Dr. Benedetto Saraceno is an Italian psychiatrist, advocate of mental health reforms, and friend. From 2000 to 2010, he was the director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse of the World Health Organization (WHO). It was at the headquarters for WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, where I first met Benedetto, and he soon became a friend.

David W. Oaks.

Dr. Saraceno was open to hearing about our human rights concerns. For example, we brought up the issue of involuntary electroshock, also known as electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, where doctors run electricity through the brain. While many do not know, coerced shock continues to this day internationally, over and against the clear wishes of the subject. This extreme violation is even now found in the US, often using a court order and taxpayer funding.

After hearing about our campaign, Dr. Saraceno, on behalf of WHO, stated to the public that involuntary electroshock should be banned absolutely and internationally.

When MindFreedom International engaged in a campaign calling the current state of mental health human rights a global emergency, Benedetto repeatedly and publicly used that “emergency” word about the international concern.

Dr. Benedetto Saraceno.

I am not saying that all of Dr. Saraceno’s positions and my positions, and those of the diverse movement of consumer/survivors, perfectly align. And while all of my interactions with Benedetto have been very positive, this essay is not an investigation. But this wonderful friend reminds me: while allies within the mental health industry who are willing to speak out are far too few, they can be helpful and should be treasured.

Dr. Saraceno just retired. He generously agreed to be interviewed for Mad in America.

David W. Oaks: What are some of the highlights about your acclaimed support for human rights and mental health?

Benedetto Saraceno: My work on human rights developed in two different periods of my life. From 1978 to 1995 I worked as a psychiatrist in Milan, Italy. I was active in a public psychiatric hospital which was horrible as all psychiatric hospitals are: miserable, violent, useless.

I succeeded in creating a small facility for 24 so-called “chronic patients”, namely people institutionalized for years in a terrible environment where the most basic rights were not respected. In our small community we tried to create a more humane environment with no physical restraint, open doors, and a constant dialogue with people.

We were able to find some apartments in the city of Milan where some of these people started living a normal life as citizens and not as psychiatric patients. I was very isolated and not very much supported by the professional environment. This modest experience convinced me that it was possible to create a radical alternative to psychiatric institutions, to combat discrimination, to help people to find their way as citizens enjoying the rights of every citizen.

I was very influenced by the experience of deinstitutionalization led by Franco Basaglia, an Italian psychiatrist who inspired the process of radical reform of the Italian mental health system.

In the second part of my life (1996-2010) I moved to the World Health Organization (WHO) and my commitment was no longer in changing psychiatric practice but rather in changing the “discourse” on mental health. I worked trying to promote human rights in many low-, middle- and high-income countries through innovative legislation and processes of deinstitutionalization, leading to more respect, freedom, and self-determination of people with mental disability.

It was work focused on governments, on policy makers, on the public. At this stage I met the movement of users and survivors, and I learned a lot, namely, to listen more and to help create environments where freedom was considered as the main ingredient of any therapy: “Freedom is therapeutic.” I was very impressed by the movement around the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the intense debate around it. In WHO I worked to produce seminal documents and guidelines inspired by these principles.

Oaks: Can you tell me a little about your childhood and what got you started in the early days?

Saraceno: When I was adolescent, I had a lot of admiration for Sigmund Freud and my fantasy was becoming a famous psychoanalyst able to understand the deep emotional reality of people. Therefore, I decided to study medicine and become a psychiatrist and eventually a psychoanalyst.

The first time I visited a psychiatric hospital (in Trieste) I saw another reality: people living in material and spiritual misery and abandonment, violence from the institution against people hospitalized, physical restraint, stupidity, bureaucracy, lack of project, lack of hope. I realized that psychiatry was not therapeutic but rather anti-therapeutic.

Eventually I met Franco Basaglia, the Italian leader of anti-institutional psychiatry and became one of his disciples. This initial experience drove me away from the idea of becoming a psychoanalyst and pushed me towards a critical way of practicing anti-institutional psychiatry and human rights promotion.

Oaks: Can you tell us briefly about the Italian movement?

Saraceno: The Italian Reform Movement started in 1968 with the closing of the first psychiatric hospital in the northeast of Italy. This experience was driven by the idea that the institution to be fought was not just the hospital as a building but the ideology of psychiatry (the medicalization of human suffering, the logic of the diagnosis, the irrational and abusive way of using psychotropic medicine, the lack of interest towards the needs and wishes of people in trouble, the lack of planning strategies to help people in their daily material life, etc.).

