Thursday, 5 November 2009

Mad Toronto visit - Days 2 and 3

Hi there! Well we have had another two jam packed days. There is just so much to learn here, so many parallels. Let me give you a rundown of where we have been and who we have met...

Yesterday began with attending the biggest mental health conference in Ontario. This was in a major downtown hotel and David managed to get us tickets, which ordinarily would cost $300 per day. The title of the course was "Making Gains in Mental Health" and it was a three day event. We heard Mary Walsh, a Canadian survivor and comic who was very cutting and funny. Next was the panel David was chairing on Poverty and Mental Health and Addictions. There was a panel of experts in the field including the first representative of the Canadian Medical Association, which was a big deal. Jeoff Turnball from CMA talked of poverty as a predictor of health and how it is a human rights issue. This rights issue was picked up by another panel member from Quebec who has been working on poverty legistlation. There were two representatives from Voices from the Street" who both had lived experience of mental health issues and homelessness. They talked about how poverty "steals from your soul, robs you off all good. Life becomes a daily struggle and you become a non person". He said poverty needs investment and the reivew of the system (benefits/social assistance)must be bold. He urged for more peer support and how the system does not encourage people off welfare.

One of the comments was from Becky MacFarlane, a survivor who also works at OCAB (Ontario Council fro Alternative Businesses). She said the whole system prioritises service provision, rather than including people in making the services better. She also said we need more peer support and that we need to employ survivors in organisations not jusst in a tokenistic way. Another delegate talked of the discrimination in emergency rooms/hospitals and how this needs to be a reportable offence. Another delegate talked powerfully of the First Nations experience of poverty in Canada.

We had a chance to meet a number of people and then we headed off to the Raging Spoon Cafe, a survivor run cafe, for lunch. WOW!! What a place!!! It has been redecorated since "Working Like Crazy" and is a very stylish space. We met Liz the manager and Becky her assistance. We also met Michael who runs the catering side of the business. We had a fantastic lunch there and it was just so great to be there after seeing it in the film.

After lunch David drove us to the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) which is the main mental health hospital in Toronto. The site is massive and is undergoing a reprovisioning (sound familiar???) They have already closed some buildings. David gave us a tour as we went past - including the original wall that was built by survivors of bricks from the old asylum. There was also two old buildings, the only remaining buildings from the asylum.

We walked through the corridors and came to the EMPOWERMENT COUNCIL office (I suppose this is the equivalent of our Patients' Councils) There we met Lucy Costa who is the SYSTEMIC advocacy worker there. We had never heard this term before, it is similar to collective advocacy in that it deals with macro rather than micro issues. I beliveve some of the issues the Empowerment Council deals with have recently been around construction a Patients Bill of RIGHTS, medication issues and a big issue at the moment is the law and judicial system. Lucy is also who set up the Mad Students Society so it was exciting to meet her. We also met by Diana Caponi (who was in Working Like Crazy, at that time she worked for The Ontario Council of Alternative Businesses) Diana now works at CAMH in HR and part of her remit is to facilitate the recruitment of survivors into CAMH. She is developing the peer suppport programme at CAMH and also was involved in the redevelopment of a major space within the hospital.

We had a fascinating talk with Lucy and Diana and also toured an exhibition in the hospital about the history of the asylum and the opening of CAMH and now the future development plans. We were also given a tour of the space Diana was involved in redevloping, The Mall, which used to be horrible canteen likened by Diana to a prison canteen. It is now an inspiring and wonderful space. There is a piece of a wooden spiral staircase saved from the old asylum mounted on the conceret wall which was very effective. There is internet access for patients (unsupervised, which was a huge coup apparantly) lovely chairs and tables and plants. There is the Out of This World Cafe which is one of the most successful survivor run businesses in Toronto. There is also a survivor run information centre which we thought was totally fantastic.

Today, Day 3, was action packed also! We were given a talk by Jen Poole (a self described "Mad prof" in Social Work) and Jenna Reid who is a Mad masters student in social work at Ryerson. They are currently doing research into the experience of mad students and have as part of a pilot project interviewed 8 students and are now at the data analysis stage. It was very interesting to hear about this.

We then went back to the Raging Spoon for lunch, again delicious. Adrienne and I then interviewed Michael, the Catering Manager about his work. This included a run down of his responsibilites, challenges in managing a team of survivors and the impact working here has had on him.

After this we hot tailed it to A-Way Express, another surivor business featured in Working Like Crazy. We were all very star struck meeting all these Mad Film Stars! We were met with very warm hospitality and had a coffee in their welcoming kitchen/lounge complete with a tank full of turtles. We were given the exciting news that since Working Like Crazy A Way are now expanding further and are wanting to move and set up another business. They are moving soon to a new building, a church with huge floor space and will set up a Gallery/Cafe and also have extended space for A-Way. This was so exciting to hear.

We were shown a new DVD made about AWay and were kindly given a copy. We were also able to ask questions about Away and were given an excellent tour of the premesis. A Way has been in operation for 22 years and we saw them at a critical point in their history, just before they move to their new premisis and begin a new chapter.

I'd just like at this stage to say a HUGE THANKYOU to everyone we have met so far, of course especially David and Kathryn, those who arranged ticket for the conference, Liz, Chelsea and Michael at The Spoon, Diana and Lucy at CAMH, Jen Poole and Jenna for their talk and Laurie, Tim, Hazel, Jim at A-Way. Phew! I hope I haven't missed someone out!

1 comment:

Realtor Toronto said...

Sounds like a nice experience so far. I really hope you are enjoying Toronto, you sure seem to. I will check your blog for more posts about it and also pictures.