Pete Shaughnessy died on 15 December 2002, after being hit by a train at Battersea Park station, London. An inquest into his death was held at the Coroner's Court, 65 Horseferry Road, London SW1, Thursday, 10 April 2003, starting at 9.30am and lasting about two hours.
An inquest is a public hearing and anyone who wishes may attend -
and indeed speak.. For more information about the purpose of inquests and powers of the coroner, go to the City Coroner page of the Corporation of London website.
Because this was a "railway death" a jury sat with the Coroner, Dr Paul A Knapman. to hear the evidence which was given by various people, including Pete's long time friend, Sherry Allen, who was expecting him to visit her in London on the day he died. Andrew Bessant from the Acre Day Hospital in Worthing, West Sussex, also gave evidence; he was the last person to see Pete alive on Friday 13 December at the Day Hospital.
The driver whose train killed Pete also gave evidence. I had been in contact with the Coroner's Office since January and sent a number of letters and documents - including Southwark Mind's commemorative Newsletter and the obituaries published in The Big Issue, The Guardian and Mental Health Today. I'd had no indication beforehand that I would be asked to speak but the Coroner did invite me to do so (although clearly a bit unhappy about me "using the inquest to campaign" as he put it). I felt intimidated by his attitude but grateful that I had been invited to speak, so simply read from a paragraph from the last letter I had written to him which said: "I believe that Mr Shaughnessy's death was caused by a failure to provide him with the right care. His close friends and family were not involved appropriately in his care. I also think that his career as a mental health campaigner greatly hampered his ability to get proper treatment." The Coroner did not think most of what I had sent him was relevant but did allow the jury to take the Southwark Mind Newsletter No 60 with them when they deliberated their verdict. After 40 minutes, the jury brought in the following verdict:
"Peter Anthony Shaughnessy has died from multiple injuries on Sunday, 15 December, at about 6pm at Battersea Park railway station, SW8. Peter Shaughnessy was killed having stepped off the platform into the path of a fast moving train. He killed himself whilst the balance of his mind was disturbed"
Rosemary Moore, April/May 2003
Southwark Mind devoted the February Newsletter (No 60) to remembering Pete and it includes "Into the Deep End" which was Pete's contribution to Mad Pride: A Celebration of Mad Culture published in 2000 in which he tells his own story.
Also included in the Southwark Mind commemorative Newsletter, is the long article about Pete/Mad Pride - "Talking Sense" by Matt Seaton from the London Evening Standard, 2000. (Which is on the Mad Pride website.)
Robert Dellar, one of the other four founders of Mad Pride, compiled the special Southwark Mind issue. More details from:
Mad Pride launched a campaign to STOP THE SUICIDES! on Friday 18 April at Chat's Palace, 42 Brooksby's Walk, Homerton, London E9. Phone 020 8986 6714 (Nearest train Homerton overground.) This was a live music show from 8pm to 12 midnight. Admission £4.
Mad Pride's Press Release said: "6,000 people a year in Britain are recorded as having committed suicide, though the real figure is probably far higher. New Labour is currently intent on pushing through a universally-criticised new mental health bill aimed at forcibly medicating psychiatric patients in the community and incarcerating people with "personality disorders" in case they become dangerous. This concern for public safety is based on wholly inaccurate stereotypes about the mentally ill. The fact is that violent acts by the mentally ill are extremely uncommon and we are far more likely to be dangers to ourselves. Where is the legislation that will help prevent us killing ourselves by improving our social conditions and treatment options? Mad Pride founder and media spokesman Pete Shaughnessy killed himself by jumping under a train at Battersea on December 15th last year. What is there in the new mental health bill that will protect people like Pete? Fuck all, that's what.
Suicide is murder by society: we say STOP THE SUICIDES, and invite the public to join our campaign and listen to some bloody good music at the same time. There will be a "suicide memorial postbox" at the show for people to place messages into for their loved ones who have died."
There were tribute concerts for Pete Shaughnessy at the Foundry, Great Eastern Street, London EC1, on Sunday 4th May and at the Garage in Highbury on summer solstice night, Saturday 21st June. FURTHER INFORMATION FROM ROBERT DELLAR 07985 780385
January 6-12 2003 - The Big Issue
More than 300 mourners crammed into the St Thomas More church in Dulwich, south London, on the morning of Christmas Eve. Present were mental health campaigners, anti-globalisation activists, members of south London's Irish community, Saturday league football supporters and, among those standing at the back unable to find a seat, Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes. Later, as the crowd left the nearby cemetery, a flower seller remarked that she'd never seen such a turnout. But it was entirely fitting for the man they'd come to mourn.
