October 20, 2014
In Vancouver, B.C., in the 1970s, the introduction of community mental health teams was part of a complex transformation of mental health services towards community mental health care. This paper examines the experiences of professionals and patients involved in this change first hand. Using oral history and written documentation, the paper analyzes the perspectives of a psychiatrist who had a leading role in the establishment of new community mental health teams in Vancouver and of several members of the Mental Patient’s Association (MPA), a local grassroots organization which engaged in the establishment of new community-based mental health services. Our study reveals that the categories of service provider and service user in fact overlapped and were constructed in relation to each other, transforming and redefining notions of care and expertise. As such the oral histories provide a unique focus on the way professionals and service users engaged with new forms of community mental health work, thus interrupting established perceptions of both the practitioner and the patient in mental health.