessary to study insistences of persons with psychosocial disabilities.
This research achievement was financially supported by the research fund “international research activities,” a support system for enhancing the research quality of young researchers of the Research Center for Ars Vivendi in the academic year 2016.