Pete Shaughnessy was a colossus in the mental health world. One of the founders of the pioneering activist group Mad Pride, which stampeded into the limelight in the late 1990s, he put grassroots mental health issues firmly on the political agenda. He was also very much part of the Big Issue 'family', writing articles for the magazine, giving his time to help vendors and, for a brief spell during the last year of his life, selling the magazine.
On December 15, after a prolonged bout of depression, Pete took his own life. He was 40 years old, and leaves a wife, Penny, and four children, Francesca, Sam, Nathan and Daniel. He also leaves behind a mental health landscape changed forever by his innovative and energetic campaigning. Pete saw mental health, treated previously with equal measures of fear and condescension, as both the great civil rights issue of the 21st century and the new rock 'n' roll. Mad, he argued, should not mean bad. People with mental health problems should be treated with dignity and respect and should be free from draconian laws. He shouted his message from the rooftops, with generous doses of common sense and irreverent humour. Charismatic and well informed, he could talk for hours on any subject with frequent, lengthy and entertaining diversions. You didn't phone Pete for a quick chat.
"Pete burned very brightly because he never sold out," said Dr Rufus May, a clinical psychologist, who as a teenager was diagnosed with schizophrenia. "He never shied away from confronting people with the truth. When he smelt a rat, he would always say so. And in mental health politics there are a lot of rats."
Simon Barnett, his best man and fellow Mad Pride founder, said: "Pete was the first person to engage the media in grassroots mental health issues. His sense of humour and integrity will be sorely missed."
Pete grew up in a south London working-class Irish family, and after three years at drama school, and work as a programme seller at Arsenal FC and a carer for people with disabilities, he fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a bus driver. A vicious attack by a passenger with an iron bar triggered a spiral of mental distress that stayed with him. His condition included bleak, crippling depression and frantic, extravagant highs, which on one memorable occasion sent him on a quest for the Holy Grail.
He threw himself into mental health activism and along with Mad Pride, and its political counterpart Reclaim Bedlam, organised parties, festivals and direct actions celebrating 'mad' culture.
Pete's campaigns were provocative, often funny, and
always underpinned by powerful arguments. For example, during the 2000
London mayoral campaign, Labour candidate Frank Dobson was described
as "clinically depressed" by rival Ken Livingstone. Pete, mindful that
Dobson, as health secretary, had announced the proposals for forcing
medication on mental health patients (and had spoken disparagingly of
the mentally ill as nuisance neighbours), immediately issued a press
release declaring Mad Pride's support for Dobbo, with the slogan
"Mad Frank for Mayor". "We don't want Frank to feel ashamed of his
problems," Pete told the Daily Express. Dobbo's people were
Before his final
bout of depression, Pete campaigned against proposed new legislation
that would diminish the rights of mental health patients, including the
reviled Community Treatment Orders, which would force patients to
be drugged against their will and increase compulsory detentions.
Despite opposition, the government is determined to bulldoze through its
new mental health bill and campaigners are gearing themselves up for a
bloody battle. Pete's contribution to the fight will be sorely
January 23 2003 - The Guardian
Campaigner who took the stigma out of insanity
Peter Shaughnessy, who has died aged 40 , one of the founders and driving forces behind Mad Pride, which emerged in 1999 to challenge government moves towards what it saw as more coercive mental health legislation.
The concept of Mad Pride was simple: like Gay Pride or Black Pride, a stigmatised, stereotyped group - the mentally ill- reappropriated language and forced society to face its prejudices. At last, the voices of patients themselves, not just psychiatrists or government ministers or charity spokespeople, were heard in policy debates. And in the formidably articulate Shaughnessy, Mad Pride had a master of the pithy soundbite and the well- staged often humorous, direct action protest.
Born in south London, Pete grew up in a working-class Irish household in East Dulwich, and was educated in Dulwich and Battersea. After studying drama at the Rose Bruford College, Sidcup, from 1983 to 1986, he worked in a children's home, and then as a carer for people with disabilities.
In 1990, he realised a childhood dream by becoming a bus driver, and taking the number 36 out of Peckham garage; it was in the course of this work in April 1992 that he was launched on the spiral into mental illness. He was already under pressure: his long-term relationship with his partner Lucy had foundered a couple of years earlier, while the dispute over the privatisation of the bus service was also taking its toll. Pete, coming to the aid of a conductor who was being attacked by a passenger, was severely assaulted with an iron bar.
