We Are the 100%: World Mad Pride, Disability, & Revolution

Welcome Donald!

David W. Oaks
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David W. Oaks & Ian start Peerpocalypse keynote
David W. Oaks begins keynote for Peerpocalypse with Ian, home care worker.

When Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID, the world had strong reactions. But clearly he had joined our community of disabled people, potentially the biggest social change movement in the world. Welcome, Donald!

After your diagnosis, you sent a brief tweet ending with the capitalized word, “LOVE.” I love you, too, Donald. We need to love our enemies, and you have been an enemy of many people with disabilities, including the tens of thousands of us in nursing homes and other congregate living facilities who have died from COVID-19. Now we need to fire you, but that is not enough. We need nonviolent global revolution. 

I feel I am a great gatekeeper for the disability community to welcome you, because I am in both the mental and physical disability movements.

Bridging Mad Pride with Breakneck Speed

This is my 44th year working in the often-invisible psychiatric survivor movement, called “Mad Pride” by some of us. For about 25 years, I was Executive Director of the human rights nonprofit MindFreedom International. During this time I gave many speaking presentations on our topic in about a dozen countries. 

And then in 2012, I broke my neck. As well as the accident resulting in my becoming a quadriplegic in a powerchair, it also profoundly impaired my voice and caused other disabilities. After this, I retired from MindFreedom. Keynote invitations dropped off… 

To zero. 

Until recently. I finally got a keynote invite to present at a major conference. Because of COVID-19, unfortunately, the conference switched from a resort hotel to web video. Fortunately, though, this meant that hundreds more folks could attend, including some from overseas. Above is a screenshot from the beginning of my keynote with my home care worker, Ian, who repeated my short sentences for clarity. You can view my keynote here:

The organizers of Peerpocalypse kindly helped by creating Closed Captioning for the video of my keynote, which is only about 35 minutes. Because of my disabled voice, I recommend Closed Captioning. Just hover over the video and click on the “CC” button in the lower right hand corner, then click “English.”

David W. Oaks’ Keynote at Peerpocalypse 2020 from David W. Oaks on Vimeo.

In the keynote, I called for revolution. I hope you, dear reader, now also use the “revolution” word a lot, as one of the best ways to aid global mental and emotional wellbeing. Let me explain.

Connecting the Psychiatric Survivor & Disability Movements

After my fall, I tried to live the lessons I had learned in our Mad Movement. I did tons of effective rehab. I got lots of empowering support. I attempted to apply the creative philosophy from our activism. I even started a consulting business, Aciu! Institute, for green disability empowerment. 

Peerpocalypse logo

And this year, I finally got that first major speaking invitation: One of the four keynoters in the largest gathering each year for mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors, Peerpocalypse, on Zoom of course.

The topic of my keynote was actually motivated by impassioned responses to a recent blog I posted here on the website of Mad in America, one of the most important projects to reach the general public about rethinking a failed mental health system.

You see, way back in the olden days of the 1970’s when I started in our Mad Movement, we felt we were simply part of “One Big Movement.” That is, the 70’s had the soil, sunlight, rain, and fertilizer of ferment. Our psychiatric survivor movement was one of many, intersecting with struggles for the rights of prisoners, workers, women, youth, elders, LGBT people, people of color, poor people, and for peace.

The Big Plan: Unite all these movements and have one big global revolution, preferably much of it nonviolent. This Big Plan has taken longer than we hoped. I guess you can call us the social/ecological potential movement. 

Over the decades, we psychiatric survivor activists and allies tried to reach many other social change movements. The mission statement of MindFreedom International actually calls for uniting people affected by the mental health system with other causes for justice and global nonviolent revolution. Outreach to other social change struggles has been met with varying amounts of success. It seems the most receptive to psychiatric survivors has been the disability movement. 

Connecting to any other oppressed community has challenges. After all, we psychiatric survivors have devoted decades to developing our ideas and perspectives; obviously there are a few topics where we disagree with one another, and we are still exploring many new areas.

Over this past couple of decades, as I have experienced the warmth and wisdom of disability rights leaders, I have tried to learn a lot. Sometimes I did experience a few clunky disconnects, because some disability leaders were very new to the complexities of psychiatric survivor issues.

