Inside Story of My Keynote at Peerpocalypse 2020

A screenshot of people viewing David Oaks keynote at Peerpocalypse
Some of the hundreds of viewers for the David Oaks 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.

On Mad In America, I am doing a blog about my keynote, which they published Thursday, 8 October: https://www.madinamerica.com/2020/10/world-mad-pride-disability-revolution/

Peerpocalypse has a webpage with links to other keynotes, workshops, videos, slides, etc. from the Summer 2020 event. You can view all these for free here: https://www.mhaoforegon.org/2020-conference-slides

Very Few Mad Pride Movement Archives

During the keynote I reference three archives I know about. Here is more information and how to get in touch with them:

  1. 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/
  2. OHSU: After I fell in 2012, I helped MindFreedom International donate 23 linear feet of archives to Oregon Health & Science University. OHSU has been busy cataloguing this, and you can read about the archives here: http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv71517/
  3. 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 psychsurvivorarchives@gmail.com.

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.

Mad Movement Fallen Giants Presente!

I bring up professor Bonnie Burstow of Toronto, who died 4 January, 2020. Activist and friend, Don Weitz, created a beautiful tribute for Bonnie on Mad In America here: https://www.madinamerica.com/2020/01/remembering-bonnie-burstow/

Cookie Gant
Cookie Gant: Fallen but presente!

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 revolution@aciu.info for more information.

Mad Movement Challenges White Supremacy

Yvonne Smith

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

To provide the background about the disability movement, I highly recommended two new documentaries: Crip Camp is on Netflix. Piss On Pity can be seen by renting it on Vimeo.

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

UN Leader Calls for “Revolution” in Mental Health

During my keynote, I quoted Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, at the UN Human Rights Council, Lithuanian Psychiatrist Dainius Pūras, who in 2017 called for a “revolution” because of systemic problems in the mental health system. You can read more here: https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21689&LangID=E

Fun On Facebook: Tough Ha! The Last Laugh

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

During my keynote, I mention Aciu! Institute and some of our videos. I have just blogged about on our Aciu! Institute site. You can go to this link to connect to a whole bunch of videos: https://aciu.info/2020/09/23/david-oaks-peer-keynote-videos/

Peerpocalypse 2020 Workshops & Keynotes

If you missed the Peerpocalypse event, or wish to view any of the workshops or keynotes, they are now all available online, totally free.

Four of us gave keynotes and here is a YouTube playlist of all four.

Below is an embedded video of my keynote if you would like to watch it right here, about half an hour:

Please click CC above in the lower right of the video then “English” for
Closed Captioning to understand my disabled voice more clearly.
(If you’ve already started viewing, hover your cursor over the video.)

I already provided a link for the YouTube playlist of the four keynotes for Peerpocalypse 2020. These plus all the dozens of workshops are available free on the Peerpocalypse website, here: https://www.mhaoforegon.org/2020-conference-slides

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!

Your Feedback Is Very Much Encouraged & Welcome

On my Mad In America blog, I ended with several ways folks can support the “virality” of my keynote.

In addition, of course, people can comment below on my personal blog. Mad In America gets far more comments on their blog entries and their Facebook. I will also try to watch there and respond.

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8 Ways I Am Celebrating July 2019 as Mad Pride Month. How will you celebrate next July 2020?

Leonard Roy Frank
Leonard Roy Frank, one of the main heroes of the psychiatric survivor movement! Mad Pride! Leonard especially fought electroschock.

Today is 15 July 2019, and we honor the birthday of the late great Leonard Roy Frank, one of the main psychiatric survivor leaders of our modern era, and a good friend (his photo is on the left). I have blogged about Leonard before, and Mad Pride Month needs to celebrate Leonard: http://davidwoaks.com/my-friend-leonard-roy-frank

Leonard supported grassroots activism wherever you are. Our local group, MindFreedom Oregon, is a state affiliate of the human rights coalition MindFreedom International. We support calling this whole month of July, Mad Pride Month!

