One of my very best friends for many years is the creative, loving, wise, funny Phil Schulman. Phil is a minister who has led several Unitarian Universalist congregations. Phil has been such a prominent, positive leader in so many movement gatherings of mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors that I affectionately call him “The Mad Movement Minister”!
In November 2017, while biking home from an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting (Phil has been clean and sober for many decades) a truck hit him. Phil suffered a major traumatic brain injury (TBI). He spent a long time in a coma. Since then he has devoted much of his time to recovery in a way that models values of our movement, faith and humanity: empowerment, community, humor, love, peer support, spirituality, wisdom and so much more.
Recently I heard a sermon Phil gave after his accident. His wisdom and witty love for life shine through his impaired speech. Or perhaps his disabled voice underscores his message, because he is living our values! I will try to get this sermon online.
There is a CaringBridge website to connect and update supporters of Phil’ recovery. You can join and participate for free here: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/philschulman
Today I have the pleasure of nominating Phil as a speaker in one of the main gatherings of our movement.
Below you can read some of what I wrote:
I have been close friends with Phil for several decades. I myself have been an activist in the mental health consumer / survivor movement for more than four decades, including co-founder of MindFreedom. Since 2012, because of disabilities, I am semi-retired. In all my career, I would consider Phil to be one of the greatest treasures in our movement. I give him my very highest recommendation for your keynoter.
Phil became a minister and has served as a church leader in several congregations in several states. He is also an advocate in the peer “lived experience” consumer / survivor movement. Phil has actively participated in many Alternatives conferences, NARPA conferences, etc. In fact, I and a few others refer to Phil affectionately as “the mad movement minister.” As I noted, Phil has a lived experience with several mental distresses in his past. He has been clean and sober for many decades, regularly attending AA.
It was returning home from an AA meeting in Florida on bike back in November 2017, that Phil, as I say, “re-established his movement credentials.” A truck struck Phil as he rode his bike that night, throwing him into a coma with extreme and severe head injuries. Phil also had a large number of challenging physical impairments.
Phil has dedicated the last year-and-a-half to showing us all the value of our movement beliefs. Phil has activated a network of supportive community leaders. He has engaged in many hours of extensive rehab regularly. He has applied his extensive wisdom of spiritual growth.
Let me give one example. Last year, he was one of the speakers in the nationally-popular NYAPRS conference. Even though Phil speaks differently because of his TBI, even though he has several extreme challenges, or perhaps partly because he has these disabilities, his speech was very popular, powerful, moving and helpful. I have personally listened to a sermon he gave not too long ago, and his wit, humor, wisdom shines through as it did before his injury, with dozens of sermons. Below is the text from his NYAPRS speech, and you will find some of his bio here:
November 6th, my bicycle and I were struck by a ½ ton Dodge Ram
truck. Thanks to a prompt emergency medical response and surgery, I
did not die. The extent of brain damage was unknown. There was
uncertainty if I would walk or talk again. Ten months later, here I am.
I am really happy to be with you. I have worked hard to regain abilities,
including my speech.
A member at the clubhouse I attend, told me that he loves my NJ accent.
I said “What are you talking about? I don’t have a NJ accent! I have a
brain injury accent.” Ok sometimes my Jersey accent comes out a little.
I am hoping that in the future I’ll be able to say “Sometimes my head
injury accent comes out a little.”
Thank you for being here today! There are times in life when we really
appreciate people showing up. Like the first time we do something,
when we become ill or injured, after the death of a loved one, … it can
mean so much to have companionship. True?
Many people reached me out to me after learning of my accident. I was
so moved to hear that communities all over the country were praying for
me. To this day, one line posts on FB lets me know that friends are still
caring and following my progress.
Support has helped me to achieve spectacular results in recovery.
Decades in wellness and recovery communities prepared me. Lessons
and tools from past trauma have helped me too!
For example, I was seventeen when a close friend killed himself. I was
thinking about doing the same. I saw so much injustice, and believed
myself to be indelibly flawed and unable to make a difference. I didn’t
see a reason to continue living. I yelled at G*d “What do you want from
me?” I instantly received an answer; 3 words “Just show up,” and a
memory of a friend listening to me compassionately. I was defeated in
my argument with G*d. I knew that if I would follow these instruction,
it would make a difference.
