Editors’ Note: We at Mad in America have all known and loved Leonard. He truly represents the best of why we are engaged in these issues. His kindness, gentility, and wisdom have touched us all. We are proud, as a small measure of respect and fondness for the man, and in recognition of how he has touched so many people, to offer this page for those who wish to share their memories and feelings. Please submit posts to [email protected].
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by David Oaks
Dear Leonard Roy Frank,
Wade Hudson, a long-time activist and one of your main collaborators and friends, announced that you had died suddenly either late Wednesday night, January 14, 2015, or early Thursday morning, and all of us in the Mad Movement have lost one of our most powerful champions.
Leonard, I always thought of you as one of the early, beat drop-outs, because you were going into the business world after your graduation from the Wharton School of Business in the 1954, but your spiritual journey brought you into conflict with this society. As part of your mystical experience you were one of the early Americans in that generation to renounce eating meat and dairy products, and of course you grew that big beard. In 1962, because of your cultural and religious rebellion, you experienced absolutely incredible psychiatric abuse, including both forced insulin coma shock therapy and electroshock therapy. Many times I have told the story about how your psychiatrist checked to see if you had shaved or deviated from your vegetarianism, and when you persevered he ordered more forced electroshock.
After Wade’s announcement, one of the first things I thought of about our friendship these nearly four decades, was your sense of humor. I know that many people will remember your serious biblical-like magnetism whenever you spoke out against psychiatric tyranny, which was frequent, but I recall that nearly every time we talked you always made me laugh with your subtle, witty spirit.
I see that you died at age 82, born July 15, 1932, and you have unquestionably been one of the main human rights activists in the mental health field in this past century, so I hope many people reflect on your contribution to this community. For now, I make the following brief observations:
Ethics: You always framed your indictment of psychiatric abuse in moral ideals. From your nonviolence, I learned a lot about how the work of Gandhi and other leaders informed our work for those marginalized by a psychiatric label. You helped teach me that civil disobedience is important in the revolution that we require today.
Quotes: In order to re-create your memory following your psychiatric oppression with so much shock, you became one of the foremost experts on quotes. I love the fact that one can now walk into seemingly every bookstore and find your Quotationary, which has more than 20,000 quotes, and woven throughout those quotes one can find zingers that skewer the psychiatric industry.
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To Leonard Roy Frank, a Brother Activist
by Don Weitz
Grieving over the death of Leonard Roy Frank, my sincere sympathies and condolences to Leonard’s family and close friends. I lost, we lost a brother; we lost one of the most powerful anti-shock activists in the world; we lost a brilliant historian and educator of electroshock; we lost an awesome editor; we lost a most courageous and inspiring movement leader in our continuing fight to abolish electroshock and other psychiatric tortures masquerading as “treatment” and “mental health.” Like many others, I knew Leonard had suffered and courageously survived the horrific torture of 50 insulin coma shocks and 35 electroshocks (ECTs) in the 1960s in California. Since I also survived over 100 insulin shocks, I felt close to Leonard, I knew he immediately understood my personal struggle. I first met Leonard in 1974 in Topeka Kansas, site of the second annual Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression. At that time, I believe he gave or participated in the first of many subsequent workshops, panels, and public speeches critiquing and denouncing electroshock as a human rights issue, urging us to abolish this psychiatric torture, this crime against humanity. In speaking, Leonard always looked and sounded profoundly dignified and persuasive, proudly wearing his long grey beard, speaking in a measured, precise but always passionate voice. Sometimes, I felt he looked and sounded like a radical rabbi waging, if not leading, a struggle against immorality, evil, injustice. Leonard immediately inspired many others and me then and for the next 35-40 years, at every conference, public demonstration and protest he participated in. H In the late 1970s, we began corresponding, and his brilliant writing and editorial work on Madness Network News and the Madness News Reader (1974) mainly inspired Carla McKague (my very close friend and shock survivor) and me to launch Phoenix Rising, Canada’s first antipsychiatry magazine.
