SHIMRAT, Irit





Call Me Crazy (Press Gang $16.95)
Article



Irit Shimrat is active in the Mad Movement — an international coalition of former mental patients and their allies who oppose forced drugging, solitary confinement, electroshock and other alleged psychiatric abuses.
As a young woman, Shimrat spent two years in psychiatric wards. “I went crazy in 1978, and again in 1979,” she says. She was locked up in a total of three psychiatric facilities until 1980. Call Me Crazy (Press Gang $16.95) is the story of her escape from institutionalization and her subsequent involvement in the Canadian psychiatric survivors' movement.
The anti psychiatry movement argues that 'mental illness' is a lucrative and socially constructed myth rather than a genetic or bio chemical brain defect. “Call Me Crazy is about people who have done an unusual thing: we stopped being mental patients,” writes Shimrat. “That's not supposed to happen, since mental illness is supposed to be an incurable biological disease.”
Shimrat maintains that the concept of mental illness is useful in generating a great deal of money for drug companies, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and others associated with the mental health field.
According to Shimrat, “Psychiatric treatment seeks to help (or make) people conform to social norms. It aims to produce successful, productive people who can function and fit in.
But what if social norms need to change in order for the world to become a better place?"
Shimrat, who recently moved to the West Coast, was editor of Phoenix Rising: The Voice of the Psychiatrized from 1986 to 1990. She co ordinated the Ontario Psychiatric Survivors' Alliance and her writing has been anthologized in Shrink Resistant (New Star).

[BCBW 1997]