From a few initial experiences (Gorizia, Trieste, Arezzo, Ferrara, Perugia), the movement expanded, and it culminated in 1979 with a national law mandating the closure of all 90 Italian psychiatric hospitals and moving care to community centers.

We may identify six barriers which were considered to be preventing the development of innovative and human rights-driven mental health services:

  1. Persistence of psychiatric institutions.
  2. Little investment in creating community mental health teams or centres (relying on few beds in general hospitals for very short voluntary stay).
  3. Primary healthcare role not sufficiently valued.
  4. Persons with long-term disabilities still in institutions instead of living in normal, real, independent accommodation.
  5. Lack of investment in prevention and minimising the effects of social determinants (poverty, lack of education, marginalization).
  6. Human rights literacy and rights promotion dramatically insufficient.
Oaks: What do you believe motivated you to start your support for our rights?

Saraceno: My main motivation was the moral indignation about the way people with mental disabilities were treated by psychiatry. Psychiatry has a very fragile epistemological and moral consistency. Psychiatric practice is too often violating human rights, too often incapable of understanding the suffering of people, too often unable to provide help to people who need housing, work, money, respect, inclusion and instead are receiving psychotropic drugs, electroshock, physical restraint, isolation.

I think the main issue for mental health systems and for psychiatric practice today is the “moral case” represented by systematic human rights violations occurring in mental health systems and psychiatric institutions. I call for a global moral emergency.

Oaks: Our movement includes both people who support/use the current mental health system, and people who have survived trauma in that field. What can help bridge people who accept the system, with those who reject the system? In your experience, what can help us unite for human rights?

Saraceno: Of course, for a person like me, a psychiatrist, it was easier collaborating with people who support/use the current mental health system rather than with people who have survived trauma in that field. I think there is an understandable mistrust towards mental health professionals even if they have fought for human rights. There are disagreements about the nature of mental disability and about the role of mental health professionals.

I understand all this and often I felt I was being mistrusted. I think the best way to advance the human right cause is finding common points of understanding, common goals to pursue, common battles to fight. The areas of disagreement should be left behind and we should prevent disagreements becoming obstacles to potential and common achievements. Getting older, I try to find unity more than fragmentation because the enemy is big, strong, and will enjoy our theoretical divisions.

Oaks: As you retire, did you have anything you would like to add about the future of the revolution for human rights in mental health?

Saraceno: I have the impression that we live more and more in a world where human rights are increasingly violated. I think we should expand our alliances well beyond mental health, we should make our battle more comprehensive and less sectarian. We need more internal dialogue to find common objectives and more tough external fighting.

Oaks: Can you give a few examples of your work at WHO, especially for human rights?

Saraceno: First of all, I would like to explain one of my main beliefs around human rights and mental health. I think it could be risky keeping separate human rights from the way mental health care is provided. I see the risk that psychiatrists proclaim their faith in human rights, claim their support of human rights, BUT they do not change their way of thinking, practicing, and organizing mental health care services.

The result is a world where words and facts are separate. Following these beliefs, I always considered that working for human rights at WHO was not just publishing documents on human rights, preparing guidelines about defending and promoting human rights, generating tools aiming at monitoring human rights. This is important and we did this in WHO (for instance, the WHO resource book On Human Rights and Legislation and the WHO QualityRights Tool Kit). But this is not enough.

We should also change mental health policies, plans, and the organization of services. In this sense, I consider examples of my work at WHO for human rights, the contribution to innovative mental health policies (in Sri Lanka, in Occupied Palestinian Territories, in Gaza, in Jordan, in Argentina, in Brazil).

In conclusion I would say that my work at WHO for human rights had two dimensions: one that I would define as normative (guidelines, training tools) and another that I would define as technical cooperation with countries (policies, reorienting mental health services in non-restrictive ways and making them human rights driven).

Oaks: What is your opinion about our movement using the WHO mental health division more for human rights campaigns?

Saraceno: I think a collaboration with WHO should be encouraged because a synergy between your movement and an official UN agency will increase your impact and change the mentality of the global health establishment, multiplying your voice.

However, I consider it fundamental that this collaboration should not dilute and weaken the radical thinking of your movement. In other words, I think your movement should operate at two levels, one more radical and independent and another more open to dialogue and connection with UN agencies. These two dimensions are not in contradiction because you need both: radical thinking on one side and mediation and dialogue on the other side.

Oaks: Can you tell me something about you personally now, what do you hope to do during retirement?

Saraceno: I am quite clear about my future.