Leonard totally believed in, advocated and practiced nonviolent civil disobedience since the late 1960s or early 1970s. He had thoroughly read and been deeply moved by the “soul power” of Mahatma Gandhi and the nonviolent philosophy and marches led by Martin Luther King Jr. during the US civil rights movement. He brought and widely shared this commitment to nonviolence to every protest demonstration in every city where the movement held its annual Conference until 1986, if not later. I still vividly recall his powerful presence and empowering voice during the 10th Conference held in 1982 in Toronto. During a plenary session in the City Hall Council Chamber, I sat next to Leonard when he compared the brain-damaging effects of electroshock to the violence caused by “a bull in a china shop…except you can’t put the broken pieces back together again.” Excerpts of this speech can be heard in the Toronto 1982 conference video Psychiatry’s gonna die. At the same conference, Leonard and 15 other American survivor-activists held a nonviolent sit-in at Toronto’s Sheraton Hotel where the American Psychiatric Association (APA) was holding another annual meeting – all protestors were charged and arrested but released the same day. I was privileged to participate with Leonard and other brother and sister survivors at two acts of nonviolent civil disobedience as public protests against two US “shock mills”: Gracie Square Hospital in New York City in 1983 when 9 of us blocked its front doors while staff psychiatrists were demonstrating electroshock and ECT machines to other psychiatrists attending a meeting of the New York Academy of Medicine.; we also held a nonviolent protest at Benjamin Rush Psychiatric Center in Syracuse a few months later when several of us including Leonard blocked and chained ourselves to its front doors; we won a victory since Benjamin Rush stopped administering ECT a few years later.
Leonard Frank left us a rich and lasting legacy of resistance to electroshock and psychiatry, “speaking truth to power.” It wasn’t just his personal presence and courageous leadership and powerful speeches that inspired and keeps inspiring our anti-shock protests and antipsychiatry activism. It’s also his brilliant and empowering writings like the 1978 movement classic History of Shock Treatment, his online The Electroshock Quotationary (2006), a brilliant and empowering mosaic of statements and illustrations arranged chronologically, a rich resource for activists and researchers. A voracious reader, Leonard also collected thousands of major and memorable quotations on a wide range of subjects and issues from hundreds of sources for books he edited such as Influencing Minds: A Reader in Quotations (1995), the awesomely comprehensive Random House Webster’s Quotationary (1999), Random House Webster’s Wit and Humor Quotationary (2000), and Freedom: Quotes and passages from the world’s greatest freethinkers (2003). We used to email each other a few new quotes.
Leonard’s mind, heart and soul were always “speaking truth to power.” His words and life are well worth remembering, inspiring and cherishing forever.
(Biographical note: Don Weitz is an anti-psychiatry and social justice activist in Toronto. He is co-founder of the former antipsychiatry magazine Phoenix Rising, co-editor of Shrink Resistant: the struggle against psychiatry in Canada (1988), co-founder of Psychiatric Survivor Archives Toronto, member of the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault, and member of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.)
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Tribute to Leonard Roy Frank, a Comrade-at-arms
This is a very sad day for the survivor movement, the antipsychiatry movement, and for all those who organize against psychiatry—for one of our pillars of our community and indeed, one of our guiding lights has just passed—Leonard Roy Frank. Awful for us all who are facing this loss, though it is good that we are pulling together—and indeed Leonard would have liked that.
As I reflect on this day, I am taken back to the moment when I first came face-to-face with Leonard. It was 1982—and Leonard, like Don Weitz, like so many other people were testifying at Toronto City Hall Council Chambers. There was a hushed moment just before Leonard got up to speak; and I had an eerie sense that something remarkable was about to transpire. Then Leonard with his legendary long magnificent beard which made him look ever so like an Old Testament prophet, and his keen penetrating eyes rose to speak. At first, Leonard’s voice was exceptionally gentle, almost as if he were soothing a child. And so your first impression is that this is a very soft-spoken guy. Gradually, however, with every word that he spoke as he was elaborating on the appalling legacy of psychiatry, his voice grew louder and louder—as if a divine fury were overtaking the man. By the middle of his speech, his voice was thundering, his eyes grabbing you, so that there was no way that you would miss a syllable or fail to take in the seriousness of what was happening. It is as if his righteous anger itself were a way of knowing, of way of seeing that guided him and the rest of us infallibly.
Over the years, the pattern that I witnessed that day was repeated again and again. Whenever clarity was needed, whenever someone was needed to spell out the profound violation of human rights or to cut through the tangle of psychobabble, there was Leonard, warrior that he was, uttering forbidden truths, articulating them loud and clear, never pulling his punches, never retreating an inch. Such was the strength and the certainty of the man. At once a friend, a team member, a social justice activist, a seer, and a voice in the wildness that willy-nilly spoke truth to power.
