The Great Escape Bed Push protests took place in each summer from 2005 to 2008. We symbolically escaped psychiatric institutions, dressed in pyjamas and 'hot-tailed' it with a psychiatric bed to a place of safety and celebration. We aimed to raise awareness about the over-use of forced treatments in mental health services and the need for holistic choice based services. In 2007 we went global, because the mistreatment of psychiatric patients is a global problem. There have now been Bedpushes in England, Canada, America, South Africa and Scotland.
The Great Escape Bed Push protests aimed to raise awareness about the poor levels of choice of treatments and the widespread use of force used in the psychiatric hospitals. The Great Escape Bed Push Team believe in its current state psychiatric care often makes people’s problems worse and that the use of unnecessary force is on the increase. "Forcing patients to take medication against their will is a spirit-breaking practice. It can put someone off mental health services for life, as it breaks down trust between staff and the individual they are supposed to be taking care of" (Dr Rufus May, Clinical Psychologist and former patient).
Many of the campaigners have been in-patients who have witnessed and experienced the use of forced drug treatment. They were joined by nurses and others concerned by the emphasis on control in psychiatry and the lack of therapeutic activities. The crazy bed pushers will give out wanted posters and dodgy pills (sweets) to members of the public and proclaim ‘Psychiatry is off its trolley!’ At various points of the journey the escapees and the public will have to look out for the giant 6 foot syringe squirting water at them. We are protesting about the over use of force in psychiatry (e.g. forced drugging, forced ECT, psychosurgery and brainwashing). In England the government is introducing forced treatment in the community Community Treatment Orders we urge people to resist these plans. We are also campaigning for more meaningful activities in hospitals, access to alternative therapies, more accountability about levels of force used in psychiatry and more alternatives to hospital admission provided (e.g. crisis houses).
We have found it useful to have these things when organising a bedpush:
A series of planning meetings with the people interested in taking part.
A hospital bed with good wheels (we used a porter's bed).
A giant syringe (you can make this or artists can help here).
A good leaflet.
Somebody to send press releases to local newspapers radio TV and chase them up.
Take a picture of what you might look like for the press release.
Have some people willing to talk to the press about the experience of forced treatment and the alternatives.
To organise accomodation if it is a long journey (camping / friends houses/ cheap accomodation).
A loud horn for blowing everytime you start to push the bed a bit further (good for morale).
A megaphone for telling people what you are doing on the journey .Use humour 'We have escaped the psychiatric hopital!' 'We are mad, but they are madder!'
A map! Use roads where you can, its important to (peacefully) disrupt the traffic... this is an important human rights issue!
A sound system at times can be good for morale ('all you need is love'.. 'Madness' songs etc).
A party at the end of the bedpush: speeches, samba band music, cake, drumming, dancing etc.
We will be happy to put pictures notices, and stories about the bedpush on this website.