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What is Independent Advocacy

Our History

CAPS’ story begins in the late 1980s when groups of people with mental health issues started to come together to talk about how they were being treated by mental health services. 

At Contact Point in Edinburgh, in the late 1980s, a new group of people who used mental health services was meeting regularly to talk about how those services could be changed for the better. The group, known as Awareness, was led by people with lived experience of mental health issues and some workers and staff within services. Awareness became well known and began to receive requests to consult on issues of importance to the activists.

Lothian Regional Council asked Awareness how to consult with service users on the development of mental health services.

Keith Maloney

 We were not user representative and we did not really have the resources to consult on the bigger issues. It was decided that something more formal was needed.

Colin Murray

From there, CAPS was created in 1991. CAPS (or The Consultation and Advocacy Promotion Service) was formed to consult on wider concerns and represent the views of people with lived experience of mental health issues. One of the first projects was the Lothian Users Forum; a group of mental health activists supported by CAPS. People met in the Forum to talk about their rights and issues which were important to them, in particular, the need for a crisis service.

The deal was that the people who would organise the services would be people who had themselves used services. It was a partnership between people who had the skills to make things happen together with people who had lived experience.

Shulah Allan

In 1999 the then Scottish Executive established the Millan committee to undertake a review of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1984. This was an opportunity for mental health activists, supported by CAPS, to input into legislation that would reform the provision of mental health care in Scotland and which would enshrine the right to independent advocacy in law.

In order to put the Mental Health Act together, there was a sort of equitable discussion. Because we were invited round the table and all the right people were there, and we were talking about the Mental Health Act, the principles were there. I think it made all the difference.

Joyce Mouriki

CAPS’ Oor Mad History project celebrates the history of CAPS from the early days to the present. Oor Mad History is a community history project which aims to celebrate, promote, and reclaim the local history of collective advocacy and activism by people with lived experience of mental health issues in Lothian.

Oor Mad History launched their first book and accompanying CD in 2010. The book captures peoples’ memories and stories from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

Oor Mad History was inspired by David Reville, a Canadian ‘Mad Activist’ and educator who visited CAPS in 2007 to speak to the various collective advocacy groups across Lothian about the Canadian psychiatric survivor movement and the Mad People’s History course at Ryerson University in Toronto. This visit sparked the desire to record the history of the Lothian mental health services user movement, and CAPS first received funding from NHS Lothian in 2008 to take this work forward.

In 2009, the Oor Mad History group had the opportunity to visit Canada to learn about the Psychiatric Survivor Archives Toronto and Mad Peoples’ History course at Ryerson University. This visit provided the group with inspiration for the Oor Mad History community archive, book, and exhibition, and was a catalyst for what was to become Scotland’s first Mad Studies course. Since the launch of the first Oor Mad History book, CAPS has worked in collaboration with Queen Margaret University and NHS Lothian to develop and embed learning opportunities in Mad Studies, both in the university and in the community. 

The establishment of Mad Studies at QMU has opened up new critical pathways for mad agenda. The challenge will be to keep the academy and the community connected and create a platform for the mad community to remain politicised and active.

Keith Maloney

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