Race, Gun Violence & Mental Health: #BlackLivesMatter

Mourning in Columbia, South Carolina after the racist shooting. Credit: USA Today.
Mourning in Charleston, South Carolina after the racist shooting on June 17, 2015. Credit: USA Today.

In the wake of yet another national uproar about a mass shooting, much of the public once again turns its eye towards supposed mental health reform as the solution to the atrocity of acts of gun violence carried out in public spaces by primarily young, white men. The issue of gun control has soared back up to the top of concerns being addressed by presidential candidates, and national discourse has fallen back into its routine, polarized stances. The Republican leadership continues to suggest that gun control is not the solution — there must be something wrong with “those people’s” brains.

Leading Black mental health reform activists are warning us that the simplistic approach of more involuntary psychiatric drugging is inherently racist. To address the spiritual illness of violence in America we must confront the reality of racism in our media, institutions and lives.

Forced Psychiatric Drugging is Racist

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) is proposing a huge and complex bill that would, among other disasters, expand what he calls “Assisted Outpatient Therapy.” Mental health rights advocates more accurately refer to these methods as Involuntary Outpatient Commitment (IOC). IOC is court-ordered psychiatric drugging of people in their own homes, out in the community. Murphy’s bill has been widely criticized as an expansion of a system that forcibly drugs people and leaves them to their own devices with little or no meaningful support.

Yvonne Smith, Washington D.C. psychiatric rights activist
Yvonne Smith, Washington D.C. psychiatric rights activist.

Following the clearly racially-motivated mass murder of nine members of an all-Black congregation in Charleston, North Carolina, Yvonne Smith, a leading Washington D.C. African American psychiatric reform activist commented:

“One of the premises I hate about the Murphy bill is that all bad things can be explained by ‘mental illness.’ Racism is an act that hurts and destroys. More than five decades ago when four little girls were killed in a church no one questioned if it was a illness. Sometimes evil just occurs. Sometimes, actually, it’s fueled by the likes of a Murphy or a Rush Limbaugh. I doubt seriously if they will use last week’s tragedy to fuel their evil plans because it would then suggest that racism is in need of a remedy.”

Mass Shootings are a Racial Issue

When white men kill people some people decide there must be something wrong with their brain, because no normal white person would ever have had a reason to commit such acts. When Black men kill people, we often talk about Black-on-Black crime, gang violence, violence against white women, or mostly we just stay silent. When Arabs commit such acts they are labeled terrorists and no further questioning is needed about why someone would do such a thing. Historically, our mental institutions primarily served white people, who were considered able to reach higher levels of civilization than colonized and enslaved peoples. In other words, white minds are considered worth fixing.

Murphy’s Bill (Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, H.R. 2646) opens with the following statement: “Mental illness does not discriminate based on age, class or ethnicity.” While that may be true (though let us avoid use of the term mental illness), it cannot be denied that mental health care does in fact discriminate based on race. Within circles working in opposition to this destructive bill there is little discussion of its inherent racism. We need to bring to the light the realities of psychiatric racism and the potential for Murphy’s Bill to dramatically exacerbate this historically entrenched reality.  Yvonne Smith expressed her distress at the predominantly white movement for psychiatric justice: “Just wondering, am I the only African American person against the Murphy Bill? Sure seems like it!”

Vanessa Jackson, activist/soul doula/therapist
Vanessa Jackson, activist/soul doula/therapist

There are other African American women speaking out against the Murphy Bill. Vanessa Jackson, an activist/soul doula/therapist working her magic in Atlanta, Georgia says:

“It is very important to stress the way that these laws disproportionately impact people of color. Getting swooped up for behavior unbecoming Black people is a well-established tradition in the mental health field. It is another way to police black bodies without addressing the external factors — racism, economic inequity, violence, lack of affordable housing and continuous traumatic stress disorder — which contribute to our emotional distress.” (You can learn more about Vanessa’s work at www.healingcircles.org)

Celia Brown, President of the Board of Directors of Mind Freedom, Intl.
Celia Brown, President of the Board of Directors of MindFreedom International.

Celia Brown, President of the MindFreedom International Board of Directors says:

“In Solidarity with #blacklivesmatter: African-Americans experience emotional distress, trauma and psychiatric oppression due to institutional racism. As a psychiatric survivor and African-American woman, I understand that African-Americans live daily with the threat or experience of psychiatric profiling, racial profiling, losing our lives due to police brutality, mass incarceration, poverty, involuntary psychiatric treatment, harmful mental health practices and psychiatric drugging. Racism chips away at the emotional well-being of the African-American community.”

In the United States, prisons are serving as de facto “treatment” facilities that warehouse and exploit the labor of a population that is disproportionately black and working class. Today, women are the fastest growing population of people being imprisoned. Historically, men have been incarcerated and women have been institutionalized in equally violent insane asylums. As the racist prison-industrial complex expands, so does the mistreatment of people experiencing mental and emotional duress. In fact, the system is designed to silence and invisibilize people that we, collectively, deem problems that we cannot solve.