You probably did not hear about this call for July becoming Mad Pride Month since we have only told a few folks. It’s not too late for the rest of the month! How have you celebrated this month, perhaps accidentally? Especially, what ideas do you have for next year, July 2020, to celebrate Mad Pride? Do you support making July Mad Pride Month? If so, please contact us, there are many ways to assist this, see Mad Pride Social Media Volunteers below.

Yesterday was Bastille Day, 14 July 2019. One of the reasons July should be Mad Pride Month is that for decades, leaders in the psychiatric survivor movement have used Bastille Day to celebrate the human spirit and oppose psychiatric oppression and tyranny. One of the main activities each year is a three-day camping vigil in front of the New York State mental health agency in Albany. This vigil wrapped up yesterday. For more info about their event, their Facebook link for this vigil is here.

Here are eight ways I am celebrating Mad Pride this July:

  1. Way to go, my good friend Rev. Phil Schulman! He was one of the keynote speakers at the annual Alternatives Conference, which has just been held in DC. Incredibly, people are searching for a video or audio recording of Phil’s speech! Accidents may happen, but I call Phil “The Movement Minister” and getting out his message is a high priority. Hopefully, someone will find a recording of Phil’s keynote. After years of leading congregations, mainly Unitarian Universalist, Phil experienced a serious head injury about a year and a half ago. His resilience, love, and leadership are so very important to our movement.
  2. Opal Network: Here in Oregon, one of the main literary heroes was psychiatric survivor Opal Whiteley. About a decade ago, we created an informal coalition called the Opal Network which has spoken out for the empowerment of local mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors. We meet every time a month has five Tuesdays, about four times a year, so that means our next public gathering will be Tuesday, 30 July 2019. Our theme will be how the arts can support mental and emotional well-being, and psychiatric survivor liberation. Psychiatric survivor Chrissy Peirsol and I plan to host a round table at the downtown Eugene Trauma Healing Project, 11th and Charnelton, at 3:30 pm. We will have a web video Zoom call, so you can participate for free wherever you live. Interested? Please email us at: opalnetwork@protonmail.com
  3. World’s Biggest Sneeze! A few days ago, several of us in MindFreedom Oregon gave a presentation at a stage in Community Village, as part of the celebration of the 50th Annual Oregon Country Fair (if you’re new to OCF, watch some videos of this wild hippie gathering in the woods here). During our event, we held the World’s Biggest Sneeze! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah… CHOO! We are allergic to what is called “normality” which actually does not exist! Our household plays a simple game you can join: Whenever we hear the word “normal” on the radio, TV, or conversation, we sneeze! The first to sneeze wins. Try it!
  4. When society is crazy & paralyzed, who are you gonna call? The Mad Pride Movement! Because of the climate crisis, 100% of humanity is clearly part of the Mad Pride Movement. We are all traumatized by the disaster. We all confront the mystery of understanding the universe. Do not wait to understand it all, act now. Those of you in the Eugene, Oregon area, please join me at an Extinction Rebellion potluck and talk on Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 6:30 pm, at our Unitarian Universalist Church. If you are outside the Eugene area, you probably live on Earth and so can take part in this nonviolent Extinction Revolution wherever you are. The Mad Pride Movement celebrates your creative way of thinking & acting. We are the new PC: Positively Crazy!
  5. Mad Pride Social Media Volunteers: To connect with those of you who are curious or supportive of a Mad Pride Month, we at MindFreedom Oregon are creating several social media places. If you would like to assist, and perhaps co-moderate, contact mf-oregon@aciu.info. Social media include: Reddit, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook.
  6. Remember Creative Maladjustment Week! For more than a decade, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. commented about creative maladjustment over and over. He even said the world was in dire need of an “International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment.” MindFreedom International produced a guide to celebrate being maladjusted every July 7-14, Creative Maladjustment Week! And of course, this is near the middle of July, now Mad Pride Month.
  7. A State Senator in Oregon Wants to Hear from Psychiatric Survivors, Mental Health Consumers, and Our Allies. My friend, State Senator Floyd Prozanski, pushed for two mental health bills this past session in the Salem, Oregon legislature. We Oregon psychiatric survivors/mental health consumers heard about these proposals and we expressed our deep concern. Thankfully, both bills failed this past session which just ended in Mad Pride Month, July! Yay! Now, I promised Sen. Prozanski that we would provided him with civil input about human rights & choice in mental health. Please email him at: Sen.FloydProzanski@oregonlegislature.gov. Please copy your comments to: mf-oregon@aciu.info
  8. Something for Everyone! I know Mad Pride may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I figured out that if a couple conceives today, their baby might be born on 15 April, tax day. This would seem to be a great Normal Shame Day, so that if anyone rejects Mad Pride Day they can always be part of that. If your baby is born on Normal Shame Day, do not worry, this is definitely not normal and your child will be a hero of the Mad Pride Movement!