Leonard’s legacy is gargantuan and is unquestionable—his stellar contributions to Madness Network News, his organizing, his various Quotationaries, his exceptionally well researched and at once scholarly and accessible book on the history of shock, which we all of us reference to this day. And there was his quiet behind-the-scenes support of so much that his comrades-in-arms were doing—e.g., his solid support of those of us who were penning a feminist critique of ECT, for example, for which I will always be grateful. I would also like to point out and add Leonard’s unwavering ability to keep his sights on what is important and not to get sidetracked. Albeit there have at times been fractious divisions in our movement, as there have been, indeed, with all movements, Leonard was never part of it. What goes along with this, he was interested in working with anyone who was making a genuine contribution. And he was good at recognizing an ally when he saw one.
Leonard, we remember and cherish you for all the work you did both publicly and behind the scenes. We remember you for your wisdom, your good sense, and your generosity. We remember you for how you lived, who you were, what you cared about, what you made of your life.
What privilege it has been working with you all these decades! And what mitzvah to have had you as a friend!
Enjoy a well earned rest, comrade ours. And may your memory be as a blessing.
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From David Cohen:
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From Robert Whitaker:
Like so many who knew Leonard Roy Frank, when I heard last weekend that he had died, I was stunned and immediately felt—in an incredibly emotional way—his absence. It was one of those moments where you feel that the world is now a lesser place, and always will be now that he was gone.
There is so much to say and remember about Leonard, about his extraordinary character, his intellect, and his place in the history of the psychiatric survivor movement, as so many of these remembrances attest. He deserves to be remembered too for his remarkable scholarship.
I first came upon his work while researching my book Mad in America. I got a copy of his book, The History of Shock Treatment, which is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. In it, he told a history of psychiatry’s somatic treatments in a highly original way. His history relied almost entirely on psychiatry’s own reports and words, advertisements, patient accounts, and a few comic strips. Leonard didn’t provide a narrative of his own, but rather he just led the reader through this source material. By doing so, his book ultimately served as a scholarly roadmap to a larger body of literature that could be dug out from a medical library. I so admired The History of Shock Treatment. It was an amazing achievement.
My library today contains many of his books. I often turn to his book Quotationary, published by Random House. You can peruse that 1,040 page book, spend a short period of time with it, on one particular subject or the other, and you always feel a sense of joy over what you have read, and an admiration for the mind that produced the book.
When I had the privilege of meeting Leonard Roy Frank, back in 2002, I was of course struck by his strength of character, his integrity, his generous spirit, and his warmth. And as others have written here, he should be remembered too for his scholarship. He was a first-rate historian.
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Through the Darkness to the Light: In Memory of Leonard Roy Frank
“The light is reached not by turning back from the darkness, but by going through it.”
– Leonard Roy Frank
by Laura Delano
I learned of your death yesterday, Leonard, just as I was leaving to visit my sister. First it hit me in my body: the lurching of my stomach, the narrowing of my vision, the closing off of surrounding sound. Next, it seemed to stop the world, before the hard beat of my heart on my ribs reminded me again of life, this life I am in love with today, a love that’s grown steadily in these few years I’ve been free from Psychiatry, catalyzed in great part by you.
As I drove in silence, mile-markers whipping past and the sun beginning its slow descent into the Connecticut horizon, the present cleared away to make space for memories of you. We spent about twelve hours together in person—not much according to the man-made constructs of linear time—but it felt limitless for how it impacted me. I thought about the first time we met, when you welcomed me into your home near Fillmore and we sat together for hours. I envisioned the way the wiry white-gray hair of your beard rested on your chest as you sat at your desk with hands clasped over your stomach, your whole being emanating light and peace, Lower Pacific Heights behind you.
That beard, Leonard, that beautiful beard that nearly got you killed by Psychiatry but instead gave you your life. That beard that encapsulated your commitment to the world, shouted freedom day after day across the decades following your incarceration and torture. That beard those white coats tried to steal with razorblades as you lay in insulin coma, that they could never truly take from you because it was grown with Love and Truth. I remember how it vibrated slightly when you spoke, this beard that journeyed with you through the darkness and into the light, and the feel of hot tears at my eyes’ corners as I thought about this from the wooden chair before you, your outline framed by San Francisco sunlight, us surrounded by shelf upon shelf of the bound companions that guided you through your lifetime of transformation. I remember on the wall an old black-and-white photograph of a group of you in seated protest outside the doors of a 1970s American Psychiatric Association conference, and a worn flyer from a Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression, from the days when our cause was about liberation, not “recovery.” I remember beneath the sunlight on your kitchen windowsill, a stack of Madness Network News, and beneath the hundreds and hundreds of books on religion and philosophy and nature and war and literature and science and, of course, Psychiatry, the spartan bed you slept on for all those years you lived in that space. In this little studio apartment, it felt to me, was everything.
