Irit Shimrat in trouble


Just got this comment from Irit Shimrat:

Please contact me. I’m locked up and being given harmful “medications” in a town called Comox in British Columbia. I can no longer access my main (gmail) account on the computer for use by patients so I googled myself and found you. I can be phoned at 250-339-1490 but e-mail is probably better. The hospital is called St. Joseph’s General Hospital and I’m in the inpatient psychiatric ward. I’ve been here since July 5 or 6 and was in “seclusion” 12 days; don’t know quite how or when I’ll get out but have a paradoxical reaction to a drug my psychiatrist, though a good man, can’t understand he needs to stop giving me every day – it makes me quite ill. I thank you for having found me and very much wish you to find me again.

Yours in big trouble and much fear,

Irit Shimrat

Can anyone help her? I don’t know anything about the Canadian system.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

35 responses »

  1. I don’t know much about the Canadian system either, nor do I really know a lot about the American system, just a bit.

    I’ll forward this on to his e-mail, but I won’t be able to check mine for about four days.

    In order to know what’s going on legally, a few things to know are:

    Is there a court order for him to be involuntarily hospitalized?
    Does Canada have a system where people can be held temporarily against their will until a court order is obtained, like in the US?
    Does he have family members that can go to bat for him in court?
    Can he afford to get a lawyer to go to bat for him in court?
    What kind of a program is he in? I looked at the website for that hospital and it’s kind of vague, is he just admitted to the general Psychiatric Inpatient Unit?
    What is his diagnosis? If his doctors won’t tell him this, then that probably is a legal avenue that could be explored.

  2. I show Comox is on the Vancouver Island, if she has anyone ‘related’ in the Seattle area they probably need to call the Hospital that shows up in google when saint joseph comox is entered.

  3. I’m guessing she’s a member of Mindfreedom Int’l, and/or other similar orgs, but I know relatively little about them, except that their options for intervening in “interventions” is woefully limited. My first thought was to notify any such groups in which she is a member, but that would need to be done by someone with her email address (I’m guessing it would NOT be a good thing to publish that here — I even worry a bit about the wrong people making ill use of the post above).

    My second thought — being otherwise utterly clueless — would be to contact the institution and/or physician involved, and respectfully inform them that she is a highly valued member of a much larger community, and that her observations regarding her own experience and/or symptoms deserve to be listened to carefully, and seriously considered on their own merits.

    Unfortunately, any such correspondence could be highly destructive in that it could tip off those involved that she is engaging in “unauthorized” communication, which, depending on the motives of the professionals involved, could easily place her at even greater risk of retaliation and abuse. Bad thing. I can only guess at other potential consequences of ill-informed attempts at advocacy.

    Do you know of any good guides to the “dos and don’ts” of advocating for someone in her situation, especially for those of us who have no legally significant influence or connection to the case?

  4. Ugh.

    I know a LOT about pharmacology but squat about the Canada system…

    If anyone wants to explain the way Canada works to me, I’d put in a call to her doc or something, explaining how those “rare” paradoxical reactions are often US–and are more common in “off label” patients too.

    Any way to find what the drug is, what the supposed use is, et cetera?

  5. Would “Mind Freedom” be an appropriate resource for this kind of situation?

    On one hand, I dislike that they tend to come across (to me, at least, and possibly not intentionally) as anti-all-medications-for-everyone, or medications-are-automatically-bad. Given that I know people who HAVE benefitted from certain psychiatric medications, that doesn’t sit too well with me, even though I do accept that not all psychiatric meds are right for all people whose diagnostic labels tend to lead to these meds being prescribed to them.

    On the other hand, the cause of an individual who feels she is not being heard when she tries to explain that the medications being given to her are only making her sick, not better, would seem to be the right fit for “Mind Freedom”:

    MindFreedom Office Contact Information
    Postal mail
    MindFreedom International
    P.O. Box 11284
    Eugene, OR 97440-3484 USA

    Office street address
    (for delivery of boxes, UPS, Federal Express, etc.)

