From Compliance to Activism:
A Mother’s Journey

Rob Wipond
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In the past three years Cindi Fisher, a 63-year-old grandmother, has gone on a 100-mile march, and on 14-day water-only and 40-day liquid-only hunger strikes. She’s taught herself how to make legal arguments under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Revised Code of Washington chapter 71.05 covering “Mental Illness.” She’s launched M.O.M.S. – the Movement Of Mothers and others Standing-up-together. And she’s protested outside courthouses, politicians’ offices and psychiatric hospitals announcing her hunger strikes to the public with a sign emphasizing in bold letters, “Ask me why.”

The why: Cindi has been fighting for her 37-year-old son Siddharta’s right to be free from incarceration and forced psychiatric drugging, and to participate in determining his own recovery plan in the community.

And what has she gotten for her efforts? Cindi Fisher has been banned from entering two psychiatric hospitals and even barred by court order from contacting her son at all.

However, this December Siddharta was discharged after two years from Washington’s Western State Hospital (WSH) into an adult family home. And in January, after not seeing her son for a year, Cindi managed to get the court order banning her from contacting him expunged. We planned to write a good-news story about it for Madinamerica.com.

“It was good to see my son,” Cindi said by telephone in mid-January. “There was a lot of gratitude and a lot of sadness.” Sadness? “I was very, very grateful that I could now touch him, talk to him, let him know that I was there for him. But it was hard, because of the conditions he’d been forced to be confined in again.”

Siddharta, Cindi explained, was actually no longer at the adult family home; he was being held against his will at PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center’s psychiatric ward in Keslo, Washington. Police records would later show that, even before Cindi’s victory in court was complete, wheels had already been in motion to re-incarcerate Siddharta on questionable pretenses. And Cindi would soon be blocked from visiting him again.

This startling turnaround, highlighting the extraordinary legal powers of America’s mental health system, led us to do a deeper investigation into Cindi’s story. Why was this elderly mother being seen as so dangerous by mental health authorities? And what had turned her into a public activist? Gradually, it became clear that Cindi Fisher had made an extraordinary personal journey over two decades, from dedicated supporter of forced psychiatric drugging to ardent advocate for psychological freedoms and social change. And she may be a harbinger of an emerging cultural shift inside families with children who’ve been diagnosed with mental illnesses.

From Brilliance to Darkness

Like many histories of families with children going through severe psychological crises, the Fishers’ is not a simple, straightforward one.

Of African American descent, Cindi was an elementary school teacher and her husband a pharmacist. They raised four children in the early 1980s in a middle-class, mostly-white neighborhood in Vancouver, Washington, while trying to achieve, as Cindi describes it, “the American Dream.”

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Siddharta, age 2

Siddharta was a sensitive, bright and independent thinker from a very young age, Cindi recalls. “We took him to a park once when he was maybe four or five, and he climbed so far up [a tree] that they had to send some rescue people to get him. He was an explorer, he was curious, and he was adventurous.” Even though Siddharta often didn’t show much interest in applying himself in school, he won a state championship in chess, read profusely, taught himself guitar and hip hop, and was recognized amongst the top 5% in the state after taking the SAT at age 12.

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Siddharta playing chess

For other reasons, though, Siddharta’s twelfth year of life was pivotal. Cindi today expresses regret that both she and her husband were very preoccupied during those years with work and a growing turmoil in their marriage that ultimately led to their separation. (Siddharta’s busy, stern father long had trouble developing a good connection with his sensitive oldest child, Cindi says, and died from cancer before Siddharta turned 21.)

Siddharta was the only black child at an otherwise all-white school, and his parents had always taught him to turn the other cheek when confronted by slurs and racism, because doing so, they told him, would stand him in good stead in the end. But one day Siddharta came home carrying a girl’s coat. He told his mother that some schoolmates had stolen it from her, and he had wrangled it from them in order to return it. The next morning Siddharta carried the coat to the principal’s office. Though he denied having stolen the coat himself, Siddharta refused to reveal who had.

“The principal wrote him up and called the police,” Cindi says. “The police came to the school and handcuffed a twelve-year-old boy and took him down to [juvenile detention]. A young man who had never been in trouble in his life.”

The racially-tinged court case was devastating to Siddharta, as he witnessed the school principal and vice-principal expressing doubts about his integrity and helping to convict him. After a brief stay in juvenile detention, his school attendance dropped precipitously. “I started losing Siddharta to the streets,” Cindi says. “He began to experiment with street drugs, trying to understand society from another way. Because what we had told him wasn’t working,”

By his teens, Siddharta was mainly engaged in street life and was often alternately moody, depressed, or reacting from whatever recreational drugs he’d been taking. Cindi got him into counseling, but it didn’t change much.

At age 17, there was a sudden and dramatic worsening of Siddharta’s psychological state. He became surly and verbally aggressive, began talking to people who weren’t there, and had several black-outs.

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Siddharta, Age 18

Even though such behaviors came and went, and Siddharta could still impress strangers with his apparent maturity and intelligence, Cindi became increasingly anxious. “After a while it went beyond rebellious behavior. It got to where he would be walking in circles in his bedroom for three hours, talking about the dead coming up.”

With a mystical, spiritual aspect to her own perspectives on life, Cindi thought her son was “walking in two worlds” and struggling to find a balanced path between them. However, after another minor run-in with the law, a juvenile probation officer ordered Siddharta to see a psychiatrist.

Cindi took Siddharta to the appointment herself. “I was really desperate to find answers for him.”

Within 30 minutes Siddharta had a diagnosis of schizophrenia and a prescription for an antipsychotic drug. “This is what kicks off his career in the mental health system,” Cindi says. It also began an intertwining of mother and adult-child’s lives in an ever-heightening drama that, Cindi admits, would deprive her other children of her attention, and often become utterly emotionally preoccupying.

Within 30 minutes Siddharta had a diagnosis of schizophrenia and a prescription for an antipsychotic drug. “This is what kicks off his career in the mental health system,” Cindi says.

Siddharta started taking the antipsychotic, but his condition worsened. “Within the next six months, my son gave himself razor blade cuts on his arm. He gave himself a six by three-inch, third-degree burn on his arm, because he purposely held it up to a heater saying that he wanted to feel something. He begged me to stay all night in his room one night because he thought he was going to jump out of his second-story bedroom window. And I held this seventeen-year-old boy like a baby and prayed all night, prayed that he would not jump from my arms and out of the window.”

Siddharta also frequently complained about extreme pain in his body. Sometimes he was in such agony, Cindi would take him to the hospital. On one such occasion, she remembers, “He rushed into the emergency room and he was begging for anything for pain. And we were reprimanded by the emergency physician. He said, ‘Look, you can’t keep bringing your son in here every time that he imagines he’s in pain; he’s got a mental illness and he’s got to live with it.’” After that, Cindi notes, “I took him out and for the first time in his life I bought him a six-pack of beer. Because I could not bear the pain and the agony that he was in.”

Like so many worried and confused parents, through all of this Cindi tried to ensure Siddharta always took his psychiatric drugs. “At the beginning, we all believed in the medication,” she says. Siddharta never refused to take the drugs, though at times he would take them irregularly or go off them for a short period if he wasn’t reminded or was living elsewhere. “I don’t ever remember him saying, ‘I’m not going to take it.’ He desperately wanted help, and I think he had hoped that the medications were the answer.”

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Siddharta, Age 34

As the years passed, Siddharta had few respites from bouncing in and out of psychiatric hospitals. He was forcibly treated with antipsychotics, and sometimes other psychiatric drugs as well, for long periods in the hospital or in the community, and his behavior became steadily more bizarre, Cindi says. He also kept getting tangled in the criminal justice system, because he’d commit inexplicable petty crimes like walking into strangers’ homes in broad daylight until they told him to leave.