As I write this, I am acutely aware of how power moves through people—not the kind driven by fear and done by one to another, but the universal kind, the kind that can’t be bought and sold or channeled through control or segregated by social category because it’s omnipresent in the nooks and crannies of each and every one of us and brought out only through Love. This is the power that drives revolution, unity, and justice. The kind that, once released, can never again be caught because on its side lives Truth. Each of the three times we met, Leonard, and in every written exchange, you emanated this power I know today as unconditional love and in so doing, you offered up a mirror to my heart, this heart I’m still so new to feeling, this heart I know today I have my entire life to learn with, just as you did.
Do you remember our walk through Alta Plaza that brisk November day in 2013? How we climbed the stairs and strolled the tree-lined sidewalks and sat side-by-side on a wooden bench as you told me of your boundless faith in the world? I was so discouraged that morning, convinced the world had lost its life force to fear and greed and intolerance, wondering what the point was in fighting The System anymore. We’d succumbed to the medical model, drugged away our collective spirit, grown too disconnected from ourselves to ever remember what it meant to be human, I declared. As I cried and poured out these words to you, you sat patiently beside me, your eyes beneath the shadows of your baseball cap looking out over the park before us, and you said quietly and unwaveringly, “Oh, no, Laura, there is great hope.”
You went on to tell me of your faith in God and humanity, and of all the teachers from whom and which you’d learned: those found on pages (from Gandhi to Laing to Lao-tzu), within yourself (via reflection and meditation), and out there in the world, from the air on our cheeks as we walked to the farmers’ market, to the trees that sheltered us from the wind, to the earth that held our feet. I knew that despite everything you’d been through—the denial of your spiritual awakening by family; your subsequent incarceration behind the bars of Psychiatry; the fifty electroshocks and thirty plus insulin comas they did to you as they tried so hard (and failed, of course) to knock you back into conformity; the loss of all your learnings to that “treatment”; the betrayal, the violation, the dehumanization—I knew that despite all of this—perhaps, even, because of it— you were full of faith. And I knew that yours was a faith I could trust in, this faith you had not just in God but in yourself and each and every one of your fellows, in our unrealized collective capacity to not only save ourselves from total destruction but to radically transform the world. Today, in large part because of you, I trust that despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles before us, each of us has what is needed to build a world that is just and free—free not only from Psychiatry but from all other kinds of fear-based oppression. For as you once wrote, “We are hard-wired for transformation and lack only the right software,” and I’m sure you’re right. I’m sure that despite the breadth and depth of inhumanity in our world, that hard-wiring is there, always, waiting to be tapped into.
Through your being, Leonard, you showed me how one moves with intention and integrity. You taught me that to breathe is to be responsible. You instilled in me the conviction that Love has the power to conquer all, especially fear. My time with you opened a door to my spirit that I know will never again close, even when I find myself overwhelmed by life and unsure of the way forward. For just as you wrote, “[t]he journey of transformation has no predetermined roadmap; those who undertake it need to chart their own course as they go along.” Thank you for showing me that faith is trust directed inwards and outwards and towards the unknown all at once, no matter how dark it is, no matter how hard it is to see. The light is there, always.
It is up to us to continue your legacy of Love no matter how cruel and intolerant the world may be to those of us labeled “mentally ill”, and to all other brothers and sisters who’ve been deemed less than human for how they look, love, believe, and behave.
We must, no matter how fruitless it might feel to meet fear with patience and understanding. We must look within ourselves to reflect upon what it means to be alive, to have feet on the ground for a speck of time in the grand order of earthly affairs, to be offered the chance at this gift called existence. We must recognize that each of us plays a vital part in making the world what it is; indeed, all the lightness and darkness of the world is here and now, and we get to choose which way to head.
