Survivors History archive of Survivors United Network (S.U.N.) website created by Andrew Hughes of Mental Health Training at using Microsoft Word 9. The orginal S.U.N. homepage was dated 23:45:00 on 23.10.2000. Fourth revision saved 17:44 on 24.12.2000


S.U.N. produces a monthly printed newsletter and ezine. These are available free of charge to all survivors', mental health service-users, ex-users and people who experience mental distress. The resources aim to spread topical and interesting information, to assist people and groups to work together and to highlight positive examples of what people who experience distress can do.

The S.U.N. website is being changed to make it more consistent when viewed in different browser software.

I hope you will be patient while I build up the content again.

You can get more information about the S.U.N. resources by emailing me at

The links below will take you to pages containing the stories of prominent survivors in the U.K.

Peter Campbell

Jan Wallcraft

Mike Lawson

Mary Nettle

Peter Beresford

Peter Campbell

Peter Campbell was born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands. In 1967 he went down to England to study at University and almost immediately was admitted into a psychiatric unit. Between 1967 and 1972, he was in four different hospitals (two in Scotland, two in England) before graduating and ending up in one of the "Epsom Cluster" asylums for a year. He then moved to London, where he lived in a therapeutic community in the Ladbroke Grove area and came into contact with COPE, an offshoot of the Mental Patients Union. He did not get actively involved at this point. For most of the next ten years, Peter was on the "bed-sitting room circuit" in North West London attempting to build a career, first working with pre-school children (not something a "psychotic" male would have much joy with in the 1990s) and then as a bookseller. In the early 1980s, he gave up any idea of a conventional career and began to address the discrimination facing people with a mental illness diagnosis. He began to work regularly as a "volunteer" with Mind in Camden. At this time there were very few independent service user groups. Peter was involved with CAPO (Campaign Against Psychiatric Oppression), although he was never a member and British Network for Alternatives to Psychiatry which had links to David Cooper and R.D. Laing and was a mixture of survivors and mental health workers. In the mid 1980s, ideas of advocacy and service user involvement had barely emerged. Peter was one of the first survivor members of Camden Mental Health Consortium, a group growing out of the concern about closure plans for Friern Barnet Hospital that became one of the earliest local service user led groups. In 1986 he was a founder member of Survivors Speak Out and continued to be actively involved, often as an officer of the organisation, until 1996. In 1991, he and three other survivor poets that he had first met through CAPO Poetry and Music Events founded Survivors' Poetry. Round about the same time, Peter began to earn a living as a freelance writer and trainer in the mental health field - a job that he continues at the present time. He continues to receive mental health services as an in-patient and out-patient. Fifteen years on, Peter wonders whether service user organisations are not too closely involved in mental health services. To what extent have groups attempted to address the general public rather than mental health workers? Why has the "user movement" done so little to work with other oppressed groups? Why is our record of action on civil rights issues (unless they are part of Mental Health Act changes) so poor? Why have service user/survivor organisations always found it so difficult to communicate and work with each other? Peter's greatest fear - that people with a mental illness diagnosis will be seen as a special type of disabled citizen whose social inclusion depends upon good behaviour and complying with a programme of activities and treatment. Greatest hope - that the general public get to hear about and appreciate the achievements of collective action by service users/survivors. Important tip - if you don't enjoy service user action, get out of it and find something you do enjoy .

Jan Wallcraft

My history of involvement in the user movement:

It all began one sunny day in Burley in Wharfedale, in the Yorkshire Dales, round about 1981, where I was on a camping trip with my sister and our children. It was the first time I had done anything so adventurous for many years. It was 10 years after my experience of psychiatric 'help', and maybe I needed all that time for the the physical, spiritual and emotional damage caused by treatment, as well as the shock of the breakdown itself, to heal enough for me to look up from the day to day struggle for survival. The beauty of the surroundings; hills, valleys, streams, opened up my own inner horizons, and I knew that I wanted to DO something in the wider world again. I remember I began talking to my sister about my hopes and dreams. I don't remember what I said, but I remember that hope reawakened, and my process of recovery began from that day.

Around 1982 I became aware that people were talking about mental health. Women in London were coming together and sharing raw and passionate feelings about their lives and what was wrong with the mental health system. Books were being written about feminist therapy and self help.

This was not the actual beginning; the roots of the movement go much further back, but I had not been aware of it before. At some point I had picked up an echo of the older movement in a leaflet from PROMPT (Promoting the Rights of Mental Patients in Treatment) but something about the heavily political and impersonal writing in this didn't appeal to me.

