My very good friend Marcia Meyers of Portland, Oregon is one of the most powerful leaders I have seen in my nearly 40 years of activism in the little-known movement for deep change in the mental health industry. She joined my amazing wife Debra, some friends and me for a backyard party at our Eugene home this summer and brought to my attention an issue that deserves a larger audience. Marcia’s story riveted me because it involves activism, madness, psychiatric torture of her beloved daughter, Unitarianism, secret poisoned-pen letters, Scientology and global warming!
So while I have been blogging for a few years, please understand that this post is the longest one yet. The major web site Mad in America, which is now like the Huffington Post of over-throwing psychiatry and inspired by the books of journalist Bob Whitaker, is picking up my blog for re-distribution. My primary concern here is with honoring the incredible work of Marcia and her group Rethinking Psychiatry. Marcia can teach our whole social change movement an important lesson about unity that can help all people as we struggle against environmental catastrophe, which I call “Normalgeddon.”
I include my top 11 ways that our Mad Movement can reunite, none of which involved any religion.
Thank you Marcia Meyers!
Marcia is a 68-year-old, effusive retired teacher, who in her own words, “Identifies, in this order, as a grandmother, a teacher and an activist.” She dedicated 33 years to teaching in the public school system, during which she was active in the teacher’s union, both locally and nationally. Marcia describes this work as foundational to the activism that would follow. As she puts it, “From my many years of teaching and my years of union work I honed my skills as an organizer and activist.”
Marcia retired in 1999 and attended the World Trade Organization protest, the huge Battle in Seattle, later that year. This event was particularly transformative. She told me, “The new and privileged freedom of retirement along with this historic event catapulted me into local and national economic justice activist work.” It was in the wake of the Battle in Seattle that Marcia began her work with the Economic Justice Action Group of the First Unitarian Church of Portland. This branch of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) church is one of the largest congregations ever, and for five years, has provided a safe, supportive home and platform for Marcia to fight corporate personhood.
The trajectory of Marcia’s work was changed once more about four years ago, when her youngest daughter was suddenly and inexplicably brutalized by the police and criminal justice system, and incarcerated in an Oregon state mental institution. Marcia refers to the trauma that her daughter was subjected to as “needle-rape.” Her daughter, a 28-year old vegan who believes in natural medicine and does not drink, smoke or voluntarily use drugs, was held down and forcibly injected by psychiatric workers. The Oregon psychiatric system locked up and involuntarily medicated this precious family member for an entire year. From April 2010 to April 2011, Marcia’s daughter continuously resisted as Zyprexa, Haldol, Abilify, Risperdal and Ambien were forced into her body. Without warning, she was suddenly released. Of her daughter, Marcia says, “She remains very sensitive, caring and creative as well as more challenged than ever by the contradictions of this reality and in trusting others.”
It is safe to say that the Oregon mental health juggernaut abused the wrong family. As a direct response to this atrocity on her loved one, in 2010 Marcia helped start a new group called Rethinking Psychiatry within the Economic Justice Action Group at her UU church. Rethinking Psychiatry has since done some astounding activism.
Rethinking Psychiatry was launched by enthusiastic readers of journalist Robert Whitaker, such as his influential books Mad In America and Anatomy of an Epidemic. Whitaker’s work helped Marcia see that her family’s experience was part of the larger problem of a mental health that’s good for profit and not good for people. Marcia told me about Bob’s books, “The destructive reality that my daughter and I were caught in was totally validated.” Whitaker spoke at one of their earliest events, which I drove two hours from my hometown in Eugene to attend. The conference featured dozens of options for people in the mental health system, from workshops on diet to gatherings of more than one hundred people for open and respectful discussions of the diversity of views. I have gone to hundreds of conferences in mental health, but those events were mainly funded by the mental health system itself. Rethinking Psychiatry held its events in a church, just like many independent grassroots movements for the environment and other change.
In part because of Marcia’s living example of love in activism, my wife Debra and I officially joined the Unitarian Universalist Church in Eugene earlier this year. In July of this year, at our backyard party, I told Marcia that I would like to blog about my great hopes that our UU activists will help the Mad Movement. That is when Marcia told me the bad news that recently the person in her church in charge of social change activities came to Marcia with arms folded and apparently criticized Rethinking Psychiatry, as she had for years. Marcia was informed that her economic justice committee must stop doing any more work on mental health, and their Rethinking Psychiatry project must be removed from the UU Portland, Oregon church.
