Film screening gives voice to mental health patients on managing their own care

The community conversation in action

Social science Professor Megan Davies hosted a Community Conversation to share the stories of the Mental Patients Association (MPA). The conversation was based on the film, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Stories from MPA.

Megan Davies
Megan Davies

Associated with the idea of “mental patients liberation,” MPA was a pioneering group from Vancouver and Canada’s first democratic, user-led mental health organization that inverted asylum hierarchies and put former patients and sympathetic allies in charge.

Davies, executive producer of the documentary, co-hosted the conversation with Eugenia Messner, counsellor and therapist at the Davenport-Perth Neighborhood and Community Health Centre. The film, screened on May 11 at the health centre, is a 36-minute documentary with animation, archival footage and videotaped interviews that bring the early days of the Mental Patients Association to life. It was co-created by the people who appear on screen, along with other scholars and a cadre of talented young artists.

The conversation addressed issues such as should people receiving mental health services be fully integrated into planning and providing their own care, and what role can an inclusive, enabling organization play in both supporting and empowering people experiencing mental health difficulties.

“The film was very well-received,” said Davies. “I left feeling like I had done justice to the people in the film and to York’s philosophy of community engagement. University-community dialogues that consider successful mental health models – past, present and future – are pivotal to creating a better mental health system.”

The Community Conversation attracted employees at the centre, their clients and local community members. Following the screening, everyone gathered for a wide-ranging conversation about the film production and cast, promising practices in mental health, policy and funding, and how best to support people struggling with mental health.

Community Conversations continues to encourage stimulating, inspiring and inclusive dialogue among different communities across the Greater Toronto Area on topics that are relevant and meaningful to the community. The goal is to actively and authentically enhance public engagement on a wide range of topics and to create inclusive spaces to exchange ideas. The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies invites faculty members and community partners to apply to host future Community Conversations. The Global and Community Engagement unit encourages moderators to share their creative ideas.

For more information on the film, visit