It’s Time For A Stronger Political Ground Game To Compete With NAMI & Company On Forced Treatment

Michael Cornwall, PhD
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The seemingly unstoppable political alliance made up of NAMI, the American Psychiatric Association (which represents 24,000 psychiatrists), the financial lobbying power of the corporate drug industry, and a chorus of fear-mongering politicians, achieved a great political victory this week when president Obama signed the Medicaid DocFix legislation into law.

Federal law now sanctions -and now will provide $60 million dollars to help fund – the forced community psychiatric treatment that is legally carried out in 45 states.

This week the House will have hearings on the Murphy legislation, that in part aims to purge SAMSHA, will also reflect the political agenda of the same NAMI-led alliance that I identified above.

Despite the valiant decades-long daily efforts to stop forced treatment by the National Empowerment Center, MindFreedom, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, PsychRights, the ACLU, and countless dedicated consumer/survivor/peer human rights activists plus the efforts of the National Coalition For Mental Health Recovery, and a recent position by the UN equating forced treatment with torture, we are still now seeing this legislation supporting forced treatment as part of the national political landscape.

To me this disaster confirms my long-held belief that the mental health reform movement, often voiced here on MIA, needs a more robust political ground game. One that can compete with the NAMI-led coalition in ways not frequently done before.

Based on almost 35 years opposing the NAMI-led political machine operating in California, I believe there is a need for an enhanced strategy that can challenge, and in time defeat the brilliantly orchestrated political alliance that has systematically lobbied for and succeeded in passing forced treatment laws at the state level and secured this week’s national legislative victory.

I wanted to share a specific idea here about forming strong mental health coalitions that could help tip the scales politically. I hope this blog essay contributes to a discussion where more ideas about needed political strategy will emerge.

I would start by saying that In every town, city, county and state there needs to exist a level of comparable grass roots, industrial-strength political presence that relentlessly lobbies every city council member, every mayor, every county-elected supervisor, every local health service and mental health administrator, every Faith-based organization, state legislator, state senator, governor, US Congressperson US Senator and media outlet.

Why?

Because that’s exactly the ground game NAMI and the coalition it leads has executed every day of every year for decades.

They consistently win the political power struggle over forced treatment because they go to where every lever of political power resides and they pull the levers. They never stop pushing their agenda.

Their demonstrated immense political power is built on the solid foundation of an incrementally grown grass roots political base that radiates up through every level of the political hierarchy. The mental health reform movement painfully lacks such a grass-roots based foundation of comprehensive political power in my opinion.

But it is possible to organize and form political coalitions from the grass roots up, to develop reform oriented coalitions that can compete with the NAMI led juggernaut, that can begin to make serious inroads on the political turf they now so clearly own.

My years serving as a therapist/activist/peer with lived experience in a public mental health system, was spent trying to do just that. Creating and sustaining viable coalitions does require a long term commitment to tirelessly work to organize allies and secure political support, while at the same time often struggling against overwhelming opposition and odds.

Ironically, the NAMI led coalition has also practiced – and have perfected – what is actually a Marxist strategy called “The long march through the institutions.”

That labor-intensive, long-term strategy seeks out the so-called switch points of social power. No stone is left unturned. No elected official is left out. If you are a first-time candidate for city council, for instance, you are going to be contacted by NAMI requesting a meeting with you. You are going to be told you will share responsibility for the lack of mental health services in your area if you are elected. You will be told how many NAMI-registered voters reside in your city! You will be told that involuntary outpatient commitment saves lives.

An almost evangelical revolutionary zeal is clearly at work. Many mental health system psychiatrists publicly endorse the NAMI political work. This overt psychiatric backing adds great credibility to the political agenda NAMI works towards.

This laborious grass roots political process aims at transforming a social institution like the mental health system both from the inside-out and from the outside-in.

I witnessed how every public and private person with any bit of political influence or power that could be a useful ally, or be convinced, cajoled, or pressured to support the national and local NAMI coalition’s agenda, was identified and personally engaged for their support over and over again.

The broad-based stakeholder coalition I led doggedly tried to do the same thing. Part of our political power base was the mental health workers’ independent labor union that had also mastered the long march through the institutions. As a result we often were successful in building the necessary political network that was effective in preserving and creating more humane, peer-led and -staffed services. We walked precincts for politicians at every level of government for example and contributed money to their campaigns. Our mental health coalition’s strength was in our diversity and the common ground we all had a vested interest in preserving – that is what kept us united.

The same pragmatic political principles that dictate the winners and losers in any political contest are at work in the struggle over which vision of mental health care will take place in the United States.

I hope this tragic, federally-funded forced treatment victory and the Murphy legislation that threatens to destroy SAMHSA, may prompt us to examine additional and new political strategies. Lives and much avoidable human suffering is at stake. I believe it is possible to reverse the political gains made by the daunting alliance of NAMI, psychiatry, pharma and fear-mongering or apathetic politicians.

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125 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, Michael,
    Thank you for another thoughtful and good post. My one tiny quibble is your equating NAMI with “grassroots.” I would wager that the people who really are grassroots aren’t in NAMI. They /we are making noises here on MIA and in the countless groups that MIA people support. Noise is only heard it seems, if it comes with plenty of money backing it NAMI may have been grassroots when it got started in California in the 1970s, but it quickly tied itself to pharma. Astroturfing and sockpuppets are two techniques I would associate with just about any successful organization like NAMI.
    If we can’t beat them by being an authentically grassroots coalition of survivors, relatives, health care workers, where will the money come from to make us at least “look” authentically grassroots? I note in passing that this week the US Supreme Court has struck down overall contribution limits for individual political donors (McCutcheon vs FEC).
    Cheers,
    Rossa

  2. Regarding making alliances with NAMI members, I agree with Leah that it can be done, and I have seen it happen.

    But before we can make any alliances, we have to have numbers of our own. There are tens of millions of people in this country who have been inmates of psych wards. Why aren’t they in our movement?

    I have a few tentative answers, but they would take up many pages. Just the same, I think we should start thinking about this. We have a very large potential constituency. Why aren’t we recruiting them?