I intend to spend my time on four main activities:

  1. Writing literature (stories, novels). I have already published a rather long novel.
  2. Painting (essentially, I paint farms and country houses). I use pastel and acrylic.
  3. Spending time with my two grandchildren, Zeno (8 years) and Diana (5 years). I tell stories and I paint together with them.
  4. Responding to very few invitations to talk about mental health (invited lectures). But this fourth activity should be extremely reduced.
Oaks: You have suggested that the WHO headquarters in Geneva ought to have a monument. Can you tell me more?

Saraceno: I would suggest a monument honoring the persons with mental problems and disabilities who have been victims of marginalization, stigma, discrimination, abuse, and neglect.

We have monuments celebrating famous doctors but we have no monuments honoring the thousands of people who were discriminated against and ill-treated because of their mental conditions.

It would be nice to collect money to pay for such a statue and then make a donation to WHO.

Oaks: You and I are both admirers of a historic, mind-dissident Italian, Giordano Bruno, who was the last individual burnt by the Inquisition, in the year 1600. Can you tell me more? Why is Bruno important?
The statue of Giordano Bruno in Rome. Photo by Daryl Mitchell.

Saraceno: I have called you Giordano Bruno, an intellectual who was burned in Rome because of his ideas of freedom. I consider you a sort of Giordano Bruno, namely an intellectual who has devoted his life to his ideas of freedom.

This is the reason why when I go to Rome, I put flowers under the statue of Giordano Bruno to honor him and you.

Note: Portions of this interview were originally produced for the LinkedIn group Mind Justice, organized by David W. Oaks. Mind Justice builds bridges between people perceived as having any mental disability, whether they accept or reject that label.

129 COMMENTS

  1. You might request from the local library: Dying for ideas : the dangerous lives of the philosophers Brădățan, Costică. Being from Chicago, I assume you studied Saul Alinsky with a search that will show him working with Indigenous of Canada.

    I would ask how the “Divide and Conquer” mantra operates to elevate while sharing an engaged learning from a state of mind that could say, “Divided We Stand, United We Fall”. (The opposite of the mantra for Kentucky, which within politics, the degree of access is shaped more on the weight of how much money can be raised, now being shaped differently in a digital currency, though that has major implications for accountability, too). Perhaps we have become “united” through endless emails, posts? The experience here, is to work both singular and collectively/collaboratively.

    A note on Bruno, the story is in the referenced book about Ideas mentioned above. As children, my cousin would tell us how the Bruno Children of the local Pizza Company had ancestors who were burned at the stake. Hard to believe? The challenge is to create and not just out of think air, though to design the access, programming, where We can, We Discover, in a better way our Humanity. As for the Industry, what are the boundaries you are talking about?

    As Tip O’Neill would suggest, the politics start at the local level. And some organizations can be extraordinarily closed. Finally, could “the movement” be stalling in layers of typed replies? For to travel to a conference, physically and see Oaks selling books, the discourse, we were learning, though to understand our concerns of having a different economy that afforded us development/participation remains essential to the challenge (in my opinion.).

    To

    • Bill Wells says, “As Tip O’Neill wound suggest, the politics start at the local level. And some organizations can be extraordinarily closed.”

      Psychiatry’s not medical. Never was, never will be. It’s political, which is why it needs to go.

      The political (punitive) abuse of psychiatry already exists in some form as evidenced by people’s inaccurate beliefs and attitudes towards people with psychiatric labels and the laws permitting forced psychiatric drugging and detention. And this will continue as long as psychiatry exists in any form. And THAT’S the truth and the horror OF IT ALL.

      And psychiatry has people up a creek because being a former or current user can make it difficult to be taken seriously, or even ruin someone’s life personally and professionally. (Did I say psychiatry is political? Yes I did!) So people are left with word of mouth that thankfully is often the most effective (and safest) way for real change to happen.

  2. It’s interesting to read about the role of “moral indignation” in developing the career direction of people like Benedetto. It makes me wonder, why don’t we see that more often, and what could be done to make it more likely that people working in the field would find and act on their own moral indignation?

    I also think about the excesses of capitalism – it’s hard to organize efforts to counter poverty and associated marginalization, because that goes counter to how power is organized in our world. Approaches like drugs and shock may work poorly, but they don’t contradict capitalism, so they fit our existing social structures.

  3. “I would suggest a monument honoring the persons with mental problems and disabilities who have been victims of marginalization, stigma, discrimination, abuse, and neglect.

    “We have monuments celebrating famous doctors but we have no monuments honoring the thousands of people who were discriminated against and ill-treated because of their mental conditions.”

