Lanny Beckman Papers

Lanny Beckman Papers, circa 1970-1975.

young man with long dark hair and glasses, 1970s styleBorn in 1942 and raised in Vancouver, Lanny Beckman was a bright student who went on to study psychology at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in the early 1960s. Part of a “bohemian” crowd interested in film, art and politics, he took roles in director Larry Kent’s pioneering Canadian films. Lanny encountered radical ideas about race and student activism as a graduate student at the State University of New York at Buffalo, then worked as writer and host for the 1968 CBC television series A Little Learning when he returned to study at UBC.  He received a BA (Psychology) in 1964 and an MA (Psychology) in 1971.

By 1970 mental health difficulties had derailed Lanny’s hopes for a mainstream career, forcing him to seek new life work and reconsider his sense of self. An emerging analysis of the place of the patient in the mainstream mental health system, and of the need for a patient-directed organization, was intimately connected to these processes. In early 1971 Lanny joined with fellow patients from a day program in Burnaby, BC, reaching out progressive Vancouver Sun columnist Bob Hunter for publicity, and launching what was to become MPA or the Mental Patient’s Association – one of the first patient-led mental health groups in the world.  Lanny stayed with MPA until 1974.  From 1975 until 1990 he was editor and publisher of Vancouver’s progressive New Star Press, shepherding Shrink Resistant, English Canada’s first collection of mad memoirs, through the publication process. During the 1980s he published a number of articles presenting critical perspectives on mental health in left-wing Canadian periodicals including This Magazine and Canadian Dimension. These articles are collected in the Voices section of our Resources. In 2000 Lanny was awarded the Pioneers Award by the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities.

Lanny was a key (and inspirational) community expert in the After the Asylum Project.  In additional to helping us make a historical documentary about MPA, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, and co-authoring a book chapter about making the film, he generously shared four boxes of files from his time at MPA with us. These files include important early organizational material about MPA, but also unpublished writing by Lanny, information about other mental health issues and projects which engaged Lanny and MPA at the time. A notebook he kept during the early months of MPA’s formation and a handful of documents were discovered later in the After the Asylum Project, and his set of early issues of MPA’s monthly publication In A Nutshell were also collected. These materials are included here as well.

Click on the links in the right hand menu to read descriptions of this material and review the documents themselves.