The Consumer/Survivor/Ex-patient Oral History Project
The Consumer/Survivor/Ex-patient (C/S/X) Oral History Project has interviewed more than 200 current and former psychiatric patients in New York State since 1999. We record and transcribe the stories of people who have experienced the mental health system, and have deposited tapes and transcripts with the New York State Archives for use by scholars and researchers. The history of psychiatry and the mental health field has largely been written from the perspectives of government, institutions, and mental health professionals, and the project’s goal is to bring some balance to the historical record. In November 2003, the New York State Board of Regents and the New York State Archives presented Steven Periard and Darby Penney with the Debra A. Barnhardt Award for Excellence in Documenting New York’s History for their work with the C/S/X Oral History Project.
These oral histories tell stories of struggle, mistreatment and despair, but also of hope, peer support and connection to community. Many common threads run through these individual histories; the vast majority of the interviewees are survivors of childhood sexual or physical abuse. Many tell of loneliness, isolation, boredom and fear within institutions, and many remember acts of kindness by staff or other patients that offered them hope in desperate times. Many people’s stories leave off on a confident note, with a return to school, a satisfying job, a good relationship, active involvement in the community. Other stories tell of poverty, disappointment, and continued struggle with the wounds of the past. The oral histories we share on this page represent a wide range of experiences; documents like these are the raw materials from which ex-patients can start to write their own histories of the mental health system.
Carol Hayes Collier