Human Rights Updates


For those of you who follow me, there have been some changes in my life and circumstances that are relevant to some things going on in the movement and the world, and also some new documents coming out of the UN that I haven’t reported yet to the survivor community and our allies.

I will try to wrap up everything in a kind of end-of-year update, and hope to also make myself available for a phone/internet dialogue at some point.

1. Personal Circumstances

First, I am back in school for a master’s degree in Public International Law; yes this is what I have been doing for the past thirteen years and it still makes sense to put myself in a learning situation where I can be with other people thinking about some of the issues beyond forced psychiatry¬†and the CRPD. ¬†Everything relates back, as I wrote in a blog post earlier this year reflecting on some of my readings that led me to posit fundamental values of meta-autonomy and meta-equality.

I have also left my thirteen-year relationship with the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry.  It was both a necessary step for me to free myself of attachments and become ready for a new phase in my work, and a situation where systemic values of relationship began to clash.  Above all, I feel that the trajectory of my work is such that a natural cycle has been completed, while at the same time I wish that the process had been otherwise.

2. Feminism and Legal Theory

Second, somewhat related to all this, I have become much more involved in feminism. ¬†If you want a real conversation with me, you are welcome to email me through this site or to connect with me on Facebook. ¬†Folks who trash feminism in the comments here will be free to do that because I do not control the comments section, and I don’t recognize MIA as any arbiter of what is good and right, or of what counts as feminism.

The roots of my work on forced psychiatry as torture have always been feminist; bodily autonomy and embodied personhood, rape as the primal and gendered crime, were concepts and principles that I drew on and elaborated further in my theory and practice, which has now in the bottom line been accepted by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. ¬†As a woman, my bodily autonomy and embodied personhood is indivisible: I am entitled to my space and self-defense and self-determination both against male interference and against psychiatry, and I find that being female is more a collective identity than a personal issue of non-discrimination in the sense of being treated the same as men. ¬†Rather, as I have found in writing¬†commentary on the question of abortion as dealt with in a draft General Comment by the UN Human Rights Committee (monitoring body for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), the law needs to start from a premise of males and females having equal power and equal freedom to determine boundaries, spaces, definitions relevant to any aspect of culture. ¬†Women’s personhood being equal to that of men means that the condition of pregnancy is part of the human condition and women’s bodily autonomy and embodied personhood encompasses the situation of being pregnant. ¬†Restrictions on her bodily autonomy in relation to the condition of pregnancy, especially when couched in terms of recognizing “rights” or “capacities” of a fetus, which implies attributes of personhood,¬†accord an inferior legal personhood to women compared with that of men, in violation of the principle and right to equality and non-discrimination. ¬†I will be sending these comments to the Human Rights Committee and will also post them on my page at when finalized.

I anticipate that I may write my thesis on some aspect of legal theory and philosophy that combines feminism and critical disability/survivor knowledge, and addresses the problematic nature of the state in relationship to questions of individual and collective self-determination.  I am also hoping to put together a collection of my published and unpublished (or informally published) writings related to the CRPD, to have these materials in a book form.

3. Human Rights Developments in the UN

Third, I want to discuss the state of affairs in the UN with respect to the right to be free from psychiatric oppression, and related to this, the importance of survivor knowledge.

A. CRPD Committee General Comment No. 1, and Guidelines on Article 14

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has put in place all the key elements of jurisprudence needed for the abolition of forced psychiatry. ¬†In 2014, they established in General Comment No. 1 that no one’s legal right to make their own decisions can be taken away on the basis of someone else’s¬†assessment of their decision-making skills. ¬†States (governments) and medical professionals must recognize and respect our legal capacity to make decisions at all times including in crisis situations. ¬†Forced psychiatric interventions¬†are a violation of human rights perpetuated by mental health laws everywhere in the world, and must be abolished. ¬†This was an interpretation of Article 12 on equal recognition before the law, and also brought in Article 14 on the right to liberty and security of the person and Article 15 on the right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment.

In 2015, the Committee went into more detail in its Guidelines on Article 14¬†on the right to liberty and the absolute prohibition of detention based on an actual or perceived psychosocial disability (impairment), including when combined with other¬†criteria such as alleged danger to self or others, or alleged need for care and treatment (paragraphs 6-10, 13-15). ¬†(Note that an earlier version of the Guidelines appears in a google search; the correct document linked on the Committee’s webpage is titled GuidelinesArticle14 and the incorrect¬†one is titled GuidelinesOnArticle14.)