Murphy suggests that his bill is a solution to the issue of people diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder or experiencing mental and emotional distress in prison, but we know that “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” is not a good solution. In reality, it is court-ordered Involuntary Outpatient Commitment. It’s just one more tactic of surveillance, control and domination — the newest manifestation of the insane asylum, the penitentiary, the private prison. In response to H.R. 3717, the original bill proposed, the Bazelon Center says:

“Rep. Tim Murphy’s (R-PA) mental health legislation flies in the face of the federal government’s efforts to promote community integration, and would send mental health systems decades backward. H.R. 3717 would destroy the main system of legal representation for Americans with psychiatric disabilities, would strip away privacy rights, would incentivize needless hospitalization and civil rights violations, and would redirect federal funds from effective, voluntary community services to high-cost, forced treatment, including involuntary outpatient commitment.”

Murphy’s bill is part of the story of centuries of racism and psychiatry unfolding in the United States.

Here is a very, very, very incomplete history of racism, psychiatry, and the USA:

  • 1792: Benjamin Rush, largely referred to as “the father of American psychiatry,” argued that the “color” and “figure” of African-Americans were derived from a form of leprosy, and he argued that with proper treatment, they could be cured and become white. Rush used the term “negritude,” popular at the time, to refer to the disease of blackness.
  • 1851: Drapetomania was a supposed mental illness described by American physician Samuel A. Cartwright that caused black slaves to flee captivity.
  • 1961: Black activist, musician and lawyer, Paul Robeson, is administered electroshock and excessive doses of multiple barbiturates with no psychotherapy.
  • 1967: Mark, Sweet and Ervin argue that brain disease plays a role in African American political resistance and suggest that lobotomy may be a solution to rioting.
  • 1984: Reagan admits to CIA involvement in the Introduction of crack cocaine to LA. (See the 2015 documentary Freeway: Crack in the System.)
  • Late 1980’s: Nina Simone is given the label “bipolar,” institutionalized and administered forced, unauthorized drugging.
  • 1992: The Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration unleashed its “violence initiative,” which sought a genetic basis for criminal behavior. ADAMHA director Frederick Goodwin compared the “high-impact inner city” to a jungle and its youth to rhesus monkeys who only want to kill one another, have sex and reproduce. By focusing on “biologically vulnerable” youth for psychiatric interventions, including drug treatments, the initiative was essentially depoliticizing as it de-emphasized social explanations for crime.
  • 1994: NAACP speaks out about the fact that minority boys are 11 times more likely than the general student population to be administered mind-altering drugs.
  • 2005: One of the main statistical reports about involuntary psychiatric drugging using court orders for people living at home out in the community was published this year by New York State. The data reveals that African Americans are far more likely be on the receiving end of such outpatient forced drugging. The report stated that “The racial and ethnic composition of the population receiving court-ordered treatment is diverse: 42% of AOT recipients are Black, 34% are White and 21% are Hispanic.”

(For a more elaborate history, see page 5 of the report linked in the resource list below.)

So-called “mentally ill” people are not our greatest dangers

Dan Fisher, National Empowerment Center
Dan Fisher, National Empowerment Center.

Once again, more gun violence is in the spotlight in the USA. At first, it would seem to make sense to think that mental health has the answer. But as Dan Fisher, MD, PhD, and Director of Emotional CPR at the National Empowerment Center points out:

“Rep. Timothy Murphy has proposed legislation, HR 2646, which would increase forced psychiatric treatment in our own homes out in the community, and institutionalization of persons with mental health conditions. This legislation is based on the false premise that persons with mental health conditions are more likely to carry out gun violence than the general population. In fact, persons with mental health conditions only account for 4% of gun related homicides and yet account for 20% of the population.”

The solution to gun violence that we are hearing is often from people who call for small government. However, forcing people in their own homes to take powerful psychiatric drugs may be one of the worst examples of government gone out of control. Incredibly, there are two examples from Minnesota where court orders for psychiatric care have meant that individuals living at home have been required to report to a nearby hospital to receive forced outpatient electroshock against their wills: Ray Sandford and Elizabeth Ellis.

Murphy’s Bill would make people’s bedrooms into cells and would make their homes into wards. Can you imagine turning psychiatrists into parole officers?

Cindi Fisher, activist and mother of a psychiatric survivor in Washington State.
Cindi Fisher, activist and mother of a psychiatric survivor in Washington State.

This debate about mental health may seem theoretical, but it can have real life consequences in families’ lives that can lead to a great deal of suffering. One of the mothers of a psychiatric survivor to speak out is an African American woman, Cindi Fisher.

She described having her son receive forced psychiatric drugging for almost two decades, rather than real help:

“Following the overdosing, within eight months, after stopping and starting the psychotic drug, over and over again in an attempt to relieve his torment and agony, he experienced a medical crisis and made a desperate attempt to get someone to call 9-1-1. This act was criminalized and was the beginning of a 19-year vicious cycle of being drugged and criminalized, jailed or forced hospitalized, released into the community without real treatment, and criminalized and drugged again. These treatments have caused a significant decline in his cognitive functioning; a loss of his love of music, and dancing, as well as made him an insulin dependent diabetic; dependent on high blood pressure medication and caused a critically enlarged growth on his thyroid gland.”

Take action to stop the racist Murphy bill!

We ought to all take action against the Murphy bill, which is getting many sponsors in Congress. Please ask US Representatives to send some questions to Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) about his bill H.R. 2646. This is called a “constituent inquiry” and is done frequently; the other congressperson often feels like they need to respond. Here are some questions you can ask:

  1. How many Americans do you feel should be court ordered to receive psychiatric care?
  2. How many more Americans would receive involuntary psychiatric procedures under your bill?
  3. Would involuntary psychiatric drugs, and even occasional electroshock, be court ordered to Americans living in their own home out in the community under your bill?
  4. Have you engaged in dialogue with the major groups representing USA mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors that are all opposed to your bill?
  5. How will you address the disproportionate impact that your bill will have on People of Color?

