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Interview with Ellen Mercer, 2021-07-30


Scope and Contents

Ms. Mercer talks about her career at the APA and the role that the APA played in advocating for the rights of the persons committed to psychiatric hospitals for non-medical reasons in the USSR. She then discusses the historical context for the 1989 State Department psychiatric delegation to the Soviet Union, including the 1977 Declaration of Hawaii and the All-Union Society's walking out of the WPA in 1983 in the face of an almost certain expulsion. Being a part of the November 1988 negotiation team to the Soviet Union, Ms. Mercer shares her thoughts about the negotiation process and the Soviet's compliance with the terms agreed upon. Ms. Mercer describes the field visit to Soviet psychiatric hospitals and then talks about the Soviet's readmission to the WPA, the role the 1989 U.S. State Department played in this process, the APA's and Ms. Mercer's personal stance with regard to the readmission. Ms. Mercer concludes by discussing the difference the American visit made in the big picture.

Olena Protsenko, a Post-doctoral Research Associate in Psychiatry and Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, conducted this interview remotely over the Zoom application.


  • Creation: 2021-07-30


Conditions Governing Access

Ellen Mercer did not request any additional restrictions on access to this interview beyond those that the University of Virginia has made for all the oral histories from the Soviet Psychiatry Oral History Project (2021-2022).

Biographical / Historical

At the time of the 1989 U.S. psychiatric mission to the U.S.S.R. Ms. Mercer was the Director of the A.P.A. Office of International Affairs. She is believed to be one of the initiators of the visit and was deeply involved in its planning and preparation as the representative of the American Psychiatric Association (A.P.A.). During the visit itself, she was a member of the team inspecting psychiatric hospitals on the ground.


From the Series: 138.5775 Gigabytes

From the Series: .25 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials

From the Series: English

From the Series: Russian

Repository Details

Part of the Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections Repository

Arthur J. Morris Law Library
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University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22903 United States