Sometimes, Siddharta even pushed or hit Cindi. In the most serious incident, Siddharta was extremely agitated and Cindi promised to drive him to a river where he liked to walk. At the last minute, she changed the plan, wanting to get groceries first. Upset, he punched her, fracturing her nose. “I miscalculated [how agitated he was],” she says. “I made the error, and I paid for it dearly.” Though Cindi called police on Siddharta “probably 8 or 10 times,” she says, it was usually just to try to teach him a lesson about acceptable behavior and get him into hospital for a while. She would always welcome him back. “I wouldn’t even be in fear, I’d just be angry. I just wouldn’t know what to do.”

Through all those years, Cindi had good relationships with his treatment providers. “I would try to make sure that he got to the programs. I was all for the medications. I had working relationships with the doctors. I’d just be asking the doctor, ‘When is he going to come home? Can he come home?’”

Through all those years, Cindi had good relationships with his treatment providers. “I would try to make sure that he got to the programs. I was all for the medications.”

Early on, Cindi felt that the medications did dissipate Siddharta’s symptoms a little; however, in retrospect she isn’t so sure. Was she at that time simply ascribing any negative developments in Siddharta’s condition to his illness, and any positive developments to the drugs? “Yeah, that was it exactly,” she replies.

Either way, her son was not improving. So about six years ago, Cindi decided to learn more about Siddharta’s condition. He gave her power of attorney and she began gathering copies of all of Siddharta’s police, court and medical records, and she also began researching mental illness, psychiatric medications, and alternative treatments. And gradually, a new narrative of her son’s life began to emerge.

The Other Side of the Story

During his first involuntary admission to Western State Hospital at age 18, Siddharta was asked what he thought had caused his psychological troubles. According to physician notes, Siddharta described being falsely charged and convicted for stealing a girl’s coat at age twelve. He described the instability of growing up amidst the turmoil between his parents. And he described being raped by a male drug dealer – an incident that Cindi had never heard about. It happened shortly before his crisis at age 17.

However, apart from these initial notations, Cindi says she found no other indications in Siddharta’s medical records that his care providers ever developed therapeutic strategies for her son’s emotional issues. Instead, Siddharta’s primary problem was identified simply as “schizophrenia,” and the prescribed treatment was psychiatric drugs.

Cindi says his providers apparently did not report this sexual assault of a minor to police, as was required by state law. Is it possible that the psychiatrist thought that the rape was merely a hallucination produced by Siddharta’s schizophrenia? “Well, everything else he said made sense,” replies Cindi. “If you really wanted to look, to see what would cause all this, [the reasons] were there. But if you wanted to look and see a mentally ill black boy, that’s what you saw.”

As she continued perusing Siddharta’s records for clues about his condition, Cindi discovered the book Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications by psychiatrist Peter Breggin and David Cohen. That led her to a conference of critical mental health researchers and practitioners, Will Hall’s Madness Radio, and eventually Robert Whitaker’s book Anatomy of an Epidemic.

What came was revelation after revelation. “It was just this huge, ‘Oh my god,’” Cindi says.

For the first time, Cindi heard experts suggesting that psychosis can be an expression of “deep inner unhealed wounds,” and that psychiatric drugging can numb the psyche and prevent those underlying issues from being dealt with.

Then she discovered that Siddharta, at age 17, shortly after having been raped, had been started on an adult dose of an antipsychotic drug that wasn’t even medically approved for use in adolescents. Then Cindi came to understand the pain he had described since he’d started taking the drugs, of there being “a jackhammer” inside his head, of his insides burning or ripping apart, of excruciating discomfort driving him to restlessness or physical aggression—this was akathisia, a common side effect of antipsychotics. Even some of Siddharta’s physicians had identified it as such. Cindi also came to understand that Siddharta’s tendency to take his drugs at irregular intervals, or to stop them abruptly, could have been causing bizarre psychological effects and unpredictable emotional crises . . . yet no psychiatrist had ever warned them about these well-known withdrawal reactions.

Cindi also learned that African Americans are often less able to metabolize many drug toxins, making Siddharta much more susceptible to negative side effects. That was just one of many indications that racism was likely worsening his treatment in hospitals predominantly staffed by white people. And on and on it went: there were many other “symptoms” that Cindi had long assumed were due to his mental illness and lifestyle that she now recognized as possible drug side effects: His enormously distended neck from thyroid problems, his diabetes, his increasing memory loss.

Most alarmingly of all, Cindi discovered the growing body of scientific evidence suggesting that the long-term polypharmacy that had become routine for Siddharta can induce brain damage and the very problems she regularly saw in her son: sluggish verbal responses, reduced cognitive ability, dampened passions, and social withdrawal interspersed with outbursts and crises.

What did it feel like to come to this understanding? “It was actually an ‘Aha!’ It was a feeling of gratitude,” Cindi says. “I’d been searching for answers, trying to understand why [Siddharta] didn’t get well, why didn’t he stay well, why did he keep cycling in and out . . . Finally, I’m finding the answer.”

“I’d been searching for answers, trying to understand why [Siddharta] didn’t get well, why didn’t he stay well, why did he keep cycling in and out . . . Finally, I’m finding the answer.”

Many parents refuse to even consider the possibility that the drugs they’ve been encouraging their children to take for years may actually have been harming them, and Cindi admits that there were some dark, difficult moments for her as she overlaid what she was learning about psychiatric drugs onto the details of Siddharta’s personal history. “When I pieced things together, that was a feeling of terror and outrage. May God forgive me. I sent my boy to Hell, thinking I was helping him.” Cindi has personally seen parents plunge into depression once they realize this, but for her the knowledge activated a passion to find new ways to help her son. “I never looked back once I opened that book” of Dr. Breggin’s, she says. “I would rather find out the truth and have real hope.”

What gave her hope? “Hearing psychologists and Dr. Breggin talk about people that were much worse than Siddharta getting better off drugs.”

By 2010, Cindi had begun speaking to her son’s treatment providers in a new way, advocating for therapies that were “culturally sensitive” and “trauma-informed,” and for psychiatric drugs to be prescribed at “low or no-dose” levels.

But she soon discovered that she had new lessons to learn—about the devotion of mainstream health professionals to psychiatric drugs, and the extraordinary reach and power of American mental health laws.

A Paradigm Battle Ripping Through Lives

“At first, it wasn’t really strong advocacy,” Cindi says. “I was just saying, could you try this, would you try this?” She’d suggest to her son’s treatment team that they try fewer drugs at lower doses, vitamin supplements, culturally-attuned African American specialists, or intensive psychotherapy. However, none of those things happened, and so she became more insistent. She brought them a copy of Anatomy of an Epidemic. She asked for a second opinion on Siddharta’s treatments from psychologist Dr. Toby Watson, and sent them an informational sheet from the International Society for Ethical Psychiatry and Psychology, which encouraged patients to ask very specific questions of their treatment providers, such as, “What is your diagnosis and more importantly what is the underlying cause?” . . . What is the rationale for using this drug? Discuss the science behind the answer.”

“When I started doing that,” Cindi recalls, “I started getting shut up, shut down, shut out.” She generally tried to be diplomatic, but concedes that some of the psychiatric professionals may have regarded her newfound skepticism as personally insulting. At any rate, this is when she began realizing how few rights she actually had, as Siddharta’s treatment providers suddenly declared her power-of-attorney status to be invalid, and began using federal privacy laws to justify cutting her out of Siddharta’s hospital care and his community-discharge planning.

“You’re a nobody, you have absolutely no rights as a parent under psychiatric and mental health rules and law,” says Cindi. “And the majority of psychiatrists and the staff in the hospitals treat you like that. It’s not like at a regular hospital where they want to involve you.”

“You’re a nobody, you have absolutely no rights as a parent under psychiatric and mental health rules and law.”

After Cindi challenged Siddharta’s providers multiple times, they showed her a half-page handwritten note by Siddharta revoking her power of attorney. Later, Siddharta told her they’d promised him a quicker discharge if he signed the paper. “I was furious,” Cindi says.