In addition to talking to your representative, we also encourage you to check out and contribute to the conversation happening on Twitter at #BlackLivesMatter

We say, #BlackLivesMatter! Spread the word.

* * * * *

Resources to Stop the Murphy Bill and Connect with the Mad Movement:


This note is to provide acknowledgment and thanks to Adrienne Bovee who worked so hard on this entry for months. Adrienne is truly a powerful, young, courageous worker for justice in prison, psychiatric, race and many other issues! 

This blog entry was originally posted at http://www.davidwoaks.com, and is protected by the Creative Commons (attribution, not-commercial). 


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. Constituent inquiry question # 6

    Before psychiatry takes a persons freedom under the Murphy bill and gives them court ordered drugging does the person have the right to a jury of his peers ?

    It could be worded better but criminals have the right to a jury before they get convicted so the question should be do people accused of mental illness under this Murphy bill have the same rights as a criminal ? This is VERY serious stuff this involuntary drugging and psychiatric lockups.

    I think psychiatry violates the 8th amendment “nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted” but of course they call them “treatment” not punishment and skirt around all that.

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  2. Good piece, great research and interesting proposals. (You scared me for a moment, I thought this was going to be some kind of “gun control” article.)

    The struggle against Murphy should be a no-brainer for anyone anywhere on the MIA spectrum, and as such is the stuff that coalitions are made of. I’m glad you’re bringing up racism because few here do, but we also need to emphasize that psychiatric oppression affects all strata of society, some more than others.

    In case anyone missed it Robert Whitaker recently threw down the gauntlet with this dramatic pronouncement:

    We cannot expect psychiatry to reform itself, and that leaves only one option: We need to strip psychiatry of its authority over this domain of our lives.

    Hopefully this will provide the spark for more & more people at MIA to prioritize fighting the outrageous Murphy Bill. Of course a key tenet of Murphy’s law is that if something can go wrong it will go wrong. Babylon and psychiatry will be ultimately crumble under the weight of their own contradictions; let’s try to make sure they don’t fall on us.

    And let’s keep making them try to publicly answer questions about psych drug mass murders.

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  3. http://mentalillnesspolicy.org/ (This is unedited, and copied exactly as it appears) Comments in (parenthesis are mine) Given the tragic recent mass shootings, again, in Oregon, why is America still prosecuting Schizophrenics to the Public in this light? This portrayal of schizophrenic’s is so disturbing it’s difficult for me to read this because I know it’s not the truth. And knowing full well how not only suicidal I became, but, extremely homicidal for 5 months following ‘cold turkey’ withdrawals from Effexor & Trazodone, and the Mood Stablizer Lithium, and I’ve never been ‘labeled’ schizophrenic in my life. I had never been this disturbed, distressed, or psychotic before in my life unless you take into account the world of pure terror, mental torture and psychosis I experienced from a Klonopin ‘cold turkey’ withdrawal only I did not become homicidal during this at all, I was too emotionally and mentally impaired. However, if there had been a gun in my house during this horrific withdrawal I most certainly would have used it to kill myself. In fact, the suffering was so ungodly intense, I prayed for one every second of every minute of every day for a many, many weeks. It still haunts me years later…


    Learn why seriously mentally ill people receive such poor care and the policies that can improve care; save money; and keep public and patients safer. Read “Uncivil Liberties” first… then left hand column and work your way across.

    Uncivil liberties
    Far from respecting civil liberties, legal obstacles to treating the mentally ill limit or destroy the liberty of the person
    By Herschel Hardin
    Herschel Hardin is an author and consultant. He was a member of the board of directors of the Civil Liberties Association from 1965 to 1974, and has been involved in the defense of liberty and free speech through his work with Amnesty International. One of his children has schizophrenia.
    The public is growing increasingly confused by how we treat the mentally ill. More and more, the mentally ill are showing up in the streets, badly in need of help. Incidents of illness-driven violence are being reported regularly, incidents which common sense tells us could easily be avoided. And this is just the visible tip of the greater tragedy – of many more sufferers deteriorating in the shadows and often, committing suicide.

    People asked in perplexed astonishment: ” Why don’t we provide the treatment, when the need is so obvious?” Yet every such cry of anguish is met with the rejoinder that unrequested intervention is an infringement of civil liberties. This stops everything.

    Civil Liberties, after all, are a fundamental part of our democratic society. The rhetoric and lobbying results in legislative obstacles to timely and adequate treatment, and the psychiatric community is cowed by the anti-treatment climate produced. Here is the Kafkaesque irony: Far from respecting civil liberties, legal obstacles to treatment limit or destroy the liberty of the person. The best example concerns schizophrenia.

    The most chronic and disabling of the major mental illnesses, schizophrenia involves a chemical imbalance in the brain, alleviated in most cases by medication. Symptoms can include confusion; inability to concentrate, to think abstractly, or to plan; thought disorder to the point of raving babble; delusions and hallucinations; and variations such as paranoia. Untreated, the disease is ravaging. Its victims cannot work or care for themselves. They may think they are other people – usually historical or cultural characters such as Jesus Christ or John Lennon – or otherwise lose their sense of identity. They find it hard or impossible to live with others, and they may become hostile and threatening. They can end up living in the most degraded, shocking circumstances, voiding in their own clothes, living in rooms overrun by rodents – or in the streets. They often deteriorate physically, losing weight and suffering corresponding malnutrition, rotting teeth and skin sores. They become particularly vulnerable to injury and abuse.