Questioning My “Re-established Credentials”

I like to make the joke, which often falls flat, that there are silver linings in disasters — even breaking your neck. For instance, finding parking is way easier. 

By far, one of the shiniest “silver linings” of my catastrophe has been solidifying the bridge between the Mad Pride and disability movements. And so I wrote a blog earlier this year for Mad in America about how breaking my neck was “re-establishing my credentials.” As a person with profound physical disabilities, I can now more easily see the connections between the Mad Movement and the disability movement.

My blog got a surprising amount of comments via Mad in America, including some pushback from a few fellow radical psychiatric survivors. I will not attempt to quote comments, but my impression was that there are some who object to both the idea of “Mad Pride” and the relevance of the disability movement to our work. A friend recommends that some day I write a book about bridging the Mad Pride and disability movements.

In the meantime, here are a few key points I would like to raise: 

  • Congregate living in the era of COVID-19 is killing people! Yes, there are many fascinating questions and I hope to write that book. But in the meantime, we are in the middle of an emergency. The New York Times recently reported that 40% of deaths from COVID in the USA are related to nursing homes. The hypocrisy, arrogance, irresponsibility, and recklessness (acronym: hair) of Donald Trump played a role. Both the psychiatric survivor and the disability movements have pointed out for decades that people who wish to live in private homes have that right. Now this option is a matter of life and death, more urgent than any philosophical debate.
  • I hope our movement avoids “ableism.” As I said, the roots of our psychiatric survivor movement are connecting with other social & ecological movements, which are all relevant. Some of the principles of the disability movement include: Dignity, autonomy, participation, inclusion, choice, independence, non-discrimination, freedom, and respect for diversity. The main slogan of the disability movement is: “Nothing about us without us!” Sound familiar? You do not have to be black to get the relevance of antiracism. Black lives always matter. You do not have to be employed to support labor. Supporting the disability movement does not mean we are a “wholly owned subsidiary.” Please, no ableism! 
  • Dislabeling: Watch this nifty trick, developed years ago by radical psychiatric survivors! Say you reject all psychiatric diagnoses applied to you. Fine. Pushing psychiatric labels on folks is harmful. In other words, disabling. I call this dislabeling. The process of psychiatric labeling itself causes disabilities. More generally, of course, countless mental health procedures can obviously cause disability and death.
  • Lessons from the deaf & hard-of-hearing community: But don’t many of us psychiatric survivors reject any psychiatric diagnosis as a disability? Well guess what, folks, many in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community reject being called “disabled” because of their beautiful community. The “social construct” of disability is fascinating, and let’s all learn about it. The disability community is highly diverse.

    Rev. Phillip Schulman
    Rev. Phillip Schulman has been a leader in many peace and social justice events, as well as a minister for several Unitarian Universalist congregations.
  • Thank you, Rev. Phillip Schulman, Mad Movement Minister: My close friend, Phillip, was riding a bike a few years ago and was struck by a half-ton truck causing major brain injuries. I know many of us reject our mental disability diagnoses. But doctors for Phillip have x-rays showing extensive head injury. And there is that half-ton truck. Rev. Schulman, who shares my Unitarian Universalism, has demonstrated the wisdom of his post-traumatic spiritual gifts. If your label is “real” or not, you are in our community. My point is, whether or not your diagnosis is at all accurate or meaningful, you are entitled to human rights, advocacy, empowerment, alternatives, and much more. Everyone.
  • “Able-passing” folks are still welcome: Especially in the early days of the movement for human rights of LGBT people, I understand many tried to blend in with the general population. The concept of Gay Pride apparently was abhorrent to some lesbians and gays who sought to “pass.” Same phenomenon with Mad Pride. You can call our social change movement to challenge the mental health industry whatever you want. But please leave room for the many of us who treasure our differences as “Mad Pride.” Always remember those with invisible disabilities. And let’s be sure to welcome those who think of themselves as mainly “normal.” All are welcome, 100%.

I admit it. For many years, I have known there are challenges in connecting to the primarily-physical disability movement. 

Connecting two social change movements takes some bridge building, awkward moments, and growth by both movements. Consider the need for the psychiatric survivor movement to challenge white supremacy and become a far more diverse movement. 

