May 15, 2017: I am OK, back at Mad Swan, what we call our home. Thanks all!
In Lithuanian, the word for “thanks” is aciu! So:
Two folks to single out for appreciation:
Thanks of course to Debra, my amazing wife. Near the bottom of my blog entry are two very brief videos by her, just after the operation. In both videos I am mute. My being silent for a while may bring great pleasure to some beloved viewers.
Also, thanks to one of my very helpful respiratory therapists (RT) Aaron Maddron, see his photo here by Eric Jacobson, published in East Coast Muscle Magazine. I appreciate your positive support and advice, Aaron, my friend, I hope it is OK to post this public info. Some fans are wondering what happened to you after winning body building championships.
I can assure folks that Mr. Maddron is now an effective healer.
Thanks, respect and dignity for all.
Briefly, Let Us Start At the Beginning of This Past Week:
Exactly one week ago, on Monday morning, 8 May 2017, I experienced some significant health difficulties including nausea & radiating pain in my back. My brilliant loving and amazing wife, Debra, encouraged me to consult with Dr. Hurtado, my primary care physician. Based on my health experiences this past year and a recent visit with him, he encouraged me to go to an emergency room.
I have taken ambulances to various ER’s several times and knew the drill: This meant that we phoned 911 and took an ambulance to an ER room. I did not have time to inform a lot of folks, please forgive me if you did not know. Also, because of confidentiality laws, my wonderful team of employees could not transmit info about me. Everyone has permission to share this message, and I asked the wonderful webmaster, Jeffrey Bousquet, with Aciu Instititute to add this to my personal blog. (Thanks, Jeff!)
After three days, I felt so much better, I sent out a message that this blog is based on. And today I am at home. Over this past week I experienced the following:
My sixth ambulance trip, I think, in about a year.
I chose this time to go back to Riverbend PeaceHealth, the site of my original ER arrival four years and five months ago when I fell in December 2012, and broke my spine.
My diagnosis this time: Emergency pancreatitis.
My fifth operation in five years.
A glimpse at some past trauma while chatting with great caretakers.
I got to play with many caretakers and friends our newest games, Wacco, free, face-to-face, question-oriented. I was able to listen and find out a bunch about what they were Nuts4, or nuts for.
Not eating for three days.
(Oops did I say briefly?)
Here are some videos from just after the operation:
By my beloved Debra, only 17 seconds, I am still unconscious:
A 25 second video by Debra after I wake up post-op, only 25 seconds, I am still mute, but my eyes are open. Note the devices that I am wearing that would normally be called restraints. Normal? Hoooowwwwl!:
Because a bunch of tubes were still in my nose and throat and gut, I did not stop the use of “restraints.” My restraints involved post-op, not mental health. The topic in general can be very complex. I admire Martin Luther King warning us about the paralysis of analysis. As a trauma survivor, I can advise River Bend on some possible improvements on this process.
After about 40 years working for human rights in mental health, there is a very simple way for you to address the issue of “restraints.” I talk with my hands & arms so there was a risk of pulling the tubes out. But do not worry, in a way they are not real restraints if I can have them removed. Complex? Or is it.
What? Oaks in Restraints?
My main purpose here is to thank people for this past week. However, I do need to address more the topic of involuntary mental health restraints including chemical restraints.
You see, President Trump nominated an individual to a key new “mental health czar” position who very much supports involuntary outpatient psychiatric treatment. The US Senate will ask her questions during the approval process, and so now is the time to reach all US Senators about this topic, because their approval of her nomination is required. Mad In America re-published my blog about this topic, and quite a lot of readers have been interested, https://www.madinamerica.com/2017/04/trump-appoints-leader-campaigned-involuntary-outpatient-drugging/
I hope everyone who reads this provides feedback via my blog or Mad In America. While I have difficulty getting all messages, I also try to keep up with feedback via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I am an First Amendment fanatic! What are your views and questions? Hey, what is this, Russia?
Russia, by the way, is famous for doing a lot of involuntary psychiatric drugging. It is easier somehow for us Americans to see such human rights violations in another country. Same drug, needle just as sharp, different perspective. Gee, our President Trump seems to ignore some negativity over in Russia. Same President who has recently nominated Elinore F. McCance-Katz of Rhode Island for our new “mental health czar.”
The topic of restraints, physical tie-downs after surgery versus mental health restraints including psychiatric drug injections, appears to be very complex.
Let Us Get Real Simple Here:
I agree with Michelle Funk who speaks for the World Health Organization (WHO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, connected to the United Nations. Thanks WHO!
May is Mental Health Month here in the USA. Here is Michelle’s May 4, 2017 tweet:
If you view my retweet comment about this the same day, just a few weeks ago, to help get out this extremely important news, WHO calls for end to use of solitary confinement and restraints in mental health, you see I agree with her and the WHO.
“I really enjoyed being an ‘expert consultant’ for this set of pilot modules from the World Health Organization with the UN.”
As a consultant expert during 2016 for the World Health Organization on human rights in mental health, I was one of those with personal lived experience of real restraints. Not the tie-down types. The sharp end of the needle kind. I am a survivor of involuntary psychiatric drug injections as a college student back in the 1970’s. I graduated Harvard despite these experiences 40 years ago this year.
The topics of my psychiatric survivor story, restraints, and a lot more may seem very complex but I am trying to be brief here. Ha-ha!
Simply put, WHO calls for ending involuntary restraints in mental health now. I agree. Note that these restraints include chemical ones.