    Tormented by voices, or in the grip of paranoia, they may commit suicide or violence upon others. Becoming suddenly threatening, or bearing a weapon because of delusionally perceived need for self-protection, the innocent schizophrenic may be shot down by police. Depression from the illness, without adequate stability — often as the result of premature release — is also a factor in suicides. Such victims are prisoners of their illness. Their personalities are subsumed by their distorted thoughts. They cannot think for themselves and cannot exercise any meaningful liberty. The remedy is treatment — most essentially, medication. In most cases, this means involuntary treatment because people in the throes of their illness have little or no insight into their own condition. If you think you are Jesus Christ or an avenging angel, you are not likely to agree that you need to go to the hospital.
    Anti-treatment advocates insist that involuntary committal should be limited to cases of imminent physical danger — instances where a person is going to do bodily harm to himself or to somebody else. But the establishment of such “dangerousness” usually comes too late — a psychotic break or loss of control, leading to violence, happens suddenly. And all the while, the victim suffers the ravages of the illness itself, the degradation of life, the tragic loss of individual potential.

    The anti-treatment advocates say: “If that’s how people want to live (babbling on a street corner, in rags), or if they wish to take their own lives, they should be allowed to exercise their free will. To interfere — with involuntary commital — is to deny them their civil liberties.” Whether or not anti-treatment advocates actually voice such opinions, they seem content to sacrifice a few lives here and there to uphold an abstract doctrine. Their intent, if noble, has a chilly, Stalinist justification — the odd tragedy along the way is warranted to ensure the greater good. The notion that this doctrine is misapplied escapes them. They merely deny the nature of the illness. Health (Official) Elizabeth Cull appears to have fallen into the trap of this juxtaposition. She has talked about balancing the need for treatment and civil liberties, as if they were opposites. It is with such a misconceptualization that anti-treatment lobbyists promote legislation loaded with administative and judicial obstacles to involuntary committal.

    The result, …will be a certain number of illness-caused suicides every year, just as surely as if those people were lined up annually in front of a firing squad. Add to that the broader ravages of the illness, and keep in mind the manic depressives who also have a high suicide rate. A doubly ironic downstream effect: the inappropriate use of criminal prosectuion against the mentally ill, and the attendant cruelty of commital to jails and prisons rather than hospitals. Corrections officials once estimated that almost one third of adult offenders and close to half of the young offenders in the correction system have a diagnosable mental disorder.

    Clinical evidence has now indicated that allowing schizophrenia to progress to a psychotic break lowers the possible level of future recovery, and subsequent psychotic breaks lower that level further – in other words, the cost of withholding treatment is permanent damage. Meanwhile, bureaucratic road-blocks, such as time consuming judicial hearings, are passed off under the cloak of “due process” – as if the illness were a crime with which one is being charged and hospitalization for treatment is punishment. Such cumbersome restraints ignore the existing adequate safeguards – the requirement for two independent assessments and a review panel to check against over-long stays. How can such degradation and death — so much inhumanity — be justified in the name of civil liberties? It cannot. The opposition to involuntary committal and treatment betrays profound misunderstanding of the principle of civil liberties. Medication can free victims from their illness — free them from the Bastille of their psychosis — and restore their dignity, their free will and the meaningful exercise of their liberties.
    The Vancouver Sun July 22, 1993
    Reprinted with permission. Copyright 1993 The Vancouver Sun. All rights reserved.

    People with serious mental illness account for a disproportionate share of suicides, homelessness, violence, and incarceration.
    • 18% of population over 18 (43 million) has ‘any’ mental illness.
    • 4% of population over 18 (10 million) have ‘serious’ mental illness (SMI). This site focuses on serious mental illness.
    • 2 million mentally ill go untreated
    • One-third of homeless are mentally ill (200,000)
    • 16% of incarcerated (300,000) have mental illness
    • 1,000 homicides a year are committed by mentally ill
    • 10-17% of seriously mentally ill kill themselves
    • $15 billion is spent incarcerating mentally ill
    • Random acts of violence by minority are tarring the majority.
    Five Policies that Save Money, Improve Care, and Keep Public and Patients Safer
    • Spend smarter: Spend on mental “illness” not mental “health”. (Video of untreated schizophrenia)
    • Use Assisted Outpatient Treatment (court ordered outpatient treatment) for those with a history of violence dangerousness or multiple rehospitalizations due to noncompliance.
    • Reform involuntary commitment laws so they prevent violence, rather than require it.
    • Reform Medicaid law to preserve psychiatric hospitals (eliminate the IMD Exclusion)
    • People found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity and unfit to stand trial should receive mandated treatment

    Are people with mental illness more violent?
    If you are talking about the 40-50% of Americans who may have a “diagnosable mental disorder” during their lifetime (18% annually), then ‘no’, the mentally ill are not more violent than others.
    If you are talking about the 4% of Americans with the most serious mental illnesses that affect daily functioning–primarily schizophrenia and treatment-resistant bipolar disorder, then ‘no’, the mentally ill are not more violent than others.

