One of the most amazing activist campaigns I have been involved in during my 40 years of protest for human rights in the mental health system, was the effort to stop the involuntary electroshock of Ray Sandford of Minnesota.
Incredibly, back in 2008, he was getting forced shock every Wednesday morning on an outpatient basis. That is right; every week in his group home out in the community, he was picked up and brought to a local hospital for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) through his brain, against his will, with a court order.
Ray reached MindFreedom in the Fall of 2008, and an international human rights campaign began for him.
Below, you will see an article by psychiatric survivor activist Loretta Wilson looking back on this action six years ago, which involved thousands of people speaking out together to help and support Ray. It took longer than I thought, but Ray won!
Loretta often talks on the telephone with Ray, and reports on his current needs. Today, as an oppressed person who lives in a group home, Ray should have a better life. Six years ago, his psychiatrist, guardian, lawyer, group home, and many other authorities worked together for his forced electroshock. It is to Ray’s credit that somehow he phoned us at the MindFreedom office and kicked off this historic movement victory.
Back then, Ray’s psychiatrist said that he had to have forced electroshock or he would not survive. Six years later we can now reliably say that this psychiatrist was wrong!
During his forced electroshock, I remember how a bunch of us flew in to Minnesota and reached a lot of people there about Ray. Thanks, Loretta, for keeping in touch with Ray and remembering this great victory.
Some activists dismiss electroshock as an issue for campaigns, because the vast majority of psychiatric treatment is of course with drugs. But as long as even one person is subject to forced electroshock, especially with involuntary outpatient commitment, we are all at risk. In an often-divided movement, opposing forced electroshock unites almost everybody, along with most people on the left and the right in the general public.
At this time, Congressperson Tim Murphy (R-PA) is pushing for his bill for far more involuntary outpatient procedures in the USA, and an attorney has confirmed with me that Rep. Murphy’s bill does not exclude forced electroshock in the community of people living peacefully at home. When the public discovers that his bill would allow more involuntary electroshock of peaceful, law-abiding citizens in their own homes, there will be general outrage. Talk about out-of-control big government over-reach!
Rep. Murphy, if your bill ever passes, how many more Americans will get forced outpatient electroshock, as Ray did?
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January 30, 2015
Looking Back on the Ray Sandford Campaign to Stop His Forced Outpatient Electroshock
by Loretta Wilson
It was sometime in mid-2007 when I began to awaken from a long winter of psychiatric intervention, 21 years to be exact. The “Stress Unit,”as it was called, was an all too familiar term. Today I understand why it’s called a “stress unit”!
I would like to move into the reason for writing this article. After insisting my doctor help me with the taper-down from all the prescribed psych drugs and my awareness became apparent I began to search the Internet hoping to learn why so much of my life was missing. I came across the MindFreedon, International web page and a whole new world opened up to me. It didn’t take long for me to realize I wasn’t alone, others had had similar experiences with psychiatric intervention.
Then I saw the alert about Ray Sandford and information about the campaign that was in progress. I had to get involved. They can’t keep doing that to Ray! Ray had been forced to receive electroconvulsive therapy through a court order. How can it be that a judge can sit on a bench and order something so harmful as ECT. How could it be that a judge could order such a thing having no medical expertise? I joined the campaign and began to send e-mails, write letters and make phone calls in behalf of Ray Sandford.
The day I learned the campaign had been successful, overwhelming joy filled my heart and hope was born anew! Hope, something that had been denied me by the psychiatric community.
Several years have passed since the campaign came to a close in victory and a friends list was established through MindFreedom International. I’m very happy to report that Ray Sandford is alive a well. Personally I think he deserves more than the sedentary life he is required to live as one of the residents of the group home located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ray has implied that there is very little activity and almost no stimulation offered by the group home managers for Ray and the gentlemen who reside in the group home with him.
Ray calls me often to ask that I pray for his sleep. He talks about walking to Arby’s sandwich shop for exercise when the weather permits. He really likes going to church but often has no way to get there.