More to come, but to learn about ending restraints in mental health, here is a free PDF link to one of the new 15 WHO documents that I advised on, Strategies to end the use of seclusion, restraint and other coercive practices: Training to act, unite and empower for mental health (Pilot Version):
I was mute for a few hours, I realized that my brother’s invention of a letter board that I used on the same ICU four years ago would have really, really come in handy. Laminate and sell that puppy, Tony!
During my recovery after my surgery, I asked Debra’s help in getting a chaplain and we met a couple including one from my Unitarian Universalist Church in Eugene, Kimberly. Thanks Kim! Visit our Facebook group that brings together more than one hundred of us: UU Mental Health Justice.
I had time to reflect there inside Riverbend PeaceHealth Hospital in Springfield, Oregon, city of the Simpsons this past week. Time to rest with more simplicity. Thanks for helping everyone who produced this blog entry, much of it written a few days ago including this line: “Debra has provided so much support and love–she blows a kiss. Ian is typing this.”
Debra thanks for being my amazing wife and true love all these decades, once more you are saving me!
Everybody who sent well wishes
All messages including phone calls were very much appreciated, thanks
Those of you who were supportive even though we were unable to inform all who would like to know such things. (May I suggest getting to my Twitter account and adding yourself as what is called “follower.” In the future I will try to tweet very significant news.)
Thanks again to Aaron!
And thanks to Patch Adams, MD, even though you were not in the room, and even though you do not go on the Internet, and even though this time I did not phone you up my dear friend, AAAAAAAHHH-CHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am a survivor of human rights violations in the mental health system. And even though this was a long time ago, back when I was a college student in the 1970’s, the issues are more relevant than ever. My friend, Patch Adams, MD, has connected the dots for me: Our society needs to be very agile right now, but has to overcome centuries of mental health oppression. But with compassion, we can have a global nonviolent revolution!
Recent events show that mental health human rights violations are important for everyone. MindFreedom International was my employer for 25 years before my accident in 2012. They are an independent, activist group, and we need that energy as never before.
The White House announced this past Friday, 21 April 2017, in the evening, that President Donald Trump has, for a pivotal mental health position, appointed a psychiatrist who openly speaks out for involuntary psychiatric drugging of people living outside of institutions, even in their own homes. This appointee criticizes our social change movement, especially our dedication to empowering peer support and our concerns about psychiatric drugs and labeling. It is important for everyone who supports human rights, especially in the social change movements for disability rights and those critical of mass incarceration, to speak up and oppose this approach.
Please phone your U.S. Senators to block this confirmation. This is a chance to raise these issues, now!
This “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” (as supporters call it) or “Involuntary Outpatient Commitment” (as it is known by many) has been quietly growing on the State level for decades, but is now being funded on the federal level, such as through the enormous 21st Century Cures Act that was passed by Congress at the end of last year. Whatever it is called — AOT or IOC — under these laws judges may order folks to have mental health care, which could be a range of approaches. In my experience, staffing a human rights phone and getting hundreds of contacts for decades, “mental healthcare” for the “seriously mentally ill” almost always includes psychiatric drugging, often with neuroleptics, or “antipsychotic medications” as prescribers often call this family of pharmaceuticals.
Neuroleptic drugs began in the 1950’s with such brands as Thorazine, Stelazine, Haldol, Mellaril, etc., all of which I have had. I personally experienced involuntary neuroleptic injections more than 40 years ago as a college student at Harvard. About five times I was placed in a psychiatric institution for emotional difficulties, and twice I experienced the sharp end of a needle, when in solitary confinement I was held down on the bare mattress and got forced drugging in my butt. I graduated anyway, in 1977, and our class is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Now neuroleptics have dozens of more brands, but many of the hazards and risks are the same. For instance, in the long run there is the danger that many people can experience involuntary twitching that can apparently often be permanent. There is also the long term risk of brain damage and even death. Some folks choose these medications, but others do not. I choose to not take them, and I have not for these past four decades.
Takes One to Know One
President Trump has appointed Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz for a high-level position created by the 21st Century Cures Act. Dr. McCance-Katz would become the first Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse (SAMHSA) inside the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
In an essay published last year by the Psychiatric Times, Dr. McCance-Katz was highly critical of SAMHSA, especially its sub-agency Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), headed by Paolo Delvecchio, who has long-identified himself as an individual who has used psychiatric treatment. Many mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors know Paolo because of his work in this field for decades.
In her essay in Psychiatric Times, Dr. McCance-Katz:
Endorses federal funding of AOT (or IOC).
Criticizes SAMHSA for allegedly being critical of psychiatric drugs.
Challenges the support for “recovery” in mental health, a term used by many consumer/survivors as a rallying point for hope and empowerment.
Calls for mental health care, which appears to be led by psychiatric drugs, for more than three million Americans.
Are You One of the Many Targeted?
Dr. McCance-Katz wrote in the essay: “It is estimated that 10 million Americans (4.2%) are living with serious mental illness. However, only 68.5% of the most severely mentally ill will receive any type of mental health services.”
I wonder how many of these three million Americans would refuse psychiatric drugs? Of those who would refuse, I wonder how many this psychiatrist would like to see drugged against their will?
This professor challenges the great interest in using peer support as a humane, empowering alternative priority. She writes, “Workforce issues focus in large part on the development of a ‘peer workforce.’ This ideology purports that one can become a mental health professional by virtue of having a mental illness. Peer support can be an important resource for some, but it is not the answer to the treatment needs of the seriously mentally ill.”