    • We not only need numbers, but a unified position on what we want.

      As for the questions about the “movement,” I refer people to your 2012 article on the hstory of the “mental patients'” movement before it was squandered to opportunism:

      https://www.madinamerica.com/2012/08/the-history-and-future-of-our-psychiatric-survivor-movement/

      I also suggest that we work on reaffirming the principles espoused in a document which in my opinion reflects the high point to date in terms of movement consciousness: the statement of principles from the 1982 Conference On Human Rights And psychiatric Oppression:

      http://www.mindfreedom.org/kb/act/movement-history/1982-principles

    • There is an easy and sad answer to that: a lot of people who went through that experience are traumatised, made to believe they are defective, isolated, fearful of stigma. It’s much easier for the relatives to organise and devote time, even if they indeed experience hardships through the problems in the family than for the person who’s been through the experience. Victimised people often either still suffer results of what happened to them (trauma, economic hardships, loss of relationships, physical effects of meds and other “treatments”) or they’re trying to escape the past, forget and move on and don’t want to be associated with the demonised “mentally ill”. If you’re member of the family who sacrifices for your loved one that’s heroic and admirable. If you’re a psychiatric survivour you’re treated with suspicion (is he really recovered? is what he’s saying is true or maybe it’s just some delusions? etc.). No wonder many people who managed to escape the system have no interest in coming back to fight it. That’s why it’s so important to incorporate more of the outside allies from both the professional community, legal community and families.

  3. I think that’s an excellent point. One thing that NAMI is not likely to provide (for reasons obvious to most MIA readers) is support for people coming off psych drugs. There is a huge demand for that, and it’s growing all the time. In fact, such support is desperately needed, as it is almost never provided by the “mental health” establishment. I’m aware of a couple groups like this, but they really should be everywhere. Widespread in-real-life mutual aid for people coming off psych drugs would not only ease the suffering of a massive number of people, but also raise awareness of the dangers of psych drugs and generally undercut everything that is dreadfully wrong with NAMI.

    • By the way, I’ve experienced some of what NAMI has to offer in terms of “peer support.” It was surreal and disturbing.
      “Don’t be afraid to go inpatient.”
      “Don’t give up trying to find the right combination of meds.”
      “You should always tell your doctor if you’re feeling suicidal.”
      “A lot of people find ECT to be effective.”
      And on and on…
      And this, as I was suffering severe withdrawal from an SSRI and had already been laughed at, yelled at, toyed with, and dismissed by doctor after doctor, counselor after counselor.

      The really heartbreaking thing is that the facilitator – the person saying these things, and basically reading from a pre-printed NAMI script – obviously believed every word of it. And it was clearly evident that the very “treatments” he was advocating were most likely the causes of many of his own health problems. But I could see it in his eyes; I could see that he thought he was doing the right thing. It’s just so sad. He is probably still there, facilitating those awful meetings because he genuinely believes he is helping others – because that’s what NAMI told him – and blaming himself for not getting better despite all the “treatments” – again, because NAMI told him so. I hate everything that NAMI stands for with a deep and abiding passion. That man is my brother.

  4. I am completely opposed to forced medication under any circumstances and support forced treatment only when there is extreme danger to an individual or to others. I am appalled by Murphy’s proposals. What can I do to help fight this man’s proposed legislation and to become more politically active?

  5. Michael

    What MOST importantly is missing in all that you discuss is a radical vanguard organization of survivors and other dissidents from the mental health system targeting Biological Psychiatry where ever they go and what ever they do. That is, the modern equivalent of Black Panther Party translated into a type of radical mental health liberation movement.

    Think about what actually created the most favorable conditions for civil rights legislation and for Martin Luther King to be now viewed as acceptable to almost every one. Was it not the Malcolm X’s, The Black Panther Party and other more radical dissidents combined with the major urban rebellions in multiple cities that shook this system to its core and forced the arms of government to begrudgingly accept change they so vehemently opposed a few years prior.

    Vanguard organizations always create space for others to act in ways indicating that they (in this case) may not be yet quite ready for the radical dismantling of the current mental health system. There will always be people who will do more mainstream actions pressuring politicians and seeking political reform, but it is the more vanguard groups who eventually capture the imagination and involvement of the masses that ultimately provides the historical engine and conditions for a movement to advance a particular cause.

    Is there not a danger of taking all the radical sentiments and creative energy of many of the activists who participate at MIA and burning them out in the dead end activities and mind numbing game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey or the Elephant. There is nothing more demoralizing than spending precious time trying to lobby all the corrupt and money bought politicians to become something they never will be; that is, true representatives of the people. This type of burning out process and cooptation of activists was one of the things that derailed the movement in the 60’s.

    Should we not aspire to become something more than the radical lobbying equivalent of NAMI with just a different agenda?

    Does getting bogged down fighting for reform ultimately lead to revolution OR does fighting for revolution more often lead to reforms and perhaps, in the right historical conditions, to something much higher and more profound of a political change?

    Don’t misunderstand me. I know that the people who do this type of reform work are very dedicated and have high aspirations, and I admire their hard work, it is just that our movement is currently lacking the vanguard elements at this time. I believe some of us should be focusing our efforts in this direction or we will never have the kind of movement that will go far enough to truly liberate the oppressed.

    Richard

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvC4xq32AX8

      It Isn’t Nice

      Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1964 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1993. This original version of the song was banned from the radio in Japan–in Japanese, but not in English!

      It isn’t nice to block the doorway,
      It isn’t nice to go to jail,
      There are nicer ways to do it,
      But the nice ways always fail.
      It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice,
      You told us once, you told us twice,
      But if that is Freedom’s price,
      We don’t mind.

      It isn’t nice to carry banners
      Or to sit in on the floor,
      Or to shout our cry of Freedom
      At the hotel and the store.
      It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice,
      You told us once, you told us twice,
      But if that is Freedom’s price,
      We don’t mind.