Just as you did, we must reflect on the stories we’ve been told about the way the world works and about who and how to be, and we must work hard to name the loudest of society’s storytellers as the frightened oppressors they are, to raise consciousness of this oppression, and to empower our fellows to forge their own stories from the infinite truth of being human. And we must meet all forms of violence—especially the existential violence at the heart of the “Mental Health”-Industrial Complex—with open hearts, for these perpetrators have forgotten their humanity, and only those of us who’ve reclaimed ours can help them remember.
As I drove southwest on the Merritt Parkway yesterday, I faced the setting sun. It was so bright I could barely see as I moved along in silence in this big metal machine, and the air kept growing brighter and brighter. You were on my mind and in my heart and all of a sudden, there you were before me. I know it was you—your life force, your energy now dispersed across the world. I’m not a believer in the afterlife, at least, not in the sense of a consciousness’ reincarnation, but I know that human energy is indestructible and infinite, and that this was yours making itself known to me: the sun caught a cloud and from this encounter emerged a small, square chunk of rainbow on the sky, the spectrum a perfect and balanced red, orange, yellow, green, blue. All at once, I was breathless and full of life. I knew that the sadness in my heart was selfish, that though I may never see that beard before me again, it’s now everywhere, all at once, forever. Though you’ve taken your last breath, Leonard, the pulse of your spirit carries on. With it beats our movement, this movement of which we each have a right to be a part—whether we’ve been psychiatrically labeled or not—for it’s a movement to save our humanity from the clutches of fear by bringing Love and Truth back to our world.
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From Ron Bassman:
Leonard Roy Frank died this past week at the age of 82. Perhaps not well known to much of the professional community but a beacon to survivors. What I wrote below was done primarily to deal with the emotions I have for the loss of a friend, but also to inform those who did not have the benefit of knowing this remarkable man.
Leonard, I can’t believe you’re gone, you were invulnerable, invincible. A paragon of self –discipline, principles, and intolerance for injustice, with an unhesitating willingness to speak truth to power. I will miss our conversations, your bubbling excitement about a new book that you discovered and your sharing of some new insight and a recommendation of something for me to read. So much I learned from you and so lucky was I to have you as a friend. Whenever I wrote anything, I asked for your opinion and you were always willing to give me your honest assessment and some prodding to add or change an expression or a word. One of your first edits was to point out that I should not write psychiatric medications, but to instead call them what they are, “psychiatric drugs.” Many similar clarifications were suggested (strongly) through the years. Yes, Leonard had strong opinions or should I say values and didn’t mince words.
Some memories: I met you in 1994. Rae Unzicker invited/convinced me to attend my first NARPA conference. There, she pointed out to me a tall, angular, full bearded man who could have passed for John the Baptist. She said that like you, he had insulin shock treatment – you should get to know him. I walked up to you, said hi and told you that Rae thought that I should meet you. When I told you that I had insulin comas and electric shock, I saw your eyes light up. You asked me tell you anything I could remember about it. We then pieced together our fragmented memories of it and the aftermath of struggling to overcome the lingering effects. That was the start of our 20 year friendship.
I remember David Oaks introducing you for a keynote address at a conference, “Leonard is the Gandhi of our survivor movement.”
I brought you to The American Psychological Association meeting in San Francisco about 15 years ago and we attended an address given by Bert Karon where he was given an award for his work. There, I met Bert and his wife Mary. Bert was very excited when he realized that you were there – he was an admirer of your work.
Leonard was always open to having new and old activists for social justice come to his small efficiency apt. in San Francisco and respond to requests for knowledge and direction. Leonard’s apartment was amazing with books all over. Food cabinets and closets had layers of books rather than food or clothing.
I have many memories of you and a belief that your life’s work will continue to inspire and benefit those who fight for justice for all people. COURAGE, INTEGRITY AND SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER were the pillars of your life. May your spirit continue to SOAR!
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From Will Hall:
Principled, uncompromising, and fiercely literate, Leonard Frank survived psychiatric violence, spoke out against his oppressors, and became a great inspiration to human rights activists world wide. To learn about his life and read his words – both psychiatry and non-psychiatry related – is to encounter a brilliant soul. He was a man whose very existence asks us two questions: how can a society that calls itself democratic inflict so much harm on someone so undeserving? And how can a person endure extreme suffering and still emerge with their integrity and creative passion intact? Leonard Frank is one of the lights that shines on my own moments of darkness. He will always be with us.
