Tomorrow, 17 February 2021, is a special day for me. Along with many people all over the world, I remember the life and times of Giordano Bruno. He was the last individual burnt at the stake by the Inquisition on 17 February 1600.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of hosting my Mom from Chicago here in Eugene, Oregon for a decade. She shared many stories. One of the most startling was the revelation that my grandfather, an immigrant from Lithuania who spent many years digging coal, admired the author and philosopher, Giordano Bruno, whose statue is in Rome, turned to face the Vatican.
This year, I have asked a wonderful friend who was raised in Italy, psychiatrist Benedetto Saraceno, MD, to translate a short remembrance of Bruno. May we all be freethinkers during these challenging times when we need to change almost everything to address the climate crisis and the way our humanity responds.
You may find both the Italian and English translations here, please forward especially to folks who speak Italian:
All are welcome: Mental disability, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), brings special challenges. How do mental disability and mental health relate to the UU value of dignity & respect for all? A dialogue between Leslie Relle (TBI survivor) and David Oaks (psychiatric survivor), both UUCE members.
Special Guest: Rev. Phillip Schulman (TBI survivor) has served four UU congregations as Minister. He is a community organizer, peer leader & restorative justice activist.
Live music by Susanne Giordano, tune in 5 minutes early.
ASL interpreting by Patrick Galasso. Moderated by Merri Carlisle, Co-Chair.
Sponsor: Unitarian Universalist Church in Eugene Accessibility Task Force (ATF)
If you have any questions, would like to get on our email list, or would like to volunteer, contact us at email@example.com or 541-914-1469. If you miss, ask about online recording. (Version 3)
Today, Monday, 18 January 2021, we celebrate Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. In two days, we in the USA will have a brand-new President, thankfully. Every morning I listen to a lot of National Public Radio (NPR). With vaccinations increasing, NPR reported that a “new normality” may finally be possible. A few minutes later, an NPR editorialist warned us, as he should, that the surge of white supremacy must not become a “new normal.”
With all this talk about “new normality,” let me tell you something that MLK wrote and spoke about that is often neglected. MLK called for the end of what we call “normality.” This is my 44th year working for human rights of people with disabilities, so I got very interested when I first heard about this incredible historic fact, and dug in for more.
One of the best examples is that MLK brought a written speech with him in August 1963 to the famous, peaceful March on Washington. At the podium, perhaps after expertly sizing up the huge crowd on the Mall in the summer heat, he never gave that longer written speech. MLK instead improvised, partly based on previous speeches, and gave impromptu what is now known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most famous in US history.
The title of the original speech that MLK did not give was “NORMALCY — NEVER AGAIN.” This typewritten speech, complete with his corrections marked with xxxxxxx, is carefully archived at the Woodruff Library at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Here are some of his words that are most relevant to me today:
“[W]e will not be beset by the nagging knowledge that this nation owes an abject apology to Lincoln; an apology for going too slow in granting equal rights to all her citizens; an apology for not pushing hard enough in bringing to reality his hopes and dreams; an apology for invoking the evil alibi that ‘this is not the time’ for the hour of freedom to strike.”
King concluded this part of his speech with words that he would often say other places and are so well put and so important today: “For we know full well that… any time is the time to do the right thing.”
We white USA-born males owe the world an apology for the bigoted folks, mainly white male “citizens,” who are leading the bankrupt ideology of White Supremacy. The best way for us to apologize will be to take action: Black Lives Matter!
MLK frequently visited the theme of challenging normality. He even called for the creation of a “International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment.” The nonprofit human rights coalition, MindFreedom International, celebrates this vision of having a real IAACM.
Welcome President Joe, But No New Normal!
With the impending inauguration of a new president, many of us feel great relief. Wonderful. But let us learn a lesson from electing President Barack Obama, who I supported. I feel many of us progressives relaxed and let down our guard during Obama’s eight years. Obama himself encouraged progressives to be more active during his administration, and we should have listened to him. Now we know. This time, let us be on guard, prepared, engaged, and always active.
I think back about my childhood growing up in the south side of Chicago. White Supremacist racism was rampant in that area, not far from the Nazi headquarters. At the age of ten, I was only a few miles away from where Martin Luther King was struck by a rock or brick on 5 August 1966.
I later got out of Chicago, went to college and became a community organizer activist for people with mental or physical disabilities. In 1983, I moved to Eugene, Oregon.
I distinctly remember sitting in Monroe Park, not far from downtown Eugene, Oregon. I was reading material written by MLK. He recalled those days on the south side of Chicago, and I remember he remarked about the intense hate he saw in the eyes of white protestors. MLK said that racists in Mississippi could probably learn from Chicago racists! I especially remember, to paraphrase, that MLK said the hate was so great, his hope was that some young people would get out of the south side of Chicago, go to college, and get away from that environment. I was so startled, it felt like he was writing directly to me.