Your ideas, feedback, jeers, cheers, suggestions, support, strangeness are all welcome in the comment area below, or on my Facebook page. Thanks!

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Rise of Involuntary Mental Health in Key US Agency: What is Your Resistance Strategy?

Dr. Torrey with a brain

Psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey promotes court-ordered involuntary psychiatric drugging for millions of Americans. He is winning so many victories that he told NY Times “I feel like I died and went to heaven.”

Update: 10/5/2017 Rep. Murphy has quit Congress effective 10/21.

Many advocates for human rights in the US mental health system already know this sad fact:

The main US government agency that addresses mental health is increasingly under the influence of a special interest group, founded by extremist psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey. This group, Treatment Advocate Center, promotes court-ordered involuntary outpatient mental health treatment, even if the client lives outside of a psychiatric institution.

However, even after working for decades for human rights in mental health, I have been surprised about how involuntary outpatient ideology is taking over in this government agency, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA plans to spend as much as $54 million of US taxpayer money for 17 programs across the country to spread this coercive approach. Four members of a new advisory committee for SAMHSA promote involuntary mental health.

What should be the response from people who care about human rights and mental health?

Sex and Murphy’s Last Law?

The Congress person behind the push for involuntary mental health has been Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA). Earlier this month, Sept. 2017, mainstream media spotlighted a sex scandal involving Rep. Murphy. It turns out that over the last few years, Rep. Murphy betrayed his wife by hooking up with a volunteer for his horrible mental health legislation. His mistress is also a psychologist, about half his age, and those interested may read a Washington Post article about it here. Of course, the sex life of anyone is their own business, but remember that Rep. Murphy pushes involuntary mental health. Has he had a mental health check-up?

Needless to say, Rep. Murphy’s problems have hurt him on both sides of the aisle.

Of course, involuntary approaches have been a part of the mental health industry for centuries. I oppose all involuntary mental health treatment, because true recovery is based on empowerment. Usually this coercion is behind closed doors inside of locked psychiatric institutions. But since the 1980’s, in the US, state after state has quietly passed mental health laws allowing courts to order people living out in their own neighborhoods to follow mental health treatment, typically psychiatric drugs.

Today, almost all US states practice Involuntary Outpatient Commitment (IOC). Proponents of IOC have found it useful to cover-up this coercion. First, they dropped the word “involuntary.” Then they adopted the mis-named euphemism “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” (AOT).

Assisted?

The movie “Brazil” has an arrest scene in which the subject is “invited to assist” the authorities, and this dark vision accurately describes this kind of “assistance.”

In reality, IOC does not rely on direct physical force. However, knowing that refusal to take your meds will typically result in your immediate detention is extremely coercive.

IOC or AOT, whatever you call it, involves a judge ordering you to follow instructions from your local community mental health system, even if you are law-abiding and living in your own home, peacefully. The special interest group Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), founded by the psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, lobbies for IOC.

TAC cites studies that claim there are 3.9 million Americans with “untreated serious mental illness.” While some of these Americans have a lack of access to mental health care, many simply do not want the traditional mental health treatment, which is often psychiatric drugs. I am one of those who refuses that kind of approach. Are you one of the 3.9 million Americans in the cross hairs of TAC?

