Introducing Voices for Choices


Two summers ago, I watched as a good friend of mine in North Carolina was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. Though he posed zero risk to himself or others, he was handcuffed, forcibly drugged, and locked in a psychiatric hospital for weeks against his will. I had experienced four involuntary commitments in my life, but witnessing him go through this traumatic experience led to me researching resources that could help him in his situation. By the end of the summer, I’d traveled out to the West Coast and met with members of MindFreedom International, and I began getting involved in what I came to learn was the consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement.

There was almost a decade between my first involuntary psychiatric commitment and my learning that this movement existed. Years were spent unnecessarily stumbling along on my own, seeking alternatives, trying to find allies, but always alone in this journey and being hindered by constant self-doubt. Much like when I started getting involved in alternative education and it took a couple years before I discovered the already-existing world of self-directed learning and unschooling, I saw there was a need for a focused effort to connect those in need to the existing movements and resources that were available to them.

It was this need in mind that the Voices for Choices video series was conceived.

This video series, which consists of 13 videos, was a collaboration between many individuals including psychiatric survivors, alternative practitioners, artists, journalists, writers, and activists. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of this project. I want to specifically thank a few people for their work.

First and foremost, a special thanks to Sherri Huang, the Editor and Associate Producer who poured endless hours into video editing and making critical editorial decisions that steered this project in a direction that would maximize its integrity and impact. Her journalistic approach, creative vision and detailed editing skills have no doubt transformed this video series from being an amateur home video project assembled by a novice learning to use a camera for the first time into a professional, first-rate journalistic production that will change countless lives. I am incredibly grateful for the sacrifices she made with her time to bring Voices for Choices to life.

I also want to thank the team at MindFreedom International, especially Sarah Smith, who was the champion of the grant which included the Voices for Choices series. While I was a part of the brainstorming session to plan the video, it was Sarah who took the lead in organizing all the documentation and drafting the grant proposal, securing the funding, and accommodating the regularly shifting deadlines that arose from my poor planning and execution. I’m incredibly thankful for her making this project possible and being understanding in all the delays and requests for time extensions that I begged for. The Steering Committee including Cindy Olejar, Mary Maddock, Jim Maddock, Celia Brown, Ron Bassman, David Oaks, and Sarah Smith was also invaluable in navigating this long process of creating these videos and I am thankful to have had their experience and guidance.

I also want to extend a sincere thanks to the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health, whose financial support made this project possible. While I am often skeptical that receiving funding for creative projects can potentially limit their freedom to free speech, the Foundation was incredibly supportive of our work and I’m grateful that I never felt constrained or fearful in the creative process. Thank you for believing in this project.

I want to thank all of the interviewees involved in the project: Kumail Akbari, Frank Blankenship, Erik Bray, Celia Brown, Oryx Cohen, Emily McMurphy, Sera Davidow, Janet Foner, Al Galves, Chris Gordon, Jim Gottstein, Peter Gótzsche, Chris Hansen, Jill Kesti, Mary Maddock, Hilary Melton, Grace Nichols, David Oaks, Opeyemi Parham, Ron Unger, Robert Whitaker. I want to thank them not just for their time, but specifically for their trust. It is not easy to have someone point a camera at you and ask you questions about such challenging subject matter, knowing that they will be cutting and splicing your words into a larger story. I’m not sure I have that courage and am inspired by all those who did.

I want to thank my long-time friend Mark Sturgess and his partner Adam Carver for providing the music accompaniment. I’ve wanted to collaborate on a project with Mark for years and finally found the perfect opportunity. The music in this videos really captures the emotional tone in a way that I never could have imagined. Thank you for lending your talents to this project.

Lastly, I want to thank Sean Blackwell. I first discovered Sean’s YouTube series “Bipolar or Waking Up” in 2010, just a couple years after my involuntary commitment. It was the first glimpse I ever received into there being an alternative path to interpreting my experiences. I would say that his work directly inspired the strategy behind creating Voices for Choices series nearly a decade later.

Without further ado… please enjoy Voices for Choices and share them with everyone you know! We’ll be releasing one video every week for the next 13 weeks. I can’t wait to hear what you think!


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. Thanks for your activism, Jim, looks good so far. I look forward to the rest of the videos. I thumbs upped the video, and subscribed, so I don’t miss the rest. But I couldn’t leave a comment, since Google+ stopped allowing all humans, who are not also businesses, from having a voice on the internet a couple months ago.

    And I haven’t yet started up my LLC, and learned all about how to become a “business” on the internet, but I’m working on that. What a bizarre world in which we live, humans shouldn’t have a voice, only businesses? How sick really, Google+.

    But I do have products, which are becoming more critical and/or anti-psychiatry by the day. I, too, am a creator and designer, just not the most tech savvy of them.

    Since when I attended university the first time, they were teaching key punch computer technology. And as the first student in my class to get their own computer, I learned the hard way that the university professors didn’t have a clue how to use the computers and software. The second time I attended university, I was at least confessed to honestly, to not take the AutoCad class, until a professor who knew what he was talking about, was actually teaching the class. Bad timing.