While many such conflicts come down to “he said, she said” accusations, Cindi Fisher’s case is fairly well documented, because many of the conflicts have played out in emails, letters and court affidavits. And what is clear in the court records is that there’s rarely any hint that Siddharta doesn’t want his mother in his life, or that Cindi is a bad mother, or that Cindi treats his providers disrespectfully. Instead, the court documents often simply show mental health professionals proclaiming that psychiatric drugs have miraculous curative powers, and seeking to ban Cindi from her son’s life because of her critical attitudes towards those drugs. It’s like a battle of scientific paradigms, but one that Cindi regularly lost in court.

For example, with her power of attorney being ignored, Cindi decided to apply for guardianship of her son, which would give her a stronger legal position. She soon learned that this was risky. “Once you go for guardianship, there’s no guarantee. If the hospital feels like you’re an interference… they will do everything in their power to get a different guardian.”

And indeed, with the guardianship petition underway, Siddharta’s “guardian ad litem” — a person temporarily appointed during the court proceedings to help appoint a permanent guardian — filed a report in 2011 that ultimately told of how well Siddharta had done under state care. At the moment of Siddharta’s most recent involuntary admission to Western State Hospital, wrote Charles Buckley, the guardian ad litem, Siddharta had appeared disheveled, loud, uncooperative, hostile, manic and abusive. Buckley apparently based this description entirely on notes and testimony from WSH staff. But after Siddharta had been in the hospital for a month, staff described him as “delightful to have on the ward” and enjoyable to talk with, Buckley wrote, and then he provided a reason for this amazing transformation. “Mr. Fisher was taking his medication regularly. This has made an immense difference in Mr. Fisher’s appearance and attitude.” Buckley then concluded his report by stating that, although Cindi might be “the best guardian” for Siddharta, he had deep concerns due to her “desire to go down another road for treatment.”

After Buckley advised Cindi that she would likely lose her petition for guardianship due to the arguments to the court put forth by him and Siddharta’s treatment providers, Cindi reluctantly accepted Buckley’s suggested compromise: She helped choose which of the available professional guardians would be Siddharta’s.

An Activist is Born

As she continued to fight for her son, Cindi became increasingly outraged by her inability to influence her son’s treatment at WSH, and by the refusal of his treatment team to change their strategies in response to her medical concerns, or to discharge Siddharta into a less restrictive environment. Cindi then turned elsewhere for help. She contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, lawyers, politicians and news media.

“All I got was a shoulder to cry on,” she says. “But nobody seemed to have any idea it should be different.”

Cindi also began networking with other parents in similar situations around the country through her new M.O.M.S. group, which quickly made her more conscious of other incarcerated patients at WSH and how they were being treated. She began talking with whomever picked up the patient phone when she called WSH, or whoever else showed interest when she visited, asking them about their lives and their wishes. She even helped two people get discharged from WSH. She also helped parents elsewhere legally challenge their children’s committal to mental hospitals and bring public attention to their cases.

Cindi Fisher was becoming a mental health activist. And that apparently bothered the mental health professionals even more.

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Cindi Fisher at courthouse protest

WSH put Siddharta on a floor where there was no confidential patient phone. Cindi demanded WSH install a patient phone—as was required by state law. WSH took months to install one and then, two weeks after they finally did so, in January of last year, they banned Cindi from visiting unless she agreed in writing to a new list of “rules.” One of the rules stated that “visiting or conversing with other patients is not permitted.” WSH’s letter gave no reason for subjecting Cindi to this new rule.

Cindi refused to sign, and publicly protested. “I wanted to see my son, but I didn’t want to abandon the others.”

Instead of backing down, WSH staff collaborated with Siddharta’s new guardian ad litem (the previous guardian had recently resigned) to apply for a Vulnerable Adult Protection Order (VAPO) under Washington state law to strengthen the ban. Legally, a VAPO is intended to prevent the “abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect” of vulnerable adults. So how was Cindi supposedly “abusing” her son?

Guardian ad litem Lisa Rasmussen’s application for the protection order explained that “Mr. Fisher’s doctors and medical care providers are absolutely clear that Mr. Fisher must comply with mental health medications.” However, Rasmussen wrote, “Ms. Fisher encourages Mr. Fisher to stop taking medications” and thereby “encourages a cycle which results in his repeated arrest.” Siddharta’s providers were consequently reluctant to discharge Siddharta into the community, Rasmussen stated, and therefore “[Cindi Fisher’s] conduct is forcing Mr. Fisher to remain at WSH.”

Essentially, Rasmussen blamed Cindi’s criticisms of psychiatric drugs for Siddharta’s incarceration at WSH, and for all of his incarcerations going back two decades, and concluded that Cindi, by voicing her opinions on psychiatric drugs, was committing “mental abuse” of Siddharta.

Leaving aside what would seem to be an assault on Cindi’s First Amendment freedom of expression, in fact for over a decade Cindi had strongly supported Siddharta taking antipsychotics, and in more recent years, she says she only encouraged Siddharta to stop taking such medications on two or three occasions before she learned about the importance of very slow and careful tapering. But in any case, VAPO hearings are designed to err on the side of caution and do not follow normal rules of evidence, and on July 10, 2013, a judge banned Cindi from seeing her son for at least six more months because “there has been some interference of medication protocol by Ms. Fisher.”

“The mental health system calls the shots,” Cindi says. “And when things fall apart, the individual pays, because they end up getting locked up. And the mental health team doesn’t take any kind of accountability for things falling apart.”

“The mental health system calls the shots . . . And the mental health team doesn’t take any kind of accountability for things falling apart.”

Indeed, Siddharta’s care providers evidently next decided that virtually everyone in Siddharta’s life, except for themselves, was to blame for his troubles, because this December, Siddharta was “disappeared.” He had a new professional guardian, Tracey Zacher, and she and the WSH providers decided to reveal to Siddharta’s family and friends only that he had been discharged into an adult family home somewhere.

Cindi had heard of other parents whose children had disappeared into the mental health system in this manner for years at a time. “I was very frightened,” she says. “I was frantic.” She called out to her networks for help. She went on her third hunger strike. She tried to get publicity. She called adult family homes randomly, asking for Siddharta. How could any mental health professional think that cutting Siddharta off completely from his family and friends was good for him, she wondered.

The View from Inside

Ron Adler has only been the CEO of Western State Hospital since June of 2013, and he is prevented by privacy law from discussing specific cases. But he agrees to answer general questions based on three decades as a direct service worker and senior administrator at different kinds of mental health facilities.

“When I listen to family members I hear them say one of two things,” Adler says. “‘You should have kept my loved one much longer and forced them to take medication and not let them out until they were completely symptom free…’ Or quite the opposite, and that is… ‘How dare you use court-administered medication on my loved one and all the other coercive treatments that you have there under the false presumption of treatment. And why don’t you just let my son or daughter go?’…I’ve heard throughout my career both of those positions articulated almost on a weekly basis.”

At WSH, he says such complaints escalate up to him at least once a month. Adler feels the underlying theme is that family members want to be heard, and he thinks most mental health workers recognize that the family members’ perspectives on their loved ones are important. “I do believe that we have many opportunities for improvement in this area, but I see evidence of my staff here listening to family members and listening to loved ones and receiving their input,” he says. “And I think we’re putting processes in place that will help that.”

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Ron Adler

Nevertheless, Adler acknowledges that across his career he has seen occasions where care providers have banned family members from visiting, citing examples of people who were intense emotional triggers for patients. “If we think something is potentially disruptive to the patient, to the patients’ treatment, or the treatment milieu, I think it’s incumbent upon the hospital or institution or residential treatment center to guide that, for the most safe outcome of all concerned.”

With a masters degree in counseling psychology and a strong interest in psychosocial rehabilitation approaches, Adler doesn’t seem to be of the mainstream psychiatric school. So I ask him for his perspective on the growing body of research showing that psychiatric drugs can cause long-term damages. “I’m aware of an emerging body of research that talks to that issue,” responds Adler. But he’s also aware, he says, of “decades and decades of research” that says psychiatric medications can help reduce certain symptoms.