There are only a few, small groups that focus on involuntary psychiatric drugging, such as the Treatment Advocacy Center. The topic actually divides a lot of folks, since the average American in my experience does not like the idea of the government forcing citizens to have involuntary psychiatric drugs, once the value of empowering alternatives are explained. IOC can even for a small group include involuntary outpatient court-ordered electroshock, or electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). For example, search the web for the names Ray Sandford and Elizabeth Ellis, with the word electroshock. These two Minnesotans who received such horrible involuntary procedures, but MindFreedom put out human rights alerts that stopped the series of electroshocks.
In my decades of work in the field of human rights and mental health, I have been impressed with the way concern about this issue crosses political lines. Yes, support for this field has often been among those who would be seen as on the left. However, some of the most effective organizing about psychiatric over-drugging of children has been done by activists that would be seen as on the right.
I have seen both the Libertarian Party and the Green Party both pass planks in their platform, years ago, expressing support for some of our goals. Today we are often seeing critics question the sanity of the President of the United States because of his support of untrue beliefs, such as his denial of climate crisis and his many years of championing the odd belief that President Obama was born in Africa.
Well, it takes one to know one, and I am also a White Aging Crazy Citizen (WACC). Actually, what I have found in my work is that 100% of all people struggle about their mental wellness, it is a universal challenge. The distinction is between negative, bigoted craziness and positive, constructive, creative craziness. In fact, I would argue that the new PC is Positively Crazy.
Perhaps at this time, we need a Positively Crazy dedication to the First Amendment, which not only includes free speech, but according to the US Supreme Court, the right to think unusual thoughts, even irrationally. There are more compassionate, effective, sustainable ways to help troubled people. Let us all break the silence about human rights violations in mental healthcare, including IOC. Centuries of abuse in this industry have helped silence the population on many outrages, including the threat of climate chaos.
We need a nonviolent revolution throughout our society, in mental healthcare, in energy, in so many ways. There is no guarantee of results, but at least we can speak up about freedom!
My friend Patch Adams, MD has spoken out many time about the need for fun, creativity and peaceful rebellion. You may read a recent blog I wrote after chatting with him recently, which you may read here
Below, for the very interested, you will find an essay I have just submitted to be published in the Harvard Alumni Association publication that comes out every five years. In my essay, I appreciate that a Harvard volunteer group first placed me as an intern working for human rights in mental health. Unfortunately, the nonviolent revolution we have long called for in mental health has not quite happened yet. However, perhaps now this topic may get more attention.
My Essay to Harvard Alumni Association for My 40th Reunion
Mental health. Activism. Community organizing. Human rights. Disability. Nonviolent revolution! Thank you, Phillips Brooks House Association, for placing me as an intern in my senior year as a community organizer of people in the mental health system, because the above passions became my career. The incredible riches I have gained from working with some of the most powerless in our society are invaluable. After 25 years as Executive Director of the human rights nonprofit MindFreedom International, I had an extreme accident and broke my neck, and I now use a power chair. While it would be impossible to be totally prepared for this, my work in the disability movement managed to teach me a few principles. For example, I apply lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr.: What is my creative maladjustment?
Reflecting back on Harvard, the most memorable and influential class for me was about comparative religion. It would be fun to be in touch with any of you reading this. You can find me easily by directing your search engine to this phrase: david w oaks blog. When I summarized my passions above, I included “nonviolent revolution.” Yes, for decades I have raised this as a real choice. Now, with the climate chaos looming, I feel nonviolent revolution is an option we might want to choose. Scientists have estimated that the lag for carbon-induced impact is about 40 years. In other words, the pollution during our years at Harvard is only now changing the climate. I am very concerned that during the next lag, many more feedback effects can be triggered. For the current moment and for seven generations in the future, we truly need a nonviolent revolution. I estimate seven generations would extend to about the year 2192. May there be a healthy graduating class that year! The Butterfly Effect gives us a good chance, uncertain, but a good chance. Perhaps it is up to you?
It is important to create a dialogue to address the values we need today for excellent care. Therefore, I am copying the commentary that I very much disagree with. You may read the essay by the Trump appointee from Psychiatric Times below:
The Federal Government Ignores the Treatment Needs of Americans With Serious Mental Illness
By Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz
There she was again—a middle-aged woman, disheveled, crouching in the doorway of a closed store, grasping a notebook and pencil and scribbling. Intermittently, her eyes darted around and she would mumble, then go back to her notebook. Her eyes never met mine, but I wondered why she was not getting help with what was clearly a severe mental illness. I would see her in that same doorway several times a week for a couple of years before I left Berkeley, California, to become the first Chief Medical Officer of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In doing so, I hoped to help people living in the grips of cruel disorders that affect one’s thinking, one’s reasoning, one’s ability to relate, and one’s ability to even understand that one suffers from a disorder that can be treated.
It is estimated that 10 million Americans (4.2%) are living with serious mental illness. However, only 68.5% of the most severely mentally ill will receive any type of mental health services. Whether those services are necessary and appropriate is not known. People with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and other severe mental illnesses often complicated by substance misuse need effective, safe, evidence-based treatments as well as community resources where their clinical service needs can be met. The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is composed of numerous agencies that address the health care needs of Americans, but only one agency within HHS is charged with addressing the needs of those with serious mental illness and that is SAMHSA.
