Mad People’s History

This post was written by current student, Marsha Ryan.

Three buttons which read "Mad Positive in the Academy"

I’m sitting in Out of This World Café next to CAMH, and I’d like to pause for a moment and share with you guys a wonderful experience called Mad People’s History. It’s a course that I took last semester at Ryerson University. There was a HUGE number of people wishing to pursue this course, so our professor – Danielle Landry – had to split up the class into three subgroups. I was thrilled to see such a number of students too because the more people are engaged in our communities, the better! I have to express my kudos to Danielle for keeping up with hot debates on the discussion board and actually responding to the posts. She’s definitely extremely passionate about teaching, sharing experiences, and inspiring us to go further and beyond.

I think it is remarkable that the course was created by a person with lived experience, it gives you a totally new perception of all the theory and practice covered in class. The course content got me deep down into learning straight away because it was stunning, unforgettable, and inspirational! The assignments are driven to engage students into the mad community, with all its joys and issues. I’ve never seen such a diversity of audio, video and webcasts before! You can either study while you commute to work or while you’re chopping veggies for your dinner. Imagine the big guru, David Raville, talking on your big screen in the living room! All the documents are downloadable and accessible for your convenience at any point of your day! Mad People’s History takes real issues and talks about them in a very human way.

I love the funny bits of sarcasm thrown in for good measure amongst the academic information.  For me the history was sometimes uncomfortable and yet fascinating!  It never ceases to amaze me how cruel humans can be to one another.  The first part of the course may be emotionally difficult for some people, but I believe it’s important to know where we’ve been to see where we’re going. This learning experience is foundational!

Writing a book review, going out on a field trip plunges you into the world you’re learning in class/online. The field trip was a wow experience for me – now I’m going to be involved in some capacity with the mad/survivor community in Toronto and the GTA. I met some really great people during my field trip: they are highly driven and motivated to bring change into daily troubles of mad people; all of them are doing a lot of really interesting things in the areas like art, politics, advocacy, retail, customer service, social security, entertainment, etc.

I urge students to take Mad People’s History, in any format, for it frames the development of breaking through a stigma against mad people throughout the centuries and illustrates how strong we can be. As the journey unfolds, you hear all of the horrific stories involved in the history. It is important to note these things, and talk about how ridiculous they were, and break down the societal views of individuals with mental health histories. There are a lot of success stories that transform a mad person’s image from being demonized and instilling fear to just another guy living around the corner, the guy who has equal rights and is socially included into our community.

This course has such a good balance between academic and humanity, through the readings, modules, and assignments. I will miss it and for this reason I decided to get involved with a couple of my favorite mad-driven organizations that are described in my assignment.

This is a life-changing experience guys, so please feel free to feel and share it!


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