Adler says WSH does have a range of therapeutic options available, but then points out that in major psychiatric hospitals like WSH, patients are usually being forcibly detained, under court orders, for court-ordered purposes. “All of that has embellished around it a structure and organization and a system of care,” says Adler—a system of care that is, by law, being run by psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and psychiatric social workers. “In fact, those are the three disciplines that are underscored in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Regulation that constitute the core disciplines in a psychiatric in-patient facility.”

In part, Adler seems to be diplomatically hinting that isolated protests against psychiatric drugging may be like splashes of water against a culturally and institutionally mandated Rock of Gibraltar. On the other hand, of course, Cindi Fisher may be part of a coming tsunami of protestors that North America has not seen before—a gathering storm of family members who’ve witnessed unhelpful or debilitating impacts from psychiatric drug treatments on their loved ones over the course of decades. So I ask Adler if he’s aware that these conflicting perspectives about psychiatric drugs seem to be coming into increasingly intense conflict in our communities and hospitals. “Very much so,” replies Adler.

Then if a patient or family member asks for low or no-dose treatment and alternative therapeutic strategies, in conflict with the care providers’ program, what happens? “I’ve worked in hospitals where people were absolutely closed off to that,” says Adler. “And I’ve worked in hospitals where various treatment teams were very open to doing something different with patients.” And different treatment teams at WSH, Adler adds, lean in either direction.

There, the underlying theme seems to be that mental health professionals still have a lot of legal powers and leeway to do as they wish.

Together Again, But Not for Long

This January 3rd, Cindi finally had her chance to challenge the protection order that was blocking her from contacting Siddharta. Not a wealthy woman, she describes the telephone-based assistance of Legal Shield as “a miracle.” “I’ll be damned if I haven’t learned how to become a paralegal through fire,” she says. The hearing date was pushed over to January 13th, but in the meantime new guardian Tracey Zacher promised to shortly let everyone know where Siddharta was.

On January 13th, 2014, the VAPO against Cindi was not only terminated by the judge but “vacated”—typically done when a previous judgment is determined to have been based on fraud or blatant error. But it was a victory that Cindi didn’t get to celebrate.

According to police records, back on January 3rd, just hours after Zacher had promised to let everyone know within a few days where Siddharta was staying, managers of the adult family home suddenly called police and a crisis line in order to rid themselves of Siddharta by claiming he was a danger to others. When it didn’t work, home manager Virginia Johnson tried again the next evening. In his report, the police officer who responded couldn’t get corroboration of Johnson’s more serious claims from others in the home. The officer described Siddharta as in good health and “cooperative,” and he advised Johnson that he couldn’t legally remove Siddharta for “cursing” and “being an annoyance.” Johnson then called Tom Fletcher, a “Designated Mental Health Professional” with the Lower Columbia Mental Health Center, and he immediately issued an order, with no reasons given, to have Siddharta taken to hospital.

“I took Sid into my custody in handcuffs,” the officer wrote.

“So within two to three hours of the guardian realizing that she’s going to have to let us know where my son is, all of a sudden now he is supposedly aggressive?” comments Cindi. She suspects that Johnson didn’t want a now “notorious” mental health watchdog like her visiting the facility.

Siddharta was put in a psychiatric isolation unit at PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center. Cindi, citing the police records, wrote to the hospital CEO protesting what she regarded as an illegal re-incarceration of her son. According to Cindi, on her next visit to St. John’s, three men met her at the door and refused her entry because, they said, her written accusations had made staff “uncomfortable.” A fourth man followed her part way down the block as she departed.

“I got kind of scared,” Cindi says.

Siddharta was soon transferred back to WSH.

I ask Cindi if it’s been a surprise to discover the extremely broad legal powers that mental health authorities have. “Holy smoley, that’s one of my biggest shout outs to all of America,” she replies. “If people had any idea of the tyrannical power that the psychiatric profession has over people on the outside, but especially inside the institutions, and they knew how they exercised that power… they would probably shut the hospitals down tomorrow.”

[pullquote]“If people had any idea of the tyrannical power that the psychiatric profession has over people on the outside, but especially inside the institutions, and they knew how they exercised that power… they would probably shut the hospitals down tomorrow.”[/pullquote]

Only people on a list approved by the guardian are allowed to contact Siddharta; however, family and friends say Siddharta consistently articulates his desire to get out of the hospital. Zacher declined an interview with Madinamerica.com about the situation based on legal advice that she’s received. “It’s just too volatile and chaotic,” says Zacher. “So, best not.”

Reforming the Village

Cindi plans to head back to court to try to get guardianship over Siddharta, in hopes of also gaining for him more influence over his own life. “I want him out,” says Cindi. Ideally, she explains, she’d like to have practical community supports available for his recovery “with my son at the table helping guide what that would look like.”

Near the end of February, Cindi learned that Siddharta might be discharged from WSH soon, and that Zacher had agreed that he could potentially be released into Cindi’s recognizance. Cindi was, once again, cautiously heartened.

But she’s under no illusions about the challenges ahead. “When they give us our kids back, and they’re now much more harmed than they were before, after the drugs and after the inhumane and cruel institutionalization, they are dangerous,” Cindi says. “So he would need to be with people who were trained in how to keep themselves safe and him safe while he’s feeling and finding his way back to a world that welcomes him.”

And perhaps nothing demonstrates the completeness of Cindi Fisher’s transformation from psychiatrically compliant mom to advocate for civil rights and inner freedoms more than the way she now talks about wanting for Siddharta the same things she wants for everyone.

Cindi has come to believe that many of us are suffering, albeit in different ways, from the same ailments. “Mental illness is a label that needs to be disappeared,” she says. “I think the heart of it is that we live in a time of a very quickly changing society that is causing a lot of distress, a lot of breakup of bonds and ties. And we have been programmed to be independent, alienated, isolated. If we as communities are going to survive these times – that are not necessarily going to get better because of all of these different crises that we are on the edge of, whether it’s environmental, or economic, or social – we have to learn to recognize that when people’s hearts and souls are breaking there are many different ways that those breaks are going to be expressed.”

Cindi would like to start bringing progressive thinkers together to live in small communal houses, where people could learn to “hold each other in crisis,” she says. “It’s a way to begin to invite the neighborhood to learn how to rebuild their village.” She’s already tentatively feeling some of that revolutionary energy through collaborating with her growing network of mental health activist connections around the country, she says. “There’s something about creating that unity, and standing up, exposing, joining our voices together not only to expose but to create something different.”

I ask Cindi if she knows what it was inside her that somehow allowed her to make this rare, long human journey from being a strong supporter of forced psychiatric drugging to becoming an unflagging mental health civil rights activist. She points to that time in her life when she first lost Siddharta to the streets, lost her marriage, and lost faith in the American Dream. “I decided to live my life according to what was the deepest passion, the deepest truth that I could find,” says Cindi. Then, that newfound inner strength fused with “the mother’s love that just won’t let go, won’t give up,” she says, and she gradually learned, grew and changed while grappling with challenge after challenge alongside her eldest son. “Siddharta has been my greatest spiritual teacher.”

*******

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a Victoria, British Columbia-based freelance journalist who has been writing on mental health issues for fifteen years. His research has particularly focused on the interfaces between psychiatry, the justice system, and civil rights. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, six Western Magazine Awards, and four Jack Webster Awards for journalism. He can be contacted through his website.

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54 COMMENTS

    • Duane,

      I got the impression that what gave Cindi hope was finding seemingly non-financially / industry biased scientific evidence that, in fact, the psychiatric drugs actually CAUSED the scary and unusual psychiatric symptoms she had witnessed in her son.

      Plus, of course, she learned of the homosexual abuse of her child. And trust me, finding the medical evidence of such; plus the proof that the psychiatric industry intentionally covers up sodomy of children, for profit, is a heartbreaking and difficult to comprehend medical industry betrayal, of apparently many within humanity.

      Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Psychiatry is sick.

          • Oops, typo.

