On March 26th, a small group of us gathered outside the State House in Boston, Massachusetts, to rally and protest against several oppressive, dehumanizing, and dangerous bills put forth by the House and Senate. If you’re interested in reading more about them, go to www.malegislature.gov/Bills, and search for House Bills 110, 141, 1802, 3253, 1792, and Senate Bill 41. This is my speech from the event.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Fundamental human and civil rights promised to us by those who founded the United States of America; rights that are “unalienable”, meaning basic, inviolable, nonnegotiable, nontransferable, sacrosanct, unassailable, untransferable.
Yet throughout the country, and here in Massachusetts, a large group of people has been relegated to a class of “other”, separated from society, isolated, marginalized, stripped of basic rights, and declared as less than human, perpetuating a legacy of American oppression. Those about whom I speak are people with psychiatric labels, and I know this to be true from firsthand experience, both as a psychiatric survivor and as a friend and advocate of many still oppressed by The System. I am here today to protest several Massachusetts bills that epitomize this legal, social, and philosophical injustice, for although the Massachusetts motto literally translates as “She seeks with the sword a quiet peace under liberty”, it is a beautiful motto that is far from true. For the hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents who’ve been psychiatrically labeled, quiet peace under liberty is, at best, a façade, and at worst, blatantly disregarded. For those who are either unaware of or refusing to accept the fact that so-called “mental illness” is nothing more than a social label applied to those who feel, think, or act in ways that fall outside of society’s accepted norm, or that are painful or uncomfortable, this violation of liberty is cleverly hidden behind a deceptive veil of “care”, “help”, “support”, “protection”, and “safety”. Of “First, do no harm.”
The bills I stand in protest against embody the massive existential injustice that’s done to a person who’s been deemed “mentally ill”. They also embody the grave violations of human rights and civil liberties for those who’ve been deemed “unfit” to participate in society via proposed mechanisms of surveillance, incarceration, hostage-holding, and trauma. I’ll go through them one by one.
First, Massachusetts House Bills 110 and 141, ‘Acts relative to ensuring the safety of residents of facilities under the authority of the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Developmental Services’, written by Representatives Bradley Jones and Elizabeth Poirier, respectively. These bills require the installation of video cameras in “mental health” facilities.
For those who’ve been psychiatrically labeled and subsequently disabled by the “mental health” system, whether by the long-term use of psychotropic drugs that cause such serious physical, emotional and cognitive harm that the basics of living an independent life become extremely difficult, or by the simple fact that they’ve been stripped of the right to live an independent life due to their so-called “illness”, the right to privacy is seen as irrelevant, and even “dangerous”. “It’s in their best interest, because they can’t take care of themselves”, or, “It’s for their safety, because people with mental illness can be violent”, go the claims. Violence is a form of communication and never happens in a vacuum; it is set off by trauma, and often by the threat of loss of privacy, liberty, or life. It will be through transforming these oppressive environments so that they are no longer built upon an infrastructure of force and incarceration that rates of violence will decrease, not by enhancing surveillance mechanisms. Plus, what unlabeled American citizen would ever agree to being monitored through a camera installed in his or her living room while watching TV, eating dinner, or hanging out with family and friends? It is a ludicrous notion to those who are free, one that is right out of a science fiction movie.
Second, House Bill 1802, ‘An Act relative to the temporary release of persons under the “care” of the Department of Mental Health’, written by Representative James Miceli, requiring criminal background checks, a panel review, and police notification for State Hospital inmates hoping to go out into the community.
Full American citizens— even citizens with criminal records— are free to walk on public sidewalks, eat in restaurants, or go to movies, with their private life tucked safely away under the cloak of confidentiality. For those imprisoned in state psychiatric facilities, however, such a right will not exist should this bill pass. How aligned with basic civil liberties can it be to have a Chief of Police aware of your walk in the park, or visit to the local coffee shop? All the more evidence that people with psychiatric labels are seen as less than human and unworthy of the most basic, unquestionable rights that other citizens have. People with a history of violent crime have more rights than someone locked up in a State Hospital who is yearning for fresh air and a taste of what it’s like to be free.