So I get it. Back in the year 1973, “homosexuality” was challenged as a mental disorder within the American Psychiatric Association. It would have been silly and bizarre if the gay and lesbian activists had responded by saying, “We are all proud members of the disability movement because of our orientation!” Instead, activists called, as they should, for dumping the label. (By the way, the label was not entirely dumped, but that’s another story.)

After my fall, for months in the middle of the night, I had repeated nightmares that I was falling. Even after relatives entered my bedroom and turned on the lights I felt I was falling. Folks, because of my disabilities, I cannot even move an inch in my bed. I was not falling. Yes, I had some problems that can accurately be called “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” As I blogged before on Mad in America, I found some solutions to my PTSD. For me, this healing transformed my trauma into a spiritual gift. 

Four Special MindFreedom Campaigns

During my keynote and workshop presentations at Peerpocalypse, I discussed some actions by MindFreedom, which is now my main client I consult for. Briefly, here are four I especially want to spotlight: 

MindFreedom Shield Campaign
MindFreedom Shield Campaign Patch
New patch designed for MindFreedom International Shield Campaign reboot.

I recommend this campaign for everyone, because all 100% of us are at risk. Years ago, MindFreedom created a human rights campaign called the Shield. If individuals are ever in danger of coerced mental health treatments, they can potentially trigger MFI to look into issuing a human rights alert, similar to Amnesty International. Ideally, individuals would pre-register so that if they ever need an alert, one can be done quickly.

This year, 2020, MindFreedom activists met extensively for months to relaunch the Shield. They even have a nifty design on a patch that can be sewn on jackets, etc. (see image). For more info about the MFI Shield, click here.

MindFreedom Supports Mad Pride World

Back in the 1990’s, some London psychiatric survivors were watching a Gay Pride parade and wondered about creating “Mad Pride.” The idea took off and soon books, events, and articles sprang up all over the world, promoting Mad Pride as a movement. Groups in many countries began to hold Mad Pride cultural events.

UK Mad Pride Bed Push
UK Mad Pride activists estimate they wheeled their gurney 130 miles in three Bed Push events.

Mad Pride events in Ireland, the UK, Germany, and Canada included an innovative action called a “Bed Push.” A group of Mad Pride activists, often in colorful costumes to look like nurses or doctors, would push a wheeled gurney through public places. On the gurney would be a mannequin or another activist playing someone in restraints, periodically getting forced drugging. The purpose of the street theater was to mock and provoke public discussion about abuse, using biting humor, plus showing the resilience of psychiatric survivors. Based on experiences in the UK, which were widely publicized on BBC, MindFreedom issued a little “how to” guide here.

Mad Pride!
International logo for Mad Pride, available for non-commercial use.

Mad Pride has gotten a major boost. It turns out that last year, 2019, Mad Pride Seoul in Korea held a number of successful events. Mad Pride Seoul plans more actions soon, on October 10, 2020, which is World Mental Health Day. Check out their creative pamphlet here. 

Mad Pride Seoul contacted MindFreedom and asked for support. MFI activists realized there wasn’t much time to help, so mainly they have been encouraging brief videos that answer the question: What does Mad Pride mean to me? 

Intrigued? For more information, simply email [email protected]. You will get updates, how to submit your video, plus a little online survey about Mad Pride.

My amazing and wonderful wife Debra and I plan to participate on World Mental Health Day by holding our own Bed Push at home on Zoom for a few hours, inspired by the famous Bed-In by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Debra and I will have an inflated globe because our planet is also in crisis. 

Even if you miss this year’s Mad Pride event, you can make and submit a video for future use, including future Mad Pride World events, which should be all year round. 

MindFreedom Builds Support Coalition

Back in 1990, more than a dozen groups united in a counter-conference to the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting in New York City. They formed what became MindFreedom International. This year, MFI has updated their network of affiliates and sponsors, which we call MFI’s Support Coalition. 

MFI Affiliates use the name of MindFreedom, such as MindFreedom Ghana and MindFreedom Ireland. These are regionally-based chapters, usually just informal projects of MFI, such as MindFreedom Oregon which I coordinate. 

MFI Sponsors are independent nonprofits and community groups that endorse MFI values, such as National Association for Rights Protection & Advocacy or Gesundheit! Institute. 

The newly-updated list of the MFI Support Coalition, which I helped retool via my consulting business, is here.

