Mental Health Rights Crusader Judi Chamberlin Dies

Judi Chamberlin devoted much of her life to the fight for collaboration in therapy and other types of mental health care, a struggle which has yielded much higher rates of client involvement in their own care. Sometimes taken for granted by modern clients, this acceptance and encouragement of collaboration was largely absent in the experiences of many clients in the mid-20th century, including Chamberlin herself. After discovering that she was unable to leave a hospital of her own volition after voluntarily checking herself in for depression, Chamberlin began working in support of people with mental health difficulties and formed her own advocacy organizations in tandem with professional work at Boston University.

Chamberlin inspired many others to participate in advocacy and create effective social and charity groups, and was hailed by her peers as a strong person intent on spreading what she described as “mad pride”–the idea that people with mental health concerns were equal to others and deserved equal rights. The advocate died Saturday in her Massachusetts home amongst her friends and family, successfully avoiding an unwanted transfer to a nursing home. She had participated in international advocacy programs, traveling around the world in support of mental health clients and proper care even while battling lung disease in her last few months of life.

Efforts to encourage collaboration among mental health professionals and create policies that respect this important principle continue, and Chamberlin’s personal experience with the power of self-involvement in care has had a profound influence over modern attitudes about this industry ideal. While many in the mental health field will likely go on to champion new accomplishments in therapy, counseling, and other treatments aware of their debt to the woman, scores of modern mental health clients will receive meaningful, heartfelt care without knowing the story of Chamberlin’s struggle-–but benefiting nevertheless.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • Susan


    January 19th, 2010 at 4:00 PM

    A great person who worked for the benefit of others very selflessly has passed away and the best tribute that we can pay to this person is by looking into and implmenting her proposals.

  • Kendrick Phillips

    Kendrick Phillips

    January 20th, 2010 at 3:43 AM

    Most people undergoing a problem just look to get through it and get away from it and stay away in the future. Very few people actually try and make the problem somewhat easier for others who may suffer from the same problem in the future and Judi was one such person. Hats off to her.

  • Belle


    January 20th, 2010 at 7:16 AM

    R.I.P Judi and know that you touched the lives of many with your work. Blessings to you and your family.

  • Eliza


    January 20th, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    As a non practiotioner I have never heard of her but I am intrigued by the good works that it sounds like she tried to do and plan to do more reading about her and the contributioins that she so evidently made in the mental health field.

  • Joseph Carson

    Joseph Carson

    January 30th, 2010 at 8:04 AM

    I have known Judi since 1977, when one of the issues was headlined in the Globe under “Mental patients’ rights vs. doctor’s duty”. I had joined the Mental Patients Liberation Front at the time and it changed my whole attitude towards the mental health system. “Aha!”, I thought, “I didn’t have to undergo the suffering and experience the attitudes of the staff!” The shock of realization after reading her groundbreaking book meant I never was going to have anything to do with what I call the “mental health industry” again, despite some still outstanding personal issues.
    Joseph Carson

  • Terrence Rothman

    Terrence Rothman

    March 1st, 2014 at 5:07 PM

    Judy Chamberlin like ,numerous peers, realized through being discriminated against as a person, because of her being “different”. She chose to combat that sociatal stigma openly, thus motivating thousands through her example. We all owe JC a debt in gratitude for her courage, creativity and insights.

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