The Guidelines also reiterate the standard in General Comment No. 1 with respect to legal capacity in crisis or emergency situations (paragraphs 11 and 22-23), and announce that forced treatment, as well as the use of any kind of restraint in mental settings, is a violation of Article 15, which prohibits acts of torture and other ill-treatment (paragraph 12).  In addition the Guidelines state that declarations of incompetence to stand trial or criminal non-responsibility, and detention based on such declarations, contravenes Article 14 (paragraphs 16 and 20).  In their September 2015 session the Committee applied the prohibition of declarations of non-responsibility based on disability for the first time to a common-law country, Kenya, where the declaration was in the form of an insanity defense.  Previously this had been applied in civil-law jurisdictions such as Mexico, Ecuador, and Belgium, where the regime of unimputability combines a declaration of non-responsibility with the preclusion of any right to stand trial and be considered innocent until proven guilty.  The Committee has thus established a standard calling for equal substantive rights as well as equal procedural rights in the context of criminal responsibility.

This issue could have been addressed under Article 12 as well as under Article 14; under Article 14 there is an assumption of a process that leads to detention, whereas¬†it¬†would be helpful to leave open the question of forms of punishment and accountability to be developed in new ways in response to both the experiences of persons with disabilities and the movement led by survivors of prison incarceration to abolish the penal system as well. ¬†In any case, the Committee’s interpretation of Article 14 now very well reflects the intention that the disability community brought to this article in the negotiations and afterwards. ¬†It is¬†a two-pronged non-discrimination provision; there can be no deprivation of liberty that is based in whole or in part on disability – such detention is a direct and deliberate act of discrimination, and furthermore all regimes of detention that are otherwise permitted under international law, including existing systems of criminal justice, must not discriminate in any way based on disability (see paragraphs 3-5 and 7). ¬†The Committee has recognized the value of restorative justice and other diversion mechanisms that do not amount to psychiatric commitment or compliance with mental health treatment (in its concluding observations and in the Guidelines, paragraph 21), and this is a helpful move in the direction of more progressive jurisprudence in the area of criminal justice overall, beyond equality rights of persons with disabilities.

The recognition that forced treatment is a violation of Article 15 is likewise a significant development, which began in 2008 when the Special Rapporteur on Torture first acknowledged that non-consensual psychiatric interventions could amount to acts of torture and ill-treatment, adopting the terminology I had proposed during the CRPD drafting process that drew attention to both the element of non-consent and the targeting of disabled persons¬†for forcible correction of what is perceived to be our disordered bodies and minds. ¬†A subsequent Special Rapporteur on Torture declared¬†in 2013¬†that states should impose an absolute ban on non-consensual psychiatric interventions (paragraph 89(b)), but later in response to the World Psychiatric Association and American Psychiatric Association backtracked and said he only intended the absolute ban when the intervention was based “solely” on disability (see also the entire compilation of responses to the report on torture in health-care settings, which includes an article¬†by me). ¬†The Rapporteur’s position is odd in¬†that is clearly intended to negate the idea of an absolute ban but is a meaningless standard. ¬†A psychiatric intervention that was not based “solely” on disability would be based on other impermissible grounds, such as behavior control, which is not a legitimate reason for an invasive medical treatment. ¬†The Rapporteur was likely thinking of the standard that was rejected in the CRPD negotiations with respect to detention based on disability; however even pre-CRPD it was recognized that medical treatment was a greater invasion of bodily autonomy than deprivation of liberty, and standards were not identical. ¬†In any case,¬†the CRPD Committee has decisively rejected any arguments that attempt to insert “solely” into Article 14 with their analysis of the negotiating history in the Guidelines,¬†pointing out that there were states as well as civil society that rejected the insertion of such a term on the basis that it would open the door to deprivation of liberty based on disability plus other factors (paragraph 7 of the Guidelines). ¬†It’s important to remember that we have had allies at every step, including¬†within governments. ¬†Now that the Committee has taken the step of recognizing that forced treatment is unequivocally a violation of Article 15, we are on stronger ground in referring to forced and coerced drugging, forced and coerced electroshock, chemical, physical and mechanical restraints, as psychiatric torture plain and simple.

B. Contrary Developments Elsewhere

The CRPD Committee issued the Guidelines not only¬†to clarify some of the most contentious issues surrounding the treaty and its interpretation, but also in response to developments elsewhere in the international and regional human rights systems that have gone contrary to Article 14. ¬†I reported on the revision of the Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners, which authorizes psychiatric detention of those found not criminally responsible and also for purposes of¬†observation and treatment. ¬†In addition, in 2014 the UN Human Rights Committee (monitoring body for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) adopted General Comment No. 35 on ICCPR Article 9, liberty and security of the person, in which they adhered to their old standard of accepting psychiatric detention with procedural safeguards (see paragraph 19). ¬†The Council of Europe meanwhile proposed a protocol to the Oviedo Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine that would elaborate on criteria and procedures for non-consensual psychiatric interventions. ¬†Consultations were being held through November 15 of this year, and no further news appears on the COE website. ¬†The CRPD Committee referred to these developments in the introductory paragraphs to the Guidelines on Article 14 (paragraph 1), providing context for their decision to take this step of issuing a document summing up and expanding on their jurisprudence¬†addressed to particular countries in their concluding observations, so that the Committee’s official position¬†is made known throughout the worldwide human rights regime and can also be more readily used for purposes of national monitoring and implementation, including in states that have not yet appeared before the Committee.

