Making Madness Political

Making Madness Political Unit

Green Chinese takeaway boxTakeaways

  • Understand activism as pragmatic and strategic rather than just ideological and/or dogmatic
  • Appreciate the personally transformative impact of community change work
  • Explain between the role of media and popular culture inside marginalized groups and outside the mad movement as shaping broader societal attitudes

Three green gears working togetherComponents

David Reville’s dynamic scrapbook displays his quest to Make Madness Political using 60 components – video and audio clips, photographs, and documents of all kinds. We provide a sample below, but educators and students can find the whole set in Components: Self-Guided.

Black, green, purple book cover with graphic
Landmark volume -1988
Cartoon of Reville with big broom and quote "The man who revels in sweeping" with many signatures
Reville Departs City Hall for Provincial Politics – 1985.
Poster featuring woman with dark eye makeup advertising "This is Madness!" art exhibit
Student Art Show, Ryerson – 2010

And in the madness world, not much was happening in the early 70s until Hollywood made “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.“  Here is a sample video clip of Reville recalling how the Canadian media discovered him:

Green kitchen weigh scaleEvaluating the Components

Green hand-held magnifying glassLearning Lens

Project community expert David Reville wrote a 6,000-word autobiography for History in Practice, making an argument that mental health must be understood as political.  He then worked with post-secondary student Bryn Coates-Davies and historian Megan Davies to turn his essay into a dynamic archival scrapbook of audio and video-taped oral history excerpts, photographs and political ephemera.  The result is a rich set of documents, photographs and spoken memories that are excellent lecture or project materials, helping students appreciate community change work as multi-faceted and as transformative – both for individuals and for groups of people.  This unit also speaks to what allows people like Reville to emerge as strong community leaders and to stay active: education, community, institutional support, key allies and mentors.

successive head and shoulders photographs of a man at different ages

Three green gears working together within a picture frameComponents in Context

Born in 1943, David Reville’s psychiatric history dates back to the mid-1960s, when he spent two years in the Kingston Psychiatric Hospital.  His post-asylum life story is a history of the rise of a national mad movement in Canada, but it is also the tale of a remarkable and inspirational individual who has refused to accept the stigmatizing labels associated with a mental health diagnosis. “Crazy like a fox,” Reville is a former plumber and politician, a “mad” scholar, teacher and activist, community consultant for organizations like CMHA and CAMH, and an important and influential elder on the Canadian and international mad scene.  In 2015 Queen’s University awarded him an honorary doctorate.  Reville’s activism maps onto major mental health issues and events on the national and local scene.