Being Present with the Past
Transforming the Future of Community Mental Health
On Monday, January 12th, 2018 a unique two-part event, Being Present with the Past: Transforming the Future of Community Mental Health was held at Gallery Gachet for approximately thirty individuals with lived, professional, and research experience in the field of mental health in Vancouver. A private viewing of the multi-media living history exhibit Mad City: Legacies of MPA, Canada’s first survivor-led mental health organization, was followed by a post-exhibit guided discussion to envision new possibilities in Vancouver’s current community mental health context.
At the time, growing awareness about mental health, increased federal funding, and a new provincial ministry in BC dedicated to addressing mental health and substance use signaled prospects for positive change. Taking this as a moment of opportunity, organizers Susan Heximer and Marina Morrow, envisioned the event as a dialogue. Pulling in 30 participants from across the city, Being Present with the Past: Transforming the Future of Community Mental Health generated concrete ideas and best principles for building a more democratic and socially just community mental health system.
On the night of the event as people arrived at the Gallery, they were ushered in to view the Mad City: Legacies of the MPA exhibit, and were then transported to the recreated MPA Drop-In space. Gallery visitors then became active participants in facilitated small-group discussions framed around aspirational questions that invited reflection. Participants were asked to consider how the egalitarian values, novel ideas, and path-breaking programs of a project from forty years ago might be applied to present-day Vancouver, where poverty, homelessness, mental health problems and high death rates from substance use create unjust social and health inequities. Breakout-group highlights shared with the whole group reflected their vibrant conversations.
The results of the event are chronicled in our Final Report: Being Present with the Past: Transforming the Future of Community Mental Health.