C. Basic Principles and Guidelines of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention 

The CRPD Guidelines on Article 14 incorporated a portion of another document issued in 2015 that offers hope to the survivor community: the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on remedies and procedures on the right of anyone deprived of their liberty to bring proceedings before a court, adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and presented to the Human Rights Council.  The WGAD Principles and Guidelines are significant for several reasons.  Like the earlier work of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, they represent an incorporation of the CRPD text and jurisprudence into general standards of international law beyond the treaty itself.  The WGAD standards are applicable in all countries and not only states parties to the CRPD (or any other treaty); although they are non-binding they have weight as an interpretation of international law by an official body of the United Nations, and the WGAD furthermore has the power to consider individual cases and issue published opinions.

Principle 20 and Guideline 20 address the rights of persons with disabilities, and instruct judges to apply the absolute prohibition of “involuntary committal or internment on the grounds of the existence of an impairment or perceived impairment, particularly on the basis of psychosocial or intellectual disability or perceived psychosocial and intellectual disability.” ¬†Guideline 20 reiterates key aspects of CRPD jurisprudence including the requirement that mental health services be based on free and informed consent of the person concerned and that a person’s perceived or actual decision-making skills cannot be used to to justify denying the ability to hold rights and duties or exercise such rights and duties. ¬†Guideline 20 also incorporates in paragraph 106(c)¬†a standard I have long advocated that applies independent living and full participation within the context of deprivation of liberty (for example, that in a prison setting people with disabilities should have the right to participate equally in mainstream activities and not be relegated instead to mental health programming). ¬†Paragraph 107, which is the portion incorporated into the CRPD Guidelines on Article 14, includes the right to stand trial with any needed support and accommodations and not be declared incompetent, and detailed description of the measures that judges might order in response to the efforts of a person detained in a psychiatric hospital or subjected to forced treatment to secure their release:

(1) Individuals who are currently detained in a psychiatric hospital or similar institution and/or subjected to forced treatment, or who may be so detained or forcibly treated in the future, must be informed about ways in which they may effectively and promptly secure their release, including injunctive relief;

(2) Injunctive relief should consist in an order requiring the facility to release the person immediately and/or to cease immediately any forced treatment and anysystemic measures, such as those requiring mental health facilities to unlock their doors and to inform persons of their right to leave, and establishing a public authority to provide for access to housing, means of subsistence and other forms of economic and social support in order to facilitate de-institutionalization and the right to live independently and be included in the community. Such assistance programmes should not be centred on the provision of mental health services or treatment, but free or affordable community-based services, including alternatives that are free from medical diagnosis and interventions. Access to medications and assistance in withdrawing from medications should be made available for those who so decide.

Note that these measures include collective and systemic remedies as well as release and cessation of forced treatment of the individual concerned.  In addition, persons with disabilities are to be provided with compensation and other forms of reparation for arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of liberty (paragraph 107(f), also Principle 15 and Guideline 16).  Deprivation of liberty based on an actual or perceived impairment, including mental health detention, is both unlawful and arbitrary under the Guidelines (see paragraph 24), since it is contrary to international law (see paragraph 12 of the accompanying report) and discriminates based on disability (see paragraph 10(e) of the accompanying report).  The WGAD furthermore accepted in Guideline 20 (paragraph 106(b)) that:

The denial of legal capacity of persons with disabilities and detention in institutions against their will, without their consent or with the consent of a substituted decision-maker constitutes arbitrary deprivation of liberty in violation of international law.

This is the same language used by the CRPD Committee in General Comment No. 1 (para 41), and it is significant that the WGAD accepts that the prohibition of institutional detention without the person’s own consent is applicable as a matter of general or customary international law and not only as an obligation imposed on states parties to the CRPD. ¬†It is an important step in the consolidation of international law standards around the CRPD as the most authoritative text and interpretation relating to the rights of people with actual or perceived disabilities, notwithstanding the contrary standards still being applied by some actors in the international and regional systems.

4. Survivor Knowledge

Something interesting came up in the context of an interview that I participated in to inform a report being conducted by a journalist/researcher on the state of affairs in our movement. ¬†I found myself in the unlikely position of being called upon to justify the value and principle of survivor leadership and the definition of the movement I am part of, as being a survivor movement. ¬†The fact that this came up in a context where we are all assumed to be working at least for similar goals, for the abolition of psychiatric oppression (? perhaps – since others would characterize our goal as “psychiatric rights” or improvements in the mental health system, with which I would strenuously disagree)¬†reminded me of the necessity to emphasize and draw distinctions between a liberation movement and a general cause. ¬†I am part of a liberation movement, which is a movement by and for the people who are being oppressed.

