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The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Stories from MPA

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A documentary film about the Vancouver based Mental Patients Association: a radical mental health group founded in the '70s.

This is the story of MPA.

In the fall of 1970 Lanny Beckman had just come out of his second stint at a Vancouver psychiatric ward. The day program he was attending wasn’t helping much. Limited to 9-5 weekday activities, and forbidden to have contact with fellow patients outside of the group, emotionally distressed participants struggled to adjust to community living. Three committed suicide, all on the weekends.

Lanny’s response revolutionized community mental health. Beckman started a radical peer advocacy and support group called MPA or Mental Patients Association – a bold “in your face” name that refuted deeply stigmitizing social attitudes toward mental health. Inverting traditional mental health hierarchies, the group put former patients and sympathetic supporters in charge. MPA provided work, homes, a sense of belonging and empowerment to ex-patients. Members used participatory democracy for organizational decision-making. All paid jobs were decided in open elections. 

For the past two years Lanny and other MPA founders have been crafting a film about the early MPA. No surprise, they have broken most of the rules of documentary filmmaking. The result? A compelling 32-minute reel that blends radicalism, history, and irreverent commentary on our current mental health system. They call it "The Inmates Are Running the Asylum."

Find out more on the film's facebook page, or read an overview of MPA history on the the organization's website.

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