      We have tried negotiations
      And the three-man picket line,1
      Mr. Charlie2 didn’t see us
      And he might as well be blind.
      Now our new ways aren’t nice
      When we deal with men of ice,
      But if that is Freedom’s price,
      We don’t mind.

      How about those years of lynchings
      And the shot in Evers’ back?
      Did you say it wasn’t proper,
      Did you stand upon the track?
      You were quiet just like mice,
      Now you say we aren’t nice,
      And if that is Freedom’s price,
      We don’t mind.

      It isn’t nice to block the doorway,
      It isn’t nice to go to jail,
      There are nicer ways to do it
      But the nice ways always fail.
      It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice,
      But thanks for your advice,
      Cause if that is Freedom’s price,
      We don’t mind.

    • Richard, sooner or later you’re going to say something I disagree with — but it hasn’t happened yet.

      My only response to this post is “What he said”! I’m not spending my time writing to too many congresspeople, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I’d rather spend my energy trying to create the sort of public climate that forces politicians to take notice.

      I saw Gloria Steinem talking on PBS about how women’s activists used to naively think that all women needed to do was show men how reasonable and intelligent their arguments and positions were and the battle would be won. Missing was the understanding of power, which as Frederick Douglas famously said, cedes nothing without a demand.

      We need to become more demanding, and fast!

      • Wow, this discussion really speaks to me. I will just add my simple thoughts as I am moved to.
        I have seen the issues we are concerned with as paralleling those of the civil rights movement, and many other movements of people pushing back against oppressive power. My inner conflict involves an almost lifelong sense of hopelessness (I was born soon after MLK – and so many others – were murdered), and a powerful unwillingness to give up in spite of that hopelessness.
        While we need a unified message and voice, it is also true that we can make room for more radical and more conservative voices to co-exist under one umbrella. MLK was not a black panther, for instance, but really, all those diverse forces were moving in the same direction. Nothing happens without a strong consensus and that is what we need, as I interpret Richard’s words to be saying.
        Sadly, the civil rights movement, though achieving what looked like a win (perhaps in large part due to our government’s need to not look like such hypocrites as we preached “freedom” to Russia), we see now another form of enslavement – the incarceration of, what is it? 1 in 3 black men? (!!!!!)
        For those of you who have seen it, The big Lebowski yells at the dude, “the bums will always lose…” and a part of me believes that – because history has shown this to be true – he with the larger weapon wins, right? But a stronger part of me knows I will never stop speaking truth to power because I live here on this earth, too, and I can’t stand by and watch in silence as another human being is transformed, in the short space of a year, into a zombie.
        We know of more flexible solutions to problems. And we can disperse our knowledge far and wide – winning hearts and minds is the key. And we can do that. Human rights issues touch every other human. Sadly, it IS about marketing – big pharma knows this very well. And we need to become equally sophisticated.
        How we use language is important – Leah makes this excellent point below. We need to be aware of the cultural discourse and the fact that our voices can easily be dismissed based on assumptions about “anti-psychiatry” and what that is.
        Again, as I may have mentioned before – I am really thankful for the amazing voices in this forum.

  6. Inspiring article, Michael. The elephant in the room here is CCHR. The smear campaign against CCHR has been so effective that we are willing to discriminate against people, people who not only share our valid concerns but who are willing to put their money where their mouths are. And the bottom line is that Psychiatry is all about discrimination. Building broad coalitions is the way movements succeed. I’m working on the Justina Pelletier case right now. There are 30 thousand people reading the families’ “Miracle For Justina” facebook page.The Lyme’s Disease community is activated. As I was contacting people to provide resources for the Pelletiers, one person I contacted did not want anything to do with it because Liberty Counsel has gotten involved. This, IMO, is a moment for us all to examine our own personal bigotries and GET OVER THEM. Either we are against the thought police or we are not. If we are against the thought police than we have to defend perspectives that don’t jive with our own. Broaden our coalitions, make it local, WE CAN DO THIS. The Justina case is the perfect way to introduce the issues because every single person who reads about this case understands that what is happening to Justina could happen to anyone. People are getting it.

      • I don’t get the sense that the root causes and source of the problem have been identified on the “Miracle for Justina” page– and there is so much animosity directed at Boston Children’s Hospital, our governor, legislators– judge Johnston.– the whole state of Massachusetts (for crying out loud!)

        A growing- in numbers- angry mob– with no clear insight or direction. I attribute the derailment of their message to the ‘take over’ by right winged “spokes people” and “patient rights” advocates. Will be a formidable challenge to re- focus this large group on the true target–

    • Great points, Nancy! I have also thought that Justina’s case could be very instrumental in giving us some needed traction because of the very thing you mention: it’s appeal to the common sense and heart of every person who realizes they or their loved one could also
      fall victim to the draconian triumvirate of biopsychiatry, government agencies and the courts! Perhaps this will lead to a “Justina’s Law” to bring some real oversight (with teeth!) to this out-of-control 3-headed beast!

  7. How hard can it be to compete with NAMI when the TRUTH is on our side ?

    Hey everyone, don’t forget to call NAMI and tell them how you feel !

    1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264), Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., EST. Business callers, including those seeking particular NAMI staff members, should call 1 (703)524-7600.

    • Unfortunately, many people in Congress don’t think the truth is on our side. Same for all the state legislatures that passed involuntary commitment legislation.

      Somehow, we need to mobilize and come up with a focused pointed message to make our case. I don’t have a clue how to do that but that is why I am posting.

      Regarding contacting NAMI, do we have any proof that doing so is having an effect? I would think it would just be easy for them to simply blow us off as anti psychiatry kooks.

      But perhaps I am missing something.

  8. We have to be sophisticated in our messaging. Going on and on about the evils of “psychiatry” and “drugging” is exactly the kind language that will get us nowhere in terms of reaching hearts and minds. This is so much bigger than psychiatry or drugs. I say end the “drug hypocrisy” and let people have their drugs. Harm reduction and informed consent for licit and illicit drugs.

    In my opinion we need to focus around forced treatment and say that it has no place in health care. Otherwise it just feeds into Murphy’s arguments that we are a bunch of “anti psychiatry” fringe people who don’t care about human suffering and don’t want people to access support in a crisis. We have to be smart and sophisticated if we want to impact the debate.