The fact that many or most of us do not identify with the labels imposed by the oppressor is a strength and not a weakness Рwe are survivors and do not need to be answerable to supposed allies who are not satisfied with our self-definition.  (If we want further legal arguments, both the ADA and the CRPD jurisprudence accept the category of people who are perceived to have an impairment or disability as having rights to not be discriminated against based on disability.  The CRPD as a human rights and non-discrimination treaty will be flexible enough to consider our various self-definitions as part of the human right to freedom of expression, and in the spirit of opposing the medical model of disability with a social model that is grounded in the lived experience of those concerned.)

Survivor knowledge is the center of gravity of our liberation movement, and should be the center of gravity for our allies who oppose psychiatric oppression or even who want to improve the mental health system (which, unless it also abolishes forced psychiatry and other psychiatric oppression, will be on the wrong side, and an anti-liberation movement; they would then not be allies).  The fact that this is called into question highlights the elevation of non-survivor researchers, activists, academics and lawyers over those of us who are survivors and who may also have these roles or others from which to develop our theory and practice.  The US movement in particular has had this tension from the beginning, with many leading figures who are non-survivors.  It is high time for the elevation of non-survivors and the refusal to acknowledge our character as a liberation movement to stop, and for survivors to insist that it stop.

I am of course mindful of the criticisms that have been made of this website, and I do not really want to get into a dialogue with the site, as I believe that survivors need to gather our energies and focus on our connections with each other whether through this site or in other forums.  This is another way that my work is informed by feminism and links up with feminist inspiration and values, as I similarly consider that women need to focus on our own gatherings and insist on the right to collectively as well as individually define and defend our boundaries.  For more of my thoughts on survivor knowledge, please see this article, which I wrote for publication in an anthology but had to withdraw due to censorship.

5. Conclusion

This post is certainly a mixed bag, and I hope there is enough useful information and thought-provoking material to be worthwhile for readers.  Due to my school work I do not have as much time to deal with all topics in depth.  I believe that I am leaving WNUSP at a good time in that the international interpretation and application of the CRPD is secure enough so that the trajectory of my work begun in 2002 is completed.

There is still much work to be done to flesh out the way some of the standards need to work in practice, including criminal responsibility; the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights held an expert meeting on this topic in September 2015 in which I delivered a presentation based on my article Rethinking Criminal Responsibility. ¬†From my perspective we arrived collectively at a better solution that I reached in my article, agreeing that the solution was to consider the person’s social circumstances including issues of oppression and discrimination as part of a determination of responsibility, but not to place the person’s decision-making under scrutiny in any way. ¬†This is the way to mirror the role played by support for the exercise of legal capacity, since it is not a question of¬†self-determination by the individual but instead¬†a system of imposing consequences; in both contexts, the positive act of self-determination or self-defense as well as the complementary imposition of consequences for failure to adhere to obligations to the community we¬†reject the judicialization of actual or perceived decision-making skills and instead provide support and accommodations for the individual¬†act and consideration of social context as relevant to the social imposition of consequences. ¬†The potential for remedies and reparation, including an end to impunity, are wide open, and in that regard people living in countries that have ratified the CRPD Optional Protocol should consider bringing cases of psychiatric detention and forced interventions for the Committee to decide, and requesting systemic as well as individual relief including relevant reparations (see my post on Reparations and the material from Hege Orefellen on reparations including in a more recent post).

I also plan to work on possibilities for strategic litigation and law reform in the US; my exploration of legal theory is helping me to see how the paradigm shift from procedural safeguards to absolute prohibition, which the CRPD has now made in international law, can be accomplished and transferred to domestic law and US legal culture.  As always, interested survivors and allies are welcome to connect me and exchange information and ideas.


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  1. Thank you for your community service and this update on human rights. It is inspiring that the UN Human Rights Commission is advocating for the rights of people struggling with emotional distress.

    However, I am confused by the success of the CRPD since it labels emotional distress as a mental ‚Äúdisability.‚ÄĚ Lived experiences taught me that ‚Äúmental disorders‚ÄĚ are emotional distress and that my thoughts and behaviors were the natural, normal neurobiology of my painfully distressful experiences. I consider psychiatry fundamentally flawed in its understanding of emotional distress as a reflection of a ‚Äúmental disorder‚ÄĚ- of ‚Äúnon compos mentis.‚ÄĚ Perceiving of natural emotional suffering as a reflection of a mental ‚Äúdisability‚ÄĚ seems like the foundation of psychiatry and its harmful human rights violations.

    Best wishes, Steve

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    • Hi Steve,

      The way I reconcile these issues is with the concept of “perceived impairment/disability.” This is recognized in the US ADA, in the WHO ICF “International Classification of Functioning” (although the ICF is hugely problematic in other ways, highly medical model in the way it describes the problems people might face in the mental realm, following DSM/ICD diagnoses from what a colleague says whose opinions I trust), in the Inter-American Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against People with Disabilities, and last but not least in the jurisprudence of the CRPD Committee although it is not in the CRPD itself.