    I am a graduate of SAIC, and I’ve got a whole bunch of paintings (and a couple small soapstone sculptures) that visually describe psychiatry’s iatrogenic “bipolar epidemic” (actually, in my case, egregious anticholinergic toxidrome poisonings). My work also visually documents the circus that abusive psychologists and psychiatrists make of one’s life, as well as my musical, mystical, mysterious escape from psychiatry and my healing journey.

    My work has been described by child abuse covering up “mental health professionals” as “w/o work, content, and talent” (prior to them ever bothering to look at any of my work). Then after my psychiatrist finally bothered to look at my work, he described it as “insightful,” “work of smart female,” and he weaned me off the drugs. At a later showing of my work, it was described as the work of a “Chicago Chagall,” and “too truthful” for for some “mental health professionals.”

    My work consists of mostly two dimensional works, which tell a story over time, or in the fourth dimension. When one is being anticholinergic toxidrome poisoned (which can result from the current “bipolar” drug recommendations) abstract expressionism was the art style that best visually documented the drug induced chaos in my brain. And Mark Chagall seemingly painted my drug withdrawal induced “super sensitivity manic psychosis”/awakening to my dreams – as if I were one of his muses – so I found getting inspiration from his works the best way to visually document my healing journey. And the ongoing iatrogenic “bipolar epidemic” has harmed and killed millions of adults and children.

    I would love it if the UN would consider supporting psych survivor painters as well as sculptors, Dr. Saraceno. Since as we all know, “a picture paints a thousand words,” so a lot of paintings do tell a “too truthful” story for the abusive and unethical “mental health” workers.

    Thank you for the interesting interview, David.

  4. I consider psychiatry the enemy because that’s how I see it. And it’s not without reasoning OR content that I’ve come to this hard-won conclusion. And you’re assuming I don’t use either reasoning or content is both disparaging and diminishing, and very presumptuous.

  5. I like the idea of a monument, but I think, if we are to have them, we need many monuments as we are talking about a global problem, a worldwide movement, and relatively common situations. Too common. It has been too easy to bury people in institutions. With statuary, a monument, stories, people, hidden people, once again come out into the open, and take their place in the world.

    Great interview, David. Thanks for doing it.

  6. First, I would like to say, “Wow!” What a great interview this is. This helps me see how a simple friendship and civil dialogue can influence the trajectory of a person’s worldview and possibly inspire a professional to change the institutions in which they operate. To me, it is no coincidence that this person worked for the WHO, which later became one of the consumer/survivor’s most influential, global allies.

    I also viewed Birdsong’s comments and David’s response with great interest. I would like to know from any student of Gandhi, if Gandhi ever referred to the opposition as ‘enemy’ and if Dr. Martin Luther King ever referred to proponents of Jim Crow as the enemy? I doubt it but then I have not been a serious student of either. I suspect that the religious teachings embraced by both Gandhi and Dr. King would have prohibited each from making sweeping generalizations about those in power they opposed because sweeping generalizations generally contradict both Hindi and Christian teachings about the spiritual value of each individual. In other words to call everyone the ‘enemy’ because they belong to a certain social class, or they have received a particular training that we are critical of such as training in psychiatry, deprives them of their humanity. Human beings are always capable of evolution, change, and redemption and each is endowed with a unique set of attributes/faults which define their potential to do great good or great harm. I believe even violent criminals should be granted their humanity in this respect. For this reason, I am unequivocally opposed to the death penalty and I generally accept David’s response that allies are not formed by walls and contempt but by the degree of diplomacy and respect we are willing to exhibit by acknowledging the humanity. If nothing else, our enemies have more to teach us than our close friends because enemies force us to acknowledge our own shadows and demons. Facing one’s shadow is the most difficult part of being human. There is no law demanding that we face our own demons. Many of us can live long and uneventful lives without exploring our shadow our without acknowledging that we even have a dark side to begin with but if we want to be effective advocates for justice, then we need to attain a level of personal balance (balance and justice are nearly inseparable) to to effective. Only deep reflection and confrontation with the self can prepare people to embark on the Justice journey. Since this site exists explicitly for the purpose of ‘social justice’ I urge others to think very deeply about the appropriateness of making sweeping generalizations about the opposition. As David pointed out, mutual respect is foundational for dialogue and this article proves that dialogue is helpful to our cause!!

    • What’s the definition for enemy? A thing that harms or weakens something else.

      This describes psychiatry and those who practice it and is the reason I have no respect for either.

      And if you want to talk about “sweeping generalizations” I suggest you start with the DSM.

