There has, at one time or another, been talk among psychiatric survivors, mental health consumers, and former mental patients about operating an Underground Railroad for people oppressed by psychiatry. As a part of this need, of more recent date, and related to it, this talk has evolved around the idea of creating safe places, dubbed Landing Zones, for people facing involuntary outpatient commitment orders. Involuntary outpatient commitment, often misleadingly referred to as assisted outpatient treatment, almost invariably means forced drugging.
As some psychiatric facilities are being downsized, and others are being shut down, involuntary outpatient commitment orders have become the government’s new way for dealing with non-compliant mental patients. These commitment orders usually involve sentencing the person suspected of “mental illness” to a drug taking regimen. Sometimes this drug taking regimen involves bi-weekly injections with a long acting neuroleptic drug. These injections tend to be more potent, and more harmful, than the pills one might find in a daily regimen. Should a person under court order refuse to take psychiatric drugs, civil commitment proceedings are likely to be initiated.
Psychiatric drugs, from benzodiazapines to neuroleptics, are known to have many adverse effects. It is our feeling that nobody should be forced to take these powerful and potentially harmful drugs against his or her wishes. Neuroleptic, misleadingly referred to as antipsychotic, drugs are known to cause a neurological movement disorder, Tardive Dyskinesia, and a metabolic syndrome associated with many physical ill health conditions. Studies have shown that people in mental health treatment are dying 25 to 30 years earlier on average than the rest of the population due in large part to the drugs they have been prescribed. Relocating people threatened with forced drugging can preserve physical health, and it can save lives.
45 states now have involuntary outpatient commitment laws. 5 states are currently free of such laws. The number of states with involuntary outpatient commitment laws only goes up. The number of states without such laws only seems to go down. Among the 5 states without involuntary commitment laws, there are sustained efforts afoot to enact such laws. The situation in two of the most populous states in the union helps illustrate the seriousness of the problem. In New York state Kendra’s Law has been extended, and there is pressure to make it permanent. In California Laura’s Law has passed in both Los Angeles county and San Francisco, and other localities are likely to follow their lead. Obviously, the situation has grown so dire that it demands popular resistance.
MindFreedom International is a global human rights organization consisting mainly of psychiatric survivors, their relatives, friends, and allies. The idea of establishing such Landing Zones has been rolling around for awhile in the thoughts and actions of MindFreedom International members. As far back as 2006, there was an article on the MFI website about the launch of a Landing Zone Project, and MFI was instrumental in getting a story into the Wall Street Journal featuring the plight of one Gabriel Hadd. Gabriel Hadd, a young musician, fleeing forced drugging in Michigan, successfully attained drug-free refuge in Colorado for a time before returning home to Michigan.
Just what do we mean by Landing Zones? As long as there has been no mandate at the national level, involuntary outpatient commitment orders stop at the state border. If the person under such a court order were to surreptitiously relocate to another state, and refused to take psychiatric drugs, there is not much that anybody at present can do to prevent him or her from doing so. A Landing Zone is a location with the resources in place in terms of services, advocacy, support, and assistance to accommodate a person fleeing forced outpatient drugging orders in another state.
On the evening of July 25, during the MindFreedom Creative Revolution Conference held at Wisdom House in Litchfield Connecticut, July 24 – July 27, we conducted a focus group on the subject of the creation of Landing Zones. As a result of this historic session, we are happy to announce the launch of the MindFreedom Landing Zone Committee. This Landing Zone Committee will be scheduling regular teleconferences to brain-storm, network, and organize around the issue of forming Landing Zones. If you, and the same goes for anyone you know, would like to get on the committee, and participate in this effort, you can do so by contacting me, Frank Blankenship, either by email or by telephone.
Landing Zone Committee
African Americans enduring slavery during the 1800s used the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom. Today many people find themselves in a similar situation. Chemical shackles are being used to institute a different type of slavery, the slavery that comes of a pill or a needle. It is high time for people to come to the aid of their fellow citizens threatened with psychiatric abuse. Today we are forging a new Underground Railroad of our own to help people escape from psychiatric oppression unto liberty. By participating in the creation of Landing Zones, you, too, can play a vital role in resisting the creeping encroachment of mindless tyranny, for absolutely everybody is at risk, and in upholding the independence of free and proud people.
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.