After a few more years of substance abuse, in another conversation with
G*d, …I swore off toxins. I started swimming daily hoping that I could
heal the damage I had done. Over the next decade I found various
communities that offered gifts for recovery.
At age 25 I began seminary, and was introduced to a form of peer
counseling that helped me to understand individual trauma in a context
of societal oppression. It taught me to feel pain and allow tears in order
to release the lingering effects of trauma.
At 29 I was given a spot in a very expensive and lengthy outpatient
Codependency Treatment Program. The director said that I was manic
depressive. He told me that if I needed to take lithium or leave the
program. As soon as I completed the 8 week program, I stop taking the
lithium. I had connection with this human rights movement, with others
who were resisting coercive treatment. My peer counseling practice
became critically important to me.
I got a job as a counselor on a hospital addiction unit. My peer
counseling teacher was hired to provide training, and our staff began
practicing peer support. The head nurse began asking me to visit
patients at about the 18 th day of treatment when they were asking for
more pain medication. Patients would share with me their inner pain.
They would usually cry. Although many refer to crying as breaking
down, it consistently aided break throughs. The number of requests for
pain medication declined.
Then a new medical director put all patients on antabuse. I objected and
was “laid off” two weeks later. This is one of many times I paid a price
for how my beliefs put me in conflict with our mental health system.
My most traumatic experience of mental health oppression came at the
hands of my church. The director of the “Ministerial Fellowship
Committee” described its purpose as being gatekeeper for our
denomination, weeding out those not psychologically fit for the
ministry.” At 31, after nearly seven years of education and work, I was
the weed removed.
I have needed a lot of support to heal my alienation from institutions that
I judged as toxic. In particular I felt at odds with the psychiatric
pharmaceutical industrial complex. I believe that the mental health
system diverts attention away from social injustice, oppression and the
deeper causes of harm upon people. I rejected the labeling and
mistreatment of people as mentally ill. I saw it as enforcing social
structures that keep control of resources in the hands of the richest 1%.
In 93 I met David Oaks and began working at the “Clearinghouse for
Human rights in Psychiatry.” For 25 years David has believed in me
and challenged me to reach higher. He has referred to me as Minister to
In 98, I was hired to start and direct the “Crisis Alternatives Program” in
Essex Co NY. It was one of the first respite programs- funded to reduce
the amount of force and violence in the county’s mh crisis response. My
philosophy was very simple: 1- assume that each person asking for our
help was experiencing some degree of overwhelm and conflict regarding
something that had happened to them. 2- listen, provide people with
high quality empathy 3- Remember that people are the best experts on
what they value and want 4- Do not interfere with their choice of
support services. ? Let them figure out for themselves how they wanted
to address their conflicts. 5- believe in people’s capacity to recover.
These values have helped me in my recovering from the recent trauma to
my brain and body. The experience and tools I’ve gained in this
movement have been instrumental in my success. Now come with me
through that more recent journey.
My brother Michael had invited me to participate in the final kayak
expedition for his book. We planned to leave early Tuesday morning.
On Monday I texted him that I would arrive at his home by about 9pm.
When my housemate came home at 6, he saw my car in the driveway,
and found my cell phone inside charging. He correctly assumed I had
gone out on my bicycle and incorrectly assumed I would be back soon.
A few days later, I regained consciousness in the hospital Intensive care
unit. I woke gently as if from a night’s sleep. Looking down I saw my
badly broken body. I felt achy all over.
I didn’t remember the accident. I remembered setting out on my bike. I
knew I didn’t reach my destination. I put two and two together.
Surprisingly I felt somewhat calm. When the pain medication wore off,
I experienced dread. I was lonely and pleased when staff entered my
Something seemed strange. Was this a movie or a dream? I had the
sense of being both present and in another realm. There was silence
from me? I realized that I couldn’t speak.