Now would be a great time for supportive individuals and groups to look into starting or building MFI Affiliates and Sponsors. Just contact MFI or me for more info. 

MindFreedom Networks with National Council for Independent Living (NCIL)
Yvonne Smith
Yvonne Smith lives in the Washington D.C. area and is a leader in the c/s/x (mental health consumer/psychiatric survivor/ex-inmate) movement and antiracism struggles.

For many years, a small network of activists, mainly from disability independent living centers (there are hundreds in the US), have met by Zoom almost each month to support empowerment in mental health. This is currently coordinated by the very supportive Yvonne Smith, in D.C. (see photo). MFI’s director, Ron Bassman, recently spoke with this network about building support for the Shield in independent living centers.

If you are interested in NCIL’s monthly network, it is very easy to become involved. The main thing is to simply join NCIL, which is a good idea in general. For more info about joining NCIL, see here.

Connect Our Movements & Promote Revolution!

John McCarthy with two activists holding “Stop Forced Treatment” signs
John McCarthy was a psychiatric survivor, Irish poet, and leader of World Mad Pride.

My amazing, strange, beautiful friend (and aren’t you all?) Irish poet John McCarthy, despite a debilitating illness that put him in a wheelchair and eventually killed him, led many of the biggest Mad Pride events in the world, all in parks around Ireland. Hundreds of families, including children, gathered for music, food, costumed ambient performers, and creative public education such as signs with mirrors on trees about the need for peer support and the right to be different. Many of those entering the parks were “swept” for normality by fun security officials carrying rubber chicken wands. 

John McCarthy often spoke about the madness of normality, and what needs even more attention, “the normality of madness.” To be a human being is to be different, experience deep passion and vision, deal with the immense mysteries of life and death, and so much more. The mental health industry is apparently trying to pathologize being human. 

Mad Pride and the disability movements include all of us, 100%. Of course it is totally okay to call yourself mainly “normal” and claim not to be part of this human movement, though personally I do not believe evidence for achieving absolute normality exists, or ever did.

A few years ago, as I mentioned during the keynote, my first client for consulting was the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO). I was one of many folks to review and advise WHO about a series of materials they have since published about human rights in mental health. In addition to my regular editorial comments, I inserted many, many endorsements of looking at global revolution. Sincerely, I believe society talking more about “revolution” would be helpful to our mental and emotional wellbeing. In fact, the strange near-silence today about revolution creates emotional distress given our immense planetary crises. I get it that some people need to remain “secret supporters” of revolution only in their hearts because of repression. But, the rest of us? Let us all be more open about the vital need for revolution. 

What kind of revolution, you might ask? Well, that is a great question and simply discussing it would be helpful. Unfortunately, WHO chose not to include my suggestions about “revolution.” However, I was delighted to see that a UN leader officially called for a “revolution” in mental health. You can read my personal blog, linked below, if you’d like to learn more.

Yes, of course, we need to sweep out the White House and de-select Donald, who I love as a human but is the creator of innumerable despicable lies. But after that, we still need massive social and environmental change. We need revolution! If you think seven generations ahead (I have chosen the year 2222 to focus upon), you know we will someday have a revolution, just to survive. Will it be sooner or later? That is up to all of us. 

More Info About My Keynote, and Revolution

On my personal blog, I have more about the “Inside Story” of my keynote, including information about the three archives I know about, some links about a few of our dearly departed Mad Pride giants, etc. We also include the call for mental health revolution by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health at the UN Human Rights Council, Lithuanian Psychiatrist Dainius Pūras. You can read more about it here: 

http://davidwoaks.com/my-keynote-at-peerpocalypse-2020

On the website for my consulting business, Aciu! Institute, I have a blog entry about some of the projects I have been discussing in my keynote including support for great activists like my friend Rev. Phillip Schulman here:

https://aciu.info/2020/09/23/david-oaks-peer-keynote-videos/

Three Quick Things You Can Do

Thanks much for reading my blog welcoming Donald Trump to our disability community, calling for his firing and global nonviolent revolution. I fell in December 2012, the famous month when the Mayan Calendar supposedly ended. Those of us for conscious evolution/revolution envisioned renewal. For the past eight years, I have been trying to go viral, unsuccessfully. It is almost as if I have been an antibiotic. 

