of the Consumer Movement
There is a growing movement throughout the United States
(and the world) of people calling themselves consumers,
survivors, or ex-patients--who have been diagnosed with
mental disorders and are working together to make change
in the mental health system and in society. The consumer
movement grew out of the idea that individuals who have
experienced similar problems, life situations, or crises
can effectively provide support to one another. According
Sally Clay, one of the
leaders of this movement,
Communities began 25 years ago with the anti-psychiatry
movement. In the 1980's, ex-mental patients began
to organize drop-in centers, artistic endeavors,
and businesses. Now hundreds of such groups are flourishing
throughout the country. Our conferences (many sponsored
by NIMH) have been attended by thousands of people.
More and more, consumers participate in the rest
of the mental health system as members of policy-making
boards and agencies.
When it began, there was an initial hostility toward
the mental health system, but the consumer movement
has evolved into a recovery model that encompasses
everyone involved in caring for people with mental
From around the country, people who had been in treatment
for schizophrenia and other forms of serious mental
illness began coming out of the shadows and identifying
ourselves. We were no longer willing to remain hiding,
quietly suffering the ridicule and hostility that too
often characterize people's reactions to serious mental
illness. Slowly, we began to organize, forming local,
state, and then national organizations for recovering
persons and our allies. We advocated, trying to regain
our rights as human beings. For the most part, the more
articulate consumer-advocates felt that professionals,
who so readily dismissed our point-of-view when we had
been patients, were not to be trusted. Many of us felt
we could make it "on our own." And why not?
All of us had been diagnosed with having serious mental
illnesses...About twelve years ago, however, some consumer-advocates
began to suggest that many of us, particularly those
who were most disabled, could not so easily make it
"on our own."We suggested that most of us
did indeed need other people: family members, friends,
and often the help of experienced mental health professionals.
The importance of the consumer movement has been recognized
and documented by mainstream mental health, such as
in the Surgeon
history by the consumer organization--National Empowerment
QUIZ EXERCISE 4: Origins of the Recovery Movement
recovery movement originally derives from:
a) Freud b) Kraepelin c) American Psychiatric
Association d) consumers
your answer for later insertion into the
Example and Advocate
Frederick Frese,PhD is a vocal example of the recovery
model. Thirty years ago, he was locked up in an Ohio
psychiatric hospital, dazed and delusional, with paranoid
In March of 1966,
I was a young Marine Corps security officer. I was
responsible for guarding atomic weapons at a large
Naval Air base and had just been selected for promotion
to the rank of Captain. One day, during a particularly
stressful period, I made a "discovery" that
certain high-ranking American officials had been
hypnotized by our Communist enemies and were attempting
to compromise this country's nuclear capabilities.
Shortly after deciding to reveal my discovery, I
found myself locked away in the seclusion room of
the base's psychiatric ward, diagnosed with schizophrenia.
This was the beginning of my official life as a person
with serious mental illness. After about six months
I was released from the psychiatric ward at the U.S.
Naval Hospital at Bethesda, Maryland, and from the
Marine Corps. During the following ten years I was
repeatedly re-hospitalized and released from a variety
of psychiatric facilities around the country. Most
of these hospitalizations were involuntary.
Twelve years later, he had become the chief psychologist
for the very mental hospital system that had confined
him. Along the way, despite 10 other hospitalizations,
he married, had four children and earned a master's
degree and doctorate. He is currently an active consumer
advocate for the recovery model.
story of Frederick J. Frese, PhD
The stigmatizing of people with mental disorders has
persisted throughout history. It is manifested by bias,
distrust, stereotyping, fear, embarrassment, anger,
and/or avoidance. Stigma leads others to avoid living,
socializing or working with, renting to, or employing
people with mental disorders, especially severe disorders
such as schizophrenia. It reduces a person's access
to resources and opportunities (e.g., housing, jobs)
and leads to low self-esteem, isolation, and hopelessness.
It deters the public from seeking, and wanting to pay
for, care. In its most overt and egregious form, stigma
results in outright discrimination and abuse. More
tragically, it deprives people of their dignity and
interferes with their full participation in society.
Stigma Clearinghouse Antistigma home page
This Clearinghouse tracks stigmatizing stereotypes
of mental illness in the media and provides information
about stigma to concerned activists. It focuses on
inaccurate images of mental illness in news, advertising,
and entertainment media but also include articles and
news on stigma.
QUIZ EXERCISE 5: Stigma in the Media
On the National
Stigma Clearinghouse home page (near the top),
they cite a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation survey
that the public's primary source of information
about mental illness is: a) magazines b) NIMH
c) friends d) mass media
your answer for later insertion into the
Roots of Stigma
The Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health includes
a section on stigmatization of people with mental disorder.
Mutual support is another foundation of the mental
health consumer movement. Throughout the the world,
consumers are creating self-help groups (also called
support groups, peer-run services, consumer-run services,
and alternative services).
National Mental Health Consumers'
This consumer-run national center serves the mental
health consumer movement. They help connect individuals
to self-help and advocacy resources, and offer expertise
to self-help groups and other peer-run services for
mental health consumers. Self-help groups have proven
to be effective on a number of levels:
act of joining together with others who have walked
in your shoes enables individuals to recognize that
they are not alone.
in the mental health system often do not have the support
of family and friends. Self-help groups can provide
the support that may be missing from these other systems.
groups offer a safe place for self-disclosure.
groups encourage personal responsibility and control
over one's own treatment. Because group members are
actively helping others, they gain a sense of their
contrast to the professional/client relationship, members
of self-help groups are equals.
The Clearinghouse has developed the Freedom Self-Advocacy
Curriculum, a complete set of free online training
materials for teaching consumers how to advocate for