TAC Gaining Power in US Government

Kimberly Johnson, PhD, directs the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

This involuntary community treatment seems to be gaining even more authority at SAMHSA, one of the largest mental health agencies on Earth. SAMHSA, led by director Kimberly Johnson, PhD, asked for $4.3 billion in its 2017 budget.

SAMHSA includes the half-billion dollar agency Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), headed by Paolo del Vecchio. Paolo is one of the few agency heads who publicly discloses that he has lived experience as, his agency calls it, a “mental health consumer.” Until this year, 2017, CMHS has funded the popular Alternatives Conference in the USA, the main place for networking for thousands of mental health consumers since 1985. Apparently this amazingly successful gathering is no longer worth their money, as they find millions for outpatient coerced treatment.

CMHS funds many of the mental health consumer groups in the US. While many of these nonprofits provide important peer support activities, the reliance on CMHS has chilled out and silenced resistance to the rise of dis-empowerment.

Examples of how IOC is gaining influence in SAMHSA:

  • SAMHSA directs millions in taxpayer money to 17 grant award winners, in a four-year program, that promote IOC, or AOT as they call it. So far, 256 Americans have been included in these programs. According to SAMHSA’s Press Officer Phillip Walls, “The total could go up to about $54 million.”
  • SAMHSA now has a new Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee’s (ISMICC), to advise it about folks who are considered to have a significant psychiatric disability for a long duration. ISMICC held its first meeting last month, August 2017. I did a simple Google search, and found that four of the 14 members promote involuntary mental health treatment. In fact, one directs TAC.
  • As I have blogged previously, SAMHSA now has a new position that is popularly called the “mental health czar,” given to psychiatrist Elinore McCance-Katz, who supports AOT.

There is some recent good news. Earlier this month, September 2017, proponents of IOC, or as they call it, AOT, tried to get an extra $5 million per year, which would figure out to more than $20 million dollars over four years. Thankfully, Congress voted this extra money down, 219 to 198 on September 13, 2017. I do not know if money or liberty was the main concern. But if you would like to see how US Representatives voted, go here.

The sex scandal involving Rep. Murphy may be a contributing cause to this failure. Let us hope that the tide is turning for involuntary mental health at SAMSHA.

What Should be Our Response?

Few people know about our little social change movement affectionately called the “Mad Movement.” After centuries of mental health oppression this movement began in about 1969. Quietly, under the radar, some of those who have been through the mental health system, along with supportive allies have worked for human rights and social change in the mental health industry. So what should we do now?

As a survivor of involuntary psychiatry myself, and as a community organizer, my approach tends to be activism.

I worked for MindFreedom International, one of the main independent coalitions in the Mad Movement, for more than 25 years as executive director. Nearly five years ago I experienced a major accident and I retired. Recently, I have acted as a volunteer consultant for MindFreedom with Aciu Institute, a new consulting group I am helping to start with my friend Jeff Bousquet.

Several folks who I respect in the field of mental health empowerment, who bravely survived abuse by their psychiatrists, are funded by SAMSHA directly or indirectly. They have privately told me that they cannot speak out publicly about the rise of involuntary approaches, because of their funding source.

If we are serious, truly serious, about challenging the mental health industry, then we need to develop funding that is independent of that industry. MindFreedom has been one of these groups, refusing to take mental health system money, not that it was offered.

Rise Again!

David Oaks tries out a Permobil standing powerchair.

During the past five years, being a quad with a few other disabilities has meant that I have had a bit more time to reflect about our social change movement. Our society seems far too silent in the face of climate crisis. When we should be calling for revolution, it feels like humanity has learned to conform. But let us not give up. Whatever our disabilities, however much SAMSHA is captured by involuntary approaches, and no matter how silent our society is about the climate crisis, fight back! For me personally, one of these ways is that I am looking at a new power chair that can stand me up (see photo).