    • I have stopped using the term “big pharma” and try to say things like “the marketing departments of the large pharmaceutical companies” instead, that easy but I still like to use the word rape to describe “involuntary pharmaceutical interventions”.

      I agree we do need to to distance ourselves from the “war on drugs” that is very unpopular with many many people.

      Anyway the old saying goes “give them enough rope and they will hang themselves” might apply here as these forced treatment laws are going to create even more activists.

      INVOLUNTARY COMMITMENT An unconstitutional and horrifyingly abused legal process by which– in the absence of any destructive activity, and on nothing more than the word of a single mental health worker people are stripped of civil/human rights and imprisoned in a psychiatric facility, with no form of recourse whatsoever. An often terrifying and destructive ordeal whose only positive effect is to inspire activism against the abuses of psychiatry.

    • OK what are you saying here? “Going on about the evils of psychiatry and drugging” is our job, isn’t it? Are you suggesting that we water down our basic principles to make the supposedly confused, misled public more sympathetic? I’m seriously asking, because i don’t believe that’s what you mean, but if being anti-psychiatry is a “fringe” position it means to me that we haven’t done our educational work well enough. Should we be like women who preface boldly assertive statements with “I’m not a feminist but…”? If people react to false stereotypes of what it means to be anti-psychiatry we need to educate them, not hem and haw and say “I’m not anti-psychiatry but…” I for one AM 100% anti-psychiatry and believe that we all should be, though I have no oposition to coalitions where unity around particular issues can be achieved without sacrificing our integrity.
      So I guess what we all need at some point asap is a friendly collective discussion/debate around such matters, since we should not be pretending to be united when there are significant divisions around philosophy & tactics. This is not an awful thing, but if we seriously want to attempt to defeat some very dangerous legislation we need to define where we stand ourselves or we will lose.

      I hope Ted C. doesn’t mind me citing his articles over & over but in this case I recommend his 2013 MIA article on this very issue:
      https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/10/course-im-anti-psychiatry-arent/

      • Oldhead, it’s not about what is “correct” factually. It’s about who is winning the hearts and minds of the American people? It’s Torrey, et al. And until we get our s–t together and communicate in a way that people can actually sympathize with and understand and care about, we will lose the war. The Murphys of the world will win America’s heart and influence public opinion and law ever more towards the shit we DON’T want.

        Please spare me the sanctimonious lecture me about “watering down a message.” Psychiatry killed my parents, and it almost killed me. I am no fan of psychiatry. But going on about the “evils of biological psychiatry,” while 100% scientifically correct, will not win this battle of public opinion. Psychiatry is here. Mental health systems are here. You have to find a place you can begin to work from. That place for me is force — not psychiatry or the medical model as a whole. Call me a sellout, I call it reaching people’s hearts and minds.

        I would like to see some real social change. That is my goal. I’m attempting to use language that everyday human beings – the people not connected with our movement – and politicians can understand. I want offer real alternative solutions, not just bitch about the problem. I want to be able to influence the local and national conversations that go on without me to adopt trauma informed approaches and stop hurting people in the name of treatment.

        Let me break down for you in PR terms. If folks want to be 100% “radical” they will be 100% “right,” but they come off as a smug, holier than though a$$holes. Also, generally offering no real world solutions other than shutting down “biological psychiatry?” It’s super easy for the Murphys and Torreys of the world to dismiss and ignore this rhetoric.

        We have to ask ourselves: do care more about being 100% right on every point than we are on actually influencing social change? How much of a dent has it made in the public discourse? How much influence will we have in actually trying to change the current reality?

        I am for ending forced treatment forever and ensuring no one’s human and civil rights are ever violated again in the name of help. Murphy has given us the opportunity to attack force. Let’s be smart about it and move beyond just slinging our own brand of propaganda.

        • OK thanks for giving a thoughtful articulation of your position. I’d like to respond point by point & hope others join, but it’s late Saturday night and this is too important for me to just start throwing sound bites off the top of my head. I’m sure our commonalities outweigh our differences and that on some points we probably agree but are trying to say the same thing in different ways.

          BTW I wouldn’t have the presumptive arrogance to call you a “sellout” or anything close for having a different take than me (I know nothing about you but what you write) & am sorry you took my comment as a “lecture,” cuz if you check I expressed it as a question. I’m sincerely sorry to hear of you & your family’s experiences at the hands of this system. The reason I’m raising this stuff is because I don’t want this fight to be lost any more than you do.

          • O yeah, I meant to emphasize that I WILL post a comprehensive response very shortly, not just tonight. I’m not just blowing this off to go party or something. 🙂

        • Everyone is entitled to their own way of doing things which might involve collective action or it may individual resistance. People will know what their strengths are and I think we need to respect their choices.

          As sure as anyone says I should be doing this or that then I will do the opposite, being non-conformist and a psychiatric survivor activist. I survived psychiatric treatment which was a bigger trauma than anything else life threw at me.

          • I would never say this is the right way or the only strategy. It’s the strategy that makes sense for me. I think we are not reaching people, and that makes me sad because we have an important message.

            I am all about people fighting oppression in whatever way makes sense to them. The more the merrier.

        • You’re totally right. The way I see it is there has to be more pressure on presenting the science. I’ve listened to a lot of different hearings and testimonies and my impression is: while it’s all nice and well to bring in some people to tell their heart wrenching stories and even better yet to bring in some who recovered from serious “mental illness” by alternative methods that’s not enough. There are numerous scientific peer reviewed studies (many reported and reviewed on this site) on the problems of drugs and their inefficacy – the articles on antidepressants and placebo, WHO study and others on antipsychotics and long-term recovery, studies on ADHD drug impact etc. And yet I have not seen anyone going in front of a committee and listing them the facts and giving out a printout of cited literature. Show them we’re not a bunch of anti-scientific crybabies with a tendency for conspiracy theories. There is enough data to use, just prepare yourself for like an evening before and answer their claims about being anti-psychiatry with saying you’re pro-science and the science is as follows. Most people don’t even know that ADHD drugs contain amphetamine and meth – you have to tell them that, but not by saying “it’s a kiddy cocaine” but in a calm scientific way, read them a label of the actual drug and the chemical name of it. The information is really easy to find, it’s just waiting to be used.

