This is a very sad day for the survivor movement, the antipsychiatry movement, and for all those who organize against psychiatry—for one of our pillars of our community and indeed, one of our guiding lights has just passed—Leonard Roy Frank. Awful for us all who are facing this loss, though it is good that we are pulling together—and indeed Leonard would have liked that.
As I reflect on this day, I am taken back to the moment when I first came face-to-face with Leonard. It was 1982—and Leonard, like Don Weitz, like so many other people were testifying at Toronto City Hall Council Chambers. There was a hushed moment just before Leonard got up to speak; and I had an eerie sense that something remarkable was about to transpire. Then Leonard with his legendary long magnificent beard which made him look ever so like an Old Testament prophet, and his keen penetrating eyes rose to speak. At first, Leonard’s voice was exceptionally gentle, almost as if he were soothing a child. And so your first impression is that this is a very soft-spoken guy. Gradually, however, with every word that he spoke as he was elaborating on the appalling legacy of psychiatry, his voice grew louder and louder—as if a divine fury were overtaking the man. By the middle of his speech, his voice was thundering, his eyes grabbing you, so that there was no way that you would miss a syllable or fail to take in the seriousness of what was happening. It is as if his righteous anger itself were a way of knowing, of way of seeing that guided him and the rest of us infallibly.
Over the years, the pattern that I witnessed that day was repeated again and again. Whenever clarity was needed, whenever someone was needed to spell out the profound violation of human rights or to cut through the tangle of psychobabble, there was Leonard, warrior that he was, uttering forbidden truths, articulating them loud and clear, never pulling his punches, never retreating an inch. Such was the strength and the certainty of the man. At once a friend, a team member, a social justice activist, a seer, and a voice in the wildness that willy-nilly spoke truth to power.
Leonard’s legacy is gargantuan and is unquestionable—his stellar contributions to Madness Network News, his organizing, his various Quotationaries, his exceptionally well researched and at once scholarly and accessible book on the history of shock, which we all of us reference to this day. And there was his quiet behind-the-scenes support of so much that his comrades-in-arms were doing—e.g., his solid support of those of us who were penning a feminist critique of ECT, for example, for which I will always be grateful. I would also like to point out and add Leonard’s unwavering ability to keep his sights on what is important and not to get sidetracked. Albeit there have at times been fractious divisions in our movement, as there have been, indeed, with all movements, Leonard was never part of it. What goes along with this, he was interested in working with anyone who was making a genuine contribution. And he was good at recognizing an ally when he saw one.
Leonard, we remember and cherish you for all the work you did both publicly and behind the scenes. We remember you for your wisdom, your good sense, and your generosity. We remember you for how you lived, who you were, what you cared about, what you made of your life.
What privilege it has been working with you all these decades! And what mitzvah to have had you as a friend!
Enjoy a well earned rest, comrade ours. And may your memory be as a blessing.