      When I analyzed my own experience of forced psychiatry in the context of a law school human rights class (years ago before I worked on the CRPD), it seemed to me that there were three key components. One, analogous to rape, was forced drugging. I eventually formulated that as torture under human rights law, and I have been thinking recently about the close connections it has with actual rape in the sense of bodily autonomy and embodied personhood as I mention in my post, and will hope to address further in other papers. The s second component was something I conceptualized as poverty, it has to do with being treated as if you are worthless and do not merit getting your basic needs met in a dignified way. The emblematic experience was that they served us a mixture of coffee and tea that tasted vile, just because “some people like coffee and some people like tea.” We were not considered human enough to care about how our beverage tastes. The third component was the “on account of factor.” I had interned in the immigrant and refugee rights clinic and was thinking about the standard to find persecution for purposes of granting asylum, there had to be something about the person that they could not change or should not be forced to change, that somehow motivated the persecution. It seemed to me that in our case the “on account of factor” is disability. Somebody, multiple people, think that there is something wrong with us that warrants adverse treatment, and this something is not a group characteristic like race or sex but is supposed to be something that deviates from a supposed and desired norm at an individual level. With psychiatric labeling there is both a sense of fault and obliteration or obscuring of fault, because it is viewing the social and personal from a medicalized viewpoint. In any case, I think that disability is an accurate description or naming of both the reason for the persecution, and also the experiences that some of us have of not being able to fit in or to do all the things that we see others around us doing apparently with ease. So in that sense I think that the concept of disability should be able to reconcile those of us who just want to left alone, with those of us who want supports and accommodation of some kind. I don’t believe these experiences are contradictory or give rise to contradictory politics. In fact the CRPD Committee has adopted this approach of affirming both experiences in its General Comment No. 1 on Article 12 (legal capacity), saying that people have a right to support if they wish, but can also choose to claim only the right to have their legal capacity respected and refuse support. This of course is crucial for our movement.

      I hope this clarifies for you my reasoning and the background and context of how the concept of disability is used in the CRPD with respect to survivor experiences.

      All the best,


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      • The Supreme Court has consistently relied upon what it has termed the ‚Äútraditional indicia of suspectedness,‚ÄĚ considering whether the class is ‚Äúsaddled with such disabilities, or subjected to such a history of purposeful unequal treatment, or relegated to such a position of political powerlessness as to command extraordinary protection from the majoritarian political process.‚ÄĚ Johnson v. Robison, 415 U.S. 361, 375 n.14 (1974) (internal quotation
        marks omitted) (quoting San Antonio Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1,
        28 (1973))
        However, the fact that mental illness is not a trait such as race or sex or even that of a physical disability, we are not considered a suspect classification. We are viewed as disposable people when the reality is that the prevalent, widespread, and historic level of prejudice and mistreatment of the mentally ill actually is the oldest prejudice in this country. It is also considered socially acceptable. You won’t hear a racial slur on prime time television but how many times do you hear people called Bipolar, Psychotic, Schizo. or even just mentally ill. How many times is it a negative generalization or the punchline of a joke? Most people don’t even notice. While I agree with so many points in this comment, the problem I see is that even the ADA has historically treated mental illness differently than other disorders. Their track record with protecting those with mental illness is equally poor along with the EEOC. I think that as long as we are classified as disabled, we will continue to run into the problem of society looking for a physical ailment. Additionally, with the historical significance of the stigma, abuse, and prejudice of the mentally ill, we may be better suited to establish ourselves as a suspect class more easily.

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        • I don’t understand your point. In fact, under constitutional law there is no distinction between the classifications of mental disability and physical disability. There is a high degree of discrimination against us, which is political and seeps into law but is not based on any rational legal distinction that can stand up to scrutiny. This seems to be the position you take also at the end of your comment, so we agree on that.

          You are saying that you would prefer to talk about people labeled as mentally ill being a suspect class without bringing disability. If that works, I have no problem with it. But what we have seen in the past is that the classification of mental illness itself is problematic – it operates as a negation of the person and imposition of a narrative on their experiences that is delegitimizing. Those of us working on this in the international movement so far have all chosen to use the disability framework as being more flexible and friendly to our interpretations and less wedded to the medical model and prejudice. This was certainly the case in the UN. The “Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and for the Improvement of Mental Health Care” of 1991 is in the procedural safeguards paradigm; although it’s not characterized as a non-discrimination instrument per se it does include provisions on non-discrimination – and they are all non-discrimination within a discriminatory framework that has us as deserving inferior rights. It’s possible that post-CRPD one could create laws explicitly dealing with non-discrimination based on “mental illness” or an equivalent classification that would actually be human rights based and do away with forced psychiatry and substitute decision-making. See my post on what CRPD compliant mental health legislation would look like, as a related hypothesis. I wrote that in response to repeated questions asking me in essence to plug the loophole, to see if there was a possibility that the CRPD standard of absolute prohibition could be met within the context of a mental health law. But since I wrote it, everyone who has commented on the subject in our movement has said that they think it’s better to work for national legislation that is comprehensive disability rights legislation and includes people with psychosocial disabilities, legal capacity reform, and abolition of forced psychiatry. I think this is for two reasons, it creates a larger constituency that is harder to marginalize and it situates our rights more clearly as part of a theoretical framework (legal theory and doctrine, legal philosophy, politics of non-discrimination) that is somewhat accepted.