            I hope some day the psychiatric industry will get out of the business of covering up child abuse.

            But I do understand that keeping child molesters on the streets raping more and more children does bring in a lot of sexually molested children to the psychiatric professionals. And these upset children are, of course, very easy to defame with “mental illnesses.”

            But it’s a shame the psychiatrists, at least according to my medical records, actively work to keep the child molesters on the streets. No doubt, because that is profitable for the psychiatric practitioners. How low can they go?

      • Learning that my own son could get better off the drugs was a huge kickstarter of hope for me. Hope has to be expressed as something positive. Fear is the enemy of hope. I can’t say I would gather much hope if someone told me my relative had been sexually abused and that psychiatric drugs caused many of his subsequent problems. Taken alone in that context, that’s fear. It’s what you can do going forward that inspires the greatest hope.

      • It is very clear to me from the quote below that families need to be educated about how to help someone in emotional distress. This has not been done, although thankfully families are taking matters more and more into their own hands to educate themselves. My experience tells me that the professionals keep this knowledge to themselves, to keep the upper hand. Knowledge is power, after all. One reason why there is this lack of information exchange has to do with families, e.g., parents, not wanting to be “blamed.” NAMI courses are a good example of “education” that doesn’t teach critical skills that would actually benefit the patient. A lot of these skills have to do with supporting the relatives’ choices, admitting past errors and asking for forgiveness, and learning how to instill hope in your relatives and in yourself.

        Cyndi Fisher is an incredible woman.

        “Nevertheless, Adler acknowledges that across his career he has seen occasions where care providers have banned family members from visiting, citing examples of people who were intense emotional triggers for patients. “If we think something is potentially disruptive to the patient, to the patients’ treatment, or the treatment milieu, I think it’s incumbent upon the hospital or institution or residential treatment center to guide that, for the most safe outcome of all concerned.”

        • Rossa, I am afraid that it’s not the professionals keeping the knowledge of helping distressed individuals to themselves – they genuinely don’t have that knowledge or those skills. There is no requirement that those entering psychiatry have any education in therapy or even advanced communication skills, and it is obvious that many of them don’t seem to be to worried or even notice that those skills are lacking. The most common attitude I’ve encountered (and I’ve worked in the field for years) is, “I’m the doctor, I’ve studied about brains and drugs, I know what I’m talking about, so you shouldn’t worry your pretty little head about it – just do what I tell you.” I have seen very destructive communication from professionals who should know better, and more commonly, a simple lack of skills leading to an impasse, where the client has bared his/her soul and the clinician can’t do anything more than say “I’m sorry” or “I think you need antidepressants.”

          It is a very sad state of affairs. I think the biggest reason that peer-directed services work so much better is that the peers are better communicators – they empathize and listen well and have ideas on what the client might do to help him/herself. The combination of ignorance and arrogance presented by the average psychiatrist precludes them learning anything of importance from the client, or even admitting they have something to learn. So they’re not hiding their advanced skills – for the most part, they simply don’t have them. And in most cases, they wouldn’t care to learn them if they were offered.

          —- Steve

          PS I know Cindy personally, and she is a remarkable woman!

          • Steve, I agree about (a lack of) communication skills.

            Any contact I have had with the mental health field has left, at the very least, a sour taste in my mouth. One particular interaction with a psychiatrist some 30 years ago had such a profound effect on me just through the words he spoke. Stereotypical perhaps, but absolutely true, this psychiatrist sat opposite me in his big chair and while sucking on a cigar pronounced that I was “a sick, sick girl and would have problems all my life” – these words have haunted me in varying degrees even since. There is so much I could say about this but just generally it is so easy to see why things have gone the way they have.

            About 10 years ago I put together my thoughts on the subject – part of what I wrote is the following –

            One thing that did help me was to look at all my ‘deficient’ labels I have accumulated over the years and then ask myself why it bothers me so much. Apart from the battering to my self esteem, I feel it goes much deeper than this. When you think about it, you only seem to take notice of the finished product of all the various aspects of what makes up this thing called your mind. I see perhaps, that it is made up of memory, emotions, intelligence, imagination, personality traits, influences from within and out and many more. The final product is this strange, and I suppose unique entity I call ‘me’, my self-hood, the presence inside my head. When a psychiatrist tells ‘me’ in a non-specific and generalized way that I am a ‘sick, sick girl’, presumably it is my mind he is referring to. I can’t help but take it as a judgement of my entire self-hood as I am not consciously aware of what makes up this self-hood – in my everyday functioning I am only simply aware of ‘me’. I can acknowledge, when reflected upon all the different aspects (as above) but even if reflected upon I cannot grasp and nor do I have the means to examine how all the intricate details combine to form my ‘mind’. Therefore I am very vulnerable to suggestions from ‘experts’ about the state of my mind as I acknowledge my ignorance and can only defend myself by ‘gut’ feeling, whereas they supposedly come from a position of knowledge.

            This ‘knowledge’ to me, is really quite vague, but ironically, it is this vagueness that makes it very difficult to confidently disregard what is said. If I went to a GP and told him of a specific problem but was told there were all sorts of things wrong with my body that I felt not to be true, I would be in a fairly confident in questioning his ‘diagnosis’ and competence that can be proved if need be due to the more easily verifiable nature of physical problems – but this cannot be done with ‘mental illness’. Unless someone has a true verifiable neurological condition or their behaviour is so disturbing that it is obvious there is something is ‘wrong’ I don’t see how placing deficient labels on people so carelessly and obviously with so little regard as to the affects on that person, can be truly justified. Even for those people who appear ‘very disturbed’, humility, care and respect should be exercised before dishing out a label. There are far more implications in discussing the ‘pathology ’of one’s mind than there is in the pathology of one’s sore toe.

            My understanding is that psychology, psychiatry, etc are regarded as professions and to me this means someone who has acquired knowledge and skills that the general population do not commonly possess. Once a person has this status in their chosen field they are privileged to both its higher rewards and the higher responsibility that goes with it. At this point the privileged information and skills can either be used to help or harm. Dealing with ‘mental health’ as these professions do, I would suggest a more concrete definition of this profession – the tools of their trade are the words that come forth from their lips. The concepts that are conveyed by psychs through language hold a lot of power and influence over people and because of this they should be held accountable just as other professions are for the help or harm they inflict.

            Simply because of the fact they do hold such power and influence this professions’ ‘tools of trade’ should be elevated to reflect the importance, weight and consequences it has on people’s lives, often for the rest of their lives. It is so easy to deny and be unacknowledged because of its intangible nature and this in turn allows the whole thing to perpetuate. When someone feels they have been harmed by these people it is very hard to say anything – well, no harm done (physical)* so people just walk away and say nothing, they may feel a lot but can do little about it. I can’t help but think that part of the reason things have gone the way they have is because there is no real accountability for what is said. This is part of a much wider cultural attitude that acknowledges and has more sympathy for actual physical damage (including property) than psyche damage – e.g. actions speak louder than words, sticks and stones… or, he hasn’t really hurt you until you are bashed up. This despite the fact that it is only because of our ‘unique mind’ which enables us to understand the concept of justice that can reflect on those bruises and determine that an injustice has been done. Physical violence is rightly condemned but the scales are too uneven.

            (*In no way am I discounting the physical harm caused by psychiatric drugs etc. First and foremost however the physical harm caused by psychiatry etc starts with the way these people think; therefore, in order to eliminate the physical harm the thinking that allows these outcomes to occur must be changed).

          • Steve

            I believe that you are absolutely correct about this. I think that doctors of all specialties, but especially psychiatry, receive a very narrow and poor education. They are not broadly educated at all and there is no emphasis on communication skills at all. I’ve been witness to intern doctors in a university medical center being slapped by family members because of their poor communication skills. They are not required to take any Humanities courses nor do they have any exposure to Philosophy at all. All they know is science, science, science………… They know a little about how the physical body workds but have no idea what motivates human beings spiritually, emotionally, or psychologically. When it comes to psychiatry their science is screwed up to the point that it’s no science at all. All that doctors learn in psychiatry these days are the toxic drugs and how to prescribe them. Even then they reallly don’t seem to actually know what they’re doing. One of the units in the “hospital” where I work is a teaching unit so I get to see some of these people in action. Most of them are clueless about how to deal with people, especially people who are in emotional and psychological distress. I myself want to slap the stuffings out of them but can’t do that. I guess it would be called being unprofessional!