How can our movement rise now, faced with this push for involuntary mental health? You can leave a public comment on this blog. However, it would be helpful for MindFreedom to get your ideas. We are conducting a survey, and you can indicate if you want your answers to be private or public. I intend to blog about the results. We all want your feedback now! A number of you have already taken this free, brief, private, online survey.

Please take a moment now and fill it out:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/mfi-survey-2017

MindFreedom leaders need to hear from folks about their concerns and strategy ideas. Early results show that by far resisting involuntary psychiatric drugging is the most important issue. People taking the survey appreciate MindFreedom’s activism, support for psychiatric survivors, and independence the most.

Below are some of the early survey replies to to the question, “What have you learned or gained from MindFreedom International?”

  • “I found friends who fight for human rights in mental health.”
  • “Power to tell my story my way.”
  • “I gained my life back!!!!!”
  • “Pride and confidence in my own experience and reality.”

For more information about the MindFreedom survey, contact me, co-founder of Aciu Institute, at davidwoaks@gmail.com.

My Research About SAMSHA

Mr. del Vecchio responded to my email this Spring asking about CMHS support for what is called AOT, and is actually IOC. Whatever it is called, a judge court-orders individuals to follow community mental health instructions. Mr. del Vecchio confirmed by email that this grant program exists, and he sent the list of successful awardees. Below is a copy of his email, with both links to the grant program and the awardees.

To clarify this information, I exchanged email with Mr. Phil Walls, SAMHSA press officer, after a Freedom of Information Act request. Below, you will also find the email from Mr. Walls, confirming that more than $50 million is budgeted for this four-year program with 17 awardees. The only change is that the program for Seattle was cancelled and instead it was redirected to an agency in New Mexico, which just passed an IOC law in 2016.

Delvecchio, Paolo (SAMHSA/CMHS) <Paolo.Delvecchio@samhsa.hhs.gov>
Apr 17 [2017]

to [David W. Oaks]
Here’s a start:

Last year’s grant announcement: https://www.samhsa.gov/grants/grant-announcements/sm-16-011

Awardees: https://www.samhsa.gov/grants/awards/2016/SM-16-011

-pdv

 

Walls, Phillip (SAMHSA/OC) <Phillip.Walls@samhsa.hhs.gov>
Aug 24 [2017]

to [David W. Oaks]

. . . As of July 2017, 256 individuals have been served in the 17 grantee programs.

. . .

Walls, Phillip (SAMHSA/OC) <Phillip.Walls@samhsa.hhs.gov>
Sep 6 [2017]

to [David W. Oaks]
Hi David

What you are looking for is here: https://www.samhsa.gov/grants/awards/2016/SM-16-011. All numbers are per year, for up to four years. The total could go up to about $54 million.

PW

Walls, Phillip (SAMHSA/OC)

Sep 6 [2017]

to me

One change:

COUNTY DEPT OF CMTY & HUMAN SRVS, Seattle WA is no longer a recipient.

But Dona Ana County, New Mexico is now on the list. They receive 700,000/ yr for 4 years.​

New Committee Has Several Involuntary Mental Health Proponents

The Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee’s (ISMICC) non-federal membership were selected in August 2017 to serve three-year terms. Their first meeting was held August 31, 2017. Four of those who promote involuntary mental health care include:

What Is Your Strategy to Respond? 

It is OK if circumstances require that you must be private about your resistance to this rise of dis-empowerment at SAMHSA. However, I hope even you do take some kind of action. This is no time for the sidelines.

On this blog comment section, those of you willing to be public may leave your ideas for effective revolution.

And whether or not you are private or public, a member of MindFreedom or not, please take a few moments to fill out this convenient online survey. There is an area for you to indicate whether or not you would like your comments to be public, and if you choose the whole process can be anonymous.

The survey is here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/mfi-survey-2017


The above is a more complete blog that was also published in Mad in America here:

Rise of Involuntary Mental Health: What is Your Resistance Strategy?

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The Worst Case Scenario for Global Warming — What I Call Normalgeddon —  is Bad for Our Mental Wellness: The Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak For Us!

