MPA – In A Nutshell Collection, 1971-1981
Vancouver’s MPA (Mental Patients Association) was founded in 1971 as a grassroots response to deinstitutionalization and tragic gaps in community mental health. The group put former patients and lay allies in charge of its many successful social, housing, and employment projects, and in the process challenged the power of psychiatry.
MPA began published a newsletter within a few months. By July 1972 it had shifted to a tabloid format. In a Nutshell gave voice to patients’ views on psychiatry and mental health policy and never shied away from critically examining the group itself. But the pages of Nutshell, as it was called by members, also came alive with art and poetry. It was very meaningful to members to have a sketch or piece of prose appear on the pages of what was essentially their community newspaper.
Nutshell was read by mental health patients and – as the mailing address on this issue indicates – by health professionals. Letters were printed from readers across Canada and around the world. Nutshell’s tabloid covers were visually arresting and often conveyed political messages laced with humour.
This collection of Nutshells covers its first decade of publication, but it was still appearing in print in some form when we interviewed MPA founders in 2010.