David W. Oaks’ Statement of Support for Protest of 2014 American Psychiatric Association Meeting

David W. Oaks, co-founder and former Director of MindFreedom
David W. Oaks, co-founder and former Director of MindFreedom

Thanks for everyone who supports the peaceful protest of the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting in New York City on May 4, 2014. Thanks to MindFreedom and allied groups who organized this event. Thanks to my friend, President of MFI, Celia Brown. Thanks to my friend Lauren Tenney, you are a great example of our movement doing our own media. Thanks to my friend Jim Gottstein from PsychRights who flew all the way from Alaska. There are too many wonderful people to mention here! Thanks to the millions of people all over the world who want real change in the mental health system.

As never before, we all need to support the activist, independent part of our movement that engages in such effective protest. Let me ask you a question today:

If Cesar Chavez and his farm worker movement had gotten a few thousand dollars from the government, and the farm industry gave his leaders grants and conferences, would we  have seen the historic, successful Grape Boycott protest?

Please understand me, there is an important role for system funding. I directed MindFreedom for 25 years and we always supported our friends who took tax payer money for good programs, though I am proud that we did not. The moment I broke my neck in an accident, I sought and received important government money that is crucial to my independence. I am grateful for that taxpayer help.

However, activist protest is required. How can protest be funded by the system itself? As never before, we must support the independent part of our movement. Mild reform has been used for centuries to build the mental health system. Please chant with me if you wish:
“There’s one peaceful solution: Revolution! Revolution!” (Repeat twice at least!)

What is the value of changing the mental health system alone, if the climate crisis wrecks Earths ecosystem?

Martin Luther King said over and over that the world is in dire need of an International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. I will join with MindFreedom to celebrate Creative Maladjustment Week July 7 to 14. Here are my five creatively maladjusted tips for supporting the independent movement:

1.  Donate today and very often. You can also go to MindFreedom’s website and set up autopay to give every month. Cesar Chavez said that poor people would get exactly the kind of social change movement that they are willing to fund themselves.

2.  Lead On: Your time is needed in the independent movement. Yes there is room for a few lone wolves. But for most of us, we work best in a team. Join a board, lead a committee, multiply your time.

3.  You are the media, especially today. Last month, The Wall Street Journal editorialized against out movement naming MindFreedom by name. But before we complain are we acting as our own media? Take some photo’s and video, report some facts and quotes, post to your blog or social media.

4.  You are Human Spirit. In my decades in our mad movement, I have met many psychiatric survivors who have experience forced drugs, electroshock, solitary confinement, homelessness, and torture. Yet these survivors have continued to peacefully help our troubled planet and each other. We are unconquerable. Never ever give up!

5.  Support one another! One of the biggest challenges over my decades in our movement is that we are spread all over the world. You may feel alone or overwhelmed. But you are a leader in a nonviolent revolution that most of the planet supports. Raise your arms to give and get a hug from one another now, at this protest or at home. I wish I could join you, but from my home in Oregon I will hug my loved ones. Finally, if you wish you may also join me in that chant: “There’s one peaceful solution: Revolution! Revolution!” (Repeat twice at least!).

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. It was a wonderful protest.

    Perhaps nothing underscores better the different people interested in putting an end to psychiatric power under control than this graphic by The Boston Globe titled “The Faces of ‘Free Justina'”,


    While the Justina Pelletier controversy deals only with one aspect of coercive psychiatry – its ability to trump parental and minors’ rights as long as some psychiatrist can claim the victim suffers from an invented disease listed in the DSM- it has served to underscore that the fight for civil rights has a very wide appeal.

    I was glad to see the #freejustina t-shirts but also the references against the Tim Murphy bill and the rest of the classic “anti psychiatry” message. There are many conservatives like yours truly who are strongly opposed to the power grab that the Tim Murphy bill represents.

    Thank you very much for organizing this protest!

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