Lesson One: Activism
Approximately one hour
Opener: Introduction (5-10 minutes)
- Ask students to name groups that have banded together to demand change or that their rights be recognized in the sixties or seventies.
- List them on the board or overhead. Possible answers include: environmental groups such as Greenpeace, women’s liberation groups, First Nations, Gays and Lesbians, and various ethnic groups.
- Explain to students that another group that became active during the time period that dealt with the rights of people in the mental health system.
Activity 1: “Psych Survivor Activism Video” (15-20 minutes)
- Inform the learners that they will be watching interviews of activists in the anti-psychiatric movement. Ask them to identify issues and to find examples of stigma
- Ask students to infer why and how each person became an activist
- Show “Psych Survivor Activism- History of Madness” (2010, approximately 15 minutes)
Discussion: Reaction to the Video (10-15 minutes)
- After the video ask students:
- for examples of discrimination and stigma. Record answers on chart paper and keep until final lesson.
- what made people move beyond seeing their mental health difficulties as more than just a personal story?
- how is this activism the same and what makes it different from other movements (based on students prior knowledge)?
- explore Pat Capponi’s statement about the necessity for leaders to go first
- discuss the snowball effect (exponential growth after momentum begins)
- what was the point of the ex-patient movement? What goals did these activists have?
- Discuss the importance and power of language (see Background Information for Teachers), for example the reclaiming of ‘mad,’ the use of words such as ‘incarcerated’.
Activity 2: Interpreting Cartoons – Power in Numbers (20 -25 minutes)
- Show students a cartoon from Phoenix Rising “The Movement” (PR_The_Movement_Cartoon). Together, look at the elements of the cartoon to interpret it fully. For example, the variety of people depicted= many people’s lives are affected by psychiatric consumption and survival, or the phoenix as a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings
- Divide students into three groups and provide each group with a blown up version of cartoons that appeared in Phoenix Rising (Rights 1, graphic, Phoenix Rising, 1983, 3, 4.; Rights 2, graphic, Phoenix Rising, 1983, 3, 4.; Rights 3, graphic, Phoenix Rising, 1983, 3, 4.)
- Give each group time to interpret the cartoon and then present it to the class
- Conclude by discussing how change can be effected when people work together. Ask, how do people become politicized?
Closing: The Problems Activists Faced (5- 10 minutes)
- Ask students to identify problems that (ex-)patient activists might have faced.
- Look for answers that reflect an understanding that the stigma patients faced hampered their efforts.
- Insightful students will also realize that the lack of an easily identifiable group (as compared to women or ethnic minorities) might also affect group development.
Reaching All Learners
- This activity should be accessible to most learners.
- Some students may benefit from whole class interpretation of the cartoons, allowing teacher direction in inferring from the cartoons.
Resources for Lesson One, Activism
- Psych Survivor Activism- History of Madness