Don Weitz was born into a wealthy white Jewish family in 1930. He grew up in the northeastern United States. As a young man, his family had him incarcerated in an asylum for fifteen months, where we was tagged with the label “schizophrenic” and subjected to over a hundred instances of subcoma insulin shock. For many years after his release, he did not yet identify these traumatic experiences as oppressive — in fact, he pursued higher education in psychology, eventually ending up employed by a major psychiatric institution in Toronto. In the early 1970s, however, he could no longer tolerate how that institution treated those who were incarcerated within it. He quit and began to understand both his own experiences and the psychiatric system in politicized ways, which eventually lead him into the anti-psychiatry movement that was emerging in many North American cities in those years. He went on to become an important leader in the movement in Toronto as well as an active participant in anti-poverty organizing. He was centrally involved in the anti-psychiatry magazine Phoenix Rising, which published in Toronto for around a decade, and in co-founding On Our Own, the first enduring organization by and for survivors of the psychiatric system in Toronto.
Material related to Weitz on the site:
- Announcement of a speaking event by Scott focused on material from the interview with Weitz.
- A six minute audio clip of him talking about his experience of psychiatric incarceration in the early 1950s — experiences which contributed to his later politicization and steadfast opposition to psychiatric oppression in all its forms:
- A seven minute audio clip of Weitz talking about the founding of On Our Own, Ontario’s first group of, by, and for psychiatric survivors, in 1977.