SAMHSA is a small federal agency with a budget of roughly $3.7 billion per year; much of that is in the form of block grants to states that are the arbiters of how the funds will be spent in support of the treatment of substance use and mental disorders. SAMHSA does, however, have the ability to focus on areas and issues that would improve the lot of individuals affected by severe mental illness. Unfortunately, SAMHSA does not address the treatment needs of the most vulnerable in our society. Rather, the unit within SAMHSA charged with addressing these disorders, the Center for Mental Health Services, chooses to focus on its own definition of “recovery,” which generally ignores the treatment of mental disorders, and, as a major initiative under “recovery” services, focuses on the development of a “peer workforce.”
There is a perceptible hostility toward psychiatric medicine: a resistance to addressing the treatment needs of those with serious mental illness and a questioning by some at SAMHSA as to whether mental disorders even exist—for example, is psychosis just a “different way of thinking for some experiencing stress?”
SAMHSA’s approach includes a focus on activities that don’t directly assist those who have serious mental illness. These include programs such as Mental Health First Aid, which seeks to teach people about the warning signs of mental illness in an attempt to provide support to those who are experiencing symptoms. Significant dollars are spent on hot lines for callers who may be experiencing suicidal thinking or who know someone who may be—yet suicide rates continue to climb in the US. SAMHSA supports integrated care programs that would bring some aspects of primary care to mental health services programs—worthy programs, but which do not address the treatment of serious mental illness. Programs that undertake the “re-education” of mental health practitioners who are assumed to be abusers of “consumer” rights and who dictate treatment to patients have been funded in the Recovery to Practice initiative.
Workforce issues focus in large part on the development of a “peer workforce.” This ideology purports that one can become a mental health professional by virtue of having a mental illness. Peer support can be an important resource for some, but it is not the answer to the treatment needs of the seriously mentally ill.
Lost in all of this are the real and pressing treatment needs of some of the most vulnerable in our society—those living with serious mental illness. Nowhere in SAMHSA’s strategic initiatives is psychiatric treatment of mental illness a priority. The occasional vague reference to treatment is no substitute for the urgent need for programs that address these issues.
What is needed is an agency soul-searching and a re-prioritization that places the treatment of serious mental disorders at the very top of the list of agency goals. SAMHSA needs leadership that acknowledges the importance of addressing serious mental illness. Initiatives that provide funding for new approaches to engaging the seriously mentally ill; for assisted outpatient treatment with enriched psychosocial services; and for additional psychiatric hospital beds, particularly for longer-term care given the severe shortage of such resources in the US, should be at the top of SAMHSA’s agenda.
Clinical education programs that address current, evidence-based treatment for serious mental illness, and new funding for the training of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, advanced practice psychiatric nurses, and psychologists, should be a major focus. SAMHSA should develop closer ties with the National Institute of Mental Health, which is helping us to better understand the neurobiological underpinnings of mental illness every day. The real hope, change and ability to recover from these disorders, lies in their effective treatment. To ignore this is to leave a large segment of some of the most seriously ill in our society abandoned—indeed, discriminated against by the very agency charged with serving them.
What can be done to change the current course? Stakeholder groups that seek to ensure psychiatric treatment for all who need it should band together and exert pressure on SAMHSA, on political administrations, and on congressional representatives to address the needs of the seriously mentally ill. Skilled behavioral health providers with patient care experience—psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors—should consider committing a period of service to SAMHSA and to other federal agencies to inform policy decisions related to substance use and mental disorders. This is especially important because too many in the government have education in behavioral health fields but have never worked with patients, or if they have, it was many years in the past. Being inside the Beltway also imbues an artificial perspective that may be informed by lobbyists if at all. This does not serve the American people.
Time for change
I left SAMHSA after 2 years. It became increasingly uncomfortable to be associated with an agency that, for the most part, refused to support evidence-based psychiatric treatment of mental disorders. It was also quite clear that the psychiatric perspective I brought—inclusive of assessment, diagnosis of mental disorders, utilization of evidence-based treatments, including psychotropic medication and psychosocial interventions as integral components of recovery—was a poor fit for the agency. SAMHSA needs a complete review and overhaul of its current mission, leadership, and funded programs. Congress should quickly address this through legislative mandate.
For too long the treatment needs of the seriously mentally ill have been ignored by SAMHSA, and this needs to change. In doing so, perhaps people like the woman in the doorway will be able to move out of the shadows to live full and productive lives in our communities.
Last week I talked with my friend Patch Adams, MD, the hero in the movie by that name. Patch is a peaceful revolutionary in many ways, especially on the topic of medicine. Our chat turned into an interview.
Your comments here on this blog are invited. Do you support revolution? What kind?
Every time I talk with Patch I learn a bit more about nonviolent revolution, from the very first time I worked with him in 1992 when he spoke at a MindFreedom International (MFI) event.
Over the years, especially at the huge unique gathering each July, Oregon Country Fair, I have heard many stories from Patch.
For example: When Patch was a teen he would hear some people around him use the n-word in a racist way.
Patch developed this creative response: “I would scream because I was bothered by it. I was 16, 17, 18. The bullies would beat me up after school. If I screamed every time they said the word, they would eventually stop. They didn’t always stop on the first go.”
Patch reports that his creative disorder worked fairly well, and the use of the n-word around him abated a great deal. I wondered a few years ago if this same approach would work for another n-word: Normal? I tried this with my employees: We howl whenever we hear the word “normal,” and this funny method has worked.
As a tribute, we are launching this call and response as a game that I call “Howl4.” This game is very simple. When anyone says the word “normal,” you respond by howling! To paraphrase and build on a poem by Allen Ginsberg, “I have seen some of the best minds of my generation destroyed by normality.”