          Reasonable accommodation, mainstreaming/ inclusion and participation, acceptance of diversity and not penalizing that diversity, autonomy meaning we get to have the final say while using as much support or as little support as we want, that is all hugely relevant to abolishing forced psychiatry and would be much harder outside the disability framework.

          All the best,


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  2. I have long been awe-struck and humbled by your unparalleled international anti-psych work, and your dedication to methodically hammering out the details rather than engaging in extensive attention-getting p.r.; at least that’s the way it appears from here.

    As you know, Americans are constantly told that they are “exceptional,” when for the most part they are conformist automatons who are losing their abilities to reason or even see what’s in front of them. So it may well take the intervention of the international community to save us, as has been the case with U.S. political prisoners, the death penalty, etc. Your groundbreaking efforts with the U.N. should help set the stage, and are likely the most important concrete anti-psychiatry accomplishments in the past 30 years.

    Survivor knowledge is the center of gravity of our liberation movement, and should be the center of gravity for our allies who oppose psychiatric oppression or even who want to improve the mental health system (which, unless it also abolishes forced psychiatry and other psychiatric oppression, will be on the wrong side, and an anti-liberation movement; they would then not be allies)…It is high time for the elevation of non-survivors and the refusal to acknowledge our character as a liberation movement to stop, and for survivors to insist that it stop.

    OMG finally someone else is here taking the sorts of crucial stands on survivor leadership that seem important to maybe five or six people on this site at the moment. (Sorry if I missed anyone. ūüôā ) Only we can determine what our movement should look like, and while we do have real allies, only we can decide who they are. I would hope that your departure from CRPD would free up some time, but I guess school probably grabs it back. Anyway I hope that you will be able to make more salient commentary here as energy permits; it wouldn’t have to be voluminous, sometimes the right point at the right time works wonders.

    I have no standing or need to engage you on any details of your focus on feminism and the movement. However — and this is about the only thing you’ve ever written that I strongly disagree with — I urge you to reconsider engaging people on FACEBOOK or encouraging others to do so. Even if you don’t believe as I do that FB is primarily a site for surveilling and tracking people, creating data banks, histories and personality profiles for use by whomever buys the info, and providing facial recognition date to police and government agencies, the inevitable risk to such vulnerable populations as people with psychiatric histories should be apparent. There has to be a better place for us to discuss the things we discuss. While it would be good if anti-psych survivors had an independent website, so far there’s no place on the web that to me feels as secure and trustworthy as MIA in terms of safety and relative privacy. Maybe you would have some ideas about how to resolve this problem?

    Anyway it looks like this is getting long; hopefully this will be a productive thread. Thanks for this.

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    • Hi Oldhead,

      With regard to feminism it is something I am developing as an aspect and area of my work, and I won’t debate it for the same reasons I don’t debate the abolition of forced psychiatry. I don’t debate my human rights. I advocate and fight for and defend these rights. My intellectual stance, my theory and practice is just not about debate. People who find debate useful should go ahead and do it; I have learned from hearing people debate an issue respectfully but I also see how quickly debate turns disrespectful, and it becomes exhausting to engage with it. I trust that my work will be useful or not on its own terms.

      I also want to clarify that I am not leaving work on the CRPD entirely, it’s a new phase for me but I am still involved at the international level in my personal capacity and through CHRUSP.

      With regard to survivor knowledge, there too I feel my best contribution is to speak my truths and find ways to work that I find effective. I am open to projects that other survivors initiate, and believe there is room for us all, and room to criticize each other’s work and disagree also on a principled basis, and still to work together beyond disagreements in a kind of principled pragmatism when that also is mutually agreeable. So yes, I expect to keep commenting, here and elsewhere.

      All the best,


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      • Glad you’ll be around to comment. I don’t believe in “debating” as a form of recreation either, at least not here, though I guess it’s a matter of connotation. I am trying to do my best in MIA discussions to bring about a higher level of collective political awareness, and to bridge and/or erase divisions between sectors of the “survivor” population and people in general (and draw lines where necessary) — all of which are preconditions for a successful struggle imo. I know you have your own focus, just emphasizing that any contributions you make to the commentary here are valuable and welcome, especially to anti-psychiatry folk. Your stance on “survivor” leadership is one that is particularly important to hear expressed and articulated more often.