I figured it was a result of the accident, and expected that it would soon
wear off. My acceptance wore off more quickly. I needed to let my
brother and others know where I was. I wanted to scream "I’ve got
something I need to tell you!" Staff understood only that I was
Fortunately, my brother soon appeared in my room. The police has
contacted him. My relief was enormous! There were tears in both of our
eyes. The relief was short-lived. I became frustrated with my inability to
communicate and connect with him. Noise was hurting my head. I was
relieved when he left for the quiet that returned.
I started communicating with staff by using expressions, sounds and
soon some garbled words. I slept much of the time, and could tell that
my condition was improving.
My brother’s next visit went better too. He says that my first word was
Although relatively peaceful, I felt a strange disorientation. From my
room, I couldn’t see the street or the sky. I saw only another building
with a bright neon sign. I watched it become dark and light and dark
again. It was like time lapse photography. I couldn’t tell how many days
went by. I left my room only one time in ten days, a trip down
windowless hallways to an operating room. I was lost in space.
Disconnected from nature, blurry headed from my trauma and the meds,
I started seeing fantastic images. Have you started dreaming before you
fell asleep? It was something like that. I kept trying to look at these
things I was seeing. Each time I opened my eyes, the images would
disappear. I saw strange things with my eyes open too; floating
electrons, and orbs of light. Fortunately weird doesn’t faze me! I was
curious and amused by these altered states.
The noises were more troubling. Beeps, alarms and even voices hurt my
head. I was hearing doctors and nurses talking in the hall outside my
room. They seemed to be talking about me repeatedly. There were also
public service announcements and advertisement for hospital programs
being broadcast over a public address system. I wasn’t quite sure what
was real. It reminded me of a scene from Alice in Wonderland.
Again, I correctly assumed that it was a result of my accident, and would
soon be over.
A speech specialist visited me. She said that I was going to get better,
and that it would take a long time. She said that singing would help me
recover my speech. She asked if I could sing “twinkle twinkle little
star.” and “Happy Birthday.” I couldn’t believe that I could barely
remember the tune. For the next month I sung all day long.
Someone brought me a “letter board” so that I could point and spell. I
didn’t have much success. Writing on paper didn’t work much better.
The problem was that I was still thinking big words and long complex
sentences. Before I could get my thoughts out, I would forget what I
wanted to communicate.
Staff seemed to want to get in and out of the room quickly. Some times
they caused me physical pain. I couldn’t quickly find words to
The voice of childhood trauma was crying inside me: “No more! I can’t
take any more!” My actual emotional expression was cranky and
complaining. Hurting and fatigued, I feared alienating my helpers. I
knew that if I didn’t make a change, things would not go well for me.
Fortunately help was on the way. My former partner Huyen had reached
out from Texas to contact my local people in Florida. She asked the
Vegan meetup community to bring me healthy food. Joyce had attended
NVC classes in my home brought me miso and other vegan meals. Her
food was manna from heaven. Her visit was an island of joy in a sea of
That night I was writhing in pain again. I was tired emotionally and
physically. “This is horrible!”, I thought. “What have I done?! I’m can’t
handle this!” Alone and in despair, I longed for support and imagined
there was none to be had. I felt hopelessness overtaking me.
Then one thought caused a shift in me. I remembered Joyce telling me
how Huyen had reached her through the internet to advocate and care for
me. Recalling this, I remembered that I was loved. I felt warmth, relief
and ease in my body. Although still in pain, I could be still. Sleep came
Huyen and I had been a couple for 7 years. I recent years I have seen
her Facebook posts; pictures of good times with her boyfriend Mark.
That she still cared and acted boldly was powerful.
Huyen is a physician. She was able to inform, guide and advocate for me
effectively. She has been a star player on the incredible support team
In the beginning I perceived myself as alone in facing terrible pain and
loss. My perception yielded to a sweeter reality. Love began pouring
in, cards, prayers and emails from far and wide. Eventually there were
calls, meals, rides, generous gifts to support my medical costs.
Love lifted my spirit. I began thinking, acting and responding more
positively and effectively. I became determined to recover. Staff
responded and treated me with warmth. Resources fell in my lap.