I wanted to explore things in a more personal way. It was through meeting with other women that I found my way in. Not that this was trouble-free; I have written elsewhere about my first experience of involvement in a women and mental health group, which was often frustrating, distressing and unsisterly, though also at times loving, supportive and exciting.

During the early years of my involvement with the movement I was recovering not just from my psychiatric experiences, but from a lifetime of feeling there was something 'wrong' with me; that my experience of feeling oppressed, isolated and frightened in group situations was all my own fault. Being able to share these feelings and belong to groups which felt, if not entirely safe, at least safer and more accepting than any I had known (other than my contacts with other women patients in the psychiatric ward) was part of my healing.

All I can describe here are a few peak moments of the next 17 years. I went back to college in 1983 and began researching and writing on ECT: I had an article published in Spare Rib, and another in the left-wing 'London Labour Briefing' entitled 'A Scream of Rage'. This was in response to feminist consciousness-raising, and was my 'coming out' to the Labour Party about my personal experience and the politics of the personal.

The first major involvement I had with the survivor movement was with the production of the TV programme 'We're Not Mad, We're Angry' in the period from around 1983-5. This was eventually shown twice on Channel 4. It was the first survivor-led mainstream media event (there still haven't been that many) and made a huge impact.

I remember it as a time of sitting for many hours in Annie's basement, drinking tea and inhaling other people's ciggie smoke, watching the interview clips and collectively editing it down to the required hour. My own interview in the film was on ECT and how it had reinforced my oppression as a working class woman. During that period I met such wonderful and enduring stars as Peter Campbell, Mike Lawson, Annie Newnham, survivor artist Sarah Rivers (Hutchins), musician Peter Connors and many others.

I joined Survivors Speak Out in 1986, and went to the ground-breaking Edale conference in summer 1987: a big and personally terrifying moment for me. I spent the first day curled up in my dormitory, crying with panic and loneliness, until I was found and given love and support. I went on to thoroughly enjoy the event; a coming together of a diverse group of self-advocates, activists, and people setting up patients' councils and tranx withdrawal groups. I began to realise that I was part of a movement that would enable me to be myself in a way that hadn't been possible before.

I took up the new post of Consumer Network Co-ordinator at MIND in December 1987, and worked with the existing Consumer Advisory Panel, meeting a host of stars such as Peter Beresford, Lisa Haywood, Graham Estop and Anna Neeter. Anna went on to create the Kaleidescape Cabaret, which played for two seasons at the MIND conference. I was part of this, and definitely one of the peak moments in my life in the survivor movement was singing 'Outside the Lunatic Asylum' on the stage in Blackpool Winter Gardens!

At MIND I felt that my role was to help facilitate and nurture the user movement within and outside MIND, while avoiding trying to swallow it all up under the MIND umbrella. I set up training for MINDLINK members in the regions, put in some of my time and funding to help the development of UKAN, and used the MINDWAVES newsletter to publicise survivor and user-led initiatives around the country.

I wanted to see MIND gradually become more user-led, and kept a list of the MIND Council of Management on my wall, the survivor members highlighted in yellow. During that period, other organisations were also taking an interest in user involvement, including NSF (Voices), the Sainsbury Centre (the user-led publication 'Whose Service is it Anyway'), health service unions such as COHSE, and eventually even the Government.