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From Dan Fisher:
Leonard, along with Wade were my introduction to the expatient movement through their Madness Network News in about 1974. I will miss Leonard and I wish I had seen more of him. His courage and fire I will always carry.
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From A Survivor:
Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for representing me. Thank you for speaking truth to power.
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From Oryx Cohen:
I was fortunate that Leonard was one of the original MindFreedom Oral History interviewees: http://www.mindfreedom.org/personal-stories/frankleonardr and he hosted me in his apartment in San Francisico when I was first introduced to this movement. I learned so much from him in just a very short time. What an amazing man and I believe his spirit lives on.
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Were there diamonds?
How did you sleep on the slants of hills?”
and open my hand to their ear, to their footsteps.
They don’t know what these things
mean to me.
You must hold their weight strong in your ear, in your foot steps.
purple and history,
clear and mystery.
The world is full of Snickers bars and ballerinas,
hospital potatoes, wheelchairs,
writing and waiting
and watching people work
with the wonton of
I haven’t been watching.
I wrinkle at the wonders,
which has been called a withdrawal.
I call it a wrap, a wash.
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From Terry Messman:
Thank you for letting us know about Leonard’s death. As you probably know, Leonard was a friend to my wife Ellen and I, and he was also a very good friend to Street Spirit. He made many wonderful contrubitons of his wriitng and Poor Leonard’s Column to Street Spirit over the years. Somehow, Ellen and I lost touch with him when we both became so sick from 2007-2010.
I will miss Leonard a great deal. I always featured his writing in Street Spirit, and wrote about him myself, because I felt his insights about human rights were so very important, especially his prophetic warnings about the oppressive nature of the psychiatric system and the mind-damaging drugs they push on the public.Leonard was very human-hearted and he was also very learned and insightful.
His Poor Leonard‘s Column and his many books showed the vast range of writers and thinkers that Leonard explored in his life.I’m sorry I am in bad health and cannot make his memorial. Leonard is irreplaceable and he will be greatly missed by all of us who were blessed by his presence in our lives.
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From Mark Mulleian:
It was a shocking hard blow for me to hear of Leonard’s death. Leonard was the sole person who for the first time in 1969 introduced my paintings to public consciousness in our country and abroad by encouraging me to show with Benny Bufano in a feature exhibit on gallery row in San Francisco.
My partner and I were planning to get together with Leonard this January for dinner as we always do. The interesting element about this is that I received a late Christmas card from Leonard. In all the decades, he’s cards have always been in plain white envelopes. This is the first time I received one in a silver envelope.
Symbol of silver is associated with the moon. As such, silver holds philosophical traits of the feminine as well as attributes of intuition, inner wisdom, and contemplation. Furthermore, silver symbolizes profound artistic expression, and is also the greatest conductor of electricity of all the metals. In this last instance, Leonard connected my work with the greater public.
Leonard and I are both Cancers; we are ruled by the moon.
A fighter with invincible passion, incomparable integrity and motivation out of supreme morals for human rights that became a beacon to the world, these are but a few of the dynamic attributes of Leonard Roy Frank.
Love and Peace.
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From Freddi Fredrickson:
I’m really sorry about Leonard leaving us way too soon. I know how special he was to you, and to many other people. He was such a nice man!
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From James B. (Jim) Gottstein, Esq;
I am devastated by Leonard Roy Frank’s passing. I hope he didn’t suffer. We have lost another great advocate. We have lost a great person, but we can take solace that his teaching will remain. We can take solace in having known this great man.
There is no way I can equal the eloquence of the remembrances by David Oaks, Don Weitz, Bonnie Burstow, Laura Delano and Ron Bassman, great people all, so I won’t try. I will just say we all would be better people to live by our highest principles as Leonard did.
It was my great pleasure to have gotten to know Leonard a bit. I was honored to be entrusted by Leonard to scan and post historic articles and other writings about the psychiatric resistance movement at http://psychiatrized.org/LeonardRoyFrank/FromTheFilesOfLeonardRoyFrank.htm. I am extremely glad that the Open Paradigm Project was able to video this incredible man for posterity.
When we wanted to change the Facebook Group Occupy Psychiatry to Network Against Psychiatric Assault, I called Leonard (& Ted Chabasinski) to see if it was alright with him. He was pleased to have the name resurrected to resist psychiatric force.
Rest In Peace, Leonard. You have left a great legacy. We shall continue to work to end the darkness of psychiatric oppression using your wisdom to light the way.