The support and the love I received helped me to keep on keeping on
through months of pain. With spirits lifted, I found the stamina to do
about 4 hours of therapeutic activity most days; PT, weight lifting,
swimming, gentle stretching. I’ve received cranial sacral and EDMR
therapies. I’ve participated in a fitness program for people with mental
and physical disabilities.
Although I have worked hard, I didn’t make my bones heal. Something
larger than me did that. We understand and call it differently; the
Universe, life, spirit, energy, nature, ..G*d. I thank G*d for the doctors,
nurses, physical therapists, agencies, advocates, friends and family that
have helped create miracles for me. I stand in humility and awe before
the web or life of which we are part, the Great Mystery of unfolding
existence. I send out love to all my relations, my ancestors and
generations to come. I step into this moment, alive, awake and grateful
for new opportunities.
Those of you in the Eugene, Oregon area can be in for a treat:
John Bola, PhD, will be at our free monthly meeting of MindFreedom Oregon, our local affiliate. Please spread the word to folks you know in Eugene!
This will be an informal chance to chat with one of the main champions of researching change in the mental health system. As a young person, John experienced human rights violations in the mental health system, including electroshock.
He lived here in Eugene for a few years, but mainly has been working and studying in California and even China. He got his PhD and has co-authored many peer-reviewed scientific articles to improve mental health care.
When: Friday, 1 March 2019, 2 PM – 3:30 PM
Where: Trauma Healing Project, 1100 Charnelton Street, Eugene, Oregon. Space is limited, arrive early.
Parking: If spots beyond building are full, there are meters on 11th, and free parking on 12th going west.
We will start the meeting with John, and then have a chance to chat about MindFreedom Oregon activities. Activist Chrissy Peirsol will join me for sure.
More information about John Bola:
UPDATE 2/27/19: Looks like we won! The latest word from a staffperson at the State of Washington legislature, is that the proposed bill for easier involuntary electroshock is dead this session, and that no other bills have been amended to include this idea.
Some activists were concerned that the concept would simply be added as an amendment to another bill. However, loosening restrictions on forced shock are dead this session. This is the “understanding” of Kevin Black, staff coordinator/counsel for Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee to Health & Long-Term Care Committee, Senate Human Services. The next session will start in January 2020.
UPDATE 2/17/19: The public hearing was canceled 2/15, apparently because of opposition. Please continue speaking out against this bill! According to a committee staffperson, Carly, if there is no hearing by 2/22, the bill is dead.
Incredibly, there is a proposed bill in the State of Washington right now that would make it easier to give involuntary electroshock (also known as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT), over and against the expressed wishes of the subject.
I just phoned the committee that is looking at this bill, and you can email your opposition at any time. There is no time limit, though the sooner, the better.
Today, 15 February 2019, there was supposed to be a public hearing about this Senate bill 5842, but this hearing was cancelled.
You can email to stop this bill at any time, and since this bill may pass it is urgent that you speak out.
Below is an alert that I have created about this bill. (Thanks to Laura Van Tosh for this information.)
At the bottom is my brief initial email in opposition:
CALL FOR EMAIL TO STOP FORCED SHOCK
IN STATE OF WASHINGTON
SB 5842 Involuntary Electroconvulsive Therapy
Calls for involuntary electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to be added to the Washington State RCW (Revised Code of Washington), 71.05.153.
Emergency detention of persons with mental disorders or substance use disorders. This is the involuntary treatment procedure used for commitment procedures. Today psychiatric medication is used.
This proposed bill adds ECT as an option to be utilized against the will of a person during initial commitment procedures under above RCW.
ACTION: Please email your opposition to SB 5842 now, give some good reasons against involuntary electroshock!
Carly is a staff person at the Senate Committee on Behavioral Health Subcommittee to Health & Long Term Care, J.A. Cherberg Building, Olympia, WA.
Sponsors: Reuven.Carlyle@leg.wa.gov email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Senate Committee on Behavioral Health Subcommittee to Health & Long Term Care is where the bill is being heard.