    If you are talking about the subset of the 4% group who go off treatment that has previously prevented them from being psychotic, hospitalized, or violent, then ‘yes’ the mentally ill are more violent than others. This higher than normal rate of violence increases even more when these groups abuse substances. When people ask, “Are the mentally ill more violent”, they are usually asking about this group, the most seriously mentally ill who are not in treatment.

    What can make people with serious mental illness become violent?
    Short video: Consumers with untreated schizophrenia interviewed

    Violence is almost always associated with going off treatment and becoming delusional or psychotic. There are many reasons people with serious mental illness go off treatment. Some reasons are not unique to mental illness while others are. (They have this right as the withdrawal symptoms from ALL psychiatric drugs can, and usually do, induce extreme distress and psychosis that continually goes unrecognized by doctors, psychiatrists, and mental healthcare workers. Only, the patient is then blamed, doctors claim it’s always due to their underlying mental disorder resurfacing when in fact, they are very severe withdrawal symptoms from the drug or drugs – plain and simple, yet highly ignored.)

    The ability to regulate behavior is compromised because the brain is the organ affected.
    Anosognosia: Up to 50% of people with schizophrenia and many with bipolar lack insight: they are so sick they don’t know they are sick (anosognosia).

    Costs/Side Effects: Some refuse treatment because of costs, side effects, lack of support, etc.
    Civil Liberties: A misunderstanding of civil liberties, the nature of mental illness, combined with misinformation leads us to protect the right of the psychotic to ‘die with their rights on’ rather than mandating violence preventing treatments that can restore free will.

    Reaction to hallucinations and delusions. When people with serious mental illness act out, they are often doing so as a logical reaction to their delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. If you think someone is the Devil and trying to kill you, you will try to hurt them first.

    Misplaced Funding: Most money spent goes to improving mental ‘health’ not treating mental “illness”. People with serious mental illness are usually sent to the end of the line, rather than the front. The ability to get services is inversely related to need, therefore people with serious mental illness find it difficult to get services. Mental health providers often discriminate against highly symptomatic people with serious mental illnesses.

    Almost everyone has issues with involuntary commitment and involuntary treatment. This site rather than saying “it’s a difficult issue” and dropping it, attempts to study the science and law to come up with policies that balance the right of patients to have freedom, their right to receive treatment, the public’s right to safety, and sound fiscal policy. And while not advocating mass institutionalization, we recognize that the dearth of hospital beds has caused mass incarceration.
    Please Read Uncivil Liberties

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    • “Uncivil liberties”, the spin they put on things !

      What they don’t say is people don’t resist the first hospitalization much cause they don’t know what goes on yet. You are sick and acting crazy… We can take you to the hospital and get you some help. I am sure many people picture a nice bed, some meals maybe some of the better feel good drugs and don’t picture or know about the ugly locked doors and prison like security apparatus, cameras and guards posing as nurses or anything about the you can’t leave part or the intake strip searches , you can’t smoke, coerced disabling drugs with threats of injections actual forced injections , the trauma of witnessing violence by staff against patients over and over am I next ? The desperate “help me” phone calls to families from patients who tell them the inpatient nightmare is the “help” and the reactions to that.

      These Murphy Bill people are complete idiots, if they wanted more people to get treatment and to actually get well they would clean up the human rights abuses behind psychiatric locked doors so people in distress wouldn’t avoid the hospital like the plague second time they aren’t feeling well.

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      • When I was brain washed into the system in 1989, I was most definitely, told that my “manic depression-bipolar” was a chemical ilmbalance.Yet psychiatry is in absolute denial of this-Thanks to MiA contributor for pointing this out. Also it turns out that delusional thinking is not based on the merits of one’s thoughts or beliefs, but wether or not a percentage of people believe them. People who believe in alien abduction,belong to cults,’or subscribe to conspiracy theories like the illuminati are not in prisoned in psychiatric hospitals. My own particular heresey was to believe that a luxury hotel should be taken over and used as a homeless shelter and also no self-respecting food co-op should be selling the tree killing CIA friendly Washington Post. Thanks to conventional organizing techniques, the rate of union
        contracts in hotels has all but disappeared, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon who purchased the Post has a contract with the CIA. Also as has been pointed out by Szasz, the powerful are seldom on the short end of the psychiatric stick-when was the last time thatvinvoluntarily commitment proceedings were instituted by a student against a college dean? For that matter, the president is permitted to view his ascension to the highest office in the land as the fruition of the legacy of Martin Luther King, even though he threw his minister and mentor Rev. Wright under the bus, praises Reagan who rose to prominence on the strength of white backlash sentiment-see his trip to Philadelphia MS where he championed “states rights,” and as well as extending the war on terror to seven countries-remember King spoke forcible at his 1967 Riverside speach against the evils of US militarism.
        Besides the dreaded Axis I Bi-polar, I also have an Axis II for Narcicism.
        But in the end, I seem to have only two widely contrasting views to believe about myself-either I am a helpless mental case who is tormented by the now admitted phantom “chemical imbalance,” or I am a man ahead of my time.

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    • Uncivil liberties is a joke in very bad taste. The idea that forcing unwanted treatment on people somehow protects their liberty, civil or otherwise, is ludicrous from the get-go. If you will notice the above website belongs to D.J. Jaffe, a notorious opponent of constitutional protections for people with lived experience in the mental health system. I would find any statistical data, misinformation in all probability, from this website highly suspect.