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From Jenny Miller:
What a void Leonard’s departure has left. I had the honor of working side by side with him in the office of Network Against Psychiatric Assault for many years. Although many who remember him remember a mentor, friend, author, and teacher, when I think of Leonard’s role in the campaign for the human rights of people who have experienced psychiatric oppression, what comes to mind is the description that Walt Kelley, the creator of the Pogo cartoon, once used to describe Pogo: he was the glue. I wonder which of us on our own would have had the courage to stand up to the psychiatrists, to fight them with campaigns and conferences, protests and truth-telling, or with a steadfast refusal to play their insidious and dehumanizing games, if Leonard hadn’t shown us the way.
So many great adventures that Leonard was a co-creator of: the sit-in we had at the “earlier” governor jerry brown’s office, which turned into a weeks-long sleep in, to protest forced drugging and forced labor without pay of people in psychiatric institutions. This culminated in a Tribunal on Psychiatric Crimes held in the governor’s outer office on BastilleDay, 1976, with much first person testimony of the incredibly horrific and brain-destroying treatments being forced on people in institutions. The sleep- in and Tribunal was covered by many major media outlets, breaking the usual media blackout about these topics.
Our seemingly non stop protests against ECT at psychiatric institutions in San Francisco had the shock doctors running scared, and they ceased doing them in that city for many years. Other highlights of our work were the yearly conferences on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression, where any psychiatric survivor could spontaneously create a workshop, and the intense challenges and joys of putting out the journal, Madness Network News, which served as a voice for the survivor/anti psychiatry movement, nationally and internationally.
After a successful ballot initiative to ban electroshock was organized in Berkeley (with Ted Chabasinksi marshalling the troops), and it was later overturned by the courts, Leonard came up with an ingenious idea to overcome the court’s objections. What if the legislature specifically allowed local governments to make their own rules regarding ECT? He found a sympathetic Republican legislator to carry the bill, and later a leading Democratic legislator added his name as co-signer.
As is often the case in the legislative world, there was a lot of underhanded scullduggery, which resulted in yet another legislator, that many perceived as a friend of our movement, coming up with compromise wording for the bill, that would slightly clarify the help a potential ECT recipient could get from the patient’s rights office, but would eliminate the heart of the bill, When this legislator turned to the shock recipients who had come to the capitol to support the bill, and said, “Look, this is all you will get, you have to accept this” they agreed to the revised language. Leonard, as always, remained. true to his principles, and felt the bill should stand or fall as it was written. He told the bill’s sponsor he would never accept the compromise. In agreement, the sponsor withdrew the bill.
Another event Leonard played an important role in was a protest at a bioethics commission that was considering a recommendation to re-introduce the practice of lobotomy for prisoners and children. The protesters caused such a disruption that the commission was forced to adjourn, with no decision reached. When the police were called, and wanted to know who was in charge of the protest, they were told “No one. We’re all here together.” The police seemed somewhat baffled and left us alone.
It’s heartening to see the new activist groups that are cropping up to replace the old anti-psychiatry movement that was based in the Bay Area. But no one individual could step in to fill Leonard’s empty shoes.
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From James Power:
A life worth trying to emulate, though I am sure I would fall far short. The quotes and thoughts he shared brought more light in to my life.
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From Dorothy Dundas:
Dear, dear Leonard.
You were my brother-in-arms and, above all, a fellow insulin/ECT survivor. I will never forget meeting you on that bus from the LA airport to our NARPA hotel those many years ago. Giving the workshop with you and Ron Bassman about our near-fatal experiences with horrifying combined insulin/ECT was an honor and memory I shall always cherish. My friend, you always spoke for everyone with such wisdom and passion and intelligence. May peace and harmony and love envelop you in the sweet hereafter. So long for now…..
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From Frank Blankenship:
When I met Leonard he told me he had never been “mentally ill”, and I thought, wow, after experiencing the “mental hospital” system you can really say that. I feel privileged to have had anything to do with this man who spent much of his life fighting the worst of psychiatric oppression (electroshock) rather than collaborating with it. His example, to me, was truly inspirational. In a world where so many people get awarded for working in the system, it’s awe inspiring to think upon anybody working against that system. There are so many other names, never credited, and I would hope, in honoring Leonard Roy Frank, and people like him, their day might someday be coming as well. He was fighting for something more or less universal after all, wasn’t he? Thank you, Leonard, for being there, there being, in body and spirit, in the struggle for the human and civil rights of people oppressed by “mental health law” and psychiatry. We can, shall, will, and must, as the song goes, overcome. I feel honored that our paths ever crossed, and I will cherish the memory for all that it’s worth.