Marcia’s group was not kicked out of the church because of their ineffectiveness. Ironically, her grassroots effort broke out of our usual ghetto and reached the general public. Marcia has told me that she is very pleased with her years of work. She said, “I am extremely proud of what Rethinking Psychiatry accomplished in less than four years: three very successful two day symposiums, three successful film festivals, a vibrant and informative website and monthly meetings with guest speakers, including peer advocacy groups to progressive psychiatrists, sharing their experiences and tools for working toward mental and emotional wellness.” Marcia vows to continue Rethinking Psychiatry with or without UU.
I was shocked that the church would no longer provide a home for her project. I was also worried about the way my friend Marcia seemed to feel about the interaction with her church. Marcia is such a warm, bubbly, energetic, loving person and she deserves to be well treated. Over the next few days, I read accounts of these events via Mad in America where many leaders, including many of my friends, have blogs about the Mad Movement.
I asked the First Unitarian Church in Portland about their decision to remove Rethinking Psychiatry. Their Social Justice Minister, Rev. Kate Lore, responded, “Please rest assured that First Unitarian Church put a lot of thought into this decision. It took place after four years of deliberation. In the end it came down to the fact that our own Mental Health Action Group (MHAG) was opposed to some of the messages being conveyed via Rethinking Psychiatry.” Here is my total guesswork about what happened, because I have not heard back from Rev. Lore in answer to my follow-up questions: some larger churches with a mental health group have some family members involved who are also part of a group that might get drug company money. While these family members may mean well, moms of psychiatric survivors such as Marcia do not get the same corporate resources. Of course, as I say that is only my speculation, based on what I have seen in several other churches. I do know that Marcia had to do her work within her economic committee, because the mental health committee in her church opposed her activism, for some unknown reason.
There is another wrinkle in this story. It turns out, that for a few years a small, local mental health group, Mental Health Association of Portland (MHAP), had been complaining privately to this church about Rethinking Psychiatry. The secretary from MHAP claims he is a personal friend with ministers at this church, and he wrote that he had been complaining about Rethinking Psychiatry as early as two years ago. I am familiar with MHAP, which has a kind of confusing name because there used to be a large national group called Mental Health Association, but they became Mental Health America. In my many years in Oregon, it seemed that MHAP remained very tiny. Tiny is okay, but in a few short years Rethinking Psychiatry involved many more Oregonians than I ever saw get activated by MHAP.
So what was the complaint by MHAP about Rethinking Psychiatry?
Unfortunately, the website Mad In America ran one extremist opinion piece by MHAP falsely claiming that Rethinking Psychiatry was, in MHAP’s words, supposedly “always promoting” Scientology because Marcia’s project was allegedly “infiltrated” and served as a “front group” for Scientology, and their advocacy group Citizens Commission for Human Rights (CCHR).
The wording of MHAP’s opinion piece was particularly harsh, distorted, and untrue. Mad In America wanted a “fair” discussion of these issues, but MHAP’s statement violated any guidelines for fair journalism. For example, their public statement about Rethinking Psychiatry referred to “danger” twice, “fraud” twice, and claimed Marcia’s group was controlled by a cult. Oddly, the public statement by MHAP claimed they had “no income.” But a quick search of the Internet showed that MHAP legally declared that in 2012 they received $6,398.00 in revenue. I have written to the group’s board and advisors three times in the past three weeks, but no one will reply to me. You may ask, peacefully, these folks yourselves by searching on the web this phrase: Mental Health Association of Portland board of directors and advisory council.
I personally attended Rethinking Psychiatry events, and I have followed their work for years. I know many of MHAP’s claims, which they said they sent to Marcia’s church in writing, apparently secretly for years, are false. Here is the truth: Marcia’s project included anyone who seemed to be good on our issues, and one (1) of these individuals is a member of CCHR and a Scientologist. This is one person, who is a mild-mannered friendly activist who I have found knows the most about bad bills in our state legislature. Everyone I heard from who has ever attended Rethinking Psychiatry events, except MHAP, thinks they are a great group who includes several moms of psychiatric survivors, with room for many perspectives, and totally independent which has included hundreds of diverse people.