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      • How to prepare for an emergency
        D.J. Jaffe

        “While AMI/FAMI is not suggesting you do this, the fact is that some families have learned to ‘turn over the furniture’ before calling the police. Many police require individuals with neurobiological disorders to be imminently dangerous before treating the person against their will. If the police see furniture disturbed they will usually conclude that the person is imminently dangerous.”


        Here is a video of the police killing a man after they were called.

        Recently released body cam footage from June 2014 shows two Dallas police officers fatally shooting the mentally ill Jason Harrison seconds after arriving on scene. Shirley Harrison, Jason’s mother, walks past Officers Andrew Hutchins and John Rogers telling them her son is “biopolar, schizo,” when Jason exits the home with a screwdriver. Seconds after telling him to drop it, the officers open fire.


        D.J. Jaffe will get your loved one killed.

        On May 11, Justin Way was drinking and threatening to hurt himself. His father, George Way, said his son was a recovering alcoholic and had been alcohol-free for five weeks.

        “He just lost his job, and he had a setback,” he said.

        Way’s live-in girlfriend, Kaitlyn Christine Lyons, said she’d caught Justin drinking a bottle of vodka, which she took away from him to pour out. She said he was drunk, lying in their bed with a large knife, saying he would hurt himself with it. She called a non-emergency number in an attempt to get her boyfriend to a local St. Augustine, Florida, hospital for help—and told them she did not feel threatened.

        “My brother has been Baker Acted three times because he was threatening to hurt himself so I figured that would happen with Justin,” said Lyons. Florida’s Baker Act allows the involuntary institutionalization of an individual, and it can be initiated by law enforcement officials.

        “The only person Justin threatened was himself and I honestly don’t think he wanted to die.”

        Minutes later, two St. Johns County Sheriff’s deputies, 26-year-old Jonas Carballosa and 32-year-old Kyle Braig, arrived at the home, armed with assault rifles, and told Kaitlyn to wait outside.

        “I thought they were going into war,” she remembered thinking when she first saw the large guns. Within moments, Justin was shot dead.

        George Way said the initial report he received from Detective Mike Smith detailed an incident wherein his officers said they were attacked by Justin with a knife. Way said Smith told him Justin had threatened Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn denies this.

        Denise Way, Justin’s mom, said the detective relayed to her that “they told Justin to drop the knife and he didn’t—so they shot him because ‘That’s what we do.’”


        Family Releases Dashcam of Cops Killing Mentally Ill Son in His Underwear for Holding a Broom
        Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/family-releases-footage-police-shooting-mentally-ill-man-call-medical-assistance/

        The department claims that Hall attacked officers with the broomstick and that two officers had fired tasers at him which were ineffective. The family maintains that this was a murder and that the police had no intention of leaving the scene with him alive.

        I could find and paste these stories all day there are so many.

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  4. ““Mental illness does not discriminate based on age, class or ethnicity.”

    This is another myth which serves the lie of mental illness being some mysterious thing out there unaffected by psychological or social factors.

    The fact is that young, poor, black/Hispanic people are labeled schizophrenic, bipolar, and other such epithets with much greater frequency than rich whites. Any Google search of “schizophrenia and ethnicity” will bring up a bunch of studies showing that 2-3x as many black people per capita get this diagnosis.

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    • The disproportionate labeling of People of Color is an important point.

      Many voices in the BlackMindsMatter (including some of the women featured in this article) are discussing the issue of the psychological toll of systemic and institutional racism.

      So of course we’re not saying that people of a certain race are biologically more susceptible or prone to certain conditions, but we absolutely must take disproportionate diagnosis rates into consideration.

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        • This discussion on lack of antipsychiatry leaders in the public brings to mind the observation that commenters on MIA tend to fall into three groups:

          1 – mental health professionals
          2 – retired, unemployed, or self-employed mental health survivors
          3 – working-age adults who work at private companies or in government, who have been affected by psychiatry in some way but who use an alias on MIA.

          Only the first two groups tend to make their identities public and to advocate for change publicly. The third group, which I’m in, has a more difficult time getting involved.

          I think that many potential leaders of the antipsychiatry movement feel unable or unwilling to lead because they fear losing their jobs if they “rock the boat” on controversial mental health issues.

          It’s why I don’t use my real name and photo, even though I’d like to. I wonder why you don’t do so, oldhead? You are clearly an articulate and intelligent fellow… is your anonymity based on the same reasoning as mine?

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          • Well I’m not saying which category I fall into but anyone who follows my ramblings to any degree could probably make a pretty good guess.

            Beyond my desire to have a private life my anonymity on MIA is an extension of my general “paranoia” about putting my personal and political opinions on the web forever and being targeted because of them, either now or at a later more repressive point when opposing this system may be considered a retroactive crime. Let’s hope that point doesn’t come, but if wishes were horses…(I forget the rest)…

            In addition to good old-fashioned cowardice, however, I see no reason why anyone should need to put their real name here or what purpose it would serve. Basically what is taking place at MIA in my view is an extended consciousness-raising session. OK, I’m not saying there’s never any reason for someone to use their name if they want to, but what’s more important is our ideas. Before we’re ready for prime time in terms of educating the public and effectively organizing for real change we need to have a better understanding of what we want, what we oppose, and why, as well as what strategies and tactics will best serve our aims. This is not a public discussion, but an inter-movement one. The public will come later in those terms, at which point we may choose specific spokespeople with names, should they agree to be chosen.

