Way back in Beatletime, PHIL VIRDEN had five years of fun before graduating from Oxford and Leicester Universities. For ten years he was a Lecturer in Sociology at York University. In the end he got sick of the ivory tower and it got sick of him. He was illegally sacked and blacklisted in 1980 – the beginning of Thatchertime – and although he never hit it rich he has since been quite happy pursuing a series of different occupations. In the mid-1980s, along with Lin Bigwood and Prof Alex Jenner, he founded Asylum magazine. He was Executive Editor during the magazine’s first six years – that is, also its main secretary, typist, designer and lay-out artist. He contributes the occasional article, and in 2008 again took on the job of Executive Editor.
Poetry & Creative Writing
A founder member of the STEPS self-help group for women for who self-harm, the Liverpool-based radical campaigns group Mad Women and the user-led training organisation harm-ed, Clare has drawn from her academic background as well as her own personal experiences to inform her work and publications around issues including self-harm and the Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis. Creativity is at the heart of Clare’s work – described by the Arvon Foundation as “one of Britain’s most dynamic and powerful young poets”, her first poetry collection, Straight Ahead was published by Bloodaxe in 2006; her second will published in November 2012.
Philip Thomas was a full-time consultant psychiatrist in the NHS for over twenty years, and left clinical practice in 2004 to focus on writing. His main interests are philosophy and its relevance to madness in society. He has worked in alliance with survivors of psychiatry, service users and community groups, nationally and internationally. Until recently he was chair of Sharing Voices Bradford, a community development project working with Black and Minority Ethnic communities. He is a founder member of, and until 2012 co-chair of, the Critical Psychiatry Network. His first book, Dialectics of Schizophrenia was published by Free Association books in 1997, and he has co-authored two other books, Voices of Reason Voices of Insanity with Ivan Leudar, and most recently Postpsychiatry, with Pat Bracken. He is also an honorary visiting professor in the Department of Social Sciences and Humanities in the University of Bradford. and is currently working on two books, one about critical psychiatry and another about madness, meaning and culture.
Members of the Asylum Collective
Dave Harper is a clinical psychologist and has been involved in training NHS clinical psychologists at the University of East London for the last 12 years. He also works in a systemic family therapy team in Newham, East London one session a week. Prior to that he worked in NHS adult mental health services in the North West for nine years. He was a member of the London Critical Mental Health Forum (2001-2005) and has been a member of the Asylum Editorial Collective since 2002.
I am a public health doctor. I believe in promoting the rights of people who are, or have been, psychiatric patients; fighting injustice; and looking at the social context of people’s mental distress. I am interested in alternatives to the ‘medical model’ and have written a book about coping with unusual beliefs called ‘Beyond Belief’ (http://www.peter-lehmann-publishing.com/beyond-belief.htm).
China Mills has been an ally of the user/survivor movement for a number of years, and first came across a copy of Asylum when she was attempting the daunting task of tidying up in the Manchester Hearing Voices Network office. China’s main interests lay with critically exploring the Movement for Global Mental Health, particularly the globalisation of bio-psychiatry, and the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. She recently spent some time in India working with some emerging user/survivor groups there, and exploring some of the many alternatives to psychiatry. China has also worked and done research with children and young people who hear voices. She is deeply committed to finding alterative and democratic ways of working with and living alongside people who experience distress.
Ian Parker is Professor of Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, and helps run the Discourse Unit ( www.discourseunit.com) which is an interdisciplinary networking resource for radical academics, and which hosts Annual Review of Critical Psychology (an open-access peer-reviewed online journal). He was involved in radical psychology groups, including Psychology, Politics, Resistance (whose newsletters on the Discourse Unit site). He is interested in therapy (and is trained as a psychoanalyst), but is more interested in social change (is a Marxist).
Dina Poursanidou has an honorary research appointment at the Centre for Women’s Mental Health in the University of Manchester and also uses mental health services. She has been a university-based contract researcher since 2000. Dina had her first major mental health crisis in 1991 when she was studying for a Master’s degree. Following this crisis, Dina embarked on a long journey of self-discovery and healing which comprised having intensive psychotherapy and completing a PhD on the experience of depression in young people as its vital components. Dina’s second major mental health crisis occurred between July 2008 and June 2010, resulting in a 3-month long detention under a Mental Health Act Section in an acute psychiatric ward, as well as in a 2-year period of unemployment. Following this crisis, Dina worked on a mental health advocacy research project as a service user researcher. Dina is experiencing profound ambivalence towards her mental health service use and her mental illness (for want of a better term) experiences with their catastrophic consequences for every aspect of her life. If madness is a dangerous gift that users of psychiatric services need to embrace, as Mad Pride advocates, then Dina is yet to embrace her own madness.
Hi, I am Sonia. I have been studying Psychology for years now and have engaged in both teaching and practice. For a long time now I have been acutely aware of what Psychology does wrong and how I am a part of it. Being introduced to the Discourse Unit and Asylum made me realise that my distress was shared with others as well. I am looking forward to helping the group in any way I can.
Helen Spandler has been part of the ASYLUM collective for many years. She first stumbled across the magazine while wandering round radical bookstores in London in the late 1980’s. ASYLUM kindly published her rambling undergraduate essay on the German Socialist Patients’ Collective. When she went to Sheffield University in the early 1990’s she met Alec Jenner, Phil Virden and others and got involved in the ASYLUM collective. Members of her close family have used the mental health system, although she wouldn’t call herself a ‘carer’ but more an ally and critical friend of the service user/survivor movement. Helen worked for a number of years in a ‘user involvement’ capacity and now works at the University of Central Lancashire as a researcher and teacher – where she takes every opportunity to promote ASYLUM.
Pauline Whelan is a computer scientist, but secretly she prefers people to machines. She joined the Asylum Collective in 2010, when the website needed a revamp, and she quickly acquired a number of other Asylum Collective tasks…
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