Yes, I realize that Mad in America is mainly a great outlet for our movement’s media, which is very different than being a political coalition. But I have heard that MIA does not want to be “tainted” by Scientology or CCHR, even by association. However, seldom are things so simple. For instance, is there some kind of loyalty oath? Should each blogger here on MIA, swear that we have never been members of CCHR? Because of political activism, I am a current member of an organization mainly of family members, NAMI, that has gotten a lot of drug company money. I joined NAMI in order to help me protest that group, along with my many friends who are trying to reform that drug company front group from within. Why isn’t there a loyalty oath about never being members of NAMI? For the record, I have never joined CCHR. To read more about NAMI, search the web for this historic moment: US Senator Grassley investigates NAMI and finds out that a majority of their donations were from the pharmaceutical industry.
The New Gray-Matter Scare
The unreasonable hatred and fear of anything even remotely touched by Scientology reminds me of the old Red Scare, when any labor organizing was suspected of being Communist. My family was hurt by the Red Scare. My uncle lost his job back in the 1950’s because he played a musical instrument in a band that played at a party of some Communists. My grandmother and mother once marched together in a Communist parade against hunger in 1929 and even held up one of the main banners as the march entered downtown Chicago. That Red Scare witch hunt frightened my family members even decades later.
I call this new witch hunt that has bothered my friend Marcia “the Gray-Matter Scare.” When I directed MindFreedom International (MFI) for 25 years before my bad accident, I had a very simple approach about Scientology and their group CCHR. Maybe I was too simplistic. I made sure that we were independent, in the sense that our management, such as our board of directors, did not include anyone from Scientology. I was very proud that we had the same independence policy as Amnesty International, we had no funding or control from religions, governments, or corporations. Most groups that work on disability issues, because our people are so poor, get funding from taxpayers, which means the mental health system.
The big elephant in the room for most disability, including mental health, advocacy groups is that they have a constituency that is so low income that most of the movement activity must be funded by the system itself. Could you see Cesar Chavez, the Chicano labor organizer, being funded by the system itself? That would have put a crimp in his famous grape boycott, wouldn’t it?
Despite MFI’s independence, a few opponents continued to try and attack any critic of the mental health system by claiming they are under the spell of Scientology. These bizarre claims about MFI ceased after our attorney wrote a letter that we posted on our website, to clear up any confusion and to establish our independence. While our attorney did not mention defamation in the letter, my intuition was that the warning that we might go to court silenced false claims that tried to harm us. Unless there has been a big change since my retirement last year, MFI continues to be one of the independent groups. I support them and hope everyone joins and donates to MFI.
It may be time for our social change movement to be a bit more open and interactive with CCHR. Yes, we need to be independent. But if we refuse to even talk to someone from CCHR (not all of whom are Scientologists), why is it that people in our movement talk to shock doctors, drug company representatives, government officials who run the mental health system, etc.? If we are willing to talk with psychiatrists, why can’t we talk with everyone else, including Scientologists?
Let me tell you the day I vowed to speak out against bigotry involving CCHR: When Tipper Gore was in the White House as the wife of the then-Vice President, she sponsored a big public rally to promote the mental health system. I helped organize a counter-protest, and a few dozen of us psychiatric survivors and allies showed up with our signs and big prop hypodermic needles to say “no” to Tipper’s push for more involuntary psychiatric drugs. I will always remember that at the end of our little ragtag protest, we looked up the street, and separately from us there must have been thousands of people from CCHR with matching t-shirts all marching the width of the street, singing, “Go tell it on the mountain, psychiatry kills!” Obviously all psychiatrists do not kill, but as a long-time activist I can tell you that the organizations representing all of psychiatry, on the national and international levels, have been almost totally closed to dialogue about abuse within their ranks, despite many years of sincere outreach by many of us. Yes, psychiatry does kill, thank you CCHR for singing the truth!