    MindFreedom International
    454 Willamette, Suite 216
    Eugene, OR 97401-2643 USA

    Office phone
    (541) 345-9106

    Toll Free Member Services Phone in USA
    1-877-MAD-PRID[e] or 1-877-623-7743

    (541) 345-3737


    Also check out:

  6. Well, that Website for that hospital gives no email address, but I called the number for the Chaplain and left a message to the effect that a patient there had complained on the Internet about having been subjected to psychiatric nastieness. (I did not use those exact words, when leaving the phone message.)

  7. Mindfreedom has been informed, but I haven’t heard back from them, so I have no idea if Irit is a member, or if they have an email address to which she has access.

  8. I am worried about the reactions to this post. I do not know Irit. Or about the Canadian system, or medications.
    …but PLEASE use common sense and ONLY call the number she gave.
    And PLEASE only act, if you are reasonably confident of what you are doing, and only after consulting with one or two others about it?

    Her post sounds to me like she is requesting direct communication with someone, not that someone notify the hospital.

    Maybe Irit is needing to talk to someone after being in “seclusion” 12 days, and plus the meds issue.

    Also, probably a good idea if the person who calls knows how to pronounce her whole name correctly, etc.

    In my opinion, the person should say “I am her friend” and not mention the internet posting.

    Please don’t be careless,

    but on the other hand~ don’t blow it out of proportion, and we can calmly and carefully try to connect with her.

    I am willing to help.

    I have some free time in the coming days, I could even call.

    I am “high functioning” autistic, and I have a general across the board knowledge of Autism issues by assorted groups and individuals.

    I have only commented here once before to Amanda’s 8 Random Things.

    Take care, ~John

  9. John, Irit isn’t autistic, just FYI. She’s an activist in the Canadian mad movement, and if her views haven’t changed between then and now, has zero interest in being locked up or forcibly drugged, period. Definitely people should not be talking to the shrinks, she wants someone to talk to her. Presumably in part about how to get out of there, not just for emotional support.

    And I’ll second one thing you said and say it more strongly than you did: Anyone who thinks that talking to someone’s shrinks or staff is the thing to do in this situation, should probably stay the hell out of this, because your lack of understanding of the power dynamics in this situation could cause far more trouble than you solved by getting involved. Anyone with contacts in the Canadian mad movement, however, would be really welcome, because I at the moment don’t have enough contacts or knowledge to be much use.

  10. I have found an organization on the web that has
    a volunteer in Ontario Canada called the Antipsychiatry Coalition. They offer to help find lawyers etc. to get one out of involuntary confinement and forced medication. If you go to you will find the volunteers web addresses. My thought is they might be good resources…I leave it to someone else more astute at this situation to figure out how to get this information to Irit.

  11. Okay. I don’t know the Canadian system.

    What I meant was because it sounded like people were assuming that they would get straight answers and real understanding out of a psych “treatment team,” when as we know that’s rarely the case. I was afraid someone would call and start discussing her medication and decide she really needed it after all or something and end up siding with the system rather than persuading them to let her out. I’m glad someone who actually knows her is involved in this, because I don’t know her, I just posted about her once and she sort of randomly posted this distress signal or whatever one wants to call it, to this blog. Thanks for the correction. But I really was intending it more in the sense that a lot of people could end up talking to her team, and not her, and getting a very warped description of what is going on in there and going “Oh then she belongs there” or something.

    I have trouble getting people to take me seriously and not hang up on me over the phone due to the voice synthesizer I use, so I knew I was unlikely to be effective.

    I really hope that “couldn’t find her” thing wasn’t a bad sign. I’ve had friends who got the “couldn’t find her,” “he’s not a patient here,” etc. thing when they were right next to the staff answering the phone.

  12. I need to be more involved with the mad movement than I am lately. I really have not been keeping up with it and have trouble getting out and meeting people locally (took me years to find the corner of the mad movement that existed where I last lived).

    A similar thing often happens in the autistic community though: When someone really needs something and people find out, a lot of people step up and do their best to provide it. It can be stunning.

