Pat Risser, Long-Time Leader in Psychiatric Survivor Movement, Dies


Pat Risser, who has been a leading voice in the psychiatric survivor movement for decades, died on Wednesday of  heart failure. Mr. Risser, who was once diagnosed with schizophrenia, wrote and spoke elegantly about trauma, including the horrible abuse he had suffered as a child, the fight for civil rights in the mental health system and in society, and of the many destructive elements of the psychiatric system. He published many papers on these topics and, as a mental health consultant, gave presentations and workshops to survivor groups and professional groups, his voice recognized for its power and authority. He spent his last years living in Ohio. He was 63.

Mad In America will post a longer tribute to Pat in the coming days.


  1. I knew Pat as an acquaintance and benefited greatly from the material published on his website–it was one of the most intelligent and helpful places I found after I was victimized by psychiatry. His material–that he used in trainings–about how psychiatric treatment reproduces childhood sexual abuse (just briefly, he means the dehumanizing, the stripping, the forced injections, the lack of credibility granted to ‘patients’) is brilliant and should be widely disseminated. Thank you, Pat, for all you did.

  2. Pat introduced me to my husband Paul Sherman who met (and Pat would say rescued ) him as part of the first program to recruit and train consumers as providers (1980s). I met pat when he came to CA to be the executive director of mental health consumer concerns – the second oldest consumer run organization in the nation.

    He will be missed.

    • Actually, I’m glad we’re having this exchange because it draws attention to a problem about which Pat felt passionately – that being the fact that people who have been subjected to psychiatric treatment for so-called “severe mental illness” can expect to die on average 20 years prematurely from causes such as complications from diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease. As I mentioned, Pat blamed his heart problems on “medications” which he had been prescribed.
      Pat was only 63. He may have been a psychiatric survivor, but I believe psychiatry ended up killing him anyway, albeit not without a fight – and a valiant one at that. What a warrior he was.
      (I should tell you that normally, anyone who calls Robert Whitaker an idiot, gets a dose of my wrath. But, I’ll give you a free pass. This time. 😉 )

  3. Pat recognized NAMI for the Big Pharma front group that it is. We’ve weathered some serious losses to our movement in recent years from which it will be difficult to recover. Pat’s passing is definitely one of those serious losses. Although psychiatry supplies us with an inexhaustible supply of new recruits, few of them, in terms of what they do and say, can be expected to make the kind of contribution that he did. He is, and will be, missed.

  4. I was fortunate to have been at one of Pat’s presentations in CoosBay Oregon and to talk to him afterwards . I knew he was a man of integrity that could be trusted . Afterwards that same day he visited us at Shama House a drop in center in Northbend Or. He was so concerned about us . He told me quietly that he knew that Pres. Bush Jr. had requested a list to be compiled of all the people in the US that had psychiatric history .
    I hope Pat’s website stays up as it remains such a very important resource.
    Here’s one quote from the front page of Pat’s website .
    “If you have 100 people in a state hospital and find a way to get 50 of them out, I will celebrate with you for the release of the 50. But, the next day I will knock on your door asking about the difference between number 50 and number 51 and wondering why we couldn’t
    get just one more out . And, I will keep knocking until 99 are out because I’ll still be concerned about number 100. That’s my job, my role as an advocate.”
    If we heed even close to the example of this remarkable man we will win . May he rest in peace and bliss .

  5. I’m very sad that Pat has passed and do believe his brutal and injurious mistreatment at the hands of the MH system shortened his life. Pat and I were comrades for many years in Contra Costa County in a strong coalition of activists that included Jay Mahler. For years Pat served on the state mandated county mental health advisory board that was dominated by NAMI and mental health administration, with a few other people with lived experience that got appointed, but were so disrespected that they often left after a month or so of being on the advisory board. If you knew Pat, you know he would never sit still for anyone talking down to or demeaning him or other consumer survivors in his presence. I fondly remember Pat, often refusing to yield the floor in those meetings as he fearlessly and brilliantly challenged the shocked county chief psychiatrist or head of NAMI, who were expecting but not getting deference.
    Pat was a fearless and wonderful force of nature that did incredible good.

  6. Pat and I worked together for a little over one year (2001-2002) at the Office of Consumer Technical Assistance (OCTA) in Oregon, an organization started by Kevin Fitts. I was Pat’s “supervisor.” I learned more from Pat than I have learned from anyone in any single year of my life. I learned of the underpinnings of corruption that is rife throughout the system – who the players are, who they play with, who gets rich and why we end up suffering needlessly. I learned how to make friends and allies when able, and to know who my enemies are without needing to let them know what I know. I learned how to laugh in the face of darkness. Unlike Pat, I hold my cards very close to my chest. He made it easier to do that; he showed his hand and knew what cards we held by our foe. More than anything, though, I learned how to work side-by-side with Pat, a lion and a lamb wrapped into one. And I learned how to admire and respect a man who helped so many of us find the way. We owe a great deal to Pat; his legacy will live on in the work we accomplish only if we, as a movement, learn the importance of systems advocacy as much as we have learned to appreciate the jobs our movement has created. Pat, I will miss you, my friend.

    Michael Hlebechuk
    “State Weasel” from Oregon