Last week I asked Patch about applying his innovation to the word “normal.” Our game, Howl4, might catch on. The other day I made a video about this call and response. What did Patch think of this game? Patch replied, “I would of course know nothing about ‘normal.’
Patch said that he first came up with the idea about fighting racism by making a noise because he needed a peaceful, creative way to respond to bigotry. He told me, “It’s just an encouragement to not be silent. I chose never to take violence as one of my options, so all I have is performance. ”
Patch on What he Would do to Help Save the Planet: Revolution!
“I want women in charge of everything.” I certainly would agree with Patch. I learn from my brilliant wife and about half-a-dozen wonderful female employees, as well as many female friends and relatives almost every day! (I also learn from my three male employees, who are also superb.)
Does Patch want a revolution? Of course. He said:
“How do I feel about it? I live it! Nonviolent revolution!” Patch said that nonviolence is very important to him.
“Most revolutions in history were nonviolent. I made a commitment as a teenager to never do physical violence, not even to defend my family. I just know my father died from war as a soldier and I just am not going to do it.” Yes, this is a complex topic, and I, like most people, am not a pacifist, but I find this philosophy fascinating. Plus I certainly want to try nonviolent revolution!
Patch told me, “Everyone has to make their own decision. I’m not going to hurt somebody.”
I asked Patch about some hypothetical situations that are challenging for folks who choose nonviolence, for example, instances that would lead many of us to call 911, or the military.
Patch answered, “I would use creativity and find nonviolent solutions. There is very little creativity in that world, so I think there are a huge number of things: For one, you’re asking what to do in a large nationwide solution.”
Patch on President Donald Trump:
“If the president was a ‘Love President,’ there are lots of thing a Love President could do. We’d have to have access to a lot of people and a lot of media so we could have creativity to deal with horrible situations.” Patch very much opposes the bigotry we are seeing from President Trump.
“He’s an embarrassment in just about every way, and dangerous, and thoughtless, and lying. Everyone should be worried and get more proactive.”
I have many relatives that voted against President Donald Trump. I voted for another candidate. But I have a few dear relatives who told us that they did indeed vote for President Trump. This has created a few awkward moments, and I am sure many other Americans have also had such moments. Patch told us that these are extremely challenging time:
“With whatever discomfort or anger one might have for the current election process, it is not the time to face it with anger and discontent. There never has been a time when a life in radiance and love has been more important. So let your wildest and craziest love and fun infect every environment.”
Are You On the Revolution Bus?
My friend, the late and beloved Ken Kesey, liked to say:
“Are you on the bus? Or off the bus?”
Let us be on the bus, now! I am talking about the bus of revolution, global revolution.
Most people, when I ask them, support revolution.
A few others first ask, “What kind of revolution?” Good question.
I tend to say, “A quality revolution!” I do not know exactly what to name what is required, you may call it whatever you wish. Some may want a nonviolent revolution. That is OK with me. In fact, if you look up the phrase “nonviolent revolution” in Wikipedia, you will see that MindFreedom International has long been one of the groups to officially have revolution in its mission.
I blogged a few months ago about why folks should support MFI now, and you can read this here.
Let Us Have Free Minds
And yes, I helped start MindFreedom International. Please be truthful about this, many, many folks helped start MindFreedom International. We all co-started MindFreedom. This will be a brief entry to say “Thank you, thank you, thank you! MindFreedom International community!”
For example, there is a Board of Directors of MFI. I have never been on the Board of MFI. After my neck broke about four years ago, I retired after about 25 years of having the incredible pleasure and honor of being the Executive Director. But because of severe challenges I could not continue after my accident in December 2012.
On her way to the airport for one of her many trips to her beloved Ghana, Africa a few days ago, the spectacular Celia Brown, President of the MFI Board, called me with the wonderful news that the board has decided that our Aciu Institute will be official consultants for MindFreedom International.
For those who do not know, Aciu Institute is a fairly new for-profit. “Aciu” means thank you in Lithuanian, which is my heritage. Yes, I am working with a for-profit, my first in 40 years of nonprofit work. Keep an eye on this blog and the website www.LoveEarthRevolution.com for developments.
There are millions, perhaps billions, who support nonviolent revolution, today. Let us make this “R” word more visible. There is no guarantee of success, but I know that I would feel better!
Many people, such as Patch, are thinking outside of the box, people mainstream psychiatry as tended to squash. Patch evaded a lifetime of mainstream psychiatry after his psychiatric institutionalization as a young person. Patch is a psychiatric survivor who believes that we can have good humor even when facing the difficult parts of life. The name of our for-profit was partly inspired by the name of the group Patch works with: “Gesundheit Institute.”
One can end up in an infinite loop by saying “Aciu” to someone with Patch’s group. They might respond “Gesundheit” and you might respond “Aciu.” Let me end with some humor that a super employee has given a good grade to, Grade B actually:
From Pun of the Day:
“Sir Cumference built King Arthur’s round table, and Sir Ramic Tile did the flooring.”
As I said, your feedback about this blog are welcome in the comments section below. Do you howl for revolution? How do we make this more visible?
Do you live in or near Eugene, Oregon? Then you will want to enjoy our free street theater skit tomorrow, Saturday, April 1, 2017. Really!
Below is info about this, including a flyer you can download and a Facebook event page. Since the event is based on street theater in a busy location, we expect mainly an audience from passers-by. But the more the merrier, hope you can be there!