      • Duane, you seem more concerned that it was another man that raped Sidd, than the fact that he was raped. Please check your homophobia. I am tired and enraged when men are only concerned about rape when it’s men against men, and never utter a word when it’s the common, everyday variety of rape by men of women. Rape is rape and is a soul affronting trauma.

          • “Hear you roar,” Grrrace. My concern is rape of small children, in particular. That is the most egregious type of rape of all, IMO. But, of course, all rape is wrong. It is a crime intended to show dominance and power over another human being. It is a crime intended to mentally or emotionally destroy another person. Rape of small children is grotesque, rape of women is grotesque, too. And rape with forced psychiatric drugs is also grotesque. Rape is always wrong.

          • Grrrace,

            Just an FYI, I’m a woman who has been “date raped.” I know rape of women is wrong. But I am also a woman who was assaulted by psychiatric professionals whose goal was to cover up the alleged sodomy (with medical evidence) of my four year old child for a pastor and/ or his best friend. The cover up of the rape of my child, with the resulting defamation and rape with psychiatric stigmatization and drugs of me, was infinitely worse than the “date rape,” IMO. A mother’s heart breaks when she realizes she was unable to protect her beautiful and innocent son. But I was also disgusted by my ex-pastor’s denial of my daughter a baptism, a pastoral sin marked throughout eternity at the exact moment the second plane hit the second World Trade Center building on 9.11.2001. Also, a “Never Forget” sin against an innocent child. Three wrongs do not make a right, Grrrace. I can roar, too.

          • Someone Else,
            YES!
            Sounds like you’ve been through hell and back, and come out a warrior! Thank you for hearing me and clarifying your position. That detail of Sidd’s story must have hit a nerve because your precious boy child went through it, too.

            So sounds like we are roaring together, at the same things, and with Cindi and all the others here!

            Blessed be the roar-riors!!! 😉

      • Hello Friends,
        This is Cindi one more time. I want to share how deeply grateful I am to all of you that responded, either here in the comment session or to me personally, or with your prayers . It has been a most gratifying to experience you as part of the Growing Village I believe We are Becoming.

        Today was very special, as Siddharta and I spent 4 hours together in the “real world,” after a meeting to discuss his forthcoming discharge. Prayers are welcomed, as I attempt tomorrow March 14, to paint a picture to the Department Of Clark County Corrections(DOC) of how they have been given false and fraudulent information; since they are the only member of the discharge team that is not yet totally on board with Siddharta being discharged in less than two weeks. He so desperately longs for his Freedom…two weeks he thinks he can stand…more than that, he shares, would be devastating.

        I am new at this and although I would have like to responded to each of you personally, I have tried to keep my life balanced and not become overwhelmed, not only with outrage, but with the “important things to do list.” So I have not responded in writing very often, only in my heart. I so appreciate how so many of you answered or responded to each others comments… for me it was a beautiful example of villag-ism :)., although it is clear that this is just how this beautiful interaction works.

        If you would like a personal response, feel free to email me at the email address above, and be patient with me. If you want to track Beyond Soteria Co-op Housing Project sign up for the email newsletter at MentalHealthRightsYES.org

        I promise to return here and CELEBRATE with you when Siddharta is Home and FREE!

        With Love and Gratitude,
        Cindi Fisher

    • Hello Friends,
      Despite the struggles and horrors of Siddharta’s and my journey, there was actually, more than one person, conference, or event, that gave me hope. Yes, Dr. Breggin, and information regarding the scientific proof of the often devastating effects of the drugs, were critical to my “awakening;” but for continued “HOPE” I have relied on All of YOU!
      The number of visitors to the MOMS website at http://www.mentalhealthrightsyes.org/ continues to grow and the number of people who respond to urgent alerts to help an endangered survivor is heartwarming. It is you and I, and so many others coming together, standing together, to say enough is enough!!! and backing it with our actions; and going the next step to strive to create meaningful alternatives. That is what gives me the greatest hope.
      I would like to share with you three projects that I am involved in; perhaps some of you will be moved to join us; and although your involvement can be electronically, and that would be welcomed, I hope that a few of you will be inspired enough to actually, physically join us to create the desparately needed alternatives and make the beautiful Northwest your new home.
      You are Invited to Join Us! Come for an hour by telephone, two days for the symposium, or make the Beautiful Northwest your new home!
      1. Welcome to Rethinking Psychiatry’s and Chitari’s Mind-Body Symposium May 16-17 http://www.rethinkingpsychiatry.org/2014/02/11/mind-body-symposium-may-16-17/ in Portland, Oregon featuring Dr. Gordon, the founder and director of The Center for Mind Body Medicine in Washington DC. It will be 1 ½ days of likeminded people inspiring each other and having fun while we are at it.
      2.) Beyond Soteria! A small dedicated core group are currently looking for two houses together to purchase in Vancouver, WA., 20 minutes from Portland OR and our Rethinking Psychiatry friends. We envision creating two empowering, safe Village-like-Co-op houses that will model how neighborhoods can support individuals in crisis and/or moving beyond psychiatric drugs; including the crisis induced from trauma or psychiatric drug- induced violence, and at the same time build sustainability and real community among neighbors. If you would like to know more write me at The [email protected] and put in the subject Beyond Soteria.
      The original Soteria House is our beginning inspiration, and yet, Soteria focused on first time psychosis experiencers. TODAY there are so many that experience and/or suffer some from multiple psychosis episodes; others from the torture and trauma of forced inhumane, degrading, treatment in the mental illness and criminal justice systems; and still others from the effects, after effects and withdrawal of psychiatric drugs. So embracing all of the rich lessons from Soteria, we are holding the vision of what comes next; Beyond Soteria
      3) A Community Bill of Rights, legally enforceable, that would include, among other rights; the right of its community members to be free from forced injections and forced commitment. Sounds like a pipe dream??? Watch these two 10-12 minute videos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Prylnj4NQ8 interviewing Paul Cienfuegos, from Portland Oregon, explaining how 160 communities in only the last 12 years, have taken back many different rights and empowered their community to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens. A few of us from different parts of the country just finished a 6 weeks, weekly teleconference session, studying the history of the Community Rights Movement. Next we envision inviting You to join us in our next 6 week teleconference. We will use that history to embolden us to craft a bill of rights to protect the legal capacity of those labeled and targeted as mentally ill and create a mandate for alternatives, as well as strategize on how to actually pass such a legally binding ordinance, in our first town. If you would like to know more mail me at The [email protected] and put in the subject “Bill of Rights Teleconference.
      Warmly,
      Cindi Fisher

  1. Thank you for writing and MIA for publishing Cindi’s heart-wrenching story trying so hard to help her son.
    “Fisher may be part of a coming tsunami of protestors that North America has not seen before—a gathering storm of family members who’ve witnessed unhelpful or debilitating impacts from psychiatric drug treatments on their loved ones over the course of decades.”

    Indeed, the time is here when thousands of us who have experienced the atrocities of the mental health system will join the many Cindis in protest and change will come!

    Never give up hope,
    Dorothy

  2. Missing as always though is the fact that the people perpetrating these crimes against humanity are making LOTS OF MONEY! It’s not like they’re doing all of this for the sake of the greater good. Those hospitalizations are upwards of $1,000 A DAY and of course that money is going into people’s pockets. Oh, and it’s tax payer money, too.

    • It’s all about the money, you’re, unfortunately, correct, JefferyC. Doctors had promised to “first and foremost, do no harm,” but psychiatry does the opposite.

