Madness Network News Revisited
By David Gonzalez, Activist
An Historic and Unprecedented Opportunity
Advocacy is both paramount and essential to human dignity and survival. There are those who advocate for others or believe that they are advocates for others who are unable to advocate for themselves and then there are those who tenaciously and vigorously advocate for themselves. Fortunately, I have almost always been of the latter, although I’m not ashamed to admit that there have also been times when I have desperately needed others to advocate for me.
Then there is activism. Wiki.answers.com defines activism: “Activism is similar to advocacy but where it differs is really the heart of activism. Activism usually involves more action that is direct in addressing issues, in a community for example. Activism is often done by people from within the effected community whereas advocacy is done both by people from within and without the effected communities.”
“Acting on my vision” my first act of activism as a mental health recipient was writing an article for a former NYC Department of Mental Hygiene's Office of Consumer Affair's newsletter in 1999 titled “You Have the Right to Remain Silent.” That was nearly 15 years ago. And while I have also been an unrelenting advocate for others on many occasions, my motivating passion for advocacy was affecting change through activism. But then unexpectedly, without warning, tragedy struck and my health took a devastating turn for the worse. As a result of my deteriorating condition I was physically disabled, unable to sustain full-time employment, and compelled to apply for disability benefits. My driving passion for activism had come to a sudden and screeching halt.
Spending the next couple of years attempting to regain my health and restore my passion to live, I had ample time to read and browse through saved copies of Madness Network News which my close friend and mentor, Ron Schraiber, had stored away in his archives. Ron has always been a major part of my support network and an unending source of information and inspiration for me. I was amazed by the list of authors who had penned articles for Madness Network News. They were highly respected pioneers in the “consumer empowerment” movement such as: Leonard Roy Frank (The History of Shock Treatment), Judi Chamberlin (On Our Own), Howie the Harp and Sally Zinman (Reaching Across: Mental Health Clients Helping Each Other) and a litany of other well-known activists and pioneers too long to list here.
To my dismay I discovered that this publication was no longer available to the general public, and so I sought out Leonard Roy Frank to explore the possibility of making Madness Network News once again available to the public in textbook format. I was elated and overjoyed when Leonard expressed interest and even supplied the missing MNN newspapers that I did not have access to. To my amazement, my passion for activism reignited. I purchased all the necessary hardware and software and I painstakingly began to scan, crop and resize every single page of Madness Network News. And as a direct result of Leonard and Ron’s unwavering support and assistance, the first copy of MNN in textbook format (which consists of the full six issues of Volume #4) was printed in October and is currently available. The remaining seven volumes, which contain all the remaining MNN issues, are ready for printing and publication. MNN truly embodied the essence of “nothing about us without us.” (If you would like to take advantage of this unique opportunity to purchase any of these volumes and to own a piece of our history please contact: MadnessNetworkNews@gmail.com)
The introduction to Madness Network News Volume#4 reads: “Madness Network News (MNN) began as a San Francisco Bay area newsletter in 1972 and then evolved into a quarterly newspaper whose readership extended to a national as well as an international level. MNN became, in essence, the voice and networking center for the “mental patient” liberation movement in the United States, unapologetically advocating for the full human dignity, self-expression and civil rights of people diagnosed and labeled as mentally ill. As a quarterly journal, Madness Network News published personal experiences, creative writing, art, political theory, and factual reporting from the point of view of people who had been on the receiving end of psychiatric treatment and who now found themselves treated as social pariahs, living in oppressive conditions and denied even the most basic aspects of personal choice and self-determination. Known for its use of humor and sense of irony, MNN wrote on its masthead that it covered All the Fits That's News to Print. Ceasing publication in 1986, Madness Network News remains an invaluable historical and primary source material that continues to elucidate the concerns and lives of people diagnosed and labeled as mentally ill both in the past and today.”