Below is my initial brief email, which you can use as a model, but please write this in your own words:
14 February 2019
To: Senate Committee on Behavioral Health Subcommittee to Health & Long Term Care, J.A. Cherberg Building, Olympia, WA
From: David W. Oaks, Aciu Institute, Eugene, OR
Please halt the bill SB 5842, which would make it easier to give involuntary electroshock (also called ECT) to citizens of the State of Washington.
I have worked for human rights in mental health for more than 40 years.
- The World Health Organization in Geneva is the main world body on health issues. The WHO has opposed all forced shock, and has had this official position for years. Please inquire with WHO about this bill immediately.
- A few years ago, when I directed MindFreedom International, we had a major campaign to stop the forced shock of a Minnesota citizen. Please google this phrase: Ray Sandford electroshock
- Shock has never been formally approved by the FDA for safety and efficacy. So forced shock would be a violation by compulsory experiment.
David W. Oaks
Please consider copying your opposition to my comment area below, to inspire others to speak out.
Spread the word!
Let us act like it now, and help lead a world-wide revolution.
Sound crazy? Well, the odds are indeed against us. However, this is not a question of what can be done, this is a question of what must be done.
Here are three reasons I feel we must pour our souls into this endeavor, now:
1. Creative Disorder
We in the disability movement are extremely diverse. Some of us reject our diagnoses. Some of us embrace our labels. But all of us have been diagnosed as “disordered.”
When society by any definition seems paralyzed, who you gonna call?
The disability movement! The current individual who occupies the White House identifies himself as a “very stable genius.”
But we need instability right now. And not any kind of instability.
We need creative instability.
Creative Disorder! This is a modernization of a phrase that Martin Luther King used over and over for over a decade. MLK repeatedly said he was proud to be “maladjusted.”
In fact, MLK said the world was in dire need of a new organization, the “International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment” (IAACM).
2. Never Again!
Over and over and over again many of us have vowed, “Never Again!” We will never have another Holocaust.
But now scientific experts overwhelmingly warn us that the ecological crisis may wipe out a heartbreaking amount of life and civilization. Humanity keeps heading toward trigger points for positive feedback loops. Dozens of them.
Most recently, scientific studies show that the warming of the oceans may be 40% worse than originally thought. As methane is released from the floor of the ocean, for example, this can lead to more warming, which means more methane, which means more warming, etc.
We are headed toward a wall of cascading chaos. We cannot predict the future exactly, but let us glance at a worst case scenario.
I have made a very rough, unscientific estimate of just the number of human lives at stake.
The life of a species is about one million years. We humans are only through part of that cycle. Basing my estimates on the “carrying capacity” that many have estimated, along with the number of generations yet to come, etc.
Adding this all up, just focusing on human life, I get an incredibly large number.
By coincidence, this number is six million squared. In other words, for each person lost in this six million estimate, there is another six million.
This is the Holocaust Squared. That is the human cost that I estimate is at risk. Not even addressing all the animal and plant life at risk.
3. Extinction Rebellion
My hats off to you for being a leader in the coming global revolution.
There are a couple of organizations that I have only recently found out about, are very promising for a global revolution. Everything that I have seen so far is positive.
First, there is a group that started recently in London with non-violent civil disobedience that shut down several bridges, and is going international, Extinction Rebellion.
Second, today, 15 January 2019, is a kickoff date for a national Earth Strike. There are several more dates over the next few months, leading up to 27 September 2019, Earth Strike! Check it out.
Disability Leadership Needed Now!
In the comments below, I would love to hear your reactions and suggestions. I know revolution is difficult. The first question I often hear is “what kind of revolution?” But even talking about the topic is helpful.
And I feel, that no matter what the odds are, hearing that folks are positive Revolutionaries may help us maladjust to our collective trauma, creatively.
And we are all, 100%, traumatized today. All of us, 100%, are now the Creative Disabled!
UPDATE 17 December 2018:
We have just filled all shifts. Home care workers are encouraged to fill out our online, brief, private survey, link below. We will keep answers on file for future openings and sub positions, plus you can indicate that we can share your interest with other disabled consumers.
Below is our original entry:
Living with severe disabilities, I have a great team of six homecare workers through Senior & Disability Services who help me throughout the week in my daily life needs.