Here are three ways you can help the virality of my new keynote:

  1. Please share this widely with your friends and colleagues. You will find me active on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, etc. See you?
  2. Please comment at the end of my Mad in America blog entry. I will try to respond to as many as possible. 
  3. Remember to support Mad Pride by emailing to [email protected]. This will not put you on any mailing list. You will get an automatic one-time reply, with the latest news about Mad Pride and a link to a brief online survey. Plus, I am on the World Mad Pride Campaign Action Team (CAT) and I will try to read everything! 

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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.

54 COMMENTS

  1. Hi David, thank you for the article.,

    “So I get it. Back in the year 1973, “homosexuality” was challenged as a mental disorder within the American Psychiatric Association. It would have been silly and bizarre if the gay and lesbian activists had responded by saying, “We are all proud members of the disability movement because of our orientation!” Instead, activists called, as they should, for dumping the label.”

    I think this is a perfect example regarding some objections being afraid of naming it a “mad movement” or “mad pride”. Why mad? Why not “equal rights”? Or “justice” or “down with psychiatry”?

    I agree that there is a dire need for building bridges. But I won’t be caught dead in the middle of a “mad march”, unless I die in a blustery month of March.

    People can indeed be disabled by “problems in living”. These people are not mad, nor are they ill by any tests. So in turn, these problems in living cannot be labeled or drugged and most certainly should never suffer further problems in living by having them robbed further of their dignity and humanity.

    Why not then go with “equality in life” movement?

    When I think of you having nightmares about falling, it seems to me that anyone would. Why is that a disorder? We don’t even know if it is “Post traumatic syndrome”. Is feeling pain after an injury “post trauma syndrome”? The brain and body are way to complicated to refer to it as anything but a limited understanding of what the body and brain are doing after one breaks their neck.
    Your mind and body are much too precious and complicated to name it something “psychosomatic”
    Your body had been through huge trauma, and all I am saying is that we do not know what the aftereffects are, so only YOU get to label it. We don’t need to borrow the language that psych stole and created “disorders” with.

    I am not denying that it would be awful not to be able to go to sleep without falling, which would even scare us to go to sleep. And you realize I am a huge fan of yours, I just wish we could all accomplish something to get rid of labels, yet fear that if we use them, we support the garbage that was heaped on us.

    So I’m sorry to pick on your use of “PTSD”, considering you suffered the scary trips. When they are simply aftereffects and normal processes, that we cannot explain.

    And I would like to acknowledge that about 10 years ago, I came home from a therapist’s visit, and realized that the whole world is “mad”. Perhaps the movement could be called “I’m mad and so are you”?
    And in fact, every human I’ve ever met seems to have a “disability”. Just being a cog that earns money is not a sign of “function”.

    I am personally very aware of how disabling something in our lives can get.

    I fully support a revolution. I would wish that it should come soon. And I think Covid is a trial run because they fear a huge revolution. But if it is simmering, no covid “management” is going to stop it.
    People will become MAD. ANGRY!

    And I have come full circle, that perhaps we need to call it “ANGRY PRIDE”. Perhaps everyone could identify with that. Perhaps that is the “bridge”. Perhaps we need to be cognizant that fear causes anger, and psychiatry is something to be fearful of and medicine along with it…. and they have no right to do that to ANYONE.
    So it is time to be ANGRY.

    • Mostly agree with this Sam, glad to see you get the problem with “mad pride.”

      It’s definitely appropriate for all psychiatric survivors to be angry. Though I don’t see what “pride” has to do with it.

      And while we certainly need a revolution, any time the term “nonviolent” is tacked on (don’t know if D.O. does that here but he often does) it undermines the concept, and also implies that revolution is by nature violent. This is only true in the sense that the SYSTEM will direct violence against any revolutionary movement on the verge of victory. It is up to the people how they choose to respond to that violence. (And self-defense is not violence; to REFUSE to defend oneself is masochism.)

      We don’t need to come up with new names for anti-psychiatry or accept the self-defeating attitude that to be “anti” anything is “negative.” Such beliefs reinforce the system’s power. The value of the term anti-psychiatry is reflected in the way the Liebermans and Pieses of the world direct it against docile individuals and groups that aren’t anti-psychiatry in the least — it demonstrates the fear and paranoia the term instills in them even when there’s very little true anti-psychiatry activity to be found anywhere. (Something we’re working to correct.) They understand the power of the term — and so should we.