Saturday, April Fool’s Day, April 1, 2017, at 6 pm, at Kesey Square, in downtown Eugene, a little troupe of us will be doing a free street theatre skit, Ghost Buskers 40. For me, I dedicate this to my mom’s memory.
This is a peaceful creative street theatre called “Ghost Buskers.” You can just watch, or play along. Will we start a revolution and reach the year 2192, which is seven generations down the line?
The troupe includes activist David Oaks, folk singer David Rogers, performer Dale Kegley, humorist Howard Falk, activists Sue Barnhart, Clay Hurand, and Ian McTeague. And you? Play Ask-It Ball designed by Ken Kesey.
Sponsored by the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. The IAACM is dedicated to peaceful action for social and environmental justice. In this day and age that is revolutionary! Performance in memory of Violet Oaks.
If you ever met my mother, Violet Oaks, you know that she almost always smiled. Wednesday, March 29, 2017, she would have turned 100 years old. She died just short of her 98th birthday, apparently in her sleep over at the Eugene Hotel, an active retirement center that she lived in her last decade here in Eugene, Oregon.
If you did not know my Mom, her smile may reach you somehow. At bottom is a little letter that I shared with some friends and relatives.
You will find links with bio info, still photos, and lots of videos.
I will remember Mom in many ways. For example, this Saturday, April Fool’s Day, April 1, 2017, at 6 pm, at Kesey Square, in downtown Eugene, a little troupe of us will be doing a free street theatre skit, Ghost Buskers. For me, I dedicate this to Mom’s memory. Yes, I am the fool, but Mom loved the world even though foolishness appears to be our universal holiday. For those of you in Eugene, more info on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1747190835570892/
“Mom, I hope you do not mind if I tell the world that your spirit lives through the kindness we show one another!” I will hopefully sow peace and love, now and throughout my life, or at least try. Sowing kindness was kind of a mantra for Mom. Mom and I, like many of our relatives, have Lithuanian heritage and Chicago connections.
In her 80’s Mom left her beloved Illinois and I had the immense pleasure and honor of being close with her for about a decade. Incredibly, for the first few years she volunteered about two or three days per week, almost every week, at our MindFreedom office, where I worked as Executive Director. Mom probably touched and filed every single paper in the entire office, and she was “old school” which means she worked in a focused way from beginning to end. Even into her 90’s, Mom volunteered there about one day a week. Only in her final years did she stay at home, and even then she supported my activism for human rights and mental health.
One quick story: About the fifth time I was locked up in a psychiatric institution way back in the 1970’s, I learned from an activist from Mental Patients Liberation Front how to submit a “three day letter” which would force them to release me or go to court. The head psychiatrist phoned up Mom.
He said, “We would like to go to court to commit David.”
Mom famously replied, “If our David wants to try freedom, we support him.”
Yes, I was very troubled, but Mom knew that the inner me was far more complex than the mental health system recognized, apparently. Mom would say later, “They did not know who you were.”
Mom and the rest of our home family, Dad, brother Tony and Uncle Al, were all there to attend my graduation in a few months in 1977, 40 years ago.
Thanks Mom, for supporting freedom!
Just a note that our mom, Violet Oaks, would have turned 100 today, and I wanted to reach out and mark the occasion.
Mom of course was so very nice that any fashion of marking this occasion would be fine with her. Here are some still photos and videos to share.
Feel free to forward this, and I will post this on the GageParkOaks group on Facebook. Thanks!
One of the very first community centers run by and for psychiatric survivors is at risk of losing its funding from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I know about the roots of this user-run space, because as a senior at Harvard College back in the 1970’s, I was placed at Mental Patients Liberation Front as an intern by Phillips Brooks House, Harvard’s social service group.
MPLF, with the leadership of the late Judi Chamberlin, author of a book on empowered mental health centers, created the community gathering locations that eventually became the Ruby Rogers Center in Somerville, Massachusetts. Here are some of the highlights as we created the center:
In the mid-1970’s a handful of us in MPLF came together for weekly mutual support. We were gratified to see that Judi’s book, On Our Own, was published. We often met at the storefront of an early activist space, Vocations for Social Change, near Central Square, Cambridge.
For a while we created a center at Stone Soup Art and Poetry storefront in Boston, thanks to the generosity of Jack Powers, proprietor. I recall briefly meeting poet Allen Ginsberg when he visited Jack. Activist Ted Chabasinski, survivor of forced electroshock, also visited.
Thanks to a grant from Haymarket Fund, we established an office and community center across the street from Boston Common.
As a group we met with state-employees at Department of Mental Health headquarters to explain our deep concerns about human rights violations and the need for humane alternatives.
About at that time, 1981, I left Boston, but the MPLF members won an agreement from Massachusetts to create a community center that was eventually named after Ruby Rogers, one of the early psychiatric survivor plaintiffs in a key lawsuit against forced psychiatric drugging. I saw Ruby, a charismatic African American psychiatric survivor, who I heard spoke up while locked up in a psychiatric ward, supported by MPLF organizing and a petition by other folks who were locked up.
During the three decades since then I have been very delighted to hear that the Ruby Rogers Center, keeping alive the name of MPLF, has continued to do great work. You can read about the details here.
Now the center is in danger of being eliminated by DMH, even though there is a need more than ever for independent living centers run by and for people diagnosed with mental health issues. Not only are such alternatives cost effective for taxpayers, anyone may someday need to have such a welcoming place for their own well being. If not you, then perhaps a loved one may benefit.