Third, House Bill 3253, ‘An Act to reduce gun violence and to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth’, written by Representative David Linsky, preventing those with inpatient psychiatric histories or histories of reported “untreated substance abuse” to own a gun, unless written testimony from a psychiatrist deems them worthy.
Violence and society’s reaction to violence— gun control— have absolutely nothing to do with people who’ve been psychiatrically labeled. To strip a person of his or her Constitutional right to bear arms as the result of hospitalization for a so-called “mental illness”— a social label with no valid scientific or medical evidence to support it— is to say that certain Massachusetts residents are not full citizens, just as our country once said that people of color and women weren’t, either. Additionally, the “treatment” required for those with psychiatric labels— psychoactive chemicals deceptively called “medication”— has been shown through industry-funded studies, which are usually hidden or twisted to distort findings, to increase the odds of violence towards self and others. Where is the bill to explore this issue? Is the fact that psychiatric “treatment” is making society more “sick”, so to speak, too painful or shocking to acknowledge?
Onto Senate Bill 41, written by Harriette Chandler, named ‘An Act relative to Adolescent Development’. A gentle sounding title, but one that promises to enact massive physical, emotional, and social harm to young people across our state through implementation of “mental health” screenings of adolescents, which undoubtedly means the initiation of psychotropic drugs. This is an issue particularly close to my heart, as I was first labeled “Bipolar” and put on an antipsychotic and antidepressant at the age of fourteen. Nothing was more damaging to my emotional wellbeing, my physical health, my sense of belonging to the world around me, and my sense of agency and responsibility as a young person, than being deemed “mentally ill”.
To enact this legislation is to strip young people of their humanness, to tell kids and teenagers that they are broken and only fixable by drugs and surrendering to psychiatric labels, and to unknowingly put many thousands of youth on the track for lifelong disability. The FDA’s decision to put ‘black box warnings’ about increased suicidality in children and adolescents on SSRI antidepressants have clearly made no impact, as millions of young people across the country, and likely tens of thousands in this state, are currently on these drugs. If the purpose of “mental health” screenings is to help our youth by preventatively “treating” them, and we know that the “treatment” is documented to increase violence and cause significant developmental, cognitive, and emotional harm, how can this bill be seen as helpful and promising for our nation’s future? Rather than label “problem teens” as “mentally ill”, why not come together as a state to talk about how difficult it is to be a kid, especially in the face of trauma, which is so often the case with those diagnosed with “serious mental illness”. Why can’t we talk about the fact that our education system is dysfunctional, we’ve lost touch with a sense of community in the modern age of technology, and that it’s society that’s broken, not its children? How about we have a conversation about the fact that diagnosing children as “mentally ill” and putting them on numerous psychotropic drugs is a perfect way to turn them into lifelong dependents on family and state assistance?
And finally, to House Bill 1792, ‘An Act establishing “Assisted Outpatient Treatment”’, written by Representative Kay Khan. If those in support of this bill wanted to be fully transparent and honest, they would have named it ‘An Act establishing legalized violation of mind, body, and spirit via physical and chemical restraints, immediate loss of civil and human rights, and threats of indefinite imprisonment.’
As I’ve mentioned, the evidence shows that “treatment” of not just children, but adults as well, is often not only ineffective, but harmful. If you don’t believe me, find me after this speech and I will provide you references to back this statement up. Knowing this, how is “assisting” people to this “treatment”— which really means threatening people with psychiatric incarceration and then violating their bodies with pills against their will, or worse, needles— in line with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? How is this in the best interest of the state’s wellbeing? Additionally, in hearings relating to “safety” and “risk” of psychiatrically labeled people, judges regularly defer to the psychiatrist’s judgment— which is based on pseudoscience and subjective opinion— over due process. How is this in line with the very foundations of our constitutional rights?