    Good luck with your videos, I hope they go viral. I was glad to see so many people watched this truthful psychiatric/psychology documentary.

    Although I know these creators did deal with, at least brief, if not long lasting, censorship and/or demonetization issues, due to this video.

    But we do need to get the message about psychiatry’s historic, and continuing crimes against humanity, out there. Since their murders are at holocaust levels once again, they’re destroying our country, and the “mental health” workers have stood in support of the never ending globalist bankers’ wars that started with 9/11/2001, since 2001.

    Natural News is dealing with serious censorship issues too, they may even have been completely taken off of youtube, etc. As “slayingthedragon” points out, we are fighting a monster. And that monster is trying to control our “public square,” which currently is the internet now.

    And they already control our mainstream media. And it seems to be a war by the fraud based, war mongering an profiteering, bailout needing, home stealing, globalist “monied powers that be,” and their scientific fraud based “mental health” minion, against all the creators and those who want to bring about a better world.

    Gosh, isn’t this also how the Bolsheviks took over Russia, which resulted in the murders of something like possibly 60,000,000 Russian Christians? And how the Nazi German psychiatrists were allowed to kill “6,000,000” Jews?

    Maybe we should end the rule by the globalist banksters of many religions, and end their largely paternalistic, largely child abuse and rape covering up, scientific fraud based, psychiatrists’ and psychologists’, war against the innocents?

    So we may end these fraud based banksters, and their fraud based “mental health” workers right to repeat the worst of history, over and over and over again? Since these fraud based banksters need to have their tables, once again, be turned over, as Jesus did.

    God save the decent. Good luck, and God bless with your videos.

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  2. The path I think is about choices and going the way want to go. I’m a huge fan of Wilson Phillips and song hold on.

    My bosses plural say Pat you’re doing well, but IPS intentional peer support suggests not telling people to hold on for one more day.

    Can we hold on for one more day that’s what I say. I also say many of the lyrics from hold on in a talk manner.

    To my supervisors plural I say ya know this IPS seems so much Carl Rogers theory.

    I must express me and be present with huge Wilson Phillips vibes in a way others nearby may feel planes roaring by as we talk.

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  3. A big part of what is needed for there to be change is just total non-compliance. And this includes non-compliance with psychotherapy and programmatic calls for unconditional pledges to non-violence as a way of life, and with Recovery and Salvation programs as well.

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    • It’s difficult not to comply with forced treatment. Attempting to do so can sometimes lead to harsher treatment than one would have received had one simply went along for the short term.

      I’m afraid that if one took an attitude of total non-compliance towards state imposed forced treatment the result, in most cases, would be an early grave.

      I myself advocate non-compliance with treatment plans, but outside of the institution. Inside you play the game until discharge. Not playing the game will keep you from being released, and increase the level of adversity faced. There are exceptions to this rule though, such as having a good legal team behind you, and a test case to win in the courts.

      As for pledges to non-violence…Gee, wouldn’t it be great if we could get them from the staff and workers in state institutions? Regarding their doing so. I’m not holding my breath.

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      • Frank, you are spot on. My daughter was very non compliant and it didn’t go well for her in the long run. Additionally, my husband and I supported her non compliance and this was used to leverage our relationship with our daughter, restrict our visiting privileges, and conveniently leave us out of the loop as it regarded hearing dates/locations, important medical decisions, etc. Sadly, I have learned that it is important, when outsiders are supporting people who are on the ‘inside’ tread carefully. Yes, it would be wonderful if staff would take an oath of non violence. But that is never going to happen in the current paradigm.

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        • Madmom, I can’t imagine how terrifying it is to be parents who want only to support a daughter or son, but then find themselves facing such tyranny and oppression. Until I found MIA I had no idea this abuse happens on such a regular basis. It is encouraging that more and more people are stepping up to speak out and fight back.

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  4. Frank, I’m glad that you did survive.

    Non-compliance has to be the way, but no, in some cases it is just a matter of survival.

    As more people non-comply:

    1. No drugs, prescription or street
    2. No psychotherapy
    3. No use of diagnostic terminology
    4. No recovery or salvation seeking
    5. No open ended pledges to non-violence

    Then those most horrid situations where it is really a matter of survival, and so sometimes non-compliance is not workable, should be diminished. Certainly when such situations do exist, they must be prosecuted in International Court as Crimes Against Humanity. Penalties have started at 20 years and they go up from there.

    But it all starts with total non-compliance, and for most of us this is quite workable, so long as we are willing to feel our feelings. And feeling one’s feelings can be very hard and it is a life’s work.

    Justina Pelletier, 3 posts

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  5. I feel that we also need to shut down this federally sanctioned MAPS, trying to promote the idea that survivors need psychedelics because they are good for “healing”.

    We need to stop debating, especially debating with those who support the mental health system, and instead come up with a basic position statement and a list of actions. More people will jump on board when they see how the actions unfold, then we will ever get by just debating.

    Total agreement is not a necessity. Mostly we just need a position so that no one is saying things which fracture the group. But then the actions will not likely go as far as the position statement.

    Come Join:

    Justina Pelletier, 3 posts

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