        • So Leah, the thing I don’t get is the notion that there is a contradiction between being correct and being part of the grassroots consciousness. Having experienced the gulag, we are by definition in a better position than most to lead the struggle to overcome it; however, there’s nothing that complicated about what we want, and if we can achieve some working unity within our own circles we’ll be in a better position to effectively educate others. But first we need some consensus on what constitutes “education,” or at least, again, a conscious working unity between differing perspectves within the movement.

          I would never pose working within the system against working without; people need to do what they do best, at all levels. But we do need to have some unapologetic unified demands and the backbone to stand up to paper bullies like this Tim Murphy (who is undoubtedly a figurehead) and his cronies. We have to lose the illusion that they can be swayed by reasonable arguments, even if we present them anyway for the record or for the benefit of exposing the official hypocrisy. In the end these people
          do not answer to us, but to those who support their careers.

          Whenever I hear about hearts & minds I unavoidably think of the crude and sexist quote alternately attributed to FDR, LBJ, John Wayne, etc: “When you’ve got them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow.” While we may eschew the neanderthal phrasing, the same principle applies to Torrey, etc.: They currently have us up against the wall, shall we say, because they control the information flow; not because they have more reasonable sounding ideas than us, but because they can. If we had a fraction of their media saturation; funds for hi-tech 24-7 commercials on TV on the fraud being perpetrated in the name of compassion; our publications being required reading for high school and college students, etc. etc. we could defeat this juggernaut.

          I don’t actually know what Richard means by “biological psychiatry”; to me all psychiatry is biological since a medical degree is a prerequisite for being a psychiatrist. That aside, I don’t think the recognition that there can not be such a thing as mental illness even if we wanted there to be, is too much to communicate: that diseases happen to physical bodies, which are composed of matter, not to abstract non-physical conceptions such as “mind”; that the mind is not the brain; that “mental illness” is a figure of speech, i.e. a metaphor; that metaphors are abstractions and cannot have diseases; hence there can be no “mental illness.” This is actually something a linguist has more critical expertise on than does a physician, since it involves the blatant misuse of language.

          Of course this can be explained better in some ways to this audience, in others to that. But I just don’t think it’s a stretch to hope for the so-called mainstream to come our way, as many people do have an instictual distrust of psychiatry and just need to have their suspicions confirmed with credible information.

          Lest I come across as pontificating to Leah, these thoughts are addressed to folks at large; Leah has my appreciation for coherently voicing sentiments that I know others share as well.

          Before sgning off I want to comment on the frequent use of the word “radical” in an almost perjorative way, with connotations of ridiculously extreme, unrealistically utopian, even violent beliefs. But most people who identify their approach as “radical” relate it to the latin radic, or “root,” as in going to the root of the problem. It is the corporate media mentality that keeps people dumbed down with stereotypes of “crazy radicals,” just as it does with images of “violent psychotics.” A radical analysis of any problem is one that goes to the core of that problem, which sounds like a reasonable approach to me.

          • oldhead, I like you. And I wish I could have gone back and edited and toned down my earlier comment. I didn’t mean to be so snarky and angry, I was just tired after a long day, and got all prickly at the suggestion that I am advocating watering down our position. Note to self: no commenting while exhausted.

            I think you’re right, we do agree on most things.

            I love radicals. I’d like to think I still am one. My roots in this movement started out giving workshops on psychiatric oppression to young anarchist activists at the National Conference on Organized Resistance in DC. And at heart, I still resonate with the beautiful ideals of that movement.

            What I get frustrated with is how people don’t know about us. Most of us who discovered this movement, did it by accident, not because it is know that there is an alternative to the medical model. I don’t want us to be so underground anymore.

            How can we work together, folks who are working inside and outside of systems, to be heard and to effect the kinds of change we’d like to see?

          • To the point on the media: I think that with the use of the internet the role of traditional mass media outlets is declining. Maybe one could try to target some of the popular internet media platforms, which have huge youth following? One good example is the youtube news channel the Young Turks. They often conduct interviews (check up TYT interviews) on political and social issues. One could try to contact them and ask if they want to do an interview with someone from the movement. They cover stories on veterans, mass shootings and abuse of mentally ill by police and prison system, they may accept the opportunity for someone, maybe a book author;), to come on a programme and give some background about these issues. These guys have a huge online audience, one should use it. I’d also contact Democracy Now!, they also cover stories on human and civil rights issues, that’s pretty much their mission and they have recently addressed the problem of drugging of veterans. They are very open to doing interviews with grassroots organisations and do really good, in-depth reporting.

          • Let me sneak in one last comment 0r two before this thread fades away as they tend to do…

            Leah, I’m glad you’re not pissed off at me, but please don’t waste too much energy trying not to offend me or whatever. If you wait till you’re in the perfect mood (whatever that might be) to say something important you might never say it. (I sometimes feel the only objectively appropriate mood is to be in a constant state of outrage.)

            Anyway I completely share your frustration about our lack of visibility and it is encouraging to see a lot of people participating in this conversation. And I believe we can find answers in time to have an effect, but time is running out on being able to stop this Murphy thing.

            Btw i concede that it’s easier for me to do this discussion since I am not currently trying to do hands-on organizing (tho i have in the past), and thus am participating here on a mostly theoretical level. On one hand i think this allows me to be more objective in some ways On the other I recognize that practice generally trumps theory. So in no way do I consider myself a “purist” of any sort.

            When we talk about in or outside the system it’s relative; strictly speaking anyone who votes, pays taxes, sends their kids to school, applies for a marriage license, etc. is part of the system; and those who work “inside” the system frequently have no effective decision-making power within their institutions and organizations.

            Maybe there’s some way for MIA to keep this action-oriented discussion alive when this particular NAMI-focused discussion dissipates or slips off the board.

