Mental Patients Resistance

A documentary about a group of formerly hospitalized patients on a quest to change inhumane practices at psychiatric institutions. Includes "man on the street" interviews that are revealing about changing attitudes towards mental illness during the 1970s, including the influence of R.D. Laing.

00:00Copy video clip URL This tape begins with a blue screen.

00:30Copy video clip URL One of the crew members asks a woman on the street if she has ever been hospitalized for mental illness. He then asks her opinion of psychiatric hospitals and whether they prove to be beneficial to their patients. The woman talks about her experiences in psychiatric institutions and states that they are in no way helpful.

01:07Copy video clip URL Program intro. We see footage from inside a psychiatric hospital. Patients are seen dancing with one another. Many seem to be weary or completely oblivious to the camera as music blares in the background.

02:19Copy video clip URL Ted Chabisinsky of Mental Patients Resistance talks about the lack of human rights within psychiatric institutions. “Once you’re inside a so-called ‘hospital,’ you simply don’t have any rights any more… There are plenty of rights on paper but the rights in practice are practically non-existent.” This is followed by more footage of street interviews. A man says that although there is overcrowding in psychiatric hospitals, they are a benefit to the patients.

03:12Copy video clip URL Judy Chamberlin of Mental Patients Resistance comments on the myth of psychiatric institutions benefiting patients. She talks about the difficulty patients have in coping with the world inside these hospitals. Another man off of the street states that he doesn’t believe that people should be put into psychiatric institutions involuntarily.

04:04Copy video clip URL Cut to footage from within a car. The videomakers and members of the Mental Patients Resistance are on their way to the Rockland State Hospital. There is footage of the building exterior as Chabisinsky and Chamberlin recall their time spent at the facility.

04:50Copy video clip URL Chabisinsky goes into more detail about his experience at Rockland State Hospital, but ultimately holds back and states that he can’t talk about his experience at Rockland as a child because it’s a little too traumatic for him to bring up. “I’m sorry, but I can’t do it. It’s like all I can do to keep myself together enough to talk rationally right now.” This then cuts to a shot of Chabisinsky commenting on the unlimited power of the psychiatric profession. “What the American public has done is give the psychiatric profession unlimited power to lock up a certain class of people. Anyone who’s accused of being mentally ill has absolutely no rights at all. The American public goes along with this because the psychiatric profession has the kind of image that people feel this power isn’t being misused and we’re here today to see that some of this image has rubbed off and people see psychiatrists and what they really are.”

06:17Copy video clip URL A woman comments on the use of shock treatment at a facility she was once in. Chabisinsky, Chamberlin, and other members Mental Patients Resistance speak with Dr. Peter Goode and other psychiatrists from both the Rockland and Central Islip State Hospitals. Chabisinsky asks if Goode believes the comments of the Mental Patients Resistance. Goode responds unemotionally, carefully choosing his words. He states that there are services like the Mental Health Information service that make patients aware of their rights. Chamberlin then cites the fact that she had only been told about this service after she had been strip searched upon admittance into Rockland. She goes on to talk about her first day at Rockland.

08:36Copy video clip URL Cut back to the street. One of the videomakers asks a couple for their opinion on psychiatric hospitals. The two were unaware of the fact that anyone could be institutionalized against his or her will and that all it takes is the opinion of two psychiatrists and a complaint. The woman then states, “A psychiatrist says you’re nuts, you better believe it.” Another woman comments on the same issue.

09:20Copy video clip URL The tension in the Rockland meeting room gets a little heated as Chabisinsky comments on the power of psychiatrists. Goode remains disaffected as Chabisinsky speaks of his deep frustration with his experiences.

10:03Copy video clip URL Chabisinsky talks about being discharged from Rockland at the age of seventeen after spending most of his life there. This cuts back to Chabisinsky and others debating the issue with Goode.

11:28Copy video clip URL A man talks about his friend committing himself to an institution after a bad acid trip. Upon coming down from the drug, the officials at the mental hospital would not let him leave. He eventually left on his own accord.

12:07Copy video clip URL One of the other psychiatrists joins the conversation and comments on Chabisinsky and his cohorts’ presence at this meeting. Goode then characterizes a mentally ill patient as lacking insight and therefore being unable to take care of him or herself. This then cuts to a psychiatric patient at Central Islip who talks about his experience at the hospital and the sincerity of the staff. This then cuts back to Chabisinsky who continues to press Goode, trying to get some real answers out of him. Goode again carefully chooses his words and states that the services at psychiatric hospitals are improving.

15:07Copy video clip URL A patient talks about how the services can improve at Central Islip. She would like most patients to have their own telephones in their rooms because a lot of the patients have children they would like to talk to, yet patients are only allowed one phone call a week and have to get permission from a doctor.

15:56Copy video clip URL A woman on the street states that psychiatric hospitals do not benefit those in need of assistance. She says that her thoughts on the issue have been primarily influenced by R.D. Laing, which she feels is common among residents of the East Village, where they were taping interviews. “I think that a society like ours is composed of institutions and that’s just one more example of what we do with people that we don’t know what to do with because they don’t fit into the common social pattern.” Chamberlin then comments on the dullness of the psychiatric hospital and the struggle in passing the time. Goode then comments on what brings people into psychiatric institutions. This is followed by another comment from a woman on the street. Chamberlin eventually comment on a traumatic experience she had while at Rockland. Chabisinsky then describes the electric shock treatment he received as a six year old boy. Another psychiatrist in the room, Dr. Levine, ponders whether or not the shock treatment helped Chabisinsky. In a very powerful moment, Chabisinsky responds to Levine’s statement and asks him quietly, “Well, before I say something more rational, I wonder if you were one of the people who was turning the switch on for me, Dr. Levine.” He then goes on to talk about why he had been placed in Rockland. Chabisinsky claims he was labeled a schizophrenic so doctors could use him as a guinea pig for shock treatment.

23:00Copy video clip URL Cut to more man on the street interviews. This is followed by footage from inside a psychiatric hospital. One of the patients speaks with the camera operator about the shock treatment she received earlier in the day. “Did you know that I’m nuts? I really am. I had shock treatment today.” “Do you feel better?” “No.”

23:54Copy video clip URL Chabisinsky talks about the need for formerly institutionalized patients to begin to talk about their experiences and fight back against the institutions. “I think one of the main reasons why, you know, nothing’s ever been, very little has changed in the mental hospital industry, you know in a hundred years, is that the people who’ve been its victims have not fought back.” He then leaves a message to the formerly institutionalized viewers watching the program. “It’s part of your identity and you might as well start fighting and doing something about it and join our movement.”

25:21Copy video clip URL The videomakers ask a man if he’s ever been or known a psychiatric patient. He then offers some advice to the videomakers. This is then followed by the credits and more footage from within the institution.

27:10Copy video clip URL Tape ends.


1 Comment

  1. Susan Milano says:

    I had occasion to search David Sasser online as I just learned of his passing on April 30, 2021. I didn’t realize that you had Mental Patients Resistance in your collection. The date would be 1971/72. It was a strong piece. And he was such a gentle soul.

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