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!
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.
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.
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:
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:
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!
Thankfully, the USA culture is discussing more than ever the hidden oppression of sexual assault against women. However, men who have had their lives disrupted by unwanted or abusive sexual experiences might not have felt the same level of support or not known where to turn. A local respected nonprofit here in Eugene, Oregon, Sexual Assault Support Services, has mainly worked with female survivors, but they have a resource for male survivors.
Many group meetings for counseling have a formal expectation for attending, but this meetup is more informal, and participants may decide to drop in at the last minute, and may attend any of the weekly gatherings or take a break. Their choice. The group has two experienced, thoughtful and supportive counselors to help the peer support be empowered but safe.
Below is from their flyer, the group is active now, January 2018. If you want to double check that the group is being held each week, check their website.
From the SASS flyer about the Eugene, Oregon weekly men’s meetup:
You are invited to be a part of a free & confidential mentoring group lead by trained facilitators who work to strategize with, & empower men who have experienced unwanted sexual contact at any point in their life. Come, be of support to others & find support for yourself!
This group is for self-identified males 18+
When: Thursday’s 4:30 to 6:00 PM
Where: 591 West 19th Ave. Eugene (Corner of 19th & Jefferson), Oregon. Call with questions, or just drop in! Door locks at 4:35 as no late arrivals allowed.
[To repeat, SASS is the respected sponsor of this free weekly meetup. MindFreedom Oregon and I are not organizers, but are strong endorsers and you can find our listing of this event on fb here: https://www.facebook.com/events/354136108328973/ ]
This Friday, November 3, 2017 at 3 pm we have a special free event planned, especially if you are in or near Eugene, Oregon. Celebrate the fact that the City Council has officially proclaimed that the center square in our city is Kesey Square, named after a wonderful writer and friend of our movement, Ken Kesey (1935-2001).
You are invited to a free celebration of
Kesey Square is now officially Kesey Square!
Where : Cuckoo’s Nest Stage
LILA Peer Support Club
990 Oak St, Eugene
(NW corner 8th & Oak)
Date : Friday, November 3, 2017
Time : Starts at 3 pm
Who ? David Rogers, folk singer. Sarah Smith, MindFreedom
International. David Oaks, revolutionary psychiatric survivor activist.
Libbie Rascon, Office of Consumer Activities. Lynne Mckinney.
Surprise guests. You! Free, public, peaceful, all ages welcome.
Celebrate a legacy of Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s
Nest . The City of Eugene has officially named Kesey Square.
After our indoors celebration, those of us who wish will then go to nearby
Kesey Square, Broadway & Willamette, where Food Not Bombs (FNB)
serves yummy, free, hot food every Friday afternoon! Donations of
nonperishable food (no meat or dairy please) encouraged for FNB!
This is a First Friday, so you can also then celebrate Eugene’s art.
Sponsored by MindFreedom Oregon
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).
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
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.
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.
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 email@example.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 
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:
Elyn Saks, J.D., Ph.D., Professor of Law, Legal Scholar, University of Southern California Gould School of Law, has a seemingly-complicated position about involuntary treatment. She famously said, “My bottom line? I like to say that I am very pro-psychiatry but very anti-force.” However, she promotes a strange “one-free-shot” philosophy where the mental health system could impose treatment the first time, since she notes some are grateful after the fact. However, others are not grateful. In fact, some do not survive.
John Snook, Esq., Executive Director/Attorney, Treatment Advocacy Center, actually runs TAC and spends his professional career promoting involuntary mental health treatment.
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.
Can our two years talk? Let’s use our imaginations.
The Iroquois Native Americans wisely advised us all to think ahead seven generations. As Hurricane Harvey attacks the Houston area in this year 2017, seven generations ahead (each generation is now about 25 years) would be the year 2192.
Wow, you in the year 2192, that is the 700th anniversary of the invasion of this continent by us Europeans. I hope someone is there to read this message? Perhaps if we here in the year 2017 are effective and ignite a global revolution, we can ensure there will be people alive in 2192. (more…)