Mad Times


–Our Vision–

Mad Pride Toronto is a grassroots peer movement that

● Celebrates and empowers all types of ‘madness’ and ‘neuro-diversity’

● Challenges diagnoses, interpersonal, and social stigma of mental ‘illnesses’ and ‘disorders’

● Is anti-oppression and welcomes all individuals and entities to participate

● Provides a supportive network for neuro-divergent and marginalized people

OUR MISSION is to create an inclusive and supportive space where consumer/survivors/ex-patients, allies, peer workers, community members, students, and citizens can find and build strength, creativity, and community. Together we collectively connect people and communities to advocate for human rights and the appropriate treatment of those diagnosed or labeled as mentally “ill”

As Mad Pride Toronto’s publication,

Mad Times Magazine is committed to celebrating ‘madness’ in all its forms and expressions. Through critical discourse, art, and community collaboration, we question accepted methods of diagnosis and treatment. Our work aims to transcend stigma by understanding how society creates and labels mental ‘ill­­­­­nesses’ and ‘disabilities.’ Mad Pride Toronto, and by proxy Mad Times, challenge oppressive beliefs through open, inclusive group structures, which empower and engage personal opinions and views. There is no strict definition or format of Mad Pride and Mad Times; we engage with diverse communities and individuals to better understand our group and ourselves.
We aim to deconstruct social barriers caused by stigma. This is realized by community education, advocacy, and by sharing personal experiences and wisdom. We also acknowledge that certain societal pressures and issues can cause psychological distress; we aim to identify these social issues by providing an open forum and collaborative medium for the broader community. The term ‘Mad Pride’ intends to invoke a celebration and awareness of ‘mad’ ideas, studies, and values—especially those concerning individuality, the existence of neuro-diversity, and the upholding of integrity and basic human rights.

A Movement

Mad Times is free of vertical and horizontal hierarchies and refuses any strict format. Rather, it is a free form, grassroots publication where the contributors themselves choose different modes of expression. We do not focus on clinical diagnoses or labels: we understand there to be neuro-diversity among individuals’ perceptions and subjectivities. We welcome and encourage the participation of all allies – sane, absurd, and otherwise. Mad Pride and Mad Times are inclusive and engage in intersectionality. The group is founded on a radical inclusivity which is the foundation of our ever-shifting and ongoing activism and discussions.

Advocacy & Collaboration

By working in solidarity with other ally groups, we advocate for the rightful treatment of people who identify as ‘mad,’ have been neglected by institutions, and other marginalized individuals. We understand that ‘mad’ issues are related and not exclusive of other socio-economic or socio-political factors and are therefore connected to multiple institutions of oppression. By working with other ally groups we find commonalities and support each other’s efforts. Through our work with different groups we nurture and build community and a space for free-form expression and collaboration. From petitions and academic discourses, to protests and street marches, Mad Pride and Mad Times are on all fronts of social activism.

Understanding Our World and Ourselves

It is our right to be as we are and use our respective subjectivities to understand ourselves and the world around us. We question and challenge psychiatric, as well as anti-psychiatric, perceptions and treatments of mental ‘illnesses’ and seek freedom for intra-personal understanding and self-fulfillment. We believe that we have the right to seek the types of lives that are right for us, and interpret our conditions as we experience them. While we ask to be free to interpret and understand ourselves, we do not wish to claim that our beliefs are laws or dogma–through constructive dialogue with different individuals and opinions, we create an inclusive conversation that does not alienate nor condemn any ‘opposing’ beliefs or their respective parties. Paradox is understood as creative and necessary for ongoing discussion. We seek greater understanding of the influence of power and subtle control over both subjectivity and groups of subjects. Character is destiny.


What does advocacy mean? Advocacy is about speaking or acting on behalf of a disadvantaged person (or group), defending their wishes or rights, and remaining loyal and accountable to them despite pressures to do otherwise. Advocacy is also about changing systems for the better by influencing policy, practices, or laws in ways that will benefit people in our community and protect their rights. It requires commitment, focus, and skillfulness.