    The struggle re: the voice synthesizer is to keep people on the phone long enough to realize I’m not a hang-up call, then not a telemarketer, and then to realize I’m not a prank caller, and so on and so forth. Then it’s to get them to realize that I actually need time to type. And then further to realize that I’m their equal. It’s why I rarely use a telephone to call strangers.

    And I am really excited that Irit might be coming home. And glad that somehow she found me and you found me at the same time enough to find her and get her out of that place.

  13. What I wish we had was a network of safe places for people to stay (they wouldn’t have to be necessarily in groups, or modeled after any traditional ‘therapeutic’ sort of place) when they’d otherwise be put in some kind of place whether the psych system, nursing homes, whatever — or when escaping from same.

    I dreamed (literally dreamed) about such a network my first day out of a psych ward (unfortunately didn’t last more than a short while before being stuck back in another one), and it’s still surprising to me that at that age (I was 14) and with no knowledge of any of the mad pride or disability rights movements I’d have drawn so rapidly the connections between the psych system and nursing homes and all sorts of other places people get warehoused for being the wrong kind of person. But at any rate I’ve never figured out how to turn that into a reality, and I really wish it was one.

  14. I’m close enough to NYC that I can call, or perhaps go if there’s enough of a need. I’ll get in touch with you about it tonight, Amanda.

  15. Hello, I’m an old friend of Irit Shimrat’s and have lost track of how to get ahold of her. If you know and would like to forward her my email, i would be most grateful.

  16. Hi Suzanne

    This is Dave Ross who you and Irit know through groups in Vancouver. I expect that you have Irits email by now, but if not send me an your email and I will forward it to the address she was last using.


  17. Amanda:

    about safe spaces for people who are rescued from psych ward mayhem……….this might be a good topic for second life…….once you are up to it………..and perhaps even the forum…….

    And I wish Irit Shimrat the best……….even though I don’t know her at all, I do understand the situation she is in……….


  18. I’m in Honolulu, HI and have known Irit since 1998. I brought her to Honolulu for our Mental Health Consumer Conference back in 1999 to be our Keynote Speaker. I just found out that she’s in the hospital. I wanted to reach her to see how she’s doing. She may not remember me, but if you can forward this message to her I’d appreciate it.

    Love and Aloha,

  19. B”H

    I have said it on AFF, and I will say it here. I believe that there needs to be a political party to represent all of us. I would call it the “Spectrum Party.” It would unite three groups under one banner, “Aspies,” Autistic folks, and Neuro-typicals who have joined the spectrum because they have embraced our principles. The latter group are key to the survival of the Spectrum, particular in these perilous times. Please leave behind all divisions, LFA and “HFA”, and so forth. And, do not exclude Neuro-typicals who want to join the Spectrum, family members, wives and husbands of people on the spectrum, or just people who identify. We are all in the same boat. And, by the way, I was never forcibly diagnosed with anything. I embraced the Spectrum of my own free will, having been able to deny it, and I will deny it no longer. All the best,

  20. I am very concerned to find this forum post about Irit. She was my sister’s partner for 20 yrs who passed away just over one year ago. She is from an island home near Comox, called Lasquetti. If anyone can get through to Andrew or Will from the site, they can tell you more. I have written them in the past and not gotten through.

    Irit if you get this, hang it there sister.

  21. I thank everyone very much for their concern about me and apologize for not having kept up with this – didn’t realize the above was the last stuff about me on the internet. I have been at liberty since October 2007, after having been locked up first in Comox, BC and then at Bellevue Hospital, NYC. I am okay.

  22. Thanks to all for your caring and concern when I was in trouble. I would very much like to find Toni Tengan, who wrote here a long time ago…
    Irit (still at large)

      • Hi Irit? My mailing address is:

        Toni Tengan
        835 Kapaakea Lane
        Apt. 403
        Honolulu, HI 96826

        I hope you are out of the psych ward in Canada and are safely home, dancing at bustops and singing. (smile)

        Love & Aloha,
        Toni Tengan

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