Shortly afterwards, he went on a silent hunger strike outside the bus garage, and by the end of the year he was hospitalised, having been found walking half-naked on a bridge in Ireland. He was diagnosed as suffering from manic depression. A life of constant medication, regular spells in hospital and brilliant activism followed.
In 1997, the Bethlem and Maudsley NHS Trust marked the Bethlem hospital's 750th anniversary with a series of celebrations. Pete, who had been a patient at the Maudsley, saw nothing to celebrate in either the original Bedlam ("a symbol for man's inhumanity to man, for callousness and cruelty," in historian Roy Porter's words), or the state of mental health care.
So he started a counter- movement: Reclaim Bedlam. Hundreds of mental patients around the country supported it, and the BBC2 series From The Edge made a programme about it. At a time of many community- care horror stories, a very different message was finally getting out.
Then came Mad Pride. "Telling people I am mad is taking control of my madness and accepting it;' Pete said "By reclaiming language I'm turning my prison into a fortress."
The group produced an anthology of writing (Mad Pride: A
Celebration Of Mad Culture, 2001), a compilation CD (Nutters
With Attitude) and put on frequent live gigs. Demonstrations
were held to highlight prejudice against the mentally ill and
register outrage at the government's proposals to extend powers
of compulsory treatment. Pete also threw himself into the most
contentious area in mental health care. In 1995 his younger
sister Theresa had been killed by her boyfriend, whom psychiatrists
later deemed to be in a state of paranoid psychosis. Pete's
response was to immerse himself in the issue of how society
treats the "criminally insane". He worked as an advocate
for patients at Broadmoor, and when a cluster of suicides at
the high security hospital three years ago coincided with severe
staffing short- ages, brought the issue into the public domain.
Although his last months were marked by deep depression, Pete continued to campaign against the draft mental health bill. In November, his usual dynamism buffeted by illness and heavy medication, he still managed to manoeuvre himself into a position behind health minister Jacqui Smith on the platform at the Mind mental health conference in Cardiff. The message on his T-shirt was visible to all: "No Force".
He is survived by his wife Penny, stepson Daniel, and his children Francesca, Sam and Nathan from his relationship with Lucy.
Peter Anthony Thomas Shaughnessy,
February 2003 - Mental Health Today
Ray Rowden pays tribute to Pete Shaughnessy - the radical mental health rights campaigner who was proud to be mad:
Just before Christmas mental health lost one of its most feisty and effective campaigners. Pete Shaughnessy decided to end his own life. I first met Pete when I was director for high secure services at the Department of Health and was working to establish a user input in the closed world of forensic mental health services. I had, of course, come across Pete featured on many occasions in various media, including tv, radio and in print. What impressed me was his utter ability to just be himself. With Pete you got what you saw - a highly articulate and imaginative guy who spoke his mind plainly and without pretension.
Pete had experiences his fair share of admissions to hospital in tough times, particularly the Maudsley, that august London institution. Back in 1997 he learned that the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley NHS Trust (as it then was) was planning to celebrate the 750 years of existence of the Bethlem and Maudsley hospitals, stretching back to the original Bedlam hospital and beyond, with a lot of money being pumped into various events. He found out there was to be no input from people actually using the services. He was angry and, with the help of others, turned this anger into a high profile media campaign to challenge the celebrations and the failure to recognise the user perspectives on an institution that had presided over so much human misery. The great and the good had their feathers well and truly ruffled. For Pete it was a good laugh but also a very serious and successful campaign to ensure the experiences of people living with mental health needs were placed fair and square in the public eye.
Getting a user voice in secure settings was tough and complex. Pete was part of the steering group that planned the work and subsequently went into the three high secure hospitals to talk with people living in them. He was a brilliant communicator, could spot bullshit at 50 yards, whoever peddled it, and really helped the project succeed. We enjoyed many moments of fun and hilarity in doing the work, and many a drink to celebrate when the project was over. One and off duty his company, even during the tough times in his life, was hugely enjoyable. He could be difficult, truculent and immovable on occasions, but you knew he was always rooted in his experience of using services.
