The issue of forced treatment is a fundamental one for society, and for those who are subjected to it. While the psychiatric mainstream argues that such force is at times a medical necessity, and thus of benefit to the individual being so treated, which is a view generally accepted by society, I have had personal experience being forcibly treated, and like many others who have been so “treated,” I experienced it as an assault on my very being, and a violation of my cognitive liberty.
I am pleased to announce that MIA Radio is hosting a series of podcasts on this important—and controversial—topic. I will be interviewing a variety of guests who have written and researched this topic, starting this Saturday with an interview with antipsychiatry scholar Bonnie Burstow and neurodiversity scholar Nick Walker.
Central to both Bonnie and Nick’s work is the concept of cognitive liberty or freedom and integrity of the mind. Early proponents of cognitive liberty have defined it as the right to control one’s own consciousness and be free from mind-altering drugs and technologies, as well as the right to use mind-enhancing drugs and technologies without facing legal consequences. Contemporary proponents of cognitive liberty have expanded the definition to include the right to experience and express each and every thought, feeling, state of mind, and belief as long as it does not harm anyone else.
Both Bonnie and Nick describe cognitive liberty as the right to express oneself authentically. In this first episode, they get to the core of why so many human rights activists oppose forced treatment—it can interfere with people’s right to be themselves.
Over the next few months, a variety of guests will join us to discuss a number of different topics relating to forced treatment and cognitive liberty. In the second podcast, we will speak with Celia Brown, a longtime activist in the human rights movement for people with psychiatric labels. A psychiatric survivor, Celia is the president of MindFreedom International and also serves on the board of the National Empowerment Center. She has led protests against the American Psychiatric Association, electroshock treatment, and other human rights abuses. Celia will speak about the history and future directions of the movement against forced treatment.
Another upcoming guest is international disability rights attorney Tina Minkowitz. Tina is very active with the United Nations, and her work has resulted in a call for a ban on involuntary commitment and forced treatment in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She is also the founder and executive director of the Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry. Tina will speak about her work and describe how forced treatment became a disability rights issue. In addition, she will explain why she believes that it is necessary to abolish, not reduce or reform, forced treatment.
After Tina’s interview, therapist Jeffrey Michael Friedman, who provides trauma-informed care to individuals and couples, will speak about the impact of forced treatment on the brain and the body. In his view, forced treatment is a traumatic experience that, although carried out in the name of mental health, can lead to a great amount of emotional distress, thereby worsening people’s mental health. While some human rights advocates view health and liberty as at odds with one another, Jeffrey sees civil liberties as an essential component of mental health.
During this podcast series, we will also have a chance to hear from Mad in America bloggers Sera Davidow and Sarah Knutson. Sera will speak about the ways that forced treatment is parallel to and intersects with the issue of sexual violence, and how it can be a re-traumatizing experience for sexual assault survivors. Sarah will discuss the impact of verbal and visual privilege on forced treatment—how people who speak in ways that others do not understand or do not speak at all, as well as people who do not meet conventional standards of attractiveness, are more likely to be committed.
Finally, we will invite survivors of forced treatment to join us and share their stories. We will be featuring the stories of survivors of involuntary commitment, forced drugging, electroconvulsive treatment, and Applied Behavior Analysis.
Our forced treatment series is ongoing. Later on, we may feature philosophical, theological, and sociological perspectives on the issue. Please feel free to email us with topic suggestions or post them in our forum.
Neuroqueer: An Introduction by Nick Walker
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