As I watched thousands of CCHR members march and sing, I vowed that I would not buy into prejudice about their members, many of whom, but not all, are Scientologists. Do not get me wrong, I will not join that religion, I read one of the main books analyzing Scientology (Inside Scientology, by professional journalist Janet Reitman, 464 pages), and it’s not my cup of tea. As I say elsewhere, I am a Unitarian Universalist. But I was moved to tears by thousands of CCHR members singing for our brothers and sisters who have been killed by the mental health system. That day, at Liberty Plaza in Washington DC, I wondered to myself, “Where are the other religions on our issue?”
We psychiatric survivors and our organizations are often shunned and ignored by mental health groups. Search the web for this phrase: Free chapter by David W Oaks about the moral imperative of dialogue with psychiatric survivor organizations. If we complain about being shunned, then why would we shun others?
Years later, in 2009, I discovered where several Lutherans were on our issue. Please do not misunderstand me, I am sure there are many Lutherans who do good work in our field. However, Ray Sandford of Minnesota was getting court-ordered involuntary electroshocks even though he lived in the community and was not institutionalized. MindFreedom showed that there was a judge’s order that every Wednesday morning Ray was brought against his will from his group home to get another forced electroshock. After Ray phoned our MindFreedom office, we swung into action and even visited Minnesota to protest. The forced electroshock continued, so we researched who was behind it. We found out that dozens of agencies received taxpayer money, and should have been protecting Ray. One of these was a local social service agency run by Lutherans. Specifically, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSSMN) should have been protecting Ray, but instead they allowed Ray to be forcibly electroshocked.
We discovered that there are hundreds of regional social service agencies that often use the name of religions in their title, and even share their governance with their faith-based local group. I phoned up the headquarters for this church, which is one of the largest Lutheran congregations in the world, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) based in Chicago. I had many talks with that office, and their position was, and as far as I know still is, that they are hands-off these hundreds of local agencies. They opt to let their agencies do as they will, often getting thousands and millions of taxpayer dollars. It is my hope that someday soon there will be a human service scandal with ELCA and many religions that allow this incredible abuse to persist. Of course the Catholic Church has experienced controversies about child abuse, but in the future several religions will have a similar uproar about social service abuse!
Today, we need to fight for the human rights for the people with psychiatric labels as never before! There is a bill in the US Congress, H.R. 3717 by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), that is getting more and more sponsors, that is absolutely horrible, and would give $16 million for more forced drugging court orders of Americans living in their own homes. Yes, more Americans could also be court ordered under this bill to be brought from their homes for forced electroshock. Ray Sandford is not the only American to be force shocked while living at home. Search the web: Elizabeth Ellis receives court-ordered involuntary electroshock on an outpatient basis while living at home. Ask Rep. Murphy how he, a psychologist who supposedly opposes big government, would allow this? How many more thousands or millions of Americans living peacefully out in our communities would be forcibly drugged under his bill?
There should be a huge, united response to oppression like Rep. Murphy’s bill. In my opinion, because the system itself funds much of our movement, there is an insufficient uprising so far. Instead of uniting, apparently we are interested in a tussle over religion. I understand that these are complex issues. After my neck was broken I spent months in our local hospital run by Catholics and they cared deeply. However, this same hospital, Sacred Heart/PeaceHealth, gives electroshock, and I have protested there many times for more than 25 years and shown that their informed consent process is very flawed.
As far as I know, no Scientologist is electroshocking us. Yes, they are flawed. I was raised Catholic, I went to a Jesuit high school, and I know that church is flawed too. I am not asking you to join anything, just to not buy into bigotry. It seems that when Scientology is mentioned many people almost go into a robotic state, sometimes called normalism, similar to when I was forcibly drugged, and glazed-eye mental health workers marched me into solitary confinement and held me on a bare mattress for a forced injection.
My Personal Story as a Heretic
All of my grandparents came from Lithuania, and I have discovered that Lithuania was the last country converted from Paganism in Europe. My grandfather was a big admirer of Giordano Bruno, the last heretic burnt at the stake by the Vatican. I am still a Pagan. Before my fall, my main form of spirituality was to camp out in Oregon’s beautiful wilderness and fast for a few days, as I contemplated for better or for worse. You may see the results of one of these vision quests, by searching within YouTube for: David Oaks at Neptune Beach.