    • Psychiatry unequivocally deprives people of their humanity with its pseudoscientific diagnoses, iatrogenically harmful drugs, damaging ECT, and forced medication/hospitalization. And none of these build diplomacy or allies, but definitely deny people’s human rights, which is criminal. So expecting meaningful dialogue with people who not only deny their humanity but also their human rights is not only unrealistic, it is illogical.

      And while there are no laws demanding anyone face their inner demons, more than enough people have learned more than enough about psychiatry’s demons or “dark side” with its violations of social justice which is the reason for this website.

    • I would like to know from any student of Gandhi, if Gandhi ever referred to the opposition as ‘enemy’ and if Dr. Martin Luther King ever referred to proponents of Jim Crow as the enemy?

      So would you use India as an example of human progress?

      And it actually took Black rebellions in cities throughout the country before even modest gains were achieved on an economic level — though the marches were inspirational MLK had lost a lot of support at the end of his life.

      Anyway if he saw people as his political enemy he would probably not have used that term to avoid stirring up hatred and confusion.

  7. Yes it is true that Benedetto publicly denounced the use of ECT and called for an absolute ban. It seems though that he shied away from extending his call to include a ban on forced psychiatric medication. There is growing evidence from research that the horrific harms caused by long-term use of all classes of psy medication, do not just outweigh significantly any benefits but also that they are irreversible. Alas, it appears that the majority of those who find ECT barbaric (for good reasons, both scientific and ethical) believe that drugs are less harmful.

  8. To Birdsong:
    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for all of your posts on this comment thread. I absolutely agree: Psychiatry is the greatest enemy of humanity. People everywhere should be warned and on guard to Psychiatry’s dangers.

    To David Oaks:
    As I said before; you salvaged the West Coast anti-psychiatry movement from the closed down Network Against Psychiatric Assault in 1985 and moved it to Oregon and created ” Dendron ” and Mind Freedom International ; thereby reviving the international anti-psychiatry network for the next 36 years. I, and I believe many others are very greatful for that. However, this statement bothered me. :

    Oaks: Our movement includes both people who support/use the current mental health system, and people who have survived trauma in that field. What can help bridge people who accept the system, with those who reject the system? In your experience, what can help us unite for human rights?

    Very unfortunately, a large percentage of psychiatric prisoners think psychiatry is wonderful and support the psychiatric assault against them. Those who know that the so-called treatment IS an assault may become survivors, ( if they live through it ) and may even become activists against psychiatry. But, for myself, I am a victim of Psychiatric Assault and a survivor and I have ZERO interest in ever uniting with people, even ex-prisoners, who are backers of psychiatry and consider themselves ” mental health consumers ” . And I know other victims like me feel the same. ” Mental health consumers ” are a convenient tool of the pharmaceutical, psychiatric, drug pushing industry. I can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to unite psychiatric survivors with psych. consumers. Smart survivors are completely opposed to consumers.
    I may not be the right man to do it; because I have so many problems caused by psychiatry; but someone needs to form a true anti-psychiatry group of survivors, truly united against the system of psychiatric prisons.

    • Thank you very much, justsayno86. I greatly appreciate your generous appreciation.

      You are right. Psychiatry IS the greatest enemy. But it’s an invisible enemy, which makes it more dangerous. And people definitely need to be warned.

      I also can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to unite psychiatric survivors with psych consumers. And anyone who thinks it’s a good idea shows a serious lack of understanding.

    • There are truly anti-psychiatry survivors out here folks, I might ask one of them to post here about where the anti-psychiatry “underground” stands at the moment and maybe how to get in touch. Do any of the anti-psych people here have email adds the ydon’t mind posting here just to simplify things?

      • Most psych survivors were psych consumers at one time. I’d say it depends on the “consumer.” Those who are invested in promoting the current system need to be left alone, but there are many “consumers” who are confused, angry, frustrated, and beginning to doubt the veracity of the psychiatric narrative. Such people need to hear from survivors rather than those other promotors of the status quo referred to above.

        I consider it bigoted to assume that all “consumers” are the same.

        • I’ve never viewed all “consumers” as the same. Whatever someone decides to do is their business.

          What I object to is psychiatry’s violating people’s human rights by feeding them lies.

          And building alliances where there’s major conflicts of interests is counterproductive, especially when one side has more power than the other. So in this area I see collaboration and half measures as ultimately harmful for those who need help the most.

          • I refer to it only as a way that some people identify themselves. Of course, I don’t see psychiatry as a “product” in the same sense as a tube of toothpaste. First off, toothpaste doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. Second, no one can legally force you to accept their “toothpaste” as a “product” that they can force down your throat! I suppose the person is a “consumer” in the sense that they are forced to “consume” the drugs that are selected for them, but the social meaning of “consumer” suggests a person who can use their buying power to influence what products are available. That certainly does not apply to the bulk of psychiatric “participants,” willing or not.