Perhaps MLK was writing to me, in a sense. Certainly he is speaking to all of us now, that we must never again have “normality.” No normality and no new normality! Ever! Here in our household we even have a little game that you might want to play: Whenever your hear the word “normal” such as on the radio or TV, everyone sneezes or howls. The first to do so “wins.” Let us continue to be allergic to normal or new normal! Why?
On Jan. 7, 2021, the day after the D.C. riots when Trump supporters violently invaded the Capitol, a Trump administration leader for mental health, Elinore McCance‐Katz, M.D., Ph.D., announced her resignation. She had been Trump’s appointed assistant secretary for mental health and substance use at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Yes, we ought to all applaud her resignation in protest of Trump’s rioters. Here is an excerpt from her recent statement:
“I believe that this behavior was totally unacceptable and, in my own heart, I simply am not able to continue. I believe that we are given certain life situations where we must make the difficult decisions and we get one chance to do it the right way.”
However, for the past four years, under Dr. McCance-Katz’s supervision, SAMHSA has sadly betrayed our values in the movement for empowerment of mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors. Quietly, SAMHSA has given two major grants, in 2016 and 2020, to dozens of cities and towns around the USA to support more “court-ordered” coerced mental health care of people living in their own homes out in the community. SAMHSA uses the euphemism “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” (AOT) but really the term that legal scholars use objectively is “Involuntary Outpatient Commitment” (IOC).
We have now made a spreadsheet about grants for outpatient commitment based on SAMHSA’s own public documentation. For more than one year, I requested, unsuccessfully, that SAMHSA supply any reports about the outcome of their support. You may find our spreadsheet about SAMHSA backing of outpatient commitment, as well as a copy of my one year of email dialogue with SAMHSA here:
So, Dr. McCance-Katz, we appreciate your service and your resignation after the white supremacist violence, but please do not reapply for your position at SAMHSA! During your time at SAMHSA, millions were found to support IOC, but SAMHSA claimed poverty when it came to supporting the popular annual Alternatives Conference, which since 1985 has provided a way for hundreds and thousands of US mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors to work together. You can read about the history of Alternatives here:
SAMHSA canceled Alternatives and zeroed out funding support. Now the main annual conference is Peerpocalypse, which is sponsored by a State nonprofit here in Oregon, Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon. You can find more about Peerpocalypse here:
It is no surprise and coincidence that the federal agencies who are supposedly working for our mental well-being, instead use coercion to support “normality” and silence the voices of mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors.
SAMHSA is not the only federal mental health agency with a bias toward the old-fashioned medical model approach, and against an empowerment-based model. My friend, psychologist Al Galves, PhD, told me:
My hypothesis is that the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) spends more than 80% of its $1.7 billion each year on studying the brain — neural networks, cells, molecules, neurotransmitters, other chemicals and genetics. This is a big problem because human beings don’t use our brains or our genes to live our lives. We use our minds — our thoughts, feelings (emotions), intentions and perceptions to live our lives. The mind is not the same as the brain.
I have often pondered the way so-called “normal” is hurtling itself towards the cliff of environmental catastrophe. Now I realize that humanity as a whole, with a few exceptions such as many indigenous tribes, has a “Green Disability.” That is, it is irrefutable that generally speaking modern humans are so very out of touch with nature, that we threaten our own extinction.
There are five new brief free online videos launched from Greta Thunberg and the Dalai Lama about the role of feedback loops in amplifying the risk of climate crisis. This is why we need immediate and major action, so that seven generations ahead there will still be people and life. Please take a look at these short videos, narrated by Richard Gere:
I love you. I am David W. Oaks. And I love you if you’re quadriplegic/tetraplegic like me. If you are a psychiatric survivor like me. Or if you’re not any of those.
My friend, the late Justin Dart, Jr. was a leader in disability. He connected mental health and physical disability. He said over and over and over:
“No forced treatment ever!”
And now I think he would say:
“Black Lives Matter!”
I love you whether you’re a relative who’s a Democrat. And I love my relatives who are Republicans. Justin worked with both.
And as Joe Biden becomes President, I encourage his administration to look at federal mental health agencies. Look at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Why don’t they look more at alternatives? Like Peer Support?
And I especially would encourage Joe Biden’s administration, and everyone in the US and the world,to look at the SAMHSA. That stands for the “Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration.”
I’ve done this work for 44 years, and for decades SAMHSA was an ally. They supported empowerment, recovery, alternatives.
But under the wonderful Obama, who I support, they began funding cities for involuntary outpatient commitment. This is court-ordered outpatient mental health.