      And a mom with good health insurance, whose four year old child was abused while in the custody of a pastor’s wealthy friend. Is a very profitable person to defame, and make sick with psychotropic drugs, so the pastor and his best friend can cover up the medical evidence of child sodomy and child abuse of a three and four year old child.

      But not all doctors and nurses are so disgusting as to want to cover up such pastoral and medical crimes, and decent doctors and nurses do hand over medical records to appallingly and unjustly harmed patients.

      But the subsequent unneeded hospitalization to perpetuate the cover up of such crimes (by unethical doctors wanting an innocent mom to be medically unnecessarily shipped a long distance to the sicko, V R Kuchipudi – google his name, he’s been arrested by the FBI for harming many). Does allow Blue Cross Blue Shield to be defrauded out of $30,000 for two and a half weeks of unneeded medical care at Advocate Good Samaritan hospital in Downers Grove, IL.

      We need a return of medicine for the common good of patients, as opposed to medicine for the profit of unethical and attempted murdering doctors.

    • They make alot of money ! Almost 20 thousand abusing me in one of there wrenched snake pits after I went voluntarily to the E.R cause my dumb ass drank too much, felt to sick to drink again that day, was dehydrated , was having anxiety- withdrawals and wanted help. My refusal to willingly ingest the max dose of Seroquel, Trileptal and 2omg HALDOL was used as proof I was “sick” my medical records also state my refusal to participate in there recommend after care that was obviously part of some kind of kickback scheme. My reaction to the injection threats made for refusing there “treatment” for alcohol withdrawal labelled bipolar was also used as proof I was “sick” and needed there “help” and I was placed of “assault precautions” .

      I was like a cheap 3am movie “wrongly committed” where the person gets admitted to the crooked hospital .

      The conflict of interest is glaring , they decide who is sick and who is well using no medical tests wile at the same time charging up to and over $1,000 a day. I saw over and over as they held people as long as they could for no reason at all but to collect that cash. There was no “help” going on in that place.

      Universal Health Services, Inc. (NYSE: UHS) is a Fortune 500 company based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. UHS company is one of the largest hospital management companies in the nation, operating many behavioral “health” facilities UHS, Inc. is frequently in the news for substandard care, abuse, and fraud.

      http://watchinguhs.wordpress.com/

      Complete listing of all UHS facilities that have been closed. Every once in a while there is hope that this rampant abuse will stop as facilities are closed.

      http://failuretocare.com/

      • Its the same in the UK Copy_ cat, but in my case the young doctor couldn’t stay sober. He didn’t even know what the talking treatments were. He tried to pour syrup down my throat, but he lost his balance and it went all over my favourite tea shirt. The stain never came out. After many years of recovery I traced him regarding the diagnosis – he had committed suicide.

  3. I think readers should notice how, in a lot of ways, the situation of this mother and her son resembles what has been happening with Justina Pelletier and her family in Boston. One sees from the psychiatrists the same arrogance and misuse of power in both Washington and Massachusetts. We have a big job ahead of us to get the public to see that this out-of-control power has to be taken away.

  4. Those who have created this dark corner of society where ghosts the civil dead are subjected to human rights abuses daily have a lot to answer for.

    Keep drinking your 400 year old brandy at the yacht club, and laughing at the apathy of the community towards these dehumanised individuals whom you claim to be helping.

    The apathy will not last forever, and you may one day be held to account.

      • Right! Most psychiatrists don’t want the general public to know that it was German psychiatry that invented the gas chambers and the ovens to murder people who were labeled as “mentally ill.” They called them “useless eaters” and decided that the best thing to do with and to them was to murder them. But you don’t hear much about this here in America. However, the keynote speaker for the American Psychiatric Association in 1941 stated in his speech that we should follow the lead of the German psychiatirsts and do the very same thing here in the United States. He publicly advocated murdering the so-called “mentally ill” right here. Only two psychiatrists stood up to publicly oppose him!

        The only psychiatrists I have any use for are those very few who are willing to actually work and do some kind of psychosocial therapy with people in distress or those who ware willing to help people taper down and get off the toxic drugs. . Those who insist on forcering the toxic drugs on people need to be stripped of their degrees and their doctor titles and sent on their way to find some other profession or line of work. They are not doctors. They are watch dogs and controllers of social behavior who have affiliated themselves with one of the most corrupt groups of corporations in the world, the drug companies. The unholy alliance of the law, the drug companies, and psychiatry needs to be smashed.

          • Where I live there have been moves to try and get the power for psychiatrists to forcefully sterilize 14 year old girls without parental consent, under the new Bill doctors without any psychiatric qualifications will have the same powers as a psychiatrist, reasons for involuntary detention are being expanded, no legal representation at review tribunals, and no effective oversight of referrals.

            Sounds like a nightmare, it is. Advocates are afraid to make any noise for fear of loosing their government funding, and the public don’t know or don’t care.

            The numbers of suicides associated with mental health services should be a give away as to how effective the ‘treatments’ are, and I’m sure there will be a significant increase once these new powers are enacted.

            I wish someone cared.

          • Thanks you very much for this link to this article. I have added it to my “arsenal” of educational materials since I work for the Education Dept. in the state hospital where I work. This is valuable so thanks again.

  5. Man….Cindi…I knew you had been through a lot- I just didn’t realize the extent of your battle. It amazes me how much extra-judicial power we give to medical “professionals.” There needs to be a case brought up to the Supreme Court to challenge the legality of violating a person’s right to autonomy, essentially jailing and drugging someone indefinitely, without being charged with a crime. It is unconstitutional. Thank you for your strength and bravery Cindi.

  6. Thank you so much for speaking up.
    My child has been troubled for three years within the ‘health care system’. We are seeing a similar pattern as your son has been involved in. Unfortunately once these meds are started and at such high doses the brain changes start occurring. This treatment itself is a trauma, locked wards, forced injections, people sitting and listening to yo and watching your every move, who wouldn’t be mentally effected?
    We need researchers that can reverse the changes that antipsychotics have caused.
    Where can we find these researchers? Who is doing this work. Where can our harmed children live safely so that the harmful side effects such as violent behavior are stopped while they are getting over their trauma? Where is the community love?

    Thank you Thank you brave Cindi maybe I will get braver and more outspoken because of your love for your dear troubled son.
    I have been bringing Dan Mackler videos to my child’s psychiatrist and the harm reduction guide to coming off Psych drugs. We are at least talking about different options. But this talking needs to be done before meds are introduced.

    Keep open and keep showing people that their are other options. This is especially important as a first case option before drugging.

  7. I went to the park tonight, parked my vehicle and turned on some country music… to find some peace. I heard the words to a song that resonated in my soul… The words spoke of the pain so many of us endure, when we feel all-alone, misunderstood, different.

    I hope these words bring some peace to a few MIA readers…. those who’ve been labeled, marginalized; those family members who feel all-alone in their struggle:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucA63CEuXpo

    Blessings to every member of this community.

    Duane

  8. I really think it’s time for people who work on these issues to examine their terminology in terms of its self-limiting effect on those who wish to transcend and eliminate the medical model.

    To wit: Cindi Fisher herself said that we need to get away from the idea of “mental illness”; yet she is repeatedly described as a
    “mental health rights activist.” No she isn’t; she is an activist to liberate human beings from the tyranny of the psychiatric system.
    What the hell are “mental health rights,” if not primarily the right to not have your existence defined in terms of “mental health”?
    If it is impossible to have a “mental” illness it is equally impossible to possess “mental health” other than metaphorically. And it’s
    a metaphor that’s become far too jaded for continued use.

    Back in the days of the mental patients’ liberation movement the word “mental patient” was understood to be in quotes;
    the rationale for using the term was that it would attract those who still considered themselves “mental patients” — whom we were
    trying to reach. But there should be enough consciousness by now to eliminate psychiatric terminology from our conversations
    about ourselves altogether, and we should be able to explain to people why mental illness is a metaphor, not a real disease. And we should not be talking about problems in living in terms of “therapy,” behavioral “health,” etc. etc.

    • Interesting.