  2. And on a personal note, I have a TON of admiration for you and the activist life you have
    led. People have benefitted by your tenacity, and ongoing endeavors.
    If we can teach someone something good or leave something of use behind, that is
    really special.
    And I do think it takes all kinds, all working towards getting rid of the things that are not helpful,
    perceptions that are full of bias, lies. It’s the eye on the pie. Peeling back layers of a rotting onion.

  3. “Mad Pride” is a self-deprecatory and oppressive concept which in effect substitutes the term “mad” for “mentally ill”; they are both terms which designate people as “other” due to someone else’s evaluation of their thoughts, emotion, beliefs or behavior. This should be responded to with fury, not “pride.”

    There are also those who believe that they are “mad” and others aren’t, with the implication that “mad people” are superior; this is essentially eugenics in reverse.

    It is equally reactionary to speak of “uniting” the movement of people with real (i.e. physical) disabilities with the movement of people who have been falsely and oppressively labeled with “mental” disabilities; this validates the (non-existent) concept of “mental illness.” Trying to “unite” movements with completely different reasons for existing does a disservice to both.

    As for “revolution,” in the current day this refers to the overthrow of capitalism — which is inextricably liked to the defeat of psychiatry and all the false, disempowering concepts it fosters. It has NOTHING to do with Democrats or Republicans, who will ALL be swept away when the time comes.

    • Don’t get “mad” but I wouldn’t say “Mad Pride” substitutes the term “mad” for “mentally ill”, quite the reverse. People have been calling people “mad” for a few centuries now. They only got around to calling the same sort of people “mentally ill” (i.e. “medicalization”) fairly recently.

      I haven’t heard of any “Mad Superiority” movement, but if there were one, I’d be all for it. Certainly, there are people suffering from a surfeit of what could be described as “normality”, or “ordinariness”, or “average-ness”, or drabness, take your pick. Boringly normal is, if nothing else, bo-ring.

      I don’t know that it would be reactionary to recognize people who experience difficulties in life. If I remember correctly, reaction often becomes a matter of prejudging, dismissing, and killing such people. Such mistreatment is taking place even when that reaction is trying to confuse people by employing the rhetoric of revolution.

  4. Hi David. I really appreciate what you are trying to do.
    Here’s the problem I see with the concept of Mad Pride and why I find it hard to incorporate into the anti psychiatry/critical psychiatry narrative.

    First of all let’s look at the archetypes (AKA “diagnoses”) of “severe mental illnesses.” The two most notorious are “Bipolar” and “Schizophrenia.” I’ll describe them–though I don’t believe in them–as I would Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

    “Bipolar symptoms” include behaviors like cheating on your partner, petty theft for fun, verbal and even physical abuse, chasing someone with a knife, lying all the time, drowning your children, killing sprees like Ted Bundy, and mass shootings. All these behaviors have been attributed to “bipolar” by psychiatrists respected in their fields.

    “Schizophrenic symptoms” include selfish coldness, hating humanity, violent crimes, killing sprees, and (of course) mass shootings.

    By calling myself “mentally ill” or owning my designated role I’ll be living down to the reputation forced upon me by uncaring shrinks. If I’m not guilty of any of the behaviors listed above it’s a form of libelous slander to call me by one of the two “SMI” designations.

    The LGBT community found acceptance because, after the sixties, people became more accepting of different expressions of sexuality. They have no problem accepting gays because they’re just like everyone else. Law abiding citizens with no reputation for harming others.

    But because of its associations with violent crimes and other bad behaviors “severe mental illness” will never be accepted unless those labeled with it advertise the restraints they wear. Usually chemical. I often tried this in my years as a NAMI activist/mascot. “Look. We’re not bad. We aren’t serial killers or violent. We take our meds! Please accept and like us. We’ll be good and always take our meds even if they make us horribly ill, rot our brains, and kill us before age 53.” 🙁

    I guess you can attempt to redefine what “severe mental illnesses” are and explain that even without drugs, shocks, confinement we can be law abiding, non violent citizens. But in the end shrinks define what “bipolar” and “schizophrenia” mean.

    And as OH has pointed out there are no biomarkers. These are not legitimate illnesses or disabilities like your paralysis is David. The disabilities many of us share were inflicted by psychiatric remedies. Not problems we were born with.