David and Debra march in Eugene for climate justice

Sunday, September 21st, 2014, Eugene, Oregon, Debra and David (on right) beginning to march against global warming in solidarity with the event in New York City.

For four decades I have been an activist challenging the mental health industry. More and more I feel that the climate crisis should be one of the highest priorities for social change led by people who have personally experienced psychiatric abuse, and our allies. I affectionately call us The Mad Movement. It seems that almost every speaker against global warming ends their message the same way, that we can stop this catastrophe if society has the “will.” I believe that participants in The Mad Movement have an important insight into real sickness in society. As a psychiatric survivor, I have seen too much labeling of creative maladjustment as ill. We need to shake off our world’s complacency and numbness, also known as “normality.”

The beginning of 2015 marks the fifth anniversary of a little-known campaign by the well-respected environmental group 350.org that asks the approximately 7,000 local chambers of commerce in the USA to oppose the way the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, based in Washington, D.C., blocks national progress in the fight to stop global warming. 350 says that, “The Chamber has long opposed environmental standards, but on climate change, they’ve gone pretty near berserk” (www.chamber.350.org).

350’s main request of local chambers seems pretty modest — to simply issue a statement saying that the US Chamber “doesn’t speak for us” in its denial of human-caused climate change. Unfortunately, despite five years of effort by activists, only 56 local chambers have distanced themselves from the U.S. Chamber about global warming. That is less than one percent! I have helped organize many actions over the past five years to ask our local Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce to say anything about climate change, but regrettably we have been met by a wall of silence.

We have tried everything from writing letters to the editor, personally corresponding with board members, performing public street theater, and protesting inside the chamber office itself. And still, no substantial moves have been made. The Eugene Area Chamber’s board members relentlessly refuse to speak up for values that they profess to have.

I am extremely concerned about the disaster of climate change because I think of it as a one-two punch. The first punch is highly predictable and linear. Almost all scientists agree on this “unequivocal” punch. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change spotlights the certainty of human-caused global warming hazards, such as sea-level rise. I am more interested in the second, surprise punch of runaway climate change, which is non-linear.

There has been a quiet revolution throughout the sciences that I like to call “the butterfly effect.” Others call this field the science of emergence, chaos, dynamic systems, or complexity. In short, when complex systems like Earth’s environment are disrupted, chaotic results can occur. Global warming may trigger amplifying, abrupt feedback effects, such as methane release as a result of warming permafrost. A little global warming may lead to an irreversible avalanche of extreme global warming. I call the worst case scenario of climate change “Normalgeddon.”

Right now, the Eugene chapter of 350.org is focusing on valuable state-wide campaigns such as blocking oil pipelines, divesting the University of Oregon Foundation from companies that profit from fossil fuels, and carbon-restrictive legislation. These campaigns are necessary, and we should rally for more support for these local efforts. We should also still support 350.org’s national campaign to get local chambers to speak out against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce president has always been responsive and civil to me personally, but he has also refused to speak out against the U.S. Chamber. He claims that the Eugene chamber is entirely independent. In a way, the Eugene community should see the Eugene Area Chamber’s refusal to speak up as a gift, because the climate crisis is no longer a faceless entity — it is embodied by our local chamber’s refusal to demand real change. Our chamber is also an actual place to peacefully protest. The chamber’s office is downtown at the corner of 14th and Willamette.

The planet’s issues are the people’s issues. Those of us who are the most marginalized and disenfranchised by existing inequality are the most vulnerable to impacts of the changing climate. All organizations fighting for people must fight for the planet, and vice versa. As a mental health and disability rights activist, connecting the issues of mental health and climate change are particularly important to me, but this work can and must be done in all realms. Please take up the leadership to nonviolently urge that the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, and its leaders, speak up about the U.S. Chamber and climate crisis.

After my wonderful wife Debra and I came home from last year’s climate march here in Eugene in solidarity with a huge New York City march, we turned to each other realizing that we had the exact same take-away message: Hope means acting from your own highest principles, without necessarily knowing what the outcome will be. I hope that the Eugene community and the board members of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce will think this through, and act on their own highest principles. After all, real mental well-being requires that we work now with a sense of urgency, unity, purpose and hope. Not only do we need a climate miracle, we need to construct our own miracle in our minds and in our communities.