          • To B — It’s necessary to get the left conscious about psychiatric oppression, but don’t be shocked when otherwise progressive circles react with obliviousness, and even when covering a psych-related issue do it from an essentially clueless perspective. The left is heavily invested in the notion of rationalism and they see psychiatry as an enlightened approach to emotional suffering, if anything in need of more funding for more “research.” It is a blind spot which will hold back progress since understanding psychiatric repression is key to understanding people’s collective tendency to restrain themselves politically when circumstances are ripe and objectively there is no need to do so.

          • “The left is heavily invested in the notion of rationalism and they see psychiatry as an enlightened approach to emotional suffering”
            That’s why it’s our job to show them that’s wrong. There is plenty of good independent yet peer-reviewed research around to point to and if people are just willing to get beyond the label of anti-psychiatry (and possible connection to Scientology that often turns people away by the sheer association) I think we have a good chance.
            I think if you explain to people that we’re not so much ANTI-psychiatry but pro-ALTERNATIVE psychiatry (much the anti-globalisation movement relabelled itself to alter-globalism, which is much more in line with their goals) they may be willing to give you a chance to explain.
            Also: progressives are usually very conscious about the human rights issues and that is aligned with our interests. The problems of veterans, gun regulation and money in politics influencing legislation are very important to them and each and everyone of these issues is also our issue and touches on the key problems with psychiatry: side effects of drugs, lack of sensible alternative treatment and social support of traumatised people, stigmatising of mentally ill, influence of big farma on policy making etc. If you start from these issues and show with real data how they are connected to the pathology of the psychiatric system any reasonable progressive is going to be on your side.
            I think it’s just a matter of strategy: I think you have to talk differently to different people. Some people respond better to real life stories and empathise, some people won’t listen unless you give them a review of literature. There is nothing wrong with that, and we could and should do both.

        • Guys, I’ve mentioned contacting alternative media. Democracy Now! has actually a contact site that allows you to suggest stories you want to see covered:
          http://www.democracynow.org/contact?to=1
          I don’t know how well that works but I guess if multiple people ask about a discussion of the Murphy’s bill and suggest some representatives from our side (any volunteers?) to be invited on the show we may have a chance. Is anyone with me?

          • Democracy Now! had TAC’s recent report in one of their headlines recently. I called and pitched a story on their pitch line, and they never responded. I also contact them via Twitter, and no response.

            It would be great if more people would reach out to them and explain that this is a civil rights and social justice issue they need to hear from us on. Suggest some specific guests, and why they would be good guests.

          • I’ll try thought their recommend topic site I’ve linked. I think it may need a certain volume to reach their ears but I think it’s worth a try.

          • After you post the story suggestion they have a disclaimer saying that due to the large number of posts they are not answering most individual messages. That’s to be expected. There needs to be a bigger number of people contacting them about the problem for them to think it’s worth to address. That’s why it’s important we do that together. Anyone has idea whom we could also target?

          • “I wonder if local progressive stations across the country like KPFA in the bay area” I think we should contact everyone: it really does not take a lot of time to send an email, tweet or even call. If anyone has any specific contact data to media outlets please let everybody know.

    • You are definitely correct. A place for the diplomats. I am afraid I lack that talent myself. It would be interesting to know what lies in Murphy’s heart. Or is it his pocket book that cries out for sustenance? These politicians generally are bottom feeders and have few scruples and few morals. But they can kiss a baby and sound the sentimental note when circumstance requires it. Personally I am afraid we have as a society sunk so low that it may take hitting the bottom before any upward movement is possible. I knew a lady who was forced to take an anti-psychotic–Resperdol. She was given no information about the drug and might have drown. I looked up the side effects and read them to her. Quite irresponsible. I have known a number of psychiatrists. A few were decent enough but only one was looking for alternatives and trying something with success called True Hope Empower Plus–a micro nutrient formula. Many are fairly low minded and part of a spinning wheel. Going along, getting along, charging a good fee for a few minutes of observation then writing out a prescription with little idea of what the drug will do. There is no way to tell in advance: suicide, murder, bank robbery, sexual assault, no effect at all, a seeming good effect . . . seizures, brain damage. You place yourself on the wheel and no one knows where it will stop.
      We must consult the Shadow that knows what lurks in the hearts of men (of women too).

      • It’s not just the drugs though, so focusing on that misses the many ways we are coerced. Seclusion, shock, having to behave to get access to fresh air, having to go to your appointments on time, and follow your treatment plan (which you had no part in choosing). I am focusing on all of force which for sure includes forced medication.

        • Well it was the drugs they injected in to me by force that I remember. The pulling my pants down, some of them holding me down, men included, so as to make me take the chlorpromazine. This happened until I took the syrup then the pills. The force is linked to the drugs in my mind. Symbiotic twins.

          These drugs invade your personhood, take away your personality, decision-making abilities, sense of humour (for me) and I wasn’t even able to sing which I do all the time. Taking away my voice. My freedom.

          For me it’s all about the drugs. The paradox of the powers that be forcing psych drugs on us but criminalising the folk who take recreational drugs. It’s all about money, profit, and keeping us under control. Let’s be clear about this. It’s not democratic, never was. More like a totalitarian state of mind. We really do all need to wake up and smell the coffee.

  9. Hi Leah,

    You make some good points but here is my concern.

    Forced drugging sounds good to Murphy and his supporters because it can be quickly implemented. If we claim it has no place, what do we offer in its place that sounds feasible to these folks?

    Isn’t the whole reason for the Murphy legislation due to feeling what is available right now isn’t working even though we think it works great? I am not trying to give you hard time but simply am trying to understand what is going on so we are in a position to fight smartly.

    • Whats going on is they are making these laws to get people in crisis or with undesirable behaviors chemically lobotomized with things like these nueroleptic “depot injections”.

      We are witnessing a major expansion of the chemical prison industry (assisted outpatient treatment). They use all kinds of “studies” that prove apathetic chemically lobotomized people on forced nueroleptics have less arrests, hospitalizations and are less of a burden on society.