Ray loves Reuben sandwiches, receiving mail and keeping in touch by phone. When I send postcards to Ray I always try to include postage so that he doesn’t have to concern himself with such details. Ray also likes to sing and has an awesome voice. He will take time to pray on the spot if you mention that you aren’t feeling too good.
David Oaks (psychiatric survivor, activist, and former director of MindFreedom), I think you are Ray’s hero, he will never forget you. Ray said to tell you he really appreciates all that you did for him. He remembers the many times the two of you spent time on the phone (short as they were) talking about the victories that were obtained through the campaign to stop forced ECT on Ray’s behalf. Ray mentioned his concern for your voice being disabled; I’m not sure he understands fully what happened.
I believe Ray would love to know that people are praying for him now, just as they fought for him back in 2008 to 2009. Yep, we are approaching April 15, 2015, and six years post ECT for Ray Sandford, how awesome is that!
I’ve copied and pasted some of the important dates about the Ray campaign and have included the web site so that people can read the information in its entirety.
HIGHLIGHTS OF VICTORY FOR RAY SANDFORD
Information copied and pasted into this document from MindFreedom International web site:
A gateway in general about his campaign can be found here:
On 27 October 2008, Ray Sandford first phoned up the MindFreedom office. He had asked his local library about organizations that support human rights in mental health. The reference librarian gave him MindFreedom’s phone number.
Ray’s last forced electroshock was on USA tax day, 15 April 2009.
By coincidence the 15th of April was also the date of the very first forced electroshock, back in 1938 in Italy, when the subject cried out:
“Non una seconda! Mortifiere!” which means in Italian, “Not another! It’s deadly!”
On 13 May 2009, Ray was escorted all the way to a hospital bed. He was prepped for another forced electroshock. Because of outrage, hospital authorities cancelled Ray’s shock at the last second, and he was sent home.
More victories quickly followed.
Ray’s psychiatrist quit because he said his insurance company was concerned about all the public attention. MindFreedom helped Ray find a new psychiatrist supportive of Ray’s human rights.
Ray’s family joined in the campaign. MindFreedom organized a YouTube video with Ray and his Mom, begging for the shock to end. Ray’s guardians, an agency under the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), tried to stop the video from going public, but it got ought.
Ray’s family found a better attorney. Ray found great pleasure in firing his ineffective court-appointed attorney.
Several concerned Minnesota agencies formed an “ECT Work Group” to change the law in Minnesota. Two MindFreedom representatives served on the committee, but asked for more than just minor reform.
“SINGLE, SMALL VOICE IN THE FACE OF A MEDICAL GIANT.”
Ray successfully replaced his general guardians who had supported his forced electroshock.
One of Ray’s new guardians, Daryl Trones, announced:
“MindFreedom has just won a substantial victory! … I received an ‘Acceptance of Appointment” from Ramsey County District Court regarding the changing of guardianship for Ray Sandford. Ray no longer will be subject to ECT treatments. The powers of Successor Guardianship include the power to ‘withhold consent for treatment of service, including neuroleptic / psychotropic medications,’ under Minnesota Statute 524.5-314.”
Daryl, Ray and his family want to thank all of Ray’s many supporters.
Said Daryl, “My appreciation to all the MindFreedom members and volunteers and especially to David Oaks who orchestrated requisite forces and passions to pull Ray Sandford from harm’s way. MindFreedom now has a successful case study outlining the necessary steps to extricate persons subject to forced electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Congratulation to MindFreedom Staff and Members and most of all to Ray Sandford who … was just a single, small voice in the face of a medical giant.”
Celebrate the Ray Campaign Success!
Remember, on April 15, 2015 Ray will celebrate year number six without forced ECT. If you would like to congratulate Ray on his continued success through the MindFreedom fight that was fought for freedom from forced shock, Ray loves to receive snail mail:
1518 Scheffer Ave.
St. Paul, Minnesota 55116 USA
Born January 4, 1954
I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to David Oaks and to MindFreedom International. It was through MindFreedom International that I began to regain the strength that would be required to obtain my own freedom.
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.