I’d like to believe that those who enter public office do so because they want to help the greater good. However, I also believe that the medical model of “mental illness”— the model built by Biological Psychiatry and the Pharmaceutical industry, whose lobby is exponentially more powerful than any other— is currently unmatched in its influence. Unless you dig deep into the science, or have survived the “mental health” system itself and come out alive to tell the tale, it is very hard to access the Truth from the propaganda. Society desperately wants to believe, and needs to believe, that “mental illness” is a real “condition” that is life-long, progressive, and the cause of America’s flaws and violence.
To translate human experience into the medicalized language of psychiatry is to buy into the belief that the inherently subjective can somehow be defined objectively. Not too long ago, Psychiatry called homosexuality a “disease” with “symptoms” needing “treatment”. Such ridiculous eugenic claims still form the basis of Psychiatry today, for people who feel too happy or too sad, or who hear things that others don’t hear, or who believe things that the others don’t believe, or who behave in ways that the societal consensus deems unpleasant, weird, odd, or scary, are suddenly no longer seen as full citizens, or as fully human.
I want to leave you with a selection of Articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted in 1948 by the U.N., of which we, of course, are a part:
Article 1– All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Article 2– Everyone is entitled to the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Article 3– Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 5– No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 6– Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
Article 7– All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
Article 9– No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 10– Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
Article 12– No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.
Article 13– (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state; (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Article 18– Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…
Article 19– Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
And lastly, Article 30– Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
I urge those in positions of legislative power to pause before voting on these bills, and to consider, in their hearts, whether they truly believe that all Massachusetts residents are fully human beings.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Laura, great speech! (And, though it’s directed at the legislators of Massachusetts, I believe it could well instruct *every* state legislature.)
You’re certainly right that these issues permeate the U.S. as a whole, not just in MA. I know things in CT are particularly dicey right now, with the Hartford Courant coming out today in support of AOT… And already 44 (is that right?) states have it.
I’d be curious to know how many states have bills like these on the table… Are you aware of a resource with which you can easily look up “mental health” bills across the country?
In solidarity, and as always, thanks for your insightful and brilliant voice at MIA,
Re: “She seeks with the sword a quiet peace under liberty.”
Thank you for doing your best to make this motto a reality in your state.
It was a great speech, Laura.
You did a superb job.
Yours in liberty,
Article 18- Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…
Interesting, because here in the U.S. freedom of religion and conscience are deemed valuable…
Freedom of *thought*, not so much… (expression of *political* thought certainly), but it’s really not okay to allow non-political thoughts to go too far out of the norm… unless it’s the thought behind a movie or novel… Then, it’s not only legal, but potentially *genius*.
While I certainly agree that freedom of thought is not a given on U.S. soil, I worry that freedom of political belief is starting to be censored and surveilled more and more today too… Especially in post-9/11 America… Those deemed “threats” to the U.S. because of “un-American” beliefs they speak about or write about are certainly being stripped of the right to free thinking. I can’t remember his name off the top of my head, but there was a young man who’d been decorated by the military and was writing about how disillusioned he was with America on Facebook and he was arrested with no due process and committed to a psych ward… I think that was last summer, if I’m remembering correctly. Darn, I wish I remembered his name!
Anyways, as always, great to dialogue with you, Duane!
“If those in support of this bill wanted to be fully transparent and honest, they would have named it ‘An Act establishing legalized violation of mind, body, and spirit via physical and chemical restraints, immediate loss of civil and human rights, and threats of indefinite imprisonment.’”
You totally killed it with that line!
Thanks! It felt really good to get that one down on paper :).
You did a fantastic job on this speech and we should all be grateful for your hard efforts to speak up for the oppressed of the mental death profession of biopsychiatry professing their vicious lies to rob others of their lives, freedom and happiness to make profit centers from others’ suffering and life challenges.