        Btw I certainly didn’t mean to imply that I thought you should “debate feminism”; I tried to make clear that I would never consider myself qualified or entitled to do so. I referenced your comments about feminism only as a lead-in to my points about Facebook, which apply broadly and not just to women.

        At some point soon I think as a budding movement we should start discussing in at least a semi-organized way what kinds of legal research and training are needed to address our needs as we see them, rather than as defined by those who, however well-meaning, are still operating from a reformist mentality. Your legal knowledge and experience are invaluable in this regard as well. So, thanks for all you’ve done already, and Happy New Year!

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        • Yes I absolutely agree we should start discussing in a semi-organized way what kinds of legal research and training are needed. I am hoping to organize something with other survivor lawyers as a place from which some of that could begin, or a place where it could be centered. And this would need to be open to collaboration with non-lawyer survivors interested in thinking about it together. There may well end up being many forums, but this is something I am hoping to do.

          All the best,


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  3. Thanks for the update, Tina. I can’t think of anyone who has done more towards ending coercion on the legal front, and I want you to know that those efforts are much appreciated. I identify with many of the causes you support, and, frankly, I’m glad our movement, our liberation struggle, has you.

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    • Thanks to you Frank for doing so much on the prevention and escape end of the survivor trajectory so that maybe some of our kids have a chance of exiting the system before decades of debilitating forced treatment. From a parent who considers herself an ally.

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  4. Tina,
    This is an excellent article and I wholeheartedly agree with two points especially:

    1) The need to acknowledge that psychiatric coerced treatment is torture and reform laws accordingly.

    2) The need for psychiatric survivor viewpoints and knowledge to be front and center in leading and effecting reform. America is particularly bad in terms of carrying on what I would call “pseudoreform” or “simulacrum reform”, in which token measures to “reduce overdrugging” or “reduce overdiagnosis” are undertaken while the profit and coercion structure remains in place. Two-faced individuals like Allen Frances who have no place leading the reform movement are elevated above much more honest people like yourself who have actual experience of the horrors that they are trying to change. This has to stop.

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    • Thanks for your response, BPD Transformation. Stay tuned re law reform, it will be a huge project to challenge the destructive politics in our country but even there I am hopeful that our vision can be seen and heard as another part of the progressive vision many movements are building now, like BlackLivesMatter, Idle No More, feminism, anti-hate of all kinds (e.g. support for Syrian refugees, rejecting bigotry).

      All the best,


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  5. Thank you Tina.
    More mixes in your bag. I would be grateful for any guidance you can give me on the subject of learning disability and autism.
    Being the father of a young man with severe disability on those counts, I was faced with a “sugestion” of seeking a psychiatric garantee that the problems he had were not going to happen again. No examination of why or how those problems had appeared. Living in a small place, being a retired psychiatrist , and being aware of several serious recent adverse reactions to anti psychotic treatment including one death, I refused to seek an evaluation by a psychiatrist who did those sort of jobs and insisted that the one by my son’s regular psychiatrist was good enough, and demand that the facts were analyzed. My son, then, was excluded from services. We won a sentence in Court which was appealed by the administration in Spain’s Supreme Court. They lost the appeal and after 4 years my son exclusion could be starting to be solved, although reprisals, stigma and administrative silence are, I fear, still weapons at hand.
    We the parents miss support and guidance in these cases of severe disability where antipsychotics are used as a condition to access services and where the disabled person cannot exercise his rights not to be damaged and tortured. He is not, he will not be, a “survivor”, his illness is for ever.
    The use of antipsychotics in the disabled is I suspect generalized in Europe, and supported by KOLs, educators and the administrations. The Convention althoug morally sustaining, is generally ignored and in any case few parents are interested in it for the system is a clientelist one. They are hostages of it in the best of cases as I fear that in some situations they themselves use medication as a tool of control and even punishment. Fighting the system is a very lonely, expensive and at the end sentences are not particularly followed.
    The CRPD shoul be aware of this. Any ideas?

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    • Hi spinoff,

      I’d like to address a few things here. I started writing something that got deleted by mistake so please bear with me if anything seems disconnected.

      First, your comment on your role as a parent and that your son will never be a survivor. When I say survivor, I do not mean “person who has ‘recovered’ from ‘mental illness.'” I mean a survivor of psychiatric oppression and abuse. Your son certainly is a survivor, and he has his own knowledge of what that means. Even if he is still being severely oppressed, and even if he is struggling to deal with his own disability or impairment and get the right kinds of support and accommodations to make a satisfying life for himself, he is still a survivor as I understand it. Many people in the survivor movement reject the notion that you have to somehow overcome disability in order to qualify in some way; and this is one of the things I believe that the disability rights framework contributes to our movement.