Due to a worker leaving, we are looking for care workers to help fill the schedule. If you have an active SDS provider number and are interested in working for me, please fill out the below survey.
In the survey, you can indicate if I can share your interest with other disabled consumers in Eugene who might employ you:
If you do not have your active SDS provider number yet, but you would like to do home care work in Eugene, you can learn more about becoming with a homecare worker with SDS here:
More About Joining My Spectacular Homecare Team
We have a wonderful and appreciated half-dozen homecare workers supporting me in our home with my amazing wife Debra. Several regular shifts are opening soon, and here is a chance to join our team, where we aim to have the best workplace on Earth!
Several on our team have worked here for many years, and we are very grateful. More information about this position is on my blog here:
Because of timing, priority must go to people with a current, active Oregon Senior and Disability Services home care provider number.
This month, December 2018, is the six-year anniversary of my severe falling accident that made me a quad in a powerchair with impaired voice and hands. In the disability activist movement, we have joked that this kind of thing is “re-establishing our credentials”!
My attitude is that today Earth faces eco-crisis but much of humanity seems paralyzed. Hey, when there’s paralysis involved, who ya gonna’ call?
Please spread the word to homecare workers with an S&DS provider number, or are highly motivated to get their number and become a homecare worker. It is an extremely important career that helps many of us live independently. Thanks!
You can email me at email@example.com.
Maybe you missed it, like I did. But this weekend I finally read the little report, about 20 pages, by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Pūras.
It is amazing! The official UN news release actually calls for a “revolution” in mental health.
The actual report is here, 21 pages that reads like we psychiatric survivors wrote it, see attachment: un-report-on-mental-health-2017
For example, he says “Mental health policies should address the ‘power imbalance’ rather than ‘chemical imbalance’.” He calls for the “elimination” of coercive mental health procedures.
Here is a way to unify through diversity. Last year I actually heard about the call for “revolution” by this UN Rapporteur through activist Rev. Phil Schulman. But it took me more than a year to finally read the report.
You can get a good summary by looking at a Mad in America blog by Justin Karter from 9 June 2017. If you need to, search online for the phrase: mad in america un revolution in mental health justin karter.
Check out this UN news release from June 2017:
Today, 10 October 2018, is considered World Mental Health Day by the mental health industry, and so this is good timing to get out the word about this UN report from 2017. My friend and psychiatric survivor Mary Maddock endorses a campaign by Mad in the UK. We are to use the hashtag #WMHD2018 to get out the word about the need for activism in mental health. You can read more about the campaign here:
Please put your comments here about this report and speaking out. Meanwhile, I will tweet #WMHD2018, and I hope you do too.
5 September 2018
by David W. Oaks
Memorizing Two Decks of Cards: Why?
This morning, one of my main home care workers, Ian, shuffled two decks of cards together a few times and then cut them. Each deck has the usual 52 cards, plus Jokers in both black-and-white and color. So the total number of cards is 108.
Ian laid out 18 at a time, and I memorized their order. He did this six times.
Without looking at the cards again, I then recited all 108 cards, the entire two decks, in the same order, from memory. Ian carefully validated this and my accuracy.
Extreme Disability and the Mind
As my blog readers know, back in 2012 I experienced a severe accident which not only led to me being a quad (tetraplegic) in a power chair, but because of complications I have an impaired voice and no use of my fingers.
Because my mom taught to type when I was about 12, my typing speed was faster than 110 words per minute. Before my accident, I professionally spoke in a dozen nations about human rights and mental health. In my “big picture” planning, which I enjoyed, I loved to sketch big notes on huge pieces of paper.
Now, I realize I need to use my mind, rather than notes, typing, speeches, etc. So I learned to memorize a deck of cards. My understanding is that all of us deck-memorizers use the same ancient memory technique known as the memory palace. I memorized a single deck perfectly about 15 times.
But I wanted to do more. After a few attempts with errors, today I memorized two decks combined.
But We Humans Know So Little!
Sure, I can memorize two decks of cards, but I am reminded of something: The best of current science — whether it is complexity theory, quantum, string theory, dark matter, dark energy — tells us over and over that we humans hardly have any grip on reality, at all.