            Rather than relying on “name brand” leaders to speak for us and risk getting neutralized once they are identified we need to develop a collective understanding and analysis which will to a large degree allow any one of us to speak truth to power. Once they understand that getting rid of a few of us won’t stop the rest they will have little choice but to either start taking us seriously or try to get rid of all of us. (Be sure they will weigh both options carefully.)

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          • Oldhead,

            I recently watched Jacob Appelbaum’s Youtube presentations on true web anonymity and how to avoid the NSA’s seemingly endless reach, and if you haven’t seen them, encourage you to check him out.

            As for the other stuff you said about the nature of this consciousness raising movement I definitely agree!

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          • “I think that many potential leaders of the antipsychiatry movement feel unable or unwilling to lead because they fear losing their jobs if they ‘rock the boat’ on controversial mental health issues.”

            This seems paradoxical. Leaders are not afraid to rock the boat. That’s the kind of courage it takes to bring about change. Fear is what keeps things status quo.

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          • And *brilliant* leaders don’t care what others think about them, personally, and show up front and center. They lead with integrity, transparency, and humility. That would be the end of ‘politics,’ as we know them.

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          • Alex, this comment directed at me is problematic coming from you. From what I understand you are self-employed, working as a therapist/alternative medicine healer. So, for you to make a film about your work, to advocate publicly, which is a good thing…. you might lose a few clients, but you won’t likely lose your whole income, and many of your clients probably agree with your viewpoints anyway. You can’t suddenly be fired. If I’m wrong, tell me, but I doubt you’d be advocating publicly if your income and economic survival would be put at risk.

            In my situation, I work at a traditional job where if uninformed people found out that I covertly advocate against mental health diagnoses and psych drugging, I could get in real trouble. I work with parents and children in a quite direct/personal way in the kind of teaching I do. So for me to advocate publicly, I would be risking losing my income, which would then threaten my ability to pay the mortgage on my house, keep my car, keep my health insurance, and so on.

            If you are willing to put your whole income and security on the line to do something like this, let me know. I doubt it.

            My first interest is myself. I have to be secure first before I help others. If I feel that advocating for antipsychiatry more is going to threaten my own security, which I do, then I am not going to do it. As I’ve said before I’m an abuse survivor and in some ways a amoral Macchiavellian opportunist, and I will not put my economic survival on the line for the antipsychiatric cause. Money does matter… Some day, when I’m rich, then we’ll see!

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          • I certainly didn’t mean any disrespect, bdt, and I meant this in general. To me, these are good leadership qualities. That’s my subjective opinion, but I do stand by it, it makes sense to me.

            To me, leadership is by example, and especially in the case of what we talk about here. That does not at all imply that you do not have great value to this cause, which I know you have lived experience and are intelligent and articulate. But I still think leadership is about the things I talk about above, that is how change occurs, by taking risks. Your priorities are your priorities, though, we all have that prerogative and free will of choice there, I completely honor and respect that in anyone. We all have different paths.

            With that said, what you reflect back about me is not accurate. 12 years ago, I did risk my job to advocate, not just for myself but for anyone who wants to stand up for themselves against discrimination. I did not back down, which if I had, I would have kept my job as a social worker.

            But I did not cower, and stood up for what I knew was right. This was the first job I had had in a while following a period of disability, and I was still on shaky ground and not fully healed, but doing a lot of healing work on myself and getting better every day.

            My financial situation was precarious, however, and I was doing really great at this job, so I was on my way back to financial stability. But I got caught up in a power struggle with management over clients, for whom they did not advocate at all (only in pretense). And they were doing all sorts of tortuous things to me, the co-workers in my department all saw it. I’m an abuse survivor, too, and it was repeating big time, here. I was doing a lot of healing work to counteract this, but they really screwed me up a bit, from which I had to recover.

            I tried to transfer to another agency, but they would not help me and in fact did everything they could to sabotage me; and technically, I was still a client in transition, so I knew I had some legal protection. I was behind the curtain, and I blew the whistle. They fired me, I took them to legal task at Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and won–nothing earth shattering but enough to help me shift gears and get trained in alternative healing and other things that helped me to move along and set up shop.

            After this legal action, I would not be hired again in San Francisco in my field, which turned out to be the best thing ever and led to a very free and fulfilling life, outside all of that, including a life as a working artist, in addition to having my practice. I’d have been very satisfied and fulfilled as a voc rehab counselor, I enjoyed my work a lot. But my agenda was purely for clients, there’s was so not, so we were not compatible and they gave me the boot. As a result, I found out life had better things in store for me other than traditional employment.

            Looking back, I’d say, “What a relief!” Not then, it was painful and disorienting. But I got over it, and now I say that, thank God for fate.

            I’m not a psychotherapist. I studied to be one and used to be an intern, but I did not go that route, after all because I felt it was limited compared to what I wanted to do as a healer. I only gain clients from this film, which has been happening since I put it out there.

            I speak my truth very plainly because if someone is averse to it, I’m sure we wouldn’t be a good match. My work is not psychotherapy, it is about connecting with the truth of one’s heart and spirit. Starts with me.

            I advocate truth speaking as healing, not just for individuals but for society. I think one thing that makes this a ‘sick society’ is that we have too many secrets, that’s highly stressful and creates an illusory society. We repress so much—emotions, truth, our own light—that I feel it would be so much better if we came out of hiding. Chronic fear is not healthy, nor is living in shame, guilt, or self-judgment of any kind.