 

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For more information see the David W. Oaks blog at www.normalgeddon.com.

 

 

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Follow Your Fish: The Logic Behind “Creative Maladjustment”

Follow Your Fish: The Logic Behind “Creative Maladjustment”

There we were on 14 July 2012, walking down the winding path of the Oregon Country Fair, where tens of thousands every July have filled crowded paths through a woods full of music, crafts and food booths, lovingly stewarding the spirit of the 60’s since 1969. I was ushering Patch with a bullhorn, calling out, “Here comes Patch Adams, to accept an award for lunacy promotion!”

Dr. Adams was in his clown regalia for the walk: Pants pulled up to his armpits, strange grimace on his face, holding a big fake fish in front of his face to help motivate himself for his slow strange walk.

For those too young to know, Patch is a psychiatric survivor, physician and clown, who was the subject of an Academy Award winning film named after him and inspired by his life, starring comedian Robin Williams. Patch is the most famous leader in our MindFreedom International community, and has a network of thousands who seek truly deep change throughout our health care system.

Here’s the award MindFreedom gave to Patch Adams on 14 July 2012 for ‘lunacy promotion,’ including lost marbles, loose screws and nuts. The award is by psychiatric survivor artist Tim Boyden, using recycled and found materials.

Patch and I were headed down the Oregon Country Fair path to a gathering to give Patch an award (see photo on left) for his leadership of a vision created by Martin Luther King, Jr. that few people seem to have heard about:

MLK, in many speeches and essays, said the world may be in dire need of a new organization that MLK called, “The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment” or IAACM. It was an laugh-line, but like many good jokes had logic and truth behind it. MLK said we all ought to be maladjusted to oppression, the question is can we be creative in our maladjustment, rather than self-destructive? Repeatedly, MLK said in a variety of ways, “the salvation of the world lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”

Well, in Patch’s hands that day was a fish.

Accompanying us on our walk through the Oregon Country Fair was Patch’s main leader for changing the mental health system, Carl Hammerschlag, a psychiatrist/author from Arizona. Carl called out occasionally on the path, “How many six-foot-six psychiatrists do you see in a pink ballerina outfit?” Because that is what Carl was wearing from head to foot, tutu included.

Does this kind of positive celebration of mental and emotional differences necessarily mean opposing rationality? As a leader for 36 years in what is often called the “mad movement,” I know some seem to assume that we are largely celebrating illogic and irrationality. I do not agree.

As a psychiatric survivor who has been through five institutionalizations, and quite a number of diagnoses, I can tell you that one of the tools for my own recovery was the use of logic, evidence, and rationality.

Today, here is a very simple and undeniable logic to consider: What is generally called “normal” by just about any common definition, is in fact causing a climate crisis, and countless other environmental disasters. I’m not saying all that is called “normal,” is bad, just that one of the worst spiritual illnesses to ever visit our planet Earth has that name: Normal.

Throughout human history, respected thought leaders such as Socrates have said the pursuit of wisdom begins by recognizing that none of us has a grip on reality, that we all know nothing with certainty. And now, the scientific jury is back, the evidence has been rationally considered, and the logic is irrefutable: Socrates was right. What is called “normal” may be guilty of Gaia-cide, the shredding of our precious planet’s web of life.

That’s why I have been saying that the slogan of the mad movement ought to be, “We are the 100 percent.”

So yes, when Patch and Carl and I navigate a crowded path of the Oregon Country Fair, bullhorn in hand, with Patch following his fish, and Carl prancing around in his pink tutu… Yes, it may look a tiny bit irrational. But logic is one of the strands motivating us, the logic that MLK brought to us all many times when he called for the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. (IAACM).

Please take the next logical step, and ask yourself: “How can I best exercise my own leadership in the IAACM?

David W. Oaks
Eugene, OR

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