I remember a few years ago when I was chatting with a employee of the small, activist-friendly foundation, Resist. They were unfamiliar with our movement, but I knew they were located in Somerville. I asked them if they were familiar with the Ruby Rogers Center, and it turns out that was right across the street. Perfect to illustrate how our movement was widespread but little known! We got the small grant for MindFreedom International, and I recommend other grassroots groups in our movement apply for a Resist grant.
Thanks to a Facebook post from Harry Agritha, shared by Karen Langley, that alerted me about this. Charlie Carr commented and this brought my attention to the danger, here.
I encourage all those who support the disability and prison justice movements to speak up about the importance of the Ruby Rogers Center, now! I especially call out for support from disability activists in the hundreds of independent living centers, which form the backbone of the funded disability movement in the USA today.
A Gold Lining: People Are Finally Using the Word, “Revolution”!
More Than Ever, Let Us Support MindFreedom International
By David W. Oaks
Stand up now & fight back!
“Now” in Lithuanian, my heritage, is “Dabar”!
Last month we watched my nation’s presidential inauguration. The reality of the USA’s catastrophic election started to sink in.
Even if you voted for Donald Trump, my intuition is that your disappointment has already started, dabar.
But I notice a number of gold linings, recently:
A lot more people are starting to use the word “revolution.”
For another, as I have often hoped, the word “normality” is no longer being used much.
We must look, and keep looking, for gold linings. I draw here upon the wisdom of the disability movement, which I have been an activist in for more than four decades. I have especially been a community organizer for deep change in the mental health system.
I am a psychiatric survivor. That is, about 40 years ago, as a working class kid going to Harvard, I ended up in psychiatric institutions five times, where I experienced forced drug injections and solitary confinement. I graduated anyway, in 1977.
I helped start one of the key independent groups in the psychiatric survivor movement, MindFreedom International, and I was the Executive Director for about 25 years. The MindFreedom community, and their hard-working board, have won many campaigns for human rights in mental health care over the years. Four years ago, I fell and broke my neck, and because of complications, I had to retire from working for this superb group.
The past four years I have been doing about two dozen rehab activities, so I have been a bit isolated. But now is a good time to say “I am still alive,” and share what I have learned. My main goal in this note is to encourage everyone to give urgent support to MindFreedom International, which as we will see is going through a crisis of its own.
A Whole Lot of Falling Sure is Happening Now
Yes, Uncle Sam certainly fell down at the voting booth in November. The very same week as the election, the global climate crisis talks in Morocco fell apart. It feels as if the world is paralysed over the climate crisis.
As the author Hunter S. Thompson once said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” With the world slowly coming to the realisation that we are all, 100%, collectively “disabled,” both physically and mentally, let’s turn to the social change movement led by people with disabilities for some tips about how to get through these trying times, and even to thrive.
Here is something you can tangibly do: Support the crucial nonprofit MindFreedom International, which has worked independently for decades to radically change the mental health system.
We wonder why the world seems to be stuck right now, well one of the reasons is that centuries of psychiatric oppression of new thinking has taken a toll. The population gets these messages: Avoid any reality that is uncomfortable, and thinking outside of the box is often punished.
Because people in the mental health system tend to be so poor, the vast majority of activities in the mental health consumer field have been government-funded: The conferences, the offices, the research.
MindFreedom has maintained its independence, and it is one of the few groups in the mental health advocacy field that receives its funding from everyday people and a few foundations who care about human rights.
While I am proud that MindFreedom International has avoided mental health system funding, I have always tried to maintain a supportive relationship with my many colleagues who work for groups that are funded by the government. But now, especially now, we need groups that are free from mental health system strings. We need groups to be activist.
MindFreedom is a positive way to challenge this oppression. And now we must all come through for MindFreedom.
We Can All Learn From The Disability Movement
The disability movement is one of the biggest in the world, though we usually think of “disability” as being only about part of the population. Perhaps now we can realize that the disability movement encompasses every single person and their whole life, all the time. Let me explain.
It has been about four years since I fell off a ladder and broke my neck, becoming a quad in a powerchair with some additional challenges: An impaired voice. My fingers that used to type more than a hundred words a minute, and played improvisational piano music for 50 years, now cannot move independently.
For the past few years, I have been doing physical therapy, vocal exercises, and even had a surgical implant in my vocal fold. And now I am coming out of my rehab closet to encourage you to free your minds, and support MindFreedom International with your time and money.
A few days ago, I talked with my friend, the brilliant retired psychologist, Al Galves, of New Mexico. Al is MindFreedom Treasurer, and he reports: “From 2004 when I joined the Board to 2012 when David got hurt, MindFreedom received at least $65,000 a year in membership dues, donations and grants. Since David’s accident we have been limping along on less than $10,000 a year.” I guess that is a kind of compliment for me, but the bottom line is that my accident took quite a toll on MindFreedom.
“This is understandable,” said Al. He went on to say this about the difference between when I worked for MindFreedom and when I retired: “David was spending a lot of his time on membership relations and fundraising. Without a full-time, paid Executive Director we were unable to sustain that kind of income.”
I asked the MindFreedom board how we can all be supportive. Al said: “We are hoping that this appeal to our long-time members, friends and supporters will gain us enough money to rebuild our membership relations and fundraising capacity and return to our previous level of activity.”