        • More than race or Judaism, the one common denominator of Holocaust victims was
          COMPLIANCE…..about 99%, I’d say…..
          Current compliance to mask mandates, vaxx mandates, etc., in the Covid1984 Plandemic, are only in the maybe 40 – 60/70% range AT MOST…..
          Looks to me that the 4th Reich is LESS successful at forcing compliance than the 3rd Reich was during 1933 – 1945…..
          Psychiatrists were key drivers of Nazi policy in WW2….
          WHY did psychiatry comply with, and ASSIST the Nazis?….
          What say you, Benedetto?….
          A psychiatric “diagnosis” is the medical equivalent of a six-pointed yellow star pinned on your clothing….
          Prove me wrong….
          I LOVE my fellow Holocaust survivors….

          • Thank you, Bradford for CLEARLY stating:

            “A psychiatric “diagnosis” is the medical equivalent of a six-pointed yellow star pinned on your clothing….”

            Truer words were never spoken.

  9. To my dear friend Bradford,

    Are you asking me? If so, here’s my answer:

    No one should be expected or pressured to form an alliance with people who refuse to fully accept and stop the harms they cause, even if they stop harming.

    Survivors aren’t responsible for appeasing their perpetrators.

    Allying with psychiatry is allying with barbarism.

  10. I must say Benedetto if you have travelled into the Occupied Territories and worked in ‘mental health’…… respect.
    The state of mental health in Australia means it has become a place for police to torture individuals, and a place to send them for ‘treatments’ once they are done with them. The Chief Psychiatrist implementing a Fuhrerprizip where the laws protecting the community are ignored, and his word IS law. And as he has written, that complaining about the torture is merely a “justifiable explanation” and what matters are the “observed behaviours” So if police induce an “acute stress reaction” with beatings and electricity to the testicles for example, complaining that you are being drugged for your reaction to that ‘treatment’ is of no account…. we saw your mental illness in your reaction, and do not consider it to be ‘normal’

    We call them ‘snow jobs’ here…. the deliberate harming of individuals to ensure they have no access to human rights. The ability to have citizens arbitrarily detained as they are all “Outpatients” a bonus for such a State.

    There are laws which do actually provide protections form the community, but I think they are just for show for Champagne sipping sycophant’s at the U.N. and such places…….. the real deal is that the Police don’t have a copy of the Criminal Code and any complaining about being tortured will move your ‘end of life “care” plan’ forward a bit.

    But, like the National Socialist’s in Germany, it isn’t all doom and gloom…. many of the ‘mental health professionals’ have a lot of property etc…… it’s tough work, and someone has to have the stomach for it.

    Hey, we even have something in common, I too have grand children. I haven’t seen them for more than ten years now for complaining about being tortured by mental health because apparently trying to access the protection of the law, and your ‘Healthcare rights” will get you and your family “fuking destroyed”. If only that was in the brochure huh?

    I’m not a big fan of dialogue with the ‘enemy’, though I think of such people who do seek dialogue as perpetrators who are trying to mend their ways……. possibly.

    “O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allāh guides not the wrongdoing people.” (al Mai’dah 51)

    Still, give the people what they want, I hope everybody gets what they deserve.

    I like the idea of a Memorial…..burned at the stake huh? Can you tell me why it is we were taught to fear witches, and not the people who burned them alive?

  11. One of the challenges for Mad in America is to provide a forum for commentary that allows for respectful criticism of ideas, or assertions, without making such criticism devolve into a personal criticism of the blogger. It’s a fine line, but we have many people who have stopped blogging for us because they feel the commentary section can turn hostile. Here, David invited commentary, and so the criticism of “sleeping with the enemy” was raised. But that has now led to a thread that is critical of David personally–it’s a slippery slope from respectful criticism of ideas to personal criticism of the writer. And I have to say, the personal criticism of David Oaks that has emerged here pains me.

    He has been a national and international leader of psychiatric survivor activism for more than 40 years, and as I have often said, it was an interview that I had with David Oaks when I was writing a series for the Boston Globe in 1998 that prompted me to investigate the whole conventional narrative that psychiatry told about its diagnoses and treatments. David has defended his life’s work here, but I wish he wouldn’t have felt compelled to do so. The psychiatric survivor movement, in my opinion, is a civil rights movement, and it was rooted in that understanding when it emerged full force in the 1970s, and so that’s how I see David: As an individual who spent his life fighting for the civil rights of people whose rights are regularly oppressed and trampled on, with forced treatment with antipsychotics one visible element of that. So, if this commentary is going to provide any thoughts about David Oaks and his life’s work, I think that should be loud and clear, and I wish we could all remember this: He has been a Civil Rights activist and leader in the United States for decades. As such, it is an honor to have him write for Mad in America.