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From Marsie Scharlatt, MFT:
My deepest condolences to Leonard’s family. I met Leonard in the early 1970s when I joined Network Against Psychiatric Assault. I had been an avid reader of Madness Network News and I was inspired by Leonard’s writing there and the work of NAPA to return to school to become a psychotherapist and work toward changing the mindset and treatment of others within the system. Leonard was a wise courageous human being whose memory is a blessing for all who knew him and those whose lives have been changed by his intelligence, strength, and forbearance.
His legacy will continue to effect change.
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From Dawn Barrett:
Around 16 years go, I worked on an essay through the night, as many university students do, and came across an article by you. It compelled me to pick up the phone at 4 am (Australian time) and get your phone number from the International operator. I dialled the number and before it could ring, you answered the phone. It startled me and I struggled to initiate the conversation. You sensed this and eased my anxiety. We talked like old friends for over an hour. Our friendship was just as easy over the next few years. I felt I could talk to you about anything and everything. Among the many discussions on life, religion, faith, hope, lifestyle and community, you delighted in my children’s exploits when they were little and as I negotiated life as a divorced parent of teenagers, you reminded me gently of the great privilege inherent in that role. Your wisdom on raising children is like nothing I have read or heard before or since. You helped me enjoy my journey as a single mother with my fellow travellers, my children. More importantly, you helped me work through the challenges of co-parenting with dignity, and promote mutual respect. Now as young adults, my children continue to be devoted to their father and make the time to visit him, some 300 km away, on a regular basis. All this, because of you.
I met you at a conference in 1999. It remains a point of reference in my life. I recall telling you, while your intellect, insight and passion influenced my professional journey, it was your gentle spirit that transformed my life. Your presence remains. You once told me, and I paraphrase, the richest treasures are found in the deepest oceans but they can only be viewed as treasures when we surface. I surfaced with a treasure trove because of you. I cherish life. I respect pain. I know life has a purpose. I experience failure and rejection. I experience joy and love. I seek solitude. I enjoy the vibrancy of colour. I am energised by music and noise. I am human again. I am so grateful for the freedoms you gave me, especially the freedom to tell you how important you are to me.
It took me 13 long years to complete my academic study and I dedicated my postgraduate thesis to you, “for making all things possible.” As always, I end with three little words, thank you Leonard. You continue to make all things possible. What a wonderful legacy you leave behind. Remembered with love, always, Dawn
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From Sally Zinman:
More than a week after Leonard’s death, I am still in shock. There are people who you expect to be there forever – because they have made such a difference in the lives of others that they really are here forever.
I became close with Leonard in the late 1970’s when I joined what many of us now call the consumer/survivor movement, fighting against involuntary treatment, among other violations. We were on the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law Board together – then called the Mental Health Law Project. I remember clearly at the 1980 International Conference on Human Rights and Against Psychiatric Oppression the human chain we formed to bar the door of the American Psychiatric Association’s convention center. I remember because Leonard and I linked arms, which is difficult for someone like myself who is around 5 feet with someone as tall as Leonard. My arm hurt during the whole time of our human chain action.
Although I have not seen Leonard for many years, I have always felt close to him. He has been one of the special people in my life who I feel close to whether I see them or not.
Leonard was the bedrock of the consumer/survivor movement. His activism is the shoulders that we stand on. We need him now more than ever when our civil and human rights are being attacked so severely and we are the scapegoats for society’s fear of public violence. Stigma and discrimination may be worse today than at any time in recent mental health history. We need Leonard’s fierce opposition to human rights violations today.
Leonard and I chose different paths in the movement. I choose to build consumer run community and state services, that were funded in large part by the local, state or federal mental health system. I choose to collaborate to reach our goals, to walk inside as well as keep my feet planted firmly in our grassroots values. I choose the mainstream, meaning including people in our movement whose views were not as radical as mine, but who had suffered and were suffering as people diagnosed with mental illness.
I will always remember Leonard’s support of my work, although it was not his path. That is a person with a generosity of spirit and honesty that can reach beyond his own preferences and honor others’ choices as well as see the value of their different path.
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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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