    The reason “born this way” won’t work with survivors is people will still avoid us. In fact it’s worse since they write you off as hopeless. NAMI has been trying this for years. Though for much of the time they’ve known it doesn’t work.

    It’s especially problematic if you want the right to live drug free. As many here do. Society views the decision of the “severe mentally ill” to go without their “meds” as so dangerously irresponsible as to be criminal. To their way of thinking by going off your cocktail you run the risk of killing loved ones, cheating on your spouse, violently assaulting strangers, or the ever popular mass shooting spree. Not just your life at risk but all you come in contact with.

    The ONLY reason I stayed on my cocktail for 23 years was a sense of obligation to all around me. I knew those pills were harming me and making it hard to function cognitively. But doctors I implicitly trusted assured me I would morph into Ms. Hyde without them and I felt it was wrong to take that risk.

    But if you can find ways to work around this narrative–that the “severely mentally ill” are not just rude and inconsiderate but dangerous*–more power to you David Oak. I wish you and the Mad Pride movement well, though I respectfully disagree on its efficacy at ending involuntary and inhumane psychiatric treatment.

    * We’re usually depicted as dangerous but not quite self aware enough to be evil, like house pets with rabies.

  5. Thank you, dear David, for this wonderful article. Boy, our gang sure has problems with terminology, don’t we? I’ve long wished the concept of “mad pride” could be replaced by that of “mad liberation” (yay, MindFreedom!). Nevertheless, everything you’ve written here and elsewhere resonates with me, and I love and admire you so much. I will never forget the time I managed, somehow, to phone you from inside the bin, in 2007, and told you what a failure I was for getting locked up again, and that I just wanted to die. You told me I hadn’t failed anyone or anything, but was re-establishing my credentials by doing field work; that I should make sure no staff ever heard me talk about wanting to die; and that I mustn’t die, because the movement needed me! Your loving words made all the difference in the world. They gave me the comfort and courage I needed to make it through yet another psychiatric incarceration. The idea of all oppressed peoples uniting to rise up and fight the right is such a beautiful dream, and even if it remains a dream for a very long time it strengthens us to remember it and strive towards it.

    • Irit: Have you thought of the terminology we are striving for as being slightly beyond the ineffable? We really work at a level beyond 100% (David was being modest with his expectations in percentages, as I suspect he, his family and the greater community sense a certain awareness before, at the edge and beyond. To tease out, hold and be in the space, where the limnal reality can emerge from the tension in the order to disorder flow or the disorder to order flow, tied inherent to the direction of time’s arrow. And even then, perhaps our perception of time becomes extraordinarily heightened/dampened as we process out the past while learning to become in the NOW? Words may not carry the freight, though poetics is different. Seems also that the tech is playing a role in allowing one to edit after even typing.

      If the focus is on 2022, then what does have a need of being organized or do we sense and convey a certain way of assembling that folks have yet to understand in the role of assembly? And yet, the design for accessbility, the x-disability seems to beyond the actions of politicians and urban/rural designers.

      If one wishes to enter into the seasonal political races, imagine what the crowd would look like if they went and filed for different offices? One doesn’t have to take the money as I sense this has been an influence in the advertising and manipulation of health care and other disciplines rooted in our economic system. Money does need to be created or consider time as currency. And historically, people have been fearful of having their financial notes pulled for fear of losing credit/or creating wealth.
      In these various scenarios, there is a certain legal context at work which can set boundaries; but as Judy Chamberlain would say, “We’re Free”.

      Typing/sharing my opinion though is not exactly the same as the robust conversations one could have in an Alternatives or NICL conference. Tks, Irit and David. Enjoyed our chat yesterday. A clue as to the politics we are trying to operate in can be observed in “Dark Money”, about the law that gave rise to the Super Pac and how only one state would challenge the Supreme Court Ruling. Call it out, “What is corruption’s name?
      Hence, how would see a different polity emerge? And where or at one point, can We, as a people realize change is good!

  6. “If individuals are ever in danger of coerced mental health treatments, they can potentially trigger MFI to look into issuing a human rights alert, similar to Amnesty International.”

    Similar in the same way that Amnesty Int. turns a blind eye to certain governments who allow them to fundraise? Similar to the Amnesty Int. who took the documents I had proving I had been subjected to acts of torture and then left me for dead?

