Mad Pride’s sixth annual Great Escape Bed Push was held on Saturday. It’s part of a worldwide movement which seeks to eliminate prejudice against the mentally ill.
“Is everyone here mad and proud of it?”
The question, from Ward 14 councillor Gord Perks, instigated a cheer from the Queen Street CAMH grounds on Saturday, where around 200 people gathered for Mad Pride’s sixth annual Great Escape Bed Push.
The Push was a symbolic “escape” from CAMH, complete with participants dressed as patients and nurses, blowing whistles and acting as crazily as possible. Since 2007, it’s been the cornerstone of the city’s annual Mad Pride celebrations—part of a growing worldwide movement which seeks to eliminate prejudice against the mentally ill. Inspired by a similar event founded in 2005 by self-described psychatric survivor Rufus May in England, the parade’s centrepiece was a hospital bed rolled from the CAMH grounds, along Queen Street, to the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC).
The pushers included Perks, MPP Cheri DiNovo, and MP Peggy Nash—Perks has participated every year, and DiNovo has long been involved with the pyschiatric-survivor movement, leading the charge to ban electroshock therapy.
Other participants included Richard-Yves Sitoski, a mental health activist from Owen Sound who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, acute anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. He says he faced prejudice at work that eventually ended his career. “I’ve watched my career trajectory go from white collar to blue collar to no collar,” he said.
Victor Willis, executive director at PARC, explained that “psychiatric survivor” is not an anti-psychiatric term.
“If you have a broken leg, you’re probably not going to get misdiagnosed,” Willis said. “But if you’ve got a mental health experience, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to be appropriately identified. So how about getting the wrong diagnosis, getting the wrong treatment, feeling very much like you’ve lost your rights, [then] all of a sudden you lose your friends, you lose your family, you lose your income. If you can survive that, you deserve to be called a survivor.”