You have a brilliant mind and I am grateful that you escaped the mental death profession before they were able to destroy your brain, which would have been a great loss to humanity.
Did you get any feedback from those who will be voting on these horrific laws?
Thank you for being there and sharing this with us. I am very upset by this news in that it appears the vicious Ralph Torrey agenda is succeeding because these predators are always seeking to exploit the latest crisis created by the mental death profession due to their violence causing poison drugs and otherwise abusive pretense of “treatment” to push more of their vicious BIG PHARMA agenda to make more billions for the power elite by destroying the rest of us.
Thanks for the support. I feel the same gratitude towards you and your voice, which I see as a very important part of the MIA community.
I also feel very, very lucky to have gotten free from The System with my mind and body relatively intact. The road back has not been easy, certainly, and it’s taken me time to heal physically from the harm of psych drugs, as well as cognitively/mentally. Unfortunately, as I was on a heavy dosage of benzos for a number of years, I still find myself sometimes struggling with memory issues, and my thyroid is damaged from the lithium; I hope this gets better over time, as I’m still only 2.5 years off of everything, but I’ve also accepted that it may be a permanent part of my life from here on in. I’m at peace with that.
To answer your question about feedback from legislators… The only legislator I really interacted with was a freshman representative from Attleboro, Rep. Paul Heroux, and I found him to be quite a potential ally. He certainly has some learning to do, as he comes from a medical model framework, but I sense an openness, and a humility about him. At one point, I asked him whether he’d heard anything about the AOT bill, and he said, “Which bill?” And I said, the bill being put forth by Rep. Kay Khan, and he said, “Oh, if Kay votes for it, I likely will too.” A few of us then explained to him just what AOT was all about, and he said something along the lines of, “Hmm, that sounds a little Draconian. I’ll have to look more at it.” For him to be willing and open to learn a new perspective was pretty cool to see. He’s young, very smart, very personable, and I truly believes he has a good heart. Hopefully, he’ll stay humble! He’s written about civil rights issues and those with “mental illness” for Huffington Post, and I challenged him a little bit and said, “Instead of seeing it from the framework of, ‘Don’t discriminate against people with Bipolar Disorder’, try taking it a step further to say, ‘Don’t discriminate against people who have experiences that are seen by society as unacceptable and thus get labeled as ‘mental illness’ in the first place’. I truly sense potential in him… I hope I’m right!
Anyways, thanks again for your kind words, and for your powerful voice in our community.
Thank you for all what you are doing on behalf of the many of us that have been harmed and stigmatized by “The System” as you call it. Let’s not forget that we are on the right side of morality here.
Thanks for this. It feels pretty powerful to be connected to a greater cause like this, of which we are all a part here at MIA. It has also given me great peace with my experiences in The System, because had they never happened, I wouldn’t have found my life’s purpose, which is to fight against psychiatry and the “mental health” industry!
Glad you’re a part of this fight, too :).
Laura. I always appreciate the clarity of your analysis. You get right to the point. Thanks for all the good work that you do.
Ditto to you, for all the good work you’ve been doing for decades now. You are a true role model and inspiration for those of us following in your footsteps.
Laura, That was a terrific speech. Thank you for your courageous stand.
Thanks, madincanada 🙂
This is an articulate defense of freedom!!!
It is amazing that you have to defend freedom in America. Moreover, it is sad that those struggling with distressful experiences must also endure the blame from society for larger social problems.
Best wishes, Steve
Yes, it is certainly absurd that in a country promising freedom and equality, there are millions who are still seen as less than human. And, like you said, those labeled “mentally ill” are the scapegoats for any and all incidents/behaviors that society deems unacceptable, dangerous, unproductive, or harmful.
Laura, I would have gone to the MA rally and seen you speak in person but I’m not in the loop and didn’t get the info! Though delivered to few, the message is as powerful as it gets.
