Judi Chamberlin is the kind of civil rights leader you’ve probably never heard of. She passed away last week, so it’s beyond time that we honored her legacy of fighting for the rights of those with mental health issues to be treated with dignity and respect.
Her story began in the 60s when she was just 22, and involuntarily hospitalized for depression after a miscarriage. According to the NYT:
There was a lack of activity, of fresh air. There were seclusion rooms and wards for noncompliant patients, even those who were in no way violent. The drugs, which she said made her lethargic and affected her memory, seemed more intended to control than cure. And she could not sign herself out. She had become, she said, “a prisoner of the system.”
As soon as she got out, she joined up with the burgeoning rights movement for mental health patients. Read more about her legacy here.
Chamberlin’s courage hits very close to home. My own paternal grandmother spent much of her late life in and out of mental hospitals, inaccurately diagnosed, exposed to shock therapy treatments, and generally misunderstood (or at least, this is my modern take having researched her life). So many women did, especially at that time. Thank you Judi for being a voice against dehumanization.