We are all crazy and mentally disabled, by any definition. Our choice is to be positively crazy or destructively demented.
I hope we all make the best choice. And today, with my amazing wife Debra, we celebrate.
Hey, I just memorized two decks of cards, perfectly!
Because We Know So Little, Let’s Support Each Other!
Yes, I have several physical challenges but my cognitive abilities appear to be fairly intact, I think.
But even if you have major cognitive disabilities, or your loved one is even in a coma, everyone and everything deserve dignity and respect! This week, with the help of Vocational Rehabilitation, I worked with a great business expert, Scott Weaver, to create a business plan, consulting, Aciu Institute.
May I use any cognitive skills, and my awareness of our extreme humility, to help this for-profit benefit our community. May we all launch a revolution to challenge the “normality” of climate crisis!
Please leave your comments on this blog, of any kind, so I know you are out there.
For more than four decades I have worked as an independent activist for human rights in the mental health system. This independence is rather rare. Many of my good friends and colleagues in the mental health advocacy field work for nonprofits that are funded mainly by the government, local state or federal. My friends often do great work, but several of us have warned about dependence on money from the very system we are trying to change.
As many readers know, I worked as executive director of MindFreedom International for more than 25 years, before my disabling extreme accident in 2012. MFI is mainly funded by non-governmental grassroots sources. MFI is not afraid to protest the system. In fact, psychiatric survivor members demand such protests.
Almost all groups that are largely composed of psychiatric survivors, are government funded. To repeat, many provide wonderful services. Maybe this dependence on government funding is why our social-change movement is too-often silent about the climate crisis.
Break the Silence about the “Normality” of Global Warming
I have had a major media service in our mental health advocacy field tell me that my mention of climate crisis in my blogs have led to their rejection. This has happened more than once.
A prominent activist in our movement scolded people who pointed out that our President has severe mental and emotional problems. Supposedly, stating the obvious that Trump is nuts somehow harms all the “little people” that we are here to serve.
Hey, everybody in the world is always crazy, if that word means anything. Are we creatively crazy or destructively daffy? That is our choice. Enforcers of Politically Correct-ness say that we can never call Donald “Daffy.”
But here is why calling Trump cuckoo is totally okay. If FDR had been anti-disability, it would make total sense to point out that he needed a wheelchair to get around. Being paralyzed did not disqualify FDR from the presidency. But if FDR dared to knock the disabled, noticing that he himself is disabled is totally okay.
Here is a direct connection between mental health and climate crisis:
Of course heat waves are more common. Many people in the public are unaware that most USA states now have “Involuntary Outpatient Commitment” laws that allow judges to court order mental health consumers to obey doctor orders. Typically this means involuntary psychiatric drugging in one’s own home out in the community. The most common drugs for this are so-called anti-psychotics, more correctly called neuroleptics.
This family of drugs can impair the brain’s temperature regulation. Those under IOC tend to be poor, without air conditioning. That means that climate crisis plus IOC can equal killing people. Many people.
You will tend not to hear about these deaths in the mainstream media, because I have heard there are concerns that we will “quit our meds.”
The climate crisis used to be one of many traumas. But now, because of decades of delay and denial, it is overwhelmingly the main mental health issue, both generally and specifically.
Today’s Single Mental Health Issue: Climate
If you have any empathy or sense, if you are truly an alive human being, then you are feeling, like me, overwhelmed by the indescribable tragedy unfolding on Earth’s ecosystem. If you have had the benefit of education, and you had paid attention, then you know that positive feedback loops can become unpredictable and massive. Suddenly. Think of avalanches.
In other words, any real human is now in crisis because of the countless traumas inherent in this environmental disaster. In other words, most of us are overwhelmed and paralyzed. It is past time to ask survivors of overwhelm and paralysis what can help.
There unfortunately is another group of humans in bizarre, strange, unscientific, non-rational denial of this climate crisis.
A friend of mine who has even written a book about climate crisis denial, was publicly and falsely maligned and defamed by one of these deniers. I asked her why she did not fight back publicly. Oddly, she laughed and said the political attack actually helped her career in academia. At first I laughed too, but years later I realized this situation is not funny.