Each one of us is called to support MindFreedom with both donations and also your time. Please help MindFreedom immediately. If you need more motivation, here are my top seven reasons why it is time to volunteer and/or donate to MFI now:
Resist Forced Outpatient Psych Drugs! At about the same time as the election, less noticed was this tragedy: The US Congress fell down, too, when it voted overwhelmingly in favor of the multi-billion dollar 21st Century Cures Act. This was a huge bill, but deep down inside it included millions of federal dollars in support of outpatient coercive psychiatric drugging, from what was once called “the Murphy bill.” That’s right, the federal government will now support, with taxpayer dollars, getting a court order and forcing many Americans to take powerful psychiatric drugs against their will, while living at home out in the community. Note that this awful idea came from a “small government” politician, Tim Murphy (R-PA). We need independent, activist groups such as MindFreedom to challenge what amounts to chemical warfare. Studies show that this outpatient forced psychiatric drugging is disproportionately done to people of color. #BlackLivesMatter!
Yes, USA Psychiatrists Still Do Involuntary Electroshock! By far my favorite campaigns at MindFreedom were stopping occasional instances of forced electroshock, which is electricity to the brain. Here in the USA, electroshock is usually signed for by the patient, but there is still the use of involuntary electroshock, now and again. Incredibly, sometimes forced shock is done even with a court order on an outpatient basis. For example, direct your search engine to: Ray Sandford. Every Wednesday morning, a van picked him in his group home in Minnesota for another court-ordered involuntary electroshock at a nearby hospital. Ray phoned us for help and we activated thousands and of course won. Want to unite good Republicans, Democrats, Greens and Libertarians? Fight forced shock, and all good Americans of all political persuasions are outraged. All you have to do is prove that forced shock is a reality, such as producing court papers. MindFreedom is the main group to expose and fight this atrocity, which is actually pretty common in poorer countries.
Let’s Support People Who Are Resisting and Escaping Their Forced Outpatient Psych Drugs. Here is a “creative maladjustment” to the absurdity of the USA Congress approving millions for involuntary outpatient psychiatric care: Almost all USA States have these outpatient commitment laws. MindFreedom has over the years supported about a half-dozen American citizens who have pursued their own underground railroad to evade forced outpatient drugging. A weak spot in forced outpatient treatment, is that people can simply leave their region or State to escape. You may read about one of these successful escapes by directing your search engine to this phrase: gabriel hadd mindfreedom. One proponent of forced outpatient drugging knows about this vulnerability, and has even discussed his need for a federal extradition law. But at this time, there is no such law. Yet. Today, there is no known underground railroad for psychiatric survivors. The MindFreedom family supports human rights and can applaud people who create such an underground railroad for themselves, so if anyone could support such a sanctuary movement, it would be MindFreedom. There is even a great name for such a campaign: C/S/X Railroad. Let’s make this support real, by proposing this idea! (Note that I am not on the MFI board, and this is a proposal.)
During a Crisis, Let’s Use Alternative Supports. MindFreedom has pointed the way to common sense, humane options other than corporate mental health. Create your small group for mutual support. At any moment we all can use creative thinking right now, the mind is free! Al Galves said this: “In 2014, 2015 and 2016 MindFreedom held ‘Creative Revolution in Mental Health’ conferences in which we advocated, promoted and supported alternatives to the medical model in mental health. These were well-attended, full of energy and inspiring to those great people who have created these alternatives.”
MindFreedom is for Revolution! For many years, the MindFreedom mission statement has included a call for a “nonviolent revolution.” In fact, the Wikipedia page about “nonviolent revolution” has long included MindFreedom International as a model of a group with that goal. For example, Martin Luther King would say that the salvation of the world may lay in the hands of the “creatively maladjusted.” He repeatedly brought up this theme for more than a decade. MLK said the world was in dire need of an International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. This IAACM was a dream of MLK that never became realized. But MindFreedom has made the IAACM real, and the physician psychiatric survivor Patch Adams is the honorary chair. The IAACM will soon launch a new project, for a preview see: http://www.LoveEarthRevolution.orgCelia Brown, an African American psychiatric survivor activist, leads the hard-working board of MindFreedom. She said: “We need independent, activist and civil rights groups to challenge mass incarceration, oppressive psychiatric laws and racism that threaten the wellbeing of our people. MindFreedom encourages your voice to liberate mind, body and spirit, create non-violent alternatives and human rights for all. I’m proud to be creatively maladjusted.”
This Grassroots Group Uses Every Donation Effectively! MindFreedom has a very specific and effective goal that can be reached with your donation: A new website. However, MindFreedom has many great ways to use every dollar that is donated to them. Janet Foner, long-time board member and co-founder of MFI, said “Donate to MFI to help us run our campaigns, to help us do another MFI Creative Revolution Conference, and to help us spread the word to new affiliates, etc.” Please help them today. You can support MFI by donating and/or volunteering, especially with the Shield and support calls.
MindFreedom is a Powerful Way to Unite! Even after retiring from MFI’s staff, and now as “just” a member, I find being in touch with MFI is a way to be a part of a great community. One of the biggest challenges for me as an organizer during my time at MindFreedom, is that many of us psychiatric survivors prefer to pursue our own individual paths, like lone wolves. But even lone wolves might benefit now and again by travelling in a pack! I have met so many people who are grateful for MindFreedom putting them in touch with our social change movement. Sue Barnhart, a social worker with more than 30 years experience said, “MindFreedom may be the first organization that people find that offers alternatives to medication, such as education and support.”
That day was also a very important day for me, February 17, which is the commemoration for Giordano Bruno, the last person to be burnt at the stake in the Inquisition, back in 1600. As readers of my blog know, Bruno is very important to my family, starting with my grandfather.