Peteís own journey was tough enough but he also suffered the loss of his sister, who was tragically killed by someone with mental health problems. Many would have become bitter at this experience; Pete never did. He loved his sister, was deeply affected by her passing but used her memory to give him personal strength to keep up his campaigning. This unique experience of being someone who used services but who was also a victim personally of loss through failure on the part of the mental health system gave him a unique and invaluable insight.
Whatever went through his mind at the time of his death, I am sure Pete would want us to celebrate his life and enjoy the many happy and incredibly funny moments we enjoyed with him. Mental health has lost a brave and effective campaigner; many of us have lost a great and dear friend.
Kate Summerside of Mental Health Media adds: I held Pete in high regard - for his honesty and total integrity in a world where there is so much insincerity, hypocrisy and artifice and for being an uncompromising force who fought for real change. He was an inspiration to me - I read about Pete and Mad Pride not long after Iíd come out of psychiatric hospital and was having trouble coming to terms with my experience of madness and the subsequent treatment and response.
Pete was proud of who he was and made a lot of people realise that it is ok to be mad. Itís all too easy to lose your confidence, sense of pride and self-worth in a world that fears, derides and discriminates against madness. Pete didnít see why any of us should put up with being treated as second rate, second class citizens meriting crap treatment.
I still canít believe heís gone. This is such a sad loss. I miss him but take some comfort in knowing that his spirit and legacy will live on.
And from Liz Mainís column ďthis
lifeĒ in the same issue of Mental Health Today:
Issue 25, April 2003
Tribute to Pete Shaughnessy
I first bumped into Pete on the street in Blackpool on the opening day of the Annual Conference (1999?) and spoke to him because his delegate badge said something like 'Johnny Haloperidol' and I recognised him as a mad person. I was working for Derby Mind at the time.
At the final workshop I attended at that conference, led I believe by Alison Cobb, and probably about early indications of what the new Mental Health Act might look like, he didn't sit down but paced about in an agitated fashion. His intervention was late on but he referred angrily, to someone who had recently died in Broadmoor or one of the other 'special' hospitals. Whether this was someone he had befriended or been advocating for I don't know but he (and family? friends?) had been trying to get information about what had actually happened. They hadn't had much joy.
His final Shakespearean offering was along the
A few of us in the room stood up and clapped.
I found that so inspiring and because of his, and other angry (sometimes very angry) interventions from the floor in plenary sessions, were accepted, or maybe tolerated, by Mind I thought for the first time that maybe this is an organisation I want to be part of. My faith, if that is what it is, is still there.
I'm sure Pete Shaughnessy can't have been an easy man to get along with (I am not!) but I wouldn't have worn Mad Pride t-shirts (still have 'em) promoted Mad Pride in my work with Derby Patients Council and, indeed, been so moved by news of his death if it hadn't been for the anger, passion and integrity that he so readily conveyed in my few encounters with him.
I'm something of a sentimentalist, but the world, this mad f****** world, is the poorer for his having left it.
MindLink Issue 25, April 2003
Mark Olden - Pete Shaughnessy on 17.12.2002, 17:32
Adam Porter - Awful News on 18.12.2002, 5:39
website (and RCN)
Pete Shaughnessy, one of the founders of seminal mental health activists Mad Pride, died on Saturday (December 14 2002). Pete, was a legendary figure in the mental health world in the UK and beyond. His campaigning and direct actions helped push the government on to the back foot over their plans for forced drug treatment for the mentally ill in the community. He fought against the stigma surrounding mental illness with passion, compassion and humour. Pete knew the value of reclaiming 'madness' from the psychiatric establishment, and through MAD PRIDE showed that humour, creativity and basic humanity, are some of the most powerful tools at our disposal in addressing the 'mental health problems' of a post-modern world.
I shared a platform with him some years ago when he kept interrupting the panel discussion by standing up and removing another of the seven T-shorts he was wearing. Each one said something ruder, and funnier than the one before - most of them about psychiatrists, all of the about psychiatry and the colonisation of 'people' by the medical process. He cut a disruptive, disturbing and delightful figure. I gave up trying to be 'serious'. He was sufficiently funny/serious enough for us all that night.
My friend, Rufus May, passed on the sad news earlier tonight and now I pass the news to you. Post this message on to anyone you think might be interested. Maybe in Pete's passing (and your passing of the 'story' of his death) the movement towards an honest and just appreciation of madness, might be accelerated. Pete was one of those who led the way. Now that he is no longer here the need to remain in the light that shone through him, is all the more important.