The UU church is famous for welcoming heretics, Atheists, and other religions. So why are some people concerned with one mild-mannered Scientologist being involved in Marcia’s group? Why is Marcia’s social justice minister telling her economic justice group that they can work on every issue except mental health corporations? Next year, 2015, will be a great year to ask, because UU’s main national gathering, called the General Assembly, will be in Portland, Oregon.
Marcia Meyers can teach us in the Mad Movement something very important. For years I have noticed that Marcia lives by an important principle for Unitarian Universalism, which is how UU’s are supposed to self-organize their faith. The first of the seven UU principles is brief and powerful:
1st Principle: The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person.
Marcia embodies the principle of respecting the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and it informs all of her work. It doesn’t surprise me that Marcia thought of her meeting space as a sacred chalice in her church where she welcomed every human being, regardless of their religious affiliations. Yes, she welcomed a person from another faith, a person who is a Scientologist. That Scientologist is a human being, too. Of course, the UU board of directors ran that church, and Marcia’s committee was informal. MHAP did not ever call Marcia herself a Scientologist, of course, because she is a UU!
Marcia says, “All folks in this movement should finally wake up, quit being afraid. Know that we have the power of integrity on our side and let their susceptibility to these playground bully scapegoating, manipulation, Red Scare tactics go! Amen!”
All this chatter about Scientology and CCHR is a distraction from unifying for human rights in the mental health system and a nonviolent global revolution. The main split that I see in our movement is between those who want mild reform and those who want a peaceful revolution in the mental health industry. Reform alone is our opponent. For centuries the mental health system has been saying that it is broken, and with a few million more dollars and more power they can fix themselves. The mental health industry eats reform for breakfast, and keeps growing. We need a revolution, but all too often those who seek only reform stand in the way of the necessary change called for by us so-called “radicals.” Some people seem unclear about the main strategy, which should be inside/outside, that is uniting inside reform with outside activism. In fact, sometimes it feels like the inside forgets that there is an outside!
Let me give my top 11 quick examples of how we can unite for a revolution, that have nothing to do with religion:
1. Nonprofits funded by the mental health system:
I have a good friend who runs a large nonprofit that is fueled by federal grants from the mental health industry. They do some good work and I have always supported them, but because of their funding they can not do activism. For my 25 years running MindFreedom we wove together a coalition of about 100 sponsors and affiliates, but never my friend’s group. When employees asked him to become a MindFreedom sponsor, he would always say, “We are a secret sponsor!” But when funding for his project was in danger, they wanted us to support his group publically.
2. Journalists and the media:
I have helped organize many protests of psychiatry. Several times, I have been privately disappointed when some journalist friends said they could not cover my protest because opponents would claim that they are biased. Avoiding my protests never seemed to stop these opponents from attacking my journalist friends anyway. Today, in the digital era, we are all in the media. Yet weeks after one of our groups holds a great event or protest, I sometimes fail to see any photo or mention on their home website. How can we complain about corporate media, when we sometimes don’t cover ourselves?
3. Foundations avoid protest:
There are some well-off supporters of our movement. But too often I have seen some of their foundations giving money only to academic research, surveys, studies, etc., anything but protests! Yet, often it is activism and protest that are most needed by Marginalized And Disempowered (M.A.D.) people like those in mental health care.
4. Funding travel instead of change:
The mental health system, United Nations, World Health Organization, and the disability movement hold events all over the world. These conferences need representatives from mental health consumers to be considered “valid.” I have gone to many of these events myself, and they are often in fun cities in Europe or South America, with interesting people. The system pays for this travel and hotels, but there is a price. I have never seen these events focused on activism, protest or ferment. Several times investigative groups sent me to countries that have very low income mental health systems. These groups funded visits to institutions, lawyers, studies, reports, etc., everything except protest! Are you seeing a pattern here?
5. Reform inhibits the efficacy of our gatherings:
For several decades, the US federal government has funded an annual event that is very nice, the Alternatives Conference, bringing together up to 1,000 psychiatrically-labeled people from all over the USA to work together for a few days. I have been lucky enough to go to about ten of these, and their grassroots folks are so warm and caring for each other that I always have a good time. However, because the money is from the feds, funders prohibit any outright activism and organizing in the conference itself. If you want to hold an organizing event such as a protest, you have to go across the street.