I tried to keep an involvement, or at least an awareness of everything that was going on and reflect it in MINDWAVES, but as the movement grew, this was increasingly difficult. The most amazing experience I had during that time was a 2 week visit to Japan, to take part in a series of events to mark the end of the UN Decade for the Disabled. I spoke in about 13 Japanese cities about the need to involve and respect users' experience. Also, visiting America for their national advocacy event; spending time with (to me, legendary figures) like Judi Chamberlin, Rae Unzicker and Leonard Roy Frank, who wrote 'The History of Shock Treatment'. These opportunities were healing for my personal self-esteem, and permanently ended my aggrieved sense of being the slum kid who had missed out on all the good things in life. As MINDLINK grew, the time and resources didn't, so in 1992 I left and went freelance. Wonderful Madie Chapman took over MINDLINK and with her clear thinking broke through some of the barriers which had been holding up its further development. For me, becoming freelance meant getting out of the centre of things and back to the grassroots, which was probably a good thing for me at that stage, or my ego might have taken over completely! Jim Read and I wrote our series of publications for COHSE/UNISON on user empowerment, advocacy and equal opportunites, and I was asked to work on advocacy development in North Herts and Harrow, meeting new stars such as Veronica Dewan and Chris Wright. I facilitated user-led research by Asian and African-Caribbean users in Waltham Forest, and was part of the Mental Health Task Force User Group. This was an incredibly difficult and frustrating experience: being shut in a claustrophobic small room in Richmond House for many hours, where we worked and fought over the planning of ten conferences, a series of training workshops for user trainers, the Users Charter and the big national conference (held in 1994). The process was worth it for the achievement of making user involvement more widely known and accepted, and for the publications and the survivor conferences we held, but at the end of that two year period, I had had enough of national self-advocacy politics. I decided to concentrate on my own research and on my interest in complementary therapies. Three years on a PhD at South Bank University sounded at first like a haven. Unfortunately it wasn't, and the PhD (on users' experiences of crisis and treatment) still isn't finished, though I have now restarted it. However, my research experience and my training as an aromatherapist and Reiki practitioner, led to me getting a job in the wonderful Strategies for Living user-led research project at the Mental Health Foundation, managed by another star, Alison Faulkner. I am now managing the Foundation's adult mental health programmes, and have devised a project called SPIRAL, which will fund work on preventing mental distress, early intervention, recovery, and innovative learning. So, for me its been a personal story of growth and learning, and getting to know a series of wonderful stars, who I have worked with and watched flourish over many years: some other notable names being Roberta Graley, Marion Beeforth, Mary Nettle, Louise Pembroke, David Crepaz-Keay, Karen Campbell, Jean Taylor, Viv Lindow, Vicky Nicholls, and my special friend Ros Caplin, who died last year. Apologies for not listing the many many others I have been close to and who have contributed so much, often unpaid time, out of their own painful experiences to help others and create an unstoppable movement for change. As I've indicated, its not all been sweetness and light, but I don't see the point in dwelling on all the arguments and difficult times. Its been a life I never expected to have and which has given me so much, that I don't have any regrets now about the wasted years of my childhood and early 20s. Each person has so much in them that the psychiatric system generally never even notices, and which its treatments tend to suppress. The liberation of that power through working together is, I believe, the real aim of our movement. Its happened for me and I've seen it happen for so many others. I do believe that we can change the world.

Mike Lawson

Mike Lawson is a survivor activist with over thirty years experience. A founder-member of The Mental Patients Union in the mid 1970s and a founder-member of Survivors Speak Out in the 1980s. As Vice-Chair of National Mind from 1986-1992, he continued to fight for alternatives to psychiatry and recipient advocacy both nationally and internationally. Well-known as a broadcaster and writer on mental health issues, he continues to promote the authentic voice of individuals who find themselves at risk of psychiatry and the "mental health" trap. Mike Lawson was born in an internment/forced labour camp under Stalin's Russia in 1948. After four years and a nomadic journeying from camp to camp Mike was released from the camp after being separated from his father, who was released just a few days before Mike was born. In Berlin Mike was cared for by his maternal grandfather, as his mother could not stay in Berlin and emigrated to England. After three years in Berlin Mike was reunited with his mother in London. To learn a new language and culture at the age of 7 is not an easy thing. Mike felt alienated and depressed, in the words of his adoptive father "there had been one change too many". At 17 Mike was due to go to work, one Monday morning, unable or unwilling to move from bed the journey to Napsbury Psychiatric Hospital was assured. From 1965 to 1971 Mike experienced the full thrust of psychiatric intervention from chlorpromazine to the E.C.T no effort of psychiatric imposition was spared him. After many readmissions and a cacophony of shrinks and diagnostic labels he left the bin and subsequently got married and politically activated. After losing a job with the civil service Mike fought an unfair dismissal case through the joint support of his trade union and MIND. Subsequently he became a survivor activist as a founder member of The Mental Patients Union and later Survivors Speak Out. In 1986 he was elected vice-chair of National Mind replacing a psychiatrist on the council of management. Having collaborated with "Were Not Mad Were Angry" shown in 1986 and numerous newspaper articles; radio broadcasts and the setting up of a number of local self-advocacy groups Mike continues to work for a better understanding. Now Mike lives in a council flat in London. At the age of 51, after enormous bouts of depression, he is involved in performance poetry, poetical and political publication, broadcasts highlighting the need for a new understanding of mental health issues and the gargantuan efforts of the art of survival. .