      The call what they are doing “treatment” for “illness” to sell the idea to the public as medical care.

      • Great and so what? I can tell you that the general public does not care as long as they get rid of them problem. Most people don’t see themselves as potential victims before it happens to them personally and truly believe that the doctors know what they’re doing and the force is used only in most dire circumstances. Let’s get these crazy disruptive individuals somewhere out of sight when they will for sure get the needed and compassionate care.
        What you have to do is not only to show that these methods are inhumane but to stress that a) they can be applied to anyone even for a minor transgression (get the people to empathise with you) b) show the actual studies proving they’re ineffective. Show the link to INCREASE in antisocial an violent behaviour. I have not seen one person during any hearing bringing these things up. It’s all about “coercive psychiatry is bad because it hurt me”. It may be a valid point but not the one which is going to convince the public. Tell them about increases suicidality, bring up the connection to mass shootings, the WHO study on the anti-psychotic. I feel like the movement is concentrating too much on civil and human rights and not enough on hard science. Right now people are left with the picture: “psychiatry isn’t perfect but it can help to keep these self-harming and potentially dangerous mentally ill people under control by drugs which help them”. Well, you have to take each and every claim in this sentence and show the evidence to the contrary: not opinions, not personal testimony (though they can be supportive) but actual studies. And don’t talk about diagnosis – you won’t at this point convince anyone who has seen someone with a psychotic episode it’s not an illness. That’s a long and complicated discussion you want to avoid because in a short time people usually have to present their views you’ll look like you’re denying reality before they get your point.

  10. Perhaps then we might find ourselves in the not so distant future chaining the mad to walls. Forcing these extremely dangerous drugs on people is worse though it has a nice genteel appearance. It is hard for me to believe the sponsors of this sort of treatment should have anything to do with “mentally ill”. When you force something on someone you load a spring which at some future time will spring outward. Hence, the meaning behind the word impassioned.

    What we need is listen therapy. People capable of deep listening and loving speech. There is fine anecdote of Dr. Milton Erikson when he was interning in a mental hospital. He sat for long periods of a time with man who was unintelligible and uncommunicative and began imitating the man’s behavior. Finally one day the man said: Why are you doing that? Dr. Erickson had “listened” into the man’s reality.

    But Americans believe profoundly in the rewards of violence. They always have. And since crazy people are scary they merit some firm even violent treatment to shock them back into the shape we desire! Primitive? Yes, of course. Ignorance seeks to destroy what it can not grasp. And, hey, there is campaign money to be gotten by fattening the drug companies. And they seem to be rather psychopathic strangers to the human.

    Fallujah is the perfect monument to the fruit of violence. Now the most contaminated place on the earth and creating a multitude of deformed babies!

  11. You make some good points especially “to provide better alternatives” but here’s the catch 22 that is most always discussed in one liners. Most anyone that has come out the other end of the comprehensive psych-gulog has had to think on their feet and has had to draw on everything within themselves to survive. They’ve seen others better then themselves fall by the wayside, been able to help others, been lucky or ran into miracles,at times given up and attempted to end there own lives and gotten help from friends and strangers from outside the gulag along the way and sometimes had to invent survival techniques and modalities themselves never seen before by anyone else. I know I have. Now where and how in the world can these be presented to their fellow human beings so full of educations, vested interests,Belief in Double blind multimillion dollar trials monopolized and designed by our enemies,brainwashings,and even our would be peers building barriers to even listening to new discoveries by fellow so called peers ,barriers ,out of words out of context like, everybody’s different, we gotta go by” best practices”, where’s your credentials I’m in academia,It may work but I don’t see how we can make any money out of this, I’m glad it works for you. Catch 22 on alternatives originating from individual peers.They are there but they are not there ?

  12. And ten years from now, I will be stunned by the shock claimed by the government and the general public when we watch another Geraldo expose. Of course, that was 1972 (at Willowbrooks, and even though it was reminiscent to watching America’s own Holocaust on the evening news, it must not have been that shocking. You see, that was the end result of what they called a “moral imperative” promising access to the best possible help too. I wonder how many empty pairs of shoes those facilities would account for if we really sat down and ran the numbers. Though it won’t be a popular consideration, I sometimes think how the (roughly estimated) 12 mass shootings since the 1970’s seem to capture the public’s disgust when compared to the 100’s of thousands that died in the “care” of institutions, the 100,000 of forced lobotomies, the over 60,000 that were forcibly sterilized… I know that loss is loss, regardless of the number of casualties… but there’s never been a knee jerk legislation by congress in response to those numbers.

  13. Well, psychiatry as we know it would have to be entirely demolished. It’s not effective, its extremely biased, morally repugnant, and their refusal to expand their options for treatment to anything that doesn’t give huge kick back to them along the way has made them more than greedy and dangerous, I would say they have set back possible options for people with mental illness fifty years. Psychology, while heavily dependent on some of the same schools of thought lacks the bias and is considerably more willing to branch out their studies. While I would still encourage therapy and certain medications of the mentally ill, I would say it was also important to embrace a stand that if the disorder is not a problem in your or other’s lives, the options of choosing to like yourself and do everything that everyone else does would be a A PLUS. Another important step I think we could consider is a very public campaign making people aware of dishonesty regarding mental illness in politics and the media, and work towards being established as a suspect class which we should’ve been years ago instead of allowing more power through the establishment of the ADA. If you remember, Adam Lanza was repeatedly called autistic in the media at the beginning, but a brief discussion with representation for a group of representatives for one of the autism volunteer groups, shut that up immediately. The same could and should have been done for mental illness ages ago.

  14. Given that the APA has had such a great victory in expanding their powers perhaps we should send all their members a gift. Maybe a small death head badge to remind them of the glorious days when psychiatrists had real power. How restrained they must feel in this genetically corrupted society we live in that could be cleansed if only the politicians would unshackle them from these humanitarian chains.

    Oh well, you work with what your given eh? (/sarcasm)

    Thank you for your article Dr Cornwall. I agree that their is a need for a multi faceted approach to combat these people. One area is certainly their historical roots. Volpes pilum mutat non mores (the wolf can change its fur, but not its nature). It’s the same brutality, in a different package.