Let us think of the loss to his family and close friends but, most of all, let us think of Pete, and the emancipation of the so-called 'mentally ill'. In his death let us all breathe renewed life into the ideal which meant so much to him.
, 2 January 2003
In Memory of Two Friends, and More.
I used to be really into caving and pot-holing. Like anyone whose has taken part in an extreme sport I knew people who had a friend who had died (mostly from cave-diving). I really wish, as a mental health service user, that I could keep that friend-of-a-friend distance, but this Christmas I learned that two more of my friends have died. It is probably one of the hardest things about making friends in hospital, or in user groups, so many people die young. And how should I write about them without being silly or sentimental?
I first heard of Pete Shaughnessy when I was due to give a talk as part of the press launch of the Royal College of Psychiatry's 'Changing Minds' campaign. Pete, in usual Pete fashion, was organising a counter demonstration and it made me nervous enough to change my talk to acknowledge the fact that some people see psychiatry as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. We met for the first time at a lobby against the new Mental Health Act a couple of years later and found (to my surprise) that we respected each others position and agreed that there are lots of ways of challenging stigma and empowering service users. We stayed in touch and when Mad Pride (co-founded by Pete) was organised I wanted to go to the memorial for those who had died on Archway Bridge but unfortunately I wasn't well. Mad Pride was an achievement, though Pete and I often found time to argue about the name.
Nikki Dakin was the User Development Worker in the London Borough of Harrow. To begin with I was amazed by Nikki's professionalism, patience and her passion for helping service users to do more that they thought they could. Later we became good friends and meetings to discuss local projects (over coffee) would get extended so we could talk about our experiences in the services and our ideas on what would make things better. Nikki was a mega-efficient person and certainly not afraid to delegate as I somewhat ruefully learned on being inspired to join in on local projects that I wouldn't normally have considered. I will miss her immensely.
Pete and Nikki are the ninth and tenth of my mental health user friends to die. And that is good friends, if I include people I have only known to talk to in hospital I know about twenty people who have died young. Some of these have committed suicide, in despair over what their lives have become or as a result of aspects of their illness. Some have died as a result of side effects of their official medication or as a final result of attempting to medicate with illegal drugs or alcohol. I cannot blame them, I am only here because someone in the street choose to call an ambulance rather than step over an unconscious person on a London street.
These are hard things for those who make friends with those with a mental health problem and those who work with them. Both my husband and my greatest friend have told me that they have to live slightly detached from me because I can fall into hopelessness when the jangle in my head becomes too hard. Can anything be done? The government are committed to reducing the number of people who kill themselves, but then they make it hard for young people by continually testing them, and are planning to make it hard for those in mental distress by introducing a new mental health act that takes away any control of their lives' from people who are subject to it.
I personally wish there was a cure, or medication with no side effects. I wish my psychiatrist didn't blame me when I become ill when I'm not doing anything to trigger it, because then it becomes harder and harder to ask for help.
The Pork-Bolter (What's
Really Going on in Worthing)
Pete Shaughnessy RIP
CHARISMATIC campaigner and Worthing resident Pete Shaughnessy sadly took his own life just before Christmas, after a long spell of serious depression, at the age of 40. Pete was best known for his work in mental health campaigning, being one of the founders and driving forces of Mad Pride, an organisation that pushed for an end to the treatment of people suffering from an illness - mental ill health - as second class citizens to be abused and manipulated by those in power. He was also dead keen on football, particularly non-corporate lower-league stuff, and was a fan of Crystal Palace and Dulwich Hamlet, from his old stomping grounds in South East London, as well as Worthing FC, where he had become social secretary. Pete couldnít stop himself getting involved with a good cause and was a regular helper with Brighton radical newsletter SchNEWS and with your very own Porkbolter and had been a regular at worthing eco-action meetings until he became ill last year. Ex-bus driver Pete was a great bloke who made loads of friends wherever he went - as witnessed by the packed-solid church in Dulwich for his funeral on Christmas Eve. Obituaries were published in The Big Issue and The Guardian (the national, not the Worthing one). There is to be a tree planting in his honour and a special memorial night at Brightonís new social centre, The Cowley Club in London Road, on February 8. Weíll miss him, as of course will Penny, Daniel and many others, particularly his kids in London. Cheers, Pete. It was good to know you. Oh and by the way - it wasnít you that was crazy. It was this porkiní world we live in...
The Pork-Bolter (What's Really Going on in Worthing), No 51, February 2003