Collecting area: Disability Page 3 of 3
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Risser, Pat

Pat Risser Papers

1987-2015
4 boxea 4 linear feet
Call no.: MS 987

A leading voice in the psychiatric survivor movement, Pat Risser worked for years in the cause of civil rights and peer self-help for people with psychiatric disabilities. An Ohioan by birth, Risser suffered severe abuse as a child and was diagnosed with “schizophrenia” in his twenties, although he wrote that his diagnosis changed with each new doctor or therapist. Finding his condition worsen the deeper he became involved in the mental health system, Risser discovered the value of peer self-help in the early 1980s and became one of the first students in the Consumer Case Manager Aide program, where he trained to work as a professional mental health provider. A dynamic leader, he helped start dozens of self-help peer support groups in Colorado, founded several drop-in centers, and established seventeen Alliance for the Mentally Ill groups. His reputation led to his recruitment to become Director of Mental Health Consumer Concerns, a patients-rights advocacy program in California, with which he enjoyed enormous success. In 1996, he relocated to Oregon and although “semi-retired” due to poor health, he continued to work at the state and national level on mental health issues, becoming chair of Clackamas County Mental Health Council, acting as a mental health consultant, and writing and speaking on a range of topics. Risser died in 2016 at the age of 63.

Primarily a digital archive, the Pat Risser papers contain the writings and correspondence of a significant figure in the history of disability rights. Working in Colorado, California, Oregon, and Ohio, Risser was an early adopter of online technologies to communicate with fellow activists and to raise awareness about the pitfalls of the mental health system. The collection includes several important autobiographical essays by Risser.

Gift of Patricia Sandoval through Steve Stone, Oct. 2017

Subjects

  • Antipsychiatry
  • Ex-mental patients
  • People with disabilities--Civil rights
  • Psychiatric survivors movement

Types of material

  • Born digital
Unzicker, Rae

Rae Unzicker Papers

1979-1997
1 box 1.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 818
Image of Rae Unzicker
Rae Unzicker

Rae Unzicker’s exposure to the psychiatric system began at a young age. Growing up in an abusive home, her parents sent her to psychiatrists off and on for years before she was involuntarily committed. While there, she was quickly introduced to the chaotic and damaging atmosphere of a psychiatric institution, exposing her to mandatory drugs, seclusion rooms, forced feeding, and work “therapy” that required her to wash dishes six hours a day. Once she was release, Unzicker’s road to recovery was long, but after several suicide attempts and stays at other treatment facilities, she ultimately counted herself–along with her friend Judi Chamberlin, an early leader in the movement–a psychiatric survivor. Like Chamberlin, Unzicker embraced her role as an advocate of patient’s rights and for the radical transformation of the mental-health system. In 1995, President Clinton appointed her to the National Council on Disability; two years later she was elected president of the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA). Unzicker was widely known for her public appearances, conferences and speeches, and her writings, including numerous articles and contributions to the book Beyond Bedlam: Contemporary Women Psychiatric Survivors Speak Out. A survivor of cancer of the jaw and breast, Rae Unzicker died at her home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on March 22, 2001 at the age of 52.

Although a small collection, Rae Unzicker’s papers document her activities as a leading advocate for the rights of mental health patients, including transcripts of speeches and videotaped appearances, correspondence and feedback related to workshops and conferences, press kits, and newspaper clippings. The most important materials, however, are her writings. It is through her poems and her full-length memoir, You Never Gave Me M & M’s, that Unzicker’s story and voice are preserved.

Subjects

  • Antipsychiatry
  • Ex-mental patients
  • People with disabilities--Civil rights
  • People with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.
  • Psychiatric survivors movement

Contributors

  • Unzicker, Rae

Types of material

  • Memoirs
  • Videotapes
White Light Communications

White Light Communications Collection

1989-1999
150 items 54 linear feet
Call no.: MS 984

A not-for-profit media company based in Burlington, Vermont, White Light Communications produced dozens of videos during the late 1980s and early 1990s reflecting the voices and experiences of psychiatric survivors. With initial funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, Executive Director Paul Engels and his colleagues, all psychiatric survivors themselves, built a fully-equipped television production studio and conducted nearly one hundred interviews with ex-patients and leaders in the antipsychiatry movement. Although most of the interviews were conducted in Burlington, they also produced documentaries, and covered national events such as the final two Alternatives conferences and “Self Help Live,” a broadcast that focused on highlighting consumer/survivor leaders.

The hundreds of video interviews and other productions that comprise the White Light Communications collection were produced by, for, and about psychiatric survivors. Paul Engels interviewed nearly a hundred ex-patients including important leaders in the movement such as Judi Chamberlin, Sally Zinman, Howie the Harp, and George Ebert, and several episodes focused on the mental health system and activism in Vermont. The subjects of the interviews range widely from homelessness to involuntary treatment, peer support, suicide, surviving the mental health system, and the history of the psychiatric survivors movement.

Gift of Paul Engels, May 2017

Subjects

  • Antipsychiatry
  • Civil rights movements--United States
  • Ex-mental patients
  • Mental health services--United States
  • Mental illness--Alternative treatment
  • Mentally ill--Social conditions
  • Psychiatric survivors movement

Contributors

  • Chamberlin, Judi, 1944-2010
  • Dart, Justin, 1930-2002
  • Ebert, George
  • Engels, Paul
  • Millett, Kate
  • Zinman, Sally

Types of material

  • Oral histories (Document genres)
  • U-matic
  • Videotapes
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