      I generally don’t go for the, “Mental Health,” label. I do however use terms such as, “Counselling,” and ,”Therapy,” but I also explain that therapy and counselling are conversations in which one person feels a little better at the end of the conversation than they did at the beginning. So I try to deconstruct something that is often mystified and somewhat glorified.

      Maybe the old term, “Anti-psychiatry,” is worth re-visiting? My only problems are that it does not emphasize those services and actions that do offer hope and realistic help to people who are experiencing mental distress and it alienates those few good workers and units that do offer realistic and effective help.

      • Counseling is a pretty neutral term. Again, the term “therapy,” while ok if both sides understand the metaphorical nature of the term, lends to the general perception of its subjects having something “wrong” with them that must be “treated” (“therapised”). The real danger of the medical/psychiatric model is of course the deliberate confusion regarding the mind vs. the brain, which leads to the adminstration of very real drugs to treat conceptual illnesses. (Interestingly, concrete thinking, i.e. taking metaphors literally, is listed in my Abnormal Psychiatry text from college as a symptom of “schizophrenia.”)

        We don’t need anti-psychiatry, we need no psychiatry, or at least no forced psychiatry; however, I believe without the ability to engage in coercive treatment the field would soon become extinct, as even “voluntary” procedures usually have an undercurrent of coercion.

        As for helpful professionals, the “services and actions that offer hope and realistic help” can be provided more effectively without the pseudo-medical atmosphere. In the Statement of Principles adopted by the 10th Annual Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression — arguably the political high point of the “mental
        patients'”/psychiatric inmates’ liberation movement — one planks states, “We oppose the psychiatric system because it invalidates the real needs of poor people by offering social welfare in the guise of psychiatric “care and treatment.” I think the principle still applies.

        • Yes, I can see that realistic and effective help could be provided by the social care sector and not psychiatry.

          I think the issue is wider than forced treatment though. Forced treatment is a big issue but most so called anti-depressants are prescribed by GP’s to willing patients. My guess is that Benzo’s are too. Both are dangerous.

          Some people choose ECT and psycho-surgery.

          There is also the question as to whether children can give consent in any meaningful way and if Parents have the right to consent to psychiatric drugging of their children.

    • In Thom Hartmann’s book We the People (A Call To Take Back America) on pg. 23 he writes,
      ” Back in 1983 , before its publisher (Houghton Mifflin Company) was acquired by a multinational corporation, the American Heritage Dictionary left us this definition of the form of government the democracies of Spain, Italy, and Germany had morphed into during the 1930’s.
      “fas-cism (fash iz em) n. A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right,typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”
      Hartmann goes on to say “The key to fascism is the merging of state and corporate interests. It is “corporatism” to use Mussolini’s word, which he later renamed “fascism.” It’s simply the modern version of feudalism.
      And it is in this climate that Cindi has given us her strength and bravery .
      How can we help her ?

      • Fred,

        I love your question: How can we help her?
        And, more to the point, how can we join together to become that movement, that “nation wide wave”?

        In her comment/response of March 7, 2014 at 1:21 am, Cindi, herself, offers 3 specific steps we can take (depending on our interests and how much we want to commit) to help her and ourselves.

        Don’t let her fool you, though. Cindi has many more than 3 suggestions. Check her website: http://www.MentalHealthRightsYES.org
        and sign up for action alerts for her son and the many other people she works with for this liberation movement!

        Rob (Wipond), may your words be prophetic: May the wave be rolling in!

  9. I posted this on facebook and it got copied and commented on. Interestingly the comment was about how the boy was arrested and put in handcuffs when he was 12. It was a black friend who commented and forwarded it, so maybe he was picking up on the racism.

    This reminds me the dictum that psychiatry’s function is to cover up the causes of mental distress – often that is the abusive use of power.

  10. Thank you to Cindi Fisher, for your human rights activism and to Ron Wipond for writing this excellent article about Cindi and Siddhartha.
    As I read this article, tears came to my eyes for many reasons as I recalled my own evolution – from that of a “mental health” professional who testified on behalf of the committing agency in two different states – to that of the mother of a 24 year old family member who is now slowly recovering from that same “mental health” system’s failures.
    Since I wrote the MIA Op-Ed in 2012 calling for research and training on psych drug withdrawal methods two years ago, I have been fully engrossed in helping my one family member slowly withdraw from multiple psych drugs. It has been a long, and alternately harrowing and fruitful journey. Much of the time I feel so exhausted and isolated in my efforts to help her, that I think I do not have the energy to help others recover and change the system. But reading about Cindi’s strength, determination and vision is re-energizing and inspiring. I now see that we need to address these human rights violations first by joining together in community and helping to free people to recover. We can call on our corporate controlled medical system to provide research and training forever, but will not make much headway until we do more of it ourselves or demand more from our governments. And it will lay the ground work for future research and training in psych drug withdrawal methods. The Soteria and Beyond Soteria (for those withdrawing) approaches seem the most effective methods, and I look forward to some day being able to contribute to their work. Bless all of you for your hard work and courage in this direction.

  11. Thank you for this piece. Although the circumstance that led up to my brother getting ensnared by this barbaric practice are not exactly the same, I can see the very common thread in the lives of this young man and my brother.

    I am banned from seeing my brother, and the Doctor is recommending that the court replace my mom as the guardian with a “professional guardian”.

    He began actively refusing drugs for the first time after he went to a university pharmaceutical study about the same time this article was written. My brother has always had petty issues with the law, like trespassing, but recently his objections to treatment became more vocalized and aggressive.

    His aggressiveness manifested when he kicked his new nurse out of his apartment after she disparaged him for his spiritual views. She told him there was no way that Jesus could have cured him from his problems, that he was delusional because was off his meds for 6 months. We think my brother was given placebo at the pharmaceutical study and had begun to withdraw and detox from 15 years of these hard core drugs.

    He ended up getting a new doctor to evaluated him after 40 days (trespass and bogus stalking charge) in jail and release to the jails private hospital affiliate. The doctor immediately filed commitment paper work. Our family had prearranged his jail release to a voluntary crisis center in hopes that we could make the transition smooth and begin discussing alternative treatment options.

    We got banned the day after the first commitment hearing for “not cooperating with treatment plan”, “interfering with treatment”, “harassment”, “trying to help patient elope”.

    long story but it seems like they all are. I feel like I have to share every little detail to get people to understand what is going on. We called and called the doctor for the last 2 weeks. He finally called today and I couldn’t believe this guy was actually a doctor with the way he spoke to my mother!

    He basically blamed my mother for the problems my brother is having and at one point told her that he is trying to treat my brother and not her!

    It’s like a broken record with these people.

    I think the patterns we are seeing in our loved ones and with the staff, doctors, fake courts etc are all caused by this big pharmaceutical companies pillaging the public tax money.

    For instance, this doctor that somehow has the ability to override judges decisions, block family members and parents, and basically rape my brother, he is the medicade #1 billing psychiatric doctor in the state BY FAR.

    That is because his facility is directly connected to the jail release. I am sure what he bills medicade is just the tip of the iceberg.

    He “treats” nearly 1000 medicade patients a year and bills 2.6 million dollars. This is on top of “private” practice. The next highest biller to medicade comes in at 200k.

    He sees his “patients” for maybe 5 minutes a day before he ships them off to a “state” hospital or injects them with god knows what and sends them out on there own.

    Even the doctor that my brother has been seeing for years was unable to contact this doctor. My brothers long time doctor was not invited to the hearing, and this new doctor never even tried to find out the history.

    I have done activism for other issues in the past, mostly libertarian elections. This is definitely a libertarian cause and I am surprised that there isn’t a much bigger movement already.

    I need to get the word out LOUDLY and CLEARLY for anyone else that has someone under the “care” of a psychiatrist, and definitely need to shed some light on the money side of things as well as the big drug company connections.

    My brother calls what psychiatrists do psychobabble. I think it’s to knock these power tripping mad scientists and witch doctors down a peg or two on the authority ladder.

    Who is with me?