Mel Starkman was born in Toronto in 1942 and died there in 2019 at age 76. Mel was an archivist, an activist, and a person who struggled with longterm mental health difficulties.
Mel graduated from the University of Toronto in the 1960s and taught at history and English Downsview Collegiate before working as archivist, first for the Province of Ontario and then at his alma mater. Hospitalized in the early 1970s and then again in the 1980s, Mel was a true survivor – an active member of On Our Own, a writer for Phoenix Rising, an organizer for the 10th Annual International Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression, and a founder of the Psychiatric Survivor Archives of Toronto.
In his 2009 interview Mel told this story, with emphasis on mad history and mad archives and his activism for better housing in Toronto for marginalized people, particularly in Parkdale. His interview contains moving descriptions of living with mental health differences, detailing his first breakdown, and subsequent periods of hospitalization and recovery. Mel also spoke about treatment options, i.e. ECT and Lithium, that were available at different points in his life. The importance of friendship and supportive community are strong themes in Mel’s interview.
Key Words: mental health, Sound Times, PARC, St Christopher House, Alf Jackson, David Reville, Mad Market, On Our Own, University of Toronto, Mel Starkman, mad history, mad archives, teaching, disability history, PSAT, Psychiatric Survivors Archives of Toronto, Toronto, Branson Hospital, ECT, Clark Institute, hospital, Parkdale, Don Weitz, psychiatry, friendship, community, activism, psychiatric survivor activism, Phoenix Rising, Janet Brill, Geoffrey Reaume, radical history, housing, Gerstein Centre.