Now this has been going on quietly all over the US, for decades for thousands of Americans. Your home becomes an institution. You’re court-ordered to usually take drugs, powerful drugs.
Sadly, SAMHSA began funding several dozen sites, with millions of dollars. I’ve tried to get information from them.
Please help. Because SAMHSA is refusing to disclose. One year ago, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request, and they still have not told me anything about these programs, in terms of evaluating. One fact is that black people tend to be in these programs more than white people.
Right now, I chair a subcommittee, for a work group in the Oregon legislature, for the Voice & Inclusion of Oregonians with Lived Experience of the Mental Health System. We are concerned about the way alternatives to police violence, like CAHOOTS here in Eugene, Oregon, need to include the peer perspective, or else they can be a gateway to outpatient commitment.
Last week, we met with a representative of CAHOOTS, and they are interested in the peer perspective. Cities all over the US and Canada are looking at CAHOOTS as a model. Our local Affiliate of MindFreedom, MindFreedom Oregon, is looking at these issues.
Wherever you are in the world, you can create an Affiliate of MindFreedom, like MindFreedom Ghana or MindFreedom Ireland, who are doing great work. Or you can use your group’s name and simply be a Sponsor of MindFreedom by endorsing the principles.
I congratulate the National Council on Independent Living. Their Mental Health Subcommittee has adopted MindFreedom’s Shield campaign. And NCIL plans to reach hundreds of Independent Living Centers about this Shield program.
Today, the climate crisis threatens vulnerable people. COVID is related to climate crisis and the way we treat our environment. For us to live seven generations in the future, we absolutely need a revolution, the sooner the better.
But we will have one.
Please look at SAMHSA.
And Lead On!
I love you all.
David W. Oaks is a Revolutionary Consultant with Aciu! Institute (aciu.info).
Comments Off on Inside Story of My Keynote at Peerpocalypse 2020
This Summer 2020, I was one of the four keynoters for the major gathering of hundreds of US mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors, Peerpocalypse. Of course, this time it was on Zoom, and at the bottom you can watch my keynote.
During the keynote I reference three archives I know about. Here is more information and how to get in touch with them:
U. Mass: My late friend, Judi Chamberlin, is widely acknowledged as one of the main leaders of the start of the Mad Movement. The University of Massachusetts in Amherst received her enormous files of Movement material. These have been catalogued, and you can read more about it here: http://scua.library.umass.edu/umarmot/chamberlin-judi-1944-2010/
PSAT: Psychiatric Survivor Archives of Toronto gathered a lot of material, and decided to be independent of the university system. I had not heard much about PSAT for a while, so I tracked down board members and exchanged emails. Apparently, they no longer have their web address they used to have. Board member Lucy Costa emailed me in July 2020 that, “Yes, the archives are absolutely safe and secure.” Because of low resources, COVID-19 and questions about issues such as researching Canada’s Archives Act, there has been a lull. Lucy said all is well. You may email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Incredibly, despite our social change movement doing so much work internationally for so long, these are the only three archives I am aware of. Do you know of any others? My friend, Lauren Tenney, has networked about some artifacts via Facebook. I have not yet seen that, thanks Lauren.
Last year, 2019, we lost a giant in our movement, one of my best friends, Janet Foner. Janet was mainly involved in Re-evaluation Counseling, but strictly separate from that, Janet was also active in co-founding and leading MindFreedom International. Her friend, Lauren Spiro, is in both worlds, RC and what they call the “wide world.” Lauren has edited together a tribute, mainly by RCers (and even though I have never joined RC, they have included my tribute as the only one from the “wide world”). You can read and download here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hmVpZ0dfm7jkLUIFb20aA-zA41pOmTNftD9ngCdMzMg/edit?usp=sharing
One of my tributes to fallen leaders is David Heine, a filmmaker and Eugene friend who died fairly recently, 17 July 2020. David created hundreds of documentaries, mainly about art. But he also made some documentaries highly critical of the mental health system. For instance, his younger brother was caught up by involuntary psychiatric drugging for decades, and died early as a result. David made this wonderful documentary about their relationship: “Little Brother Big Pharma.” David also made a movie about alternatives called “Care Farms of the Netherlands.”
Shall We Radicals Network Like We Used To?
During the 1970s & 1980s, for about a decade, radical psychiatric survivors used to gather each Summer, usually on a college campus. These events became known as “International Conference for Human Rights and Against Psychiatric Oppression” (ICHRAPO). I attended several of these but missed the last one in Vermont in 1985. A celebrity visited: Yes, the mayor of Burlington at that time was Bernie Sanders and I understand that he visited and spoke briefly at the International Conference! At about that time, the federal government began funding a big annual conference, so unfortunately Vermont included a lot of acrimony because participants split about how to react to the federal conference. That ended the International Conference.