Advocacy is about speaking or acting on behalf of a disadvantaged person (or group)… Advocacy is also about changing systems

If you are a person with “lived experience,” a “peer,” or a “consumer” then please understand that this, in and of itself, is not valid enough

Photo: Marchers carrying signs, walking down Queen Street. Text: "Right to be Free Right to be Me"
Mad Pride Bed Push 2017

criteria to be a good advocate. While your identity and your experiences (especially as related to mental health) matter, they alone are not sufficient to challenge some of the tricky and complex institutional and governmental powers influencing our understanding of psychiatric disability and the distribution of resources (e.g. housing, services).

If you are a person with “lived experience,” a “peer,” or a “consumer” then please understand that this, in and of itself, is not valid enough criteria to be a good advocate.

I start with this controversial point because over and over again, the most popular advocacy “line” people offer at consults, focus groups, proceedings, etc. for ethical dilemmas and problems with the mental health system is to ask whether “peers were included,” or if, “peers gave feedback.”

Lately, I have challenged this knee-jerk response, because it is predicated on an assumption that if “lived experiencers” were involved in complex systemic issues, they would somehow be offering substantive or innovative feedback for change. Sometimes yes, but often no – not without research into a problem, or speaking with people most impacted, or developing relationships with supportive allies.

In fact, sometimes the very problems occurring in the system are reproduced via individuals who identify as “peers” or people with “lived experience.” Sometimes these peers adopt excessively cheerful or optimistic views of healthcare system delivery as opposed to critiquing it.

They contort themselves to accept clinical or policy justifications and in so doing become extensions of the system through their actions, words, and ability to be socially acceptable and conformist. I have seen examples of peer workers counselling hospital patients on their “best interests” as opposed to listening or following a patient’s instructions and hearing what would allow them to feel they have more control over their lives. There are very few advocacy and human rights campaigns being spearheaded by peer labourers though I think there is powerful potential for organising for change if community capacity were prioritized in this direction.

Thankfully, there are however a number of individuals and small organisations doing collaborative and innovative work to improve the lives of people who are on the margins and addressing advocacy issues related to violence, housing etc. There are smart, organized, coordinated and focused efforts that work to change and improve specific problems thanks to thoughtful planning, thorough research, and earnest selflessness.

We need more strategies like this which are focused on understanding how the system makes economic and policy decisions and directions. It would be great if younger activists and individuals interested in advocacy would create support groups looking at how to better understand the system, what ethical principles we should collectively adopt going forward, and more importantly how to meaningfully evaluate what has worked and not worked in the past for us – by us.

…create support groups looking at how to better understand the system, what ethical principles we should collectively adopt going forward, and more importantly how to meaningfully evaluate what has worked and not worked in the past for us – by us.

I also suggest that our community develop an extremely inquisitive appetite for scrutinizing anything that sounds like “inclusion.” The system knows it is supposed to be “inclusive” – that is not news to people in power, but what kind of inclusion is happening? We consumer/survivors advocated for inclusion years ago, and now we (to some degree) have it, but at what cost, and what kinds of identity and ideas are being included? An advocacy issue that currently needs attention is the Ontario government’s recently passed Bill 41, also known as the Patients First Act on December 7th, 2016.

This Patients First Act aims to ensure patients are at the centre of the health care system. Are there any consumer/survivor groups organising around this? Probably not. Who will monitor advocacy and the new discussions about accountability in a changing landscape within healthcare? The Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office, which is no longer at arm’s length from the Ministry of Health, is going through re-evaluation of its services to better align itself with Ministry initiatives such as the Patients First Act. What will this mean?

If we are to re-invigorate a movement that believes in justice, advocacy, and the protection of rights, we need a new approach that understands that while some gains have been made, there are many other losses we have not even begun to process—let alone respond to intelligently. The landscape of advocacy is changing and the fire of the past has dwindled.

We have fewer advocates. This is true amongst different groups and social movements looking for change.

The pendulum has definitely swung in disturbing directions, but it will swing back. In the meantime, we must be more aware of the losses of certain rights and be more resolute in our efforts to critique “inclusion,” especially the ways it has been used by neoliberal agendas that expend with both advocacy and individuals who cannot thrive in capitalism.

Written by Lucy Costa