World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry General Assembly
July 2004, Vejle, Denmark

Sylvia Caras, PhD

Last year I was appointed as a non-voting WNUSP ( www.wnusp.org) board member and I helped with the planning of the 2004 WNUSP General Assembly. I traveled 23 hours from Santa Cruz, CA to Odense, Denmark for a board meeting and then will take a train for another hour Saturday to Vejle for the General Assembly.

Weather.yahoo.com has been showing rain every day every day but this morning is clear and there is even a bit of light behind the clouds. It drizzled off and on during the morning and actually rained for a few minutes but I stilled enjoyed the mid-day In The Footsteps of Hans Christian Anderson walking tour. There were a dozen of us, 9 spoke Danish, 2 German, and me so all the information was repeated three times. Odense is the bicycle capitol of Denmark. There is a counter in the center of town that registers every bicycle that passes it and displays a daily count and an annual total. Outside the front room window of houses on some streets are mounted two mirrors at a right angle, mounted with the V join toward the street, so that one could sit within and without craning see street activity in both directions. Anderson was born and schooled and began his writing here in Odense, lived later in Copenhagen when he was known and wealthy, sounded interesting and creative and eccentric and very concerned with himself.

Several TV channels have US/English movies with Danish subtitles and no ads. The story flows right along.

The WNUSP board met from 10 - 5, working out final details for the conference. A few of us stopped at the train station to buy train tickets for the next day and were surprised to find our first choice sold out, several trains with seats left only in the smoking sections, but with the clerk’s help ultimately got ourselves booked on a 10:04 AM train for the hour ride to Vejle. The next morning, nine of us wheeled our luggage the 8 minute walk to the train station, disembarked at the proper stop, taxied 15 minutes to the College of Sports, lingered and met and greeted as we all waited for our room keys and settled in. 100 from perhaps 40 countries attended the opening remarks, listened to the logistics, clapped enthusiastically for people and plans, networked a bit and had supper in the cafeteria  There was plenty of wholesome food, lots of fish, cheese, meat, bread and not too much vegetable variety.  I was fascinated by a cheese cutter - a circular plate on which large bricks of cheese stood, a sharp metal cutting thread attached to a handle and a large screw.  As one turned the handle the blade would cut a slice from first one brick, then the next, while moving down the screw just enough to position itself for the next thin slice.  I'm very drawn to Danish design!.

There is considerable pride that this is the first WNUSP General Assembly not attached to a WFMH or other meeting, that it had been done by us for us, and a good job too! Support from the Danish government, media coverage, logistical details planned carefully, outreach to many countries, visa facilitation, ...

Full reports of workshops, elections, and resolutions will be at www.wnsup.org when they are organized.  I will note only a few things.  Some 125 attended the WNUSP General Assembly, heard a presentation of our history, some voting and procedural information, and several hours of public comment from all over the world. The Americas Region met in the afternoon, decided indeed there were sufficient common interests to work together and chose three action items to work on by email, outreach, sharing crisis de-escalation information, and sharing reasonable accommodation information.

Tina presented the UN Convention work at a plenary. The bottom line of the WNUSP position is no forced interventions. "No deprivation of liberty based on disability," "prohibition against torture" which includes a prohibition against forced intervention, and that "everyone has legal capacity,." the right to speak for ourselves. Action: exert pressure at the ideological and moral level on all governments.   (A problem we will face is that the World Bank makes mental health loans contingent on having mental health laws in place and the suggested/recommended mental health legal templates WHO has developed embed force in a medical model.  S.)

Second Americas Region meeting:

Vision to create a Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry of the Americas (NUSPA)

Ask General Assembly whether regions can use NUSP, can use logo; ask that committees be established to explore global fundraising and to further WNUSP use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology)

Three levels of making change: law, policy, and practice

WNUSP General Assembly

Partial list of board members selected/elected: Mari, Japan; Chris, New Zealand; Bhargavi, India; Janet, Ghana; Moosa, South Africa; Daniel, Uganda; Karl, Denmark, co-chair; Iris, Germany: Ron, Canada; Tina, USA, co-chair.  I  was reappointed as a consultant.

Resolutions passed supporting WNUSP UN Convention positions (see wnusp.org web page for details), suggesting the creation of a fund-raising committee, and the creation of an ICT committee (Sylvia volunteered). It was agreed that regions may use NUSP and the WNUSP logo. The Vejle declaration was passed by both the European and World Networks about how we deal with each other.

Coincidentally, Bhargavi and I were at the same Copenhagen hotel and traveled from the conference there together. I stayed on a few days to sightsee and realized the next morning that also here were several of the users from Africa.  I had selected the Hotel Absalon, from the Hebrew, father of peace, from a guide book, and was pleased to see the others here.  I took a walking tour with an excellent guide, and learned that the Danish tax rate is 52%, that Danes don't save because their basic retirement is government subsidized, that Denmark is a country of trading and welfare, that only the Bible and Shakespeare are more translated than Hans Christian Anderson.  I was struck both in the hotel and on the street that the motor noises (elevators, fans, other machinery, lawn mowers, ... ) weren't as loud as in the US, more pleasant for me.  I was also able to see a Georg Jensen sterling retrospective and an exhibit of futuristic home and industrial and decorative design.  There was free internet off the lobby and the sound of the click and color of the keys reminded me of my mother's Mah Jong tiles.  Friday morning as I was about  to buy a train ticket Cindy from Canada called out to me and we spent the morning together at Louisiana, a modern art museum with a sculpture garden - Mire,Caller, Rap, Moore, ... - on a lake, a 40 minute train ride out of town.  The weather report was for rain, thunder and lightning and after a gray start, the sky is clear and the light bright.  Cindy went on to Elsinore (yes, Hamlet's castle), and I went back on a full train.  Seats often face in both directions on Danish trains, a foursome, and when we boarded, we talked about whether to sit facing forward or backward, whether to see where we've been or where we were going and that phrase and conversation has stayed with me all day, perhaps a metaphor for life, that one can either look back or look forward as one moves along one's path, but maybe not both.

The train station was closed when I arrived Sunday around 4:40 AM to go to the airport.   Fortunately I had explored enough that I could make out the sign that said there was entrance to the tracks from the side on the bridge and I had also learned which track the airport train ran on. 

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