    • I saw no personal attacks on David Oaks, simply rebuttals of what could easily be construed as attacks by David on those who see psychiatry as their enemy.

      David is one of many survivors of psychiatry who have been leading the struggle against psychiatric oppression on many levels for many years, not all of whom do so in a high-profile, personality based manner. His views are respected as worthy of consideration, just as are those of others. Here he seems to consider those his disagrees with as “haters,” and this is what people are responding to.

      • It should be noted however that Mr. Oaks has made it very clear since the (temporary) defeat of the original movement that his ensuing efforts have NOT been anti-psychiatry, but an attempt to forge “unity” among disparate and opposing sectors of opinion loosely related to some sort of dissatisfaction with psychiatry as it currently exists.

  12. To Robert Whitaker and Anyone Else,

    My using the phrase “sleeping with the enemy” was not intended to be a personal attack on Mr. Oaks or the work he does. I consider the phrase a reasonable choice for anyone who has experienced psychiatry’s abuses and therefore understandably disagrees with Mr. Oak’s efforts to unite people with markedly different perspectives.

    I personally find psychiatry’s many documented malfeasances to be much too serious to allow for any common ground with those who harbor more sanguine feelings. And criticizing those who for good reason harbor less sanguine feelings seems counter to the purposes of this webzine, one of which, if I’m not mistaken, is to give voice to those who have been unfairly targeted, criticized, silenced, tortured, censured and censored by psychiatry and its advocates. And I sincerely hope MIA continues refraining from such practices.

    Respectfully,
    Birdsong

  13. I would like to ask Birdsong and other critics of psychiatry who posted comments on this blog, if you do not believe in conducting constructive dialgues between psychiatric survivors, consumers, family members, and mental health professionals, if you do not believe in recruiting allies from within the helping professions, what is your preferred strategy for implementing a global revolution of the mental health system? What activities do you believe will result in a safer, more humane world? Right now this society does not feel safe to me. I am curious what concrete actions you recommend that people take?

    • madmom asks, “….if you do not believe in constructive dialogues between psychiatric survivors, consumers, family members, and mental health professionals, if you do not believe in recruiting allies from within the helping professions, what is your preferred strategy for implementing a global revolution of the mental health system? What activities do you believe will result in a safer, more humane world?”

      First of all, I DO believe in constructive dialogue with anyone. But that is not the same as forming alliances, something that is NOT constructive when fundamental beliefs are fundamentally incompatible.

      And my strategy for implementing a global revolution of the mental health system is supporting and contributing to MIA which I believe IS resulting in a safer, more humane world, as speaking out in whatever way possible is the MOST concrete action ANYONE can take.

    • His friend activated his Shield alert, which I will post in entirety as follows:

      This message is from MindFreedom International:
      Updated Shield Alert for Jim Flannery, January 28, 2023
      Picture of Jim Flannery holding a bullhorn at the 2018 Protest of the APA in NYC

      RE: Important Correction to Earlier Shield Alert.
      Thank you if responded already to the Shield alert of Jim Flannery to win his release. Unfortunately, the previous email for Dr. Latif turned out to be invalid. If you wrote to Dr. Latif and it bounced, please desist from notifying us. Please resend your letter using this UPDATED email:
      [email protected]
      The Shield program relies primarily on volunteers. Please help us crowdsource additional knowledge that may be helpful for this campaign. Write tips or suggestions to [email protected] or post them as comments on our website HERE and scroll down to the ‘comments’ section of that page.
      Original Shield Alert for Jim Flannery, January 27, 2023
      Jim Flannery is enrolled in MFI’s ‘Shield Program’ which aspires to leverage people power to protect the rights of enrolled Shield members. Jim activated his Shield because he is being held involuntarily at the Behavioral Health Unit of Middlesex Hospital located at 28 Crescent St. Middletown, CT 06457.

      Jim has been incarcerated there since Monday, January 23 and is being subjected to daily forced injections of powerful neuroleptic drugs (frequently referred to as anti-psychotics by their manufacturers). According to Jim, the drugs he is being subjected to are Zyprexa and Haldol.

      MindFreedom first heard about this egregious violation of Jim’s rights on Wednesday, January 25, through a friend of Jim’s.

