Call Me Crazy, 1997

Call Me Crazy: Stories from the Mad Movement

Irit Shimrat, Editor
Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers, 1997

book cover with yellow moon on black background and Call Me Crazy titleCall Me Crazy: Stories from the Mad Movement is a seminal volume on Canada’s shelf of mad publications. Editor Irit Shimrat had the perfect resume for creating this important collection. She had edited the Toronto-based psychiatric-survivor newspaper Phoenix Rising, coordinated the Ontario Psychiatric Survivors’ Alliance, trained in book editing and design, and had spent time in several psychiatric facilities in the late 1970s. The last experience was devastating for Shimrat, and she has remained a very public anti-psychiatry activist.  If you meet Irit Shimrat, she will likely introduce herself as an escaped lunatic.

With a Canada Council Explorations grant in her pocket, Shimrat traveled to western, northern and central regions of the country interviewing people who had been similarly politicized by harsh encounters with the mental health system.  Many of them were based on connections from her work in the mad movement, but others were exciting new encounters, like Judi Johnny in Whitehorse, and Paul Morin and Les frères et soeurs d’Emile Nelligan in Quebec. The finished volume is part memoir, part collective biography, showcasing the life stories of key community activists in Canada’s mental health world at the millennium.

Writing about the project in 2013, Shimrat recalled the comradery of meeting other psychiatric survivors during her travels, the support of the women at Press Gang, and the grateful letters she received from others who had suffered in the psychiatric system.