History of the MPA Society
As a patient in a day-care program, Lanny Beckman experienced an alienation and powerlessness that led to a general lack of faith in organized mental health services. Specifically, Lanny and several fellow outpatients found their day program inadequate since crises often arose on evenings and weekends when hospital staff were unavailable. Also it was against the rules for patients to have personal or even telephone contact with one another outside of the institution....
"Our principles have been damaged by the funding. The residents don't have the say in things like they used to. We have to keep lots of records that we didn't have to keep before. We used to just be able to budget the way a family does, but now it's more of a business type thing. What can you do with a twenty-five dollar a month 'comfort allowance'? This way, it's just like being in a boarding home."
- Linda, a resident
The suicides of two fellow patients, on weekends, prompted both a strong emotional response and the clandestine circulation of a patients' phone list. As time passed, the group found more real support from their informal network than the therapy they received during the hospital hours. They decided to try to find other people who were dissatisfied with established psychiatric treatment. With the help of others, notably Barry Couil, and a sympathetic newspaper columnist, an open meeting was publicized. More than 75 people turned up, and out of their collective dissent and desire to provide services for themselves, MPA was born.
One man offered the use of his house at low rent, and it was set up as a meeting place, 24 hr crisis center and 10 bed residence. A grant from the graduating class of University of British Columbia, and various donations took care of the rent and furnishings initially. Funding was secured from the Company of Young Canadians for 2 nominal salaries, but much of the work was done by volunteers. Incorporation as a non-profit society with a constitution and a 5 member board sped up the move to a more stable financial situation. The objectives of the society were established as:
- To assist in the rehabilitation and promote the welfare of mental patients and former mental patients.
- To establish and operate social, vocational, recreational, residential and emergency facilities.
- To acquire funds and other assistance.
- To print, publish and distribute literature.
"This is a group that's really being run by 'crazy' people. I mean, it just seems that if you put all those ingredients together you are just going to have a disaster on your hands in no time. It didn't happen that way. It all worked. There were continual crises and continual resolutions of these crisis. I remember it as a very exciting time, a time of us really understanding that it's possible to put together an organization and a set of services really are superior in a lot of ways to existing services - a place where people really did feel some involvement. A whole lot of people came that had never had any sense of power in their lives before."
- Lanny Beckman