    Not suggesting for a moment that your organisation would act in such a manner David, in fact I hope that this system takes off, because the “three pillars of protection for consumers” in my State is an absolute farce. Their knee jerk reaction to being exposed is to ‘fuking destroy’ complainants and their families, and do second rate cover ups to ensure they maintain the levels of terror in the community that stop anyone form complaining as they go about their ‘work’.

    With our elections coming up I hear the two parties boasting about the extra police numbers they will make available. That will be 800 more people to ‘treat’ the ‘mentally ill’ like this?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZ9UQKBUrsg

    They should be careful what they wish for, because they just might get it. I’d have hoped they might have seen that police got access to a copy of the criminal Code so that when victims of crime turned up in their stations with proof they had been ‘spiked’ before interrogation, they weren’t referring them to mental health services for ‘treatment’, or arresting them for having the proof of the ‘spiking’ but rather performed the duties they are being paid for.

    Any written stories of success of the Shield program been published here or elsewhere?

    “I like to make the joke, which often falls flat, that there are silver linings in disasters — even breaking your neck. For instance, finding parking is way easier.”

    Except at the Paralympics right? “What, only two parking bays?”

  7. “the tens of thousands of us in nursing homes and other congregate living facilities who have died from COVID-19.”

    Here is the problem with that assertion:

    Insert of a covid test:

    https://twitter.com/KPCResearch/status/1315528145458597893

    https://twitter.com/KPCResearch/status/1315528145458597893/photo/1

    UK people consider this:

    https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/550598

    The Germans bought a clue from WWII but what is wrong with you lot – do you want to slow boil in a lobster pot ? Read: Dr’s Karina Reiss and Sucharit Bhakdi’s book Corna False Alarm Facts and Figures. Now in English.

  8. David, you are a hero to me. I had the honor of seeing you give the keynote at Peerpocalypse this year. I am a new Peer Wellness Specialist in Portland, OR – learning how to support other survivors and peers while plotting the REVOLUTION. Yes, we sure as hell need one. I look to you for the wisdom and experience you have accumulated over the years, and appreciated the history you shared with us at the conference. One of the beautiful things about you is that you bring humor and love into your revolutionary stance. It is appreciated. Thank you so much for your work! May you be well and happy and keep fighting the good fight.

  9. I was not sure if David’s question of “how” was meant for me, However I think Oldheads response
    is a rather great answer.
    I realize we are on “MAD in America” David, But never have I thought that world referred to a certain group, or particular people. Unless of course it refers to the “system”.:)
    I’m with you on working together, as long as we are not talking about therapying psychiatry. I will not try to make them feel as if they can perhaps work in a school system as a student aid after they were found not to be trustworthy with children.
    And honestly, I believe we are all working together. We might quibble about the routes we take, but if it is in the same direction, is all that matters.

  10. I have been a part of the psychiatric survivor movement for a few years now after my own experiences with forced treatment. I have also survived several periods of what one might call crisis in my life. I have always felt “different” from most other people as well, and when I was younger I was diagnosed with autism. Then came the labels of depression, anxiety, hearing voices etc. My differences in relating to people and the perhaps rather eccentric way that I live my life and make choices that are different from the norm have been called all sorts of things and been put into all sorts of categories by people. I have been hated for my rejection of capitalism and praised for my creativity. In the end, after everything I have been through, I choose not to have any labels. Yes, I may be different, eccentric, extremely creative, or whatever one might choose to call it, and a lot of things to a lot of different people (everyone is really, we are all complex and have various relationships throughout our lives in many different capacities) but at the end of the day I am just me. I am me, and I am proud. That doesn’t mean that I think I am superior. I am simply a unique human being, Just like anyone.

  11. Rather than perpetually bitch about one’s fate. I think it’s a good idea to celebrate one’s fate, too. All is not bad, all is not lost, not so long as we don’t want it to be anyway. We could throw a big party. Why not? Certainly not because there are all these party poopers, slackers, and such sorts out there. They can do what they want. We could call such a celebration Unique Human Being Pride Day if you want, but it’s one way of doing something, and saying I’m alright at the same time. Libeled or not (the cuter way of saying labeled), I’m alright. How about you?

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