These proposed laws are terrifying.
Thanks for the support! If only there was a way to gather crowds the way the NRA can for rallies…
The death of Western Civilization.
Laura your piece is both beautiful and sickening, and the fact that it had to be written at all illustrates how far we as a nation have been deceived.
While Clause II of the Declaration of Independence is ennobling and impossible to disagree with, The Bill of Rights (is Supposed) to carry more weight. Sorry if anyone finds it preachy to repost it, but the fact that it’s barely on life support these days means we all need to re-read it.
AMENDMENT I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
AMENDMENT II A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
AMENDMENT III No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
AMENDMENT IV The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
AMENDMENT V No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
AMENDMENT VI In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
AMENDMENT VII In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
AMENDMENT VIII Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
AMENDMENT IX The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
AMENDMENT X The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Psychiatry? All gone, all of it.
And to top it off?
The Constitution itself should be scrapped,
according to some.
Amendment 14, US Constitution 1868
Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
So long as certain Classes of people are specially, legislatively protected from Psychiatry:
It’s already Illegal, All of it.
I would like to see Every Court in America clogged with people filing Civil Rights actions against this entire Industry until the MSM finally ‘Gets It’ and stops its contributory howling about it being Government’s place and purpose to ‘Help’ the mentally ill.
First Rate article. Thank You.
Thank you for this informative, powerful comment. At the end of the day, because Psychiatry, the Pharmaceutical Industry, the health care system in general, the mainstream media, and the general public do not see “the mentally ill” as fully human, they believe “those people” don’t “count” when it comes to the application of these fundamental laws. That, to me, is a critical shift we as a society will need to make– moving conceptually to a different place, where a person’s emotions/thoughts/behaviors/beliefs/etc. are no longer seen as potential/actual pathology, in the way that one’s (homo)sexuality successfully shifted when the DSM agreed to drop that category back in the ’70s or whenever it was. Until that time, civil rights violations will be seen as “justified”, in the name of “safety” and “protection”, because the people against whom they are occurring are simply not fully people.
I love the idea of each and every American court getting clogged with civil rights cases on this issue… It would be a great way to build a collective consciousness, if we could spread the message that if you’re psychiatrically labeled you are oppressed and stripped of rights. So many millions are not yet awake to their oppression, just as I wasn’t three years ago.
Thank you for the wonderful comment!
I wonder how many of the legislators have considered that after the release of DSM 5 in May, with its lowering and widening of diagnosis thresholds, They may themselves meet criteria to have their rights curtailed?
Yes, surely! Although I have a feeling that many of them already meet criteria for the DSM-IV, too!! That is to say, if you are a human being and you have a mind, a body, and you live in the world, you at one point or another will meet the criteria for “mental illness”…
You are my hero. Thank you for writing this.
My beliefs have been almost entirely shaped by those who came before me, and by those currently fighting this fight. I’ve learned from and been inspired by all the wisdom and determination in the minds and spirits of fellow psych survivors and allies, much of which you can see on this website! All I can say is that I feel grateful to be alive, and to have my mind intact after all those years of “meds”, so that I can capture what I’m thinking and feeling in words in a way that feels satisfying and honest to me :).
Glad to be connected,
Thank you very much, Laura! As someone privileged to have known Judi Chamberlin at the end of her life, you are as good a replacement voice as I can imagine. You sometimes share this along with our other hard-working voice, Jon Dosick. I hope their will be times when I’ll be able to join you, for the right reasons, that, for that moment, I found a way to share my voice, energy-love/charity, every bit as efficiently as you have and do. Judi was like no other and so are we all. She was a devout atheist, but, I, personally, believe she was more eternal than she imagined. I feel her light with me, most of the time, and I feel absolutely sure she’d have been thrilled to know you and your work. Onward, and, again, thank you very much!!! Ann G. Burgess