In 2012, just before I had my accident where I broke my neck, I helped organize a protest across the street from this conference in Portland to speak out against electroshock. The conference organizers were my friends, but they experienced a lot of pressure because of our protest. Conference organizers visited me before the protest about six times, prohibited us from announcing the protest, and even worked with the hotel lawyers so that we would sign a disclaimer that we would be peaceful! During our protest, I realized that activism itself has always played a most important role for me as an alternative for mental wellness. Yet, activism is the only alternative banned at the Alternatives Conference! Please search YouTube for: MindFreedom ECT protest 2012.
A few years ago, two speakers were almost excluded because they were considered too “radical,” but hundreds of us spoke up and got them included. Ironically, one of those speakers who we rallied for is on the board of MHAP.
6. Mental health professionals avoid dialogue with us:
In May 2012, in Philadelphia, I helped organize a protest of the American Psychiatric Association. Just before our street march, we held many speeches that the group PsychRights has put up on their website. But when we called for a representative of a group of psychologists to speak out about psychiatric labeling, there was an unexpected no-show. I found out later from two sources that the psychiatrist Dr. Allen Frances, an earlier architect of psychiatric labels who now sees himself as a reformer, had asked people not to attend our protest. Dr. Frances and I were both featured on a BBC report about our protest that day. My sources told me that Dr. Frances feels there is no reason to work with us. He thinks we are “anti-psychiatry,” even though I never use that term. Dr. Frances thinks there is no space for dialogue with us radicals, so he discourages his colleagues from speaking up with us. You may see these speeches by searching within YouTube for this phrase: Occupy 2012 American Psychiatric Association Philadelphia.
7. Political parties:
It is true that as many people say, political groups seem more divided than ever. However, when our movement proves to the public that something as horrendous as forced electroshock, sometimes on an outpatient basis of Americans living in their own homes, is being funded by the taxpayers then I have seen almost everyone, except the American Psychiatric Association, be on our side. Some of the most effective activism I have seen about the problem of overuse of psychiatric drugs on children, is by people who consider themselves to be far right wing leaders. I have seen some people on the left do great work for homeless. The Libertarian party actually had a plank in their platform a few years ago against forced psychiatry. Years ago, the Greens had a platform plank for changing mental health. We can unite all these parties!
8. The physical disability movement:
My own small UU church in Eugene does not have a formal mental health committee, thank goodness, or else some parents who are misinformed by drug company front groups might have a formal foothold by now. Instead, the home in my church for my mental health activism is the committee that works on all disability. There is great diversity among disability leaders, but by and large the disability movement understands the need for empowerment and the problem of overmedicalization. I am on the board of one of the best groups in disability, the US International Council on Disabilities. Our current goal is to pass a global treaty in the US Senate on disability rights.
Let me tell you about an experience that I seldom discuss with people. In December 2012, when I broke my neck on a ladder, I had to lie in my writer’s studio for a while waiting for help. I felt the paralysis start with my feet and go up my legs. Drawing upon our movement’s work and values, I had to dig deep to find some solace. One of my ways to feel okay was this: for decades before my fall I had to raise probably more than about 1.5 million dollars the old-fashioned way, such as direct mail, major donors, book sales, etc., mainly to make payroll for our employees. That has been a lot of pressure! But with my fall, of course that pressure ended, and I have to rely on taxpayer money for my independence. So as I laid on the ground, I was transitioning from the independent movement to taxpayer support. Believe me, as someone now called a quad in a powerchair, I see the value of independent funding and I see the necessity of taxpayer money, because my own life is helped by both. Let us unite reform and revolution!
I am now someone who is called a quad, that is all four of my limbs are impaired. Also, my voice, my neck, and my fingers are all impaired. Marcia’s principle of the worth and dignity of all sure became real to me!
9. Family members of people hurt by the mental health system:
One of our top volunteers at MindFreedom, has been my own mother. During her 90’s she came to our office two or three times a week to help out. The enthusiasm of family members to help those of us who have been hurt by psychiatry is immense. So it is very sad that the drug company money has tended to be used by a portion of family members who support forced drugging and a strict medical model, via drug company front groups. Family members like Marcia and my mom deserve that resource. Family members who empathize with psychiatric survivors need to be deeply welcomed as allies and leaders in our movement.