      The specific abuse you mention, that your son was excluded from the services on the basis of your (and his?) choice not to use antipsychotics, is against the CRPD and I am glad to know that you won a decision from the Supreme Court in this regard. I would be interested to see the decision if you can provide a link (I can read the Spanish).

      A few possibilities for you to look into:

      Cindi Fisher does some great work connecting with parents in the US, she has some other demands on her time now but you may want to link up with her, as I think the challenges are not so different. This is her website:

      You might want to connect with ENUSP – European Network of (ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry to find out whether there are good organizations and resources at the European level dealing with autism. I know of organizations of autistic people in France and Germany, and also Autistic Minority International which is based in Switzerland and advocates at the UN. If you cannot find these with a google search send me an email through this website and I will try to connect you.

      The CRPD Committee has been sensitized to the situation of autistic people, through the efforts of the organizations I’ve mentioned, and they are also sensitized to the issue of harm being done by psychiatric drugs.

      If you and your son do not succeed in getting satisfaction from the courts, you have the option of making an individual complaint under the CRPD optional protocol, which Spain has also ratified. You could submit the complaint on behalf of your son but you would need to have his consent or document why his consent should not be required. Given the standard in General Comment No 1 I would expect that the Committee would not accept the severity of your son’s disability as a reason to not require his consent, so this is a further encouragement to pay attention to his will and preferences in this respect as well as in other areas of life.

      One last possibility, is that I’m aware of a Hearing Voices group that put on the international Hearing Voices conference in Madrid this past year. Even if that is not an issue for your son, it could be a good group for you and your son to connect with as support for alternatives to the psychiatric medical model.

      All the best,


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  6. First thank you very much for your information. I do not think I am allowed to give you here the contact for you to get information about the sentence, but I think you can get my e-mail address from MiA, and I will give it to you.
    As for your comments Tina I beg to disagree on a couple of them.
    1- My son is not a survivor of psychiatric oppression but it is a survivor of medical technology without which he would have been dead as a baby. He is a survivor too of an educational system who tried to ‚Äúnormalize‚ÄĚ him, a dogma to be obeyed by means of insensitive techniques of behaviour modification. As regards the first it meant he spent the first 18 months of his life fighting for it with more than twenty episodes of resuscitation and numerous incidents of all kinds that affected his body and brain in various forms, As regards the second it meant that I had finally to take him out bleeding from the school, that we were accused of being irresponsible parents, and him of having wounded a teacher, which of course was a lie, and that he was excluded, stigmatized etc. I say all of this because one takes the abuses of psychiatry as if it was the work of psychiatrists alone, and I believe that, certainly in the case of intellectual disability, this is rarely the case. One certainly knows of dangerous operators motivated on domination and greed, and many more who simply are not interested on the subject of autism, but also some professionals with whom one can dialogue. In our case we were able to avoid the former but not the teachers, `psychologists, managers and politicians, (who in Spain are often the same) for whom domination and rejection was the objective. In America where reinboursement for certain defined medical acts seems the norm it might be different but in Europe the oppression, at least in the area of intellectual disability, (intrinsic, learning, not-ensued) has many more protagonists than psychiatrists and some will wash their hands and have the ‚Äúdoctors‚ÄĚ taking the blame, which doctors often do happily .
    2-I do not agree in practice with your vision of a capacity for expression of subjectivity and rights although all my life I have taken those rights and subjectivity seriously both in my work and with my son. But he does not speak and spends most of his time with ritual activities, which start at six o¬īclock each morning and imply that at nine I have to spend nearly an hour clearing the mess. And various other problematic behaviours; in sum we live in a world of plastic, wood and metal, guess why. I could easily seek co-morbid diagnostics and drug him, but here I am forced to identify with him and put to his service what I know about drugs, no only in my work but what I have seen in a few youngsters who are autistic in the ‚Äúautistic world‚ÄĚ of associations. The question is: how would he like to have akathisia?, what would happen if he got a metabolic syndrome? He eats fast, he gulps, could he die of neuroleptic dysphagia? . Hence subjective rights exist because the other (us parents) want them to be applied and we have read the Convention, and those rights need objective referents, the studies that talk about those drugs and their effects. Left to his own without our patria potestatis he would have been tortured and dead long time ago,
    Sorry Tina for complicating things too much, paraphrasing Darwin, ‚Äúthere are facts that continuously complicate elegant theories‚ÄĚ. But I am also aware that with the concept of ‚Äúco-morbidity‚ÄĚ, that instrument of professional cruelty and barbarism, and in Action T4, a piece of history grossly undervalued, we were and are together, mentally ‚Äúill‚ÄĚ and intellectually disabled. We did not survive in nazi Germany and the consequences were infernal. This should be of great interest to the normals and a great reason for us to be united.

    Un cordial saludo.

    Mariano Almudevar

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