      Jim was granted a hearing on Thursday which he lost. This had the result of changing his 36 hour emergency hold or ‘certificate’ to a fifteen day certificate. The basis for Jim’s incarceration is not clear; he is not charged with a crime.

      This all started following Jim’s performance as a part of ‘The Anything Goes’ open mike at the Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts Center located in Middletown, Connecticut. The police and a mobile crisis team were called to the scene and Jim was transported to the Middlesex ER, where he was put on a 36 hour hold.

      Jim identifies as a comedian, psychiatric survivor, and activist who recently announced his candidacy for President of the United State. He has been a long-standing supporter and volunteer with MindFreedom, using his computer programming skills and video editing skills to help us with various campaigns for human rights. Only a few days ago, Jim generously donated his time to update MFI’s website.

      TAKE ACTION TODAY!
      Please call the psychiatrist (Dr. Tariq Latif) who authorized Jim’s force drugging and demand that he immediately release Jim! Also, demand that Dr. Latif direct the staff to cease and desist from subjecting Jim to dangerous shots of Zyprexa and other so-called ‘anti-psychotics’ against Jim’s expressed consent.

      Dr. Latif, on an online profile, is listed as the Medical Director of the Psychiatry Dept at Middlesex Hospital. He probably does not work on the weekend but we urge you to leave a voicemail on his office phone today or tomorrow. Jim states: “I hope he comes to his office on Monday morning and finds that his voicemail is full of messages from Shield members!”

      Call Dr. Latif at (860) 358-6765

      (hospital # which routs callers to a switchboard operator who transfer callers to his voicemail)
      Additional untested phone numbers for Tariq Latif obtained from the internet:
      (203) 912-9721
      (cell)
      (860) 398-4284
      (Middletown unspecified)
      Email Dr. Tariq Latif at
      [email protected]
      Share this alert via social media by using the link HERE
      Guidelines:
      As always, be respectful and civil when you leave messages or post comments.
      Send copies of your written messages to MFI — cc correspondence to [email protected]
      MFI will publish model letters on this page or in the comments section (to view comments scroll down to the bottom of this page. We will always ask your permission before publishing your letter.
      MFI will update this page as needed, as additional actions become warranted. Share the link to this page freely on social media. To obtain link cut and past the URL address that appears in the URL field above.

  14. David Oaks says:

    “All this focus on psychiatry is a bit old fashioned.”

    Psychiatry’s history of human rights violations has continued unabated to this day and is becoming increasingly widespread due to the undeniable association among psychiatry, Big Pharma, mainstream media, academia, and the legislative/judicial/policy-making branches of government. So promoting alliance between supporters and opponents of the current mental health system reveals not only a serious lack of understanding and concern for those caught in the mental health system, but a disturbing complacency that is best described as irresponsible.

    I don’t ever consider the fight for ANYONE’S human rights “old fashioned!”

  15. Oh the law is a beautiful thing, it’s such a shame that it has been subverted by the Chef Psychiatrist with his Fuhrerprinzip (his word IS law)

    I am looking at the Form 1 (referral for an examination by a psychiatrist) statutory declaration which IS a document that was produced as a direct result of an act of torture, AND was forged using the corrupt practice of ‘verballing’.

    That would be fine had the hospital actually retrieved the surrounding documents completed by the Community Nurse… the “Outpatient Case Notes” and “Client Triage Sheets”. Without these documents available, his forged documents could not possibly be tested using logic and reason…. with them, his fraud is exposed quite easily.

    So what would happen if a person were to falsely believe that the documents proving the forged document (produced via an act of torture) could not be tested? It would be easy to make the claim that any counter arguments put forward were “justifiable explanations” and that what was sworn testimony on the part of the Community Nurse were his “observed behaviours”……..as the Chief Psychiatrist has done in his letter of response to the Mental Health Law Centre.

    Problem being; (and I realise the U.S. is NOT a signatory of the Convention against the use of torture [or other cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment r punishment])

    Article 15
    Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.

    The Chief Psychiatrist is using a Form as a defense of that very act of torture I was subjected to? Thinking that the documents surrounding the ‘verbal’ had been retrieved, he then utters with a known forged document?

    Still, when your having police drop people off at the E.D. to be “unintentionally negatively outcomed”….

    Now call me suspicious, but why hasn’t anyone bothered to check what I’m saying? The Chief psychiatrist is committing criminal offences and acts of misconduct and nobody gives a fuk?

    Because I have it all right here in writing? You don’t even need to speak to the nutjob writing this stuff, just examine the documents…. or is it just like with the Nazis, just pretend you didn’t notice?

    Allies for Human Rights?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCY6flzgfA4