Mary Nettle

Profile of Mary Nettle, a Mental Health User Consultant I have been earning my own living in this way for the last 9 years. How did this happen? It's always best to start at the beginning. I was born 47 years ago in Beckford a small village nestling at the foot of Bredon Hill in the Vale of Evesham. My mother and sister still live in the house where I came into this world and I am very lucky to have secure roots in such a lovely place. I was sent away to a convent boarding school at the age of 10 and then went to Bristol Polytechnic where I achieved one of the first Higher National Diplomas in Business Studies and a Diploma in Advanced Marketing. After college I went to work in marketing research in Eastcote, Middlesex on the northern outskirts of London. I shared a house with two other people one of whom I married in 1977. Six months later I had a 'nervous breakdown', I was under pressure at work and one day had 'hysterics' in the office. I ended up in St Bernard's, a horrible Victorian asylum for three months. I had become a user of the mental health system and been given the label of manic depression. This had, as you can imagine, a profound effect on my life and of those close to me. My husband developed into chronic alcoholism and died of cirrhosis of the liver in February 1998 at the age of 48. I was chemically enabled to cope with his increasingly unacceptable behaviour. Today, February 2000, I am not on any prophylactic [psychiatric?] medication and have learnt by listening to my colleagues in the user movement how to manage my illness. Without their inspiration, help and support I would never have been able to do what I can now. I am, among many other things, chair of Mindlink the user voice within the national mental health charity Mind and a Mental Health Act Commissioner. I feel valued and hope that in a small way I am enabling others to gain the benefits of speaking up and speaking out. It feels good to have turned a negative into a positive. Let's hope this can happen for many more mental health service users.

Peter Beresford

PETER BERESFORD is professor of social policy and director of the Centre for Citizen Participation, Brunel University. He also works with Open Services Project. He is a long term user of mental health services and actively involved in the psychiatric system survivors movement. Here is his own story of his life within mental health self-advocacy. I have used mental health services for 12 years and lived on benefits all told for more than 10 years. I wouldn't recommend either of these things to anyone. I don't think I could have imagined what the poverty and distress involved were like if I hadn't experienced them myself. This is one reason why direct experience seems so important to me and why I am committed to it being valued and treated with equality.

Mine is hardly a unique story. I want to stress that I know that my experience isn't unusual or exceptional in any way. But in terms of loss of choice and hope, sense of fear and worthlessness and of sheer wretchedness, I wouldn't wish it on anyone but my worst enemy. I hope I never go back to it. If I did - and it is something I dread to think of - I fear whether I could manage. But then I have friends for whom contact with mental health services, the loss of freedom that goes with poverty and routine hassles with the benefits agency, are continuing experiences. Knowing this is one way for me of coping with the possibility of going back. I like to think of myself as a psychiatric system survivor, but I don't ever assume that I have seen the last of all this or that one day I won't need to seek escape. I also know that while I am currently not using mental health services, and have other sources of support, that I don't know what tomorrow may bring and that the reasons I came into contact with the psychiatric system are still with me, are part of me and will be for the rest of my life. But having said all this, I am also proud of what I have done, what I have been through and what has happened to me. I am proud I have had these experiences and so far have got through them. I don't believe in the virtues of suffering, but there is truth in the saying that what doesn't kill, you strengthens you (and adds to your knowledge and understanding) I am proud of the road that poverty and distress have helped set me on and the way that they have helped me gain some understanding and wisdom both about myself and others. I am proud of the work they have made it possible for me to do to try and change things and make them better. I am proud to have been involved in the setting up of MindLink, the development of Survivors Speak Out and now of Shaping Our Lives. I am proud of the chances I have had to work with other service users/survivors to make change - Suzy, Fran, Kathy, Michael, Ian, Cohn and many more - you know who you are. I value the support and understanding I have received, especially from Suzy, Maggie, Catherine, Esther, Rebecca and Ruth. I want to remember those who have died on the way - Julian, Ros, Doris, Brian and Maria and say thank you for your struggles, for what I learning from you and for knowing you.

Perhaps the greatest gain I have got from being involved in the survivors' movement is that it has both provided me with opportunities to be myself and helped me understand that it is possible to be me. I don't have to be ashamed or hide myself away. I no longer always have to pretend to be someone else. I remember when I first realised this at a meeting with other survivors. It was a liberating feeling. It made me catch my breath. I could just be who I was - no best behaviour was necessary. It was one of the most life-enhancing and empowering things that happened to me. It is one of the lessons which I most value and which I am most proud of beginning to learn. If it means anything, all this is what mad pride means to me.

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