I have called for restarting the International Conference. Now that people are more familiar with Zoom, we could easily hold a virtual gathering. If you are interested, let me know. Plus, we have started a private group on Facebook and I can get you an invite. Email me at email@example.com for more information.
Mad Movement Challenges White Supremacy
Several psychiatric survivor activists, including leading African American women such as Celia Brown and Yvonne Smith, have built a network, Surviving Race: The Intersection of Injustice, Disability, and Human Rights, to challenge systemic racism, including connecting with our Mad Movement. Find the Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/364074427086419
Federal Support of Coerced Outpatient Mental Health
In my keynote, I referenced how the big federal mental health agency, Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) used to fund a popular annual conference of psychiatric survivors and mental health consumers, called Alternatives. SAMHSA has stopped funding such evens, claiming lack of money.
However, SAMHSA found millions of dollars to help promote outpatient coerced mental health treatment. In 2017, I exchanged emails with SAMHSA staff about this, and I included a link to the 17 (since one was dropped, 16) cities: http://davidwoaks.com/samhsa-involuntary-mental-health
Yes, of course we in the USA will be focusing over the next few weeks on de-selecting the incredibly negative current occupant in the White House. In fact, I have created a Facebook group to promote positive dialogue between Trump opponents and those who may have mistakenly voted for him in the past. We need to talk.
I have given this group a slogan, “Tough Ha!” This is the last laugh for by us. I love acronyms, and my acronym for this is TUFFFFHA, which is Trump Unites Family & Friends For Firing His Arrogance (or Ass). I shortened this acronym to TU4FHA. Please do not join this group if you might ever vote for Trump in the future. But everyone else that can hold a civil dialogue, you are welcome to join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/751355419041364
More About My Consulting Business, Aciu! Institute
Aciu to Everyone Who Supported Me For This Keynote!
My wonderful and amazing wife, Debra, helped provide a bit of a laugh track and support during my keynote. Stupendous home care worker, Ian, repeated me and gave wise advice. The staff at Peerpocalypse in Portland were amazing, always responsive to my concerns, taking extra steps for closed captioning, and more. I highly recommend this event, both for viewing the dozens of workshops and other keynotes, and joining with them next year. For more info, click here: https://www.mhaoforegon.org/peerpocalypse-main-page
During my keynote and workshop, we had free ASL interpreting by Patrick Galasso, aciu!
Many other folks have helped me prepare and process the keynote. I would especially like to appreciate the editor for Mad In America, Peter Simons. Just knowing this skilled editor was there was helpful in my work on this blog. And of course, Peter and I exchanged a bunch of communication to finish the MIA blog. Aciu, Peter!
1989 Graduate of UU Starr King School for the Ministry, Phillip has served four UU congregations as Minister. He has been a community organizer and director of various holistic and peer support programs for wellness and restorative justice.
Beautiful live music by Susanne Giordano, log on 5 min. early to hear extra music by her. Patrick Galasso will provide ASL interpreting. Co-sponsored by Unitarian Universalist Church in Eugene Accessibility Committee and Careworks of Lane County. For more info, phone volunteer David W. Oaks at 541-914-1469 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will be one of the five keynoters in the main international conference this year, PEERPOCALYPSE, for mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors. Spoiler alert: I will call for REVOLUTION. Below is how anyone can listen to my keynote live and free on Zoom tomorrow, Tuesday, 7/21. (If you miss it, it will be recorded and streamed free.)
The conference is entirely on Zoom, and it is now all free (unless you want continuing education credits.) There are so many dozens of wonderful workshops and keynotes, along with a virtual display. There are participants from all over the world.
Because of my communication challenges, my keynote will be a little longer than others, 30 minutes. Here’s how to listen live directly:
We are the 100%: Mad Pride, Disability & Revolution
Here is the description of the whole event, which ends this Thursday 7/23, from organizers:
PEERPOCALYPSE is a conference of leaders, emerging leaders, innovators, and peers who want to become more involved in the peer community. Adopting the philosophy that peers bring with them a great deal of knowledge and expertise, the event is about bringing the community together to share information, skills, and experience.
By the way, earlier today, Monday, 7/20, I gave a workshop with the wonderful Christina Peirsol about combining peer support and activism, entitled Winning Human Rights in Mental Health: Campaign Action Team Support!
If you missed any of the workshop or keynotes, most of this should be recorded and available. Check it out!
Thanks to all the folks who worked so hard to support the empowerment of our people’s voice for all these years with this important annual event, organized out of an office in Portland, Oregon. Aciu!