Speak out about the climate crisis and actively resist Mother-Earth rapists.
Some are pointing out that the mainstream media is largely complicit in this silence. We need a revolution, check out the below new, brief article last week about how the corporate media is trying to pretend that the non-normal is normal:
Normal is dead.
At the start of the article, is an image by artist Isaac Paris. Even the wing of a moth can influence when and where a hurricane arrives. This image inspired my logo for my new consulting business, Aciu Institute.
Please comment here or on my Facebook page, so we all know we are not alone.
I do some consulting for the independent nonprofit, MindFreedom International, which is one of the main coalitions focusing on human rights in mental health.
Here are four positive news items about MFI:
1. MindFreedom will be doing another free webinar later this Summer 2018, on choice in mental health.
On August 19, 2018, MindFreedom will be holding a new free online webinar about empowering options for people needing mental and emotional support. The title of the webinar: “Voices for Choices: Organizing for Alternatives to Forced Psychiatric Treatment.”
Thanks to support from the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care, three leaders in the field of providing alternatives to mainstream mental health, will be offering this opportunity. For more information and to register, go here. Act soon, attendance is limited and based on previous webinars, this will be popular.
2. MindFreedom is stronger than ever.
It has been more than five years since I experienced a major accident and severe ongoing disabilities, requiring my retirement after 25 years as MFI’s executive director. As well as the above grant from the Foundation, MFI received an anonymous major donation, and many members have continued to support this important effort.
I am glad to report that MindFreedom International is doing very well. However, there has not been a replacement executive director. Until now. MFI is now announcing a search for a new executive director. This will no doubt lead to better member services, campaigns, and online information, which many people supportive of human rights in mental health have hoped for. Congratulations!
Please note that MindFreedom website currently lists the deadline for the job application as July 31, 2018. So unless this is extended, it is too late to apply.
For more info, see the MindFreedom website here. (Please note that I am not in any way personally involved with the search.)
I have very much enjoyed providing some consulting with MFI through my new business, Aciu Institute. We have helped do several surveys, for example. We look forward to future support for MFI.
3. You can now view MindFreedom’s last webinar, on human rights in mental health, free.
At the beginning of this Summer, 2018, two other psychiatric survivors and I presented a free MFI online gathering about winning campaigns for choice in mental health. You can now view a video recording for free on the web, here.
Above right is a photo of work I did years ago in Oslo, Norway with one of the oldest groups in our movement: We Shall Overcome. We constructed a huge prop hypodermic needle and reaches hundreds in Oslo about choice in mental health. No forced psychiatric drugging!
4. For a limited time, interested activists can apply to benefit from mentorship.
As a follow-up to their webinar MindFreedom International gave about human rights in mental health, about 20 folks can apply to become mentorees. Each will work with a mentor to develop written plans for a human rights in mental health campaign. Because space is limited, those interested should contact MFI soon. Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Go MindFreedom International, go! Let us help lead this revolution!
I am glad to see that MindFreedom International, despite many struggles related to the incredible oppression in the mental health system, and also my accident, is doing so well. Listening to a lot of folks, I know there is hope for a better online presence, member services, etc. But generally these hopes are very constructively and lovingly offered.
Let us all work together for MindFreedom International and the revolution we need in mental health. With the climate crisis, the lock so-called “normality” has on our culture has become a central emergency, globally!
We just finished another Creative Maladjustment Week.
- July 7, 2019, Sunday, Day 1: Day of Creativity
- July 8, 2019, Monday, Day 2: Day of Action & Movement
- July 9, 2019, Tuesday Day 3: Day of Laughter & Joyful Noise
- July 10, 2019, Wednesday, Day 4: Day of Kindness
- July 11, 2019, Thursday, Day 5: Day of Self Care
- July 12, 2019, Friday, Day 6: Day of Community Care
- July 13, 2019, Saturday, Day 7: Legacy of Lunacy
- July 14, 2019, Sunday, Day 8: Day of PRIDE
- July 15, 2019, Monday, Day 9: Day of Revolution