10. Government agencies should help psychiatric survivors:
A few years ago, I was invited to be part of a summit by the US federal government about mental health. Many of us had seen government agencies play it safe before, so I am proud that almost all of us mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors created a resolution that warned about the undue influence of drug companies in mental health care. The leader of our panel was a federal official who now directs a large federal agency, and that day of our panel he was very nervous and he asked us to make sure that our statement left out his agency. But why?
You may find the statement by searching for this phrase on the web: Undue influence of pharmaceutical industry in mental health opposed in 2010 Bastille Day statement at SAMHSA meeting. On April 1, 2014 of all days, the Wall Street Journal issued one of their Neanderthal editorials claiming that our movement ran federal mental health agencies. But we know who has power in these agencies, drug companies.
11. We psychiatric survivors can learn from Marcia’s joy!
Those of us profoundly hurt by the mental health system may have some anger. Many times I have told someone in some city about someone else near them who is also a psychiatric survivor, and the activist has said, “Oh, I know them but we disagree about x, y, z.” In fact one time recently the activist had not even met the other person yet and they claimed they disagreed! We do not need to all be friends. We do not need to all agree. But scowls, scolding and rage will tend to turn off other people. I know, I have experienced burnout too, and I apologize for any harm I may have caused. We can see Marcia’s resilient nature as a model.
Many people admire the late Justin Dart, a friend of mine who is considered the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act. One of the most common phrases from Justin, as any of you who knew him can attest, was about how much he loved everyone in this movement. Let us learn from Justin’s and Marcia’s activism from the heart. Let us find that infamous common ground, because we need that common ground to encompass the whole Earth!
The Mad Movement can help save the planet!
When I started in this work, the Mad Movement was always thought of as part of other movements, we were always one big movement. That is harder to see today, but it is still true. The Mad Movement can offer everyone, the 100 percent, insights about the power of peer support, especially when we all find out that we are always “mad” if that word has any meaning.
Since retiring, my main interest has been defending Planet Earth from the ravages of environmental destruction and global warming. What is the value of human rights in psychiatry if Earth is destroyed? The greenhouse effect is bad enough, but when complex systems are destabilized there is a risk of feedback effects that can lead to a kind of avalanche. Among my fellow quads, the physicist Stephen Hawking is considered one of the smartest people alive. Recently he warned, “I am afraid the atmosphere might get hotter and hotter until it will be like Venus with boiling sulfuric acid.” Global warming threatens to end human life as we know it. How about we at least look like we are in an emergency?
In a future blog, I will talk about a revolution throughout the sciences variously referred to as systems theory, complexity, chaos theory, butterfly effect, etc. Read Capra’s sweet little book, The Web of Life, to understand the basics. Marcia’s work reminds us of the inherent dignity and worth of everyone. For everyone to be equal leaders in MLK’s International Association for Advancement of Creative Maladjustment (IAACM), we must urgently organize based on these principles, as opposed to rigid hierarchy. Search facebook for: IAACM.
Are you a member of the UU church, or do you know a sympathetic person who is? Are you interested in these issues? Several of us who are members of UU churches have created a space in facebook for us to have this discussion. You do not have to be a UU to be in this group, just respect the worth and dignity of all. Look up this group within facebook: UU Mental Health Justice.
Lastly, I want to encourage everyone to extend some support to Marcia and Rethinking Psychiatry. Find out more about who Rethinking Psychiatry is and what they are really about, by searching for them on the web. Send them a letter of support, attend an event, and like their facebook page to keep getting updates on how they’re fighting for change in the mental health care system. Several groups owe Marcia and Rethinking Psychiatry an apology.
Thank you, Marcia! You and other Unitarian Universalist activists may not only aid our movement, but you may help us all stand up to confront Normalgeddon in a principled way, with dear friends and family. And PsychoQuad is here to say, “Lead On!”
P.S. Today, the release date for this blog entry, 25 August 2014, is the birthday for my friend Tom Wittick, who appropriately enough was one of the co-founders for the first known psychiatric survivor group in the USA, based in Portland, Oregon, Insane Liberation Front! Thanks to Tom, and everybody who helped this movement!