    • I don’t think the board lets you reply to a reply to a reply or something. I saw your article but have only scanned it so far so will respond later.

      Btw the way I crammed that last post in was by making it a reply to one of my own previous posts.

  15. Great article. I just want to comment that this can be confusing (especially when you’ve been regaled in the Russian language):

    “Part of our political power base was the mental health workers’ independent labor union that had also mastered the long march through the institutions. ”

    “Through the institutions” is a lot like, if you would have said: “by means of the institutions,” which is exactly the opposite that you wanted to say.

    It’s just a bit like “With the institutions,” as if it’s by means of them. I’m just mentioning this because I DID see this happen. A lady was inspired by me to go to a Mind Freedom convention, and she expected the people on the board of where she was getting the money to have read what it was about, which wasn’t the case (even though there’s online easily accessible info). So they were there already, by means of the very institution which the get together was meant to be against.

    It’s like: let’s say one has the most beautiful 3/4 sized violin in existence; but you HATE the people that rate these things, sell them; and all the like:

    Do you:

    1) Never play on it consequently.
    2) Have it in your heart that you wanted it to be appraised by who you HATE, and thus resent that only you know it’s worth; which causes extreme stress, and converts you into an old Troll when you wanted to be a Millionaire and sell the instrument.
    3) Try to make a time machine for when you didn’t have the instrument.
    4) Become amazed that what you thought you never had was there the whole time, along with the amazing fact that there never was any need for you to feel guilty that you were unaware of it’s existence. And play and play and play and play and play like the world would never end.

  16. Hi,

    Lots of great points made here. I wanted to pose the question of what is being done to protect peoples’ current legal rights in the psychiatric system?

    I am a “psychiatric survivor” of more than 20 involuntary hospitalizations, all starting when I had a manic reaction to being prescribed an antidepressant. When I was first hospitalized, I was shocked at how little access I had to true due process under law. How could it be legal to treat me this way?

    When I got out, I did a lot of research to try to figure out what the laws were, whether my “treatment” had been legal under those laws, and if there was a way to safeguard my rights should I find myself in a similar situation in the future. The most promising thing I came across was the concept of a Psychiatric Advance Directive. In theory if I state in a legal document, while of sound mind, that I do not give my consent to receive forced drugging or other forms of treatment, I should be legally protected from having this administered to me should I be put under coercive psychiatric care in the future. Of course, enforcement of this at the time would depend on my having an agent willing to insist upon it, as anyone who has experienced psychiatric hospitalization can attest that once inside that system, your credibility and ability to access resources is minimal.

    It seems to me that this is a lever to force some possible change in how people are treated in these coercive situations. Is anyone aware of situations where a Psychiatric Advance Directive has been in place, and how it has affected a course of “treatment”?

    I am also interested in getting involved in reform efforts. What is a good way to find out what is currently going on and find out about groups I might like to join? There is much talk of having a grassroots movement, what is actually involved in doing this? How can I find a local grassroots movement? What can the “mental health rights” movement learn from analogous movements in our country’s recent history, such as the Civil Rights and gay rights movements?

  17. NAMI is “lobbying power of the corporate drug industry”. I’ve just went to their website our of curiosity and after reading several pages of corporate speech means drug ads I decided to check out their funding. Here you go:
    https://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Major_Foundation_and_Corporate_Support
    For example in the last quarter of 2013 NAMI got several contributions from companies like Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Genentech and Johnson & Johnson. If you look up the other quarters the picture looks similar. I wonder why they would be pro-drug. It’s a sham organisation really and while the people at the so-called grassroots may be real and buy to what they’re trying to sell others the funding speaks for itself. It’s not even hidden as dark money, it’s in plain sight.

  18. In my forthcoming book Liberty & Mental Health – You Can’t Have One Without the Other – I make three recommendations 1. – The Koran algorithm (Many mental health programs are not staffed with physicians practiced in medical diagnosis and thus are unprepared to detect a large proportion of physical diseases in their patients. As described elsewhere, California’s state mental health programs fail to detect many diseases that could be causing or exacerbating psychiatric disorders”- A Medical Algorithm for Detecting Physical Disease in Psychiatric Patients, Hospital and Community Psychiatry Vol. 40 No. 12 Dec 1989 )should be used regularly at emergency rooms when people are brought in for evaluations, as well as before anyone is committed to a psychiatric hospital, or is sent to prison. Ideally the Koran algorithm should be performed by general practitioners every three to five years beginning around puberty and continuing to middle age when initial onset of mental health problems begins to wane.

    2. Screening for trauma (the symptoms of which are nearly identical to those in the DSM series) should be done prior to labeling anyone as mentally ill. Trauma screening should be done before anyone, particularly our youth, are sent to correctional institutions, as well as by general practitioners. The various non-drug trauma treatment methods need to be integrated into the mental health system.
    3. Checking magnesium levels (Magnesium is essential in regulating central nervous system excitability thus magnesium deficiency may cause aggressive behavior, depression, or suicide. Magnesium calms the brain and people do not need to become severely deficient in magnesium for the brain to become hyperactive.. a marginal magnesium intake overexcites the brain’s neurons and results in less coherence – creating cacophony rather than symphony – according to electroencephalogram (EEG) measurements. …Transdermal Magnesium Therapy ©2007 by Mark Sircus, Ac., O.M.D pg. 5) should become routine in the mental health system, as well as in prisons and youth correctional facilities. Ideally they should also be done by general physicians.
    I also present various other useful information, such as Reality Therapy & Choice Theory – .. people exhibiting maladjustment were not to be considered as mentally ill, but examples of ways people choose to behave when they feel thwarted in the attempt to satisfy any of the five basic needs. What others consider to be mental illness, he saw as ways in which huge numbers of people choose to deal with the pain of loneliness or disconnection in order to avoid even greater pain. Choosing intense symptoms such as depression and anxiety keeps angering under control, and enables people to avoid what they are afraid of doing.