            But that’s just me, I don’t expect others to hold the same opinion, although perhaps some do. I know people who agree with me, and who live fully in view, despite anything. To me, that’s living our truth, and I don’t think anything is more freeing and healthful than that.

            It does require risk, and the ability to trust our process and intuition, which can be a process in and of itself to get there, but again, to me, that is freedom. I think it’s worth it. For sure, we will test those around us, who are prone to the status quo, but that is EXACTLY how change occurs, nothing less than that.

            I’m certainly not sitting on a pot of gold, I take risks all the time. That period of disability and living hand to mouth in a city like San Francisco taught me a lot. I took mega-risks while living there in order to heal and to be my true self, to create the way I had always desired. And now I do.

            For me, it’s not about money, it’s about living in present time and trusting one’s process, the universe, etc. That is peace of mind. Once we master that, the rest comes with surprising ease. This is all stuff I learned when I had to, when the chips were down, and it worked for me, it’s what I’ve been teaching for a while now.

            So I do respect your choice wholeheartedly, that is your path. But please know that I did, indeed, speak my truth and stand my ground against abuse and discrimination in the system, and I got sacrificed, just as I was about to transition from disability! These folks totally sabotaged my transition, and they got in big trouble for it, and eventually lost their funding. And for me, it led to the life of my dreams.

            I no longer see speaking my truth as taking a risk, I’ve been doing it for years now, never been in any kind of closet. It’s always liberating now. But for some, like you, I know it’s a different story, which is completely respectable as far as I’m concerned.

            But to be a leader in change, the change starts within. No way can change happen outside of us, without internal shifts, first. I firmly believe that. Be the example of change, and change happens.

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          • Alex, thanks for sharing and I respect very much what you did and acknowledge I was wrong about that.

            I wish that I could do this too. Maybe one day I will but in my case I feel I need to have more savings. It strikes me that my current position, of financial considerations dictating how open I am, gives me insight into one reason it may be so hard for psychiatrists to give up the lies about diagnosis and drugging – if they did, their high incomes might be forfeit. It is very hard to make a man see things if his income depends on it. There is some famous quote that goes like that.

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          • Thank you, bpd, and no worries of course. I do hear you and understand your predicament, as well as that of others who wish to be more visible with their voices, but who feel double bound. I certainly know this well, over and over.

            I do feel that people are more aware than ever these days how economics and economic disparity has dictated us into such fear-based oppression, that we are sacrificing ourselves in so many ways due to survival fears. This is where our current society has taken us, one way or another. I think media has a lot to do with it, what information it channels, and how it does so, from what perspective this comes to us, the mass audience.

            This power of $ is something that really has to change, somehow. Hard to say how that will occur, given how rigid our beliefs are around the power of money. We’ve made that a pretty hard core reality. We attach so much to it, as you imply above. I believe this can be undone, if we allow our perspectives to broaden.

            This is where I go into a more metaphysical/energy realm, and perceive from that perspective. At least it neutralizes the issue of money, and equalizes all factors, rather than giving such weight to simply one energy, such as what money is, like anything else.

            I believe when our intentions are strong and authentic enough, pathways appear. No doubt, yours will too at some point. Keep looking forward!

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    • Thanks for the remarks from several folks. About my listing of groups that are resisting the Murphy Bill: in no way was I trying to create a comprehensive list! At one point I do note that all, repeat all, of the groups led by people who have been through the mental health system are opposed to the bill, as far as I know. The lack of dialogue between Murphy and such groups is part of the problem, and this lack of dialogue has always been a problem with the psychiatric industry. However, it is very revealing to me that for years I have noted that survivors of sexual abuse by the catholic church have several groups that bring them together, as far as I know fairly effectively and powerfully. However, while mental health consumers have a few groups, organizations specifically set up for psychiatric survivors are difficult to find. MindFreedom is great but our goal has always been to unite a large diversity of groups with psychiatric survivors. There was in the USA a National Association of Psychiatric Survivors run by the late Rae Unzicker, however it only lasted a few years. Solidarity, unity and skill are needed to unite and maintain a group. It is not too late and I really think we need a major international group by and for psychiatric survivors. I realize there is a World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, I have not been in touch with them for a while. As great as it is that users and survivors have such a group, I see a need for groups that are focused on survivors of human rights violations by the mental health industry. Thanks again!

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      • David, to the degree that you were responding to my comment — MindFreedom as you said has a very broad-based approach, not exclusively run by survivors or specifically anti-psychiatry, and that’s its stated format. There may be now or in the future “survivor” groups which are not exclusively anti-psychiatry. That’s fine too. But the natural vanguard of our movement would be an organization which would be both led by survivors AND emphatically anti-psychiatry. (Although I say survivor led this does not exclude our non-psychiatrized allies in the fight against psychiatry; the caveat is that we choose our allies, they don’t impose themselves on us.)

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  5. I wonder if Australia might serve as a good example of the effect of Murphy type laws.

    They were introduced into one state here on the basis that there were a few people who were “falling through the cracks”. As a result laws were needed to deal with these 60 or so people. Once introduced within months there had been thousands of them issued.

    No complaints about them, so it must be working well. Though I think Adolf Hitler also found that by suspending human rights he had the perfect weapon for dealing with his enemies.

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