My Open Letter to Linda Vigen Phillips, Author of the New Young Adult Novel “Crazy”

Today, here in Eugene, Oregon, I heard a radio interview with the author of a young adult novel called “Crazy,” and I hoped that the author would challenge some mental health oppression during her book tour here in Oregon. After all, her semi-autobiographical fiction novel is about growing up in Klamath Falls, Oregon with a mom who has severe mental and emotional problems. Unfortunately, the radio interview seemed to turn into a promotion of the conventional mental health system.

Below is my open public letter to this author to ask that she questions the mental health industry more in her book tour:

Cover of the book "Crazy"

The Young Adult Novel “Crazy” is by author Linda Vigen Phillips.

Dear Linda Vigen Phillips,

At first, when I heard the interview with you on my local radio station KLCC-FM today, I was enthused about the possibilities for your book tour. I had high expectations that you can challenge mental health oppression.

For the past 40 years I have been working to change the mental health system as a person who survived abuse by the psychiatric system as a teenager. So I’m optimistic that your book tour could give many teens struggling with these issues a great amount of hope.

However, during your interview, I felt very disheartened because the message seemed to support the current mental health industry, which I feel needs to be overthrown completely. You seem to be such a caring and smart author with the intent of supporting psychiatric survivors and our families. So below I ask some questions that I would love to hear a reply to, and most importantly, I urge you to open dialogue with your audiences about these issues throughout your book tour.

I have not yet read your young adult novel, “Crazy,” but I know you are reaching many of us who have psychiatric diagnoses and family members, such as during your book tour visit to one of my favorite bookstores, Tsunami Books. Several times over the past few years, Tsunami Books has hosted some great psychiatric survivor authors, poets, musicians and other creative folks. So please take my questions in the friendly manner they are offered to you:

1. Can you give us any scientific evidence about your claims regarding genetics?

During the interview, you told the audience that people with psychiatric problems, such as those of us labeled “bipolar,” have a clear genetic connection. In fact, you said that if one parent had such problems then the child had a 50% chance of developing similar problems. Incredibly, you then added that if both parents had these problems then their child had a 100% chance of developing similar psychiatric problems.

Can you please offer me even one scientific source for such a claim? I am friends with psychologist authors who dispute such a biological link. It may not be your intent, but your interview implied that genetics equals fated destiny. I know that we are way more complex than that, and I know that the science is way more ambiguous. By the way, science tends never to use such numbers as 100%. If there is even one person in the world without these psychiatric issues whose parents both have bipolar diagnoses, that would disprove this claim.

2. Isn’t it a contradiction for you to then claim that writing was your “salvation”?

Directly after you made the above genetic claims, you said that writing, such as your journaling, helped your “salvation.” But that seems to be a contradiction. How can children of parents with psychiatric diagnoses have a great chance of developing the same psychiatric problem, while you used very hopeful and positive psycho-social alternatives to direct your own fate and healing? So are you saying that if your father was also diagnosed bipolar that such journaling would be fruitless? I bet your message is more nuanced than that, but I did not hear that today.

3. Will you be our ally in stopping the “Bully Model”?

There is a big division today within mental health. First there is a camp that claims one must take psychiatric drugs to recover from “psychosis” such as a diagnoses of schizophrenia or bipolar. Second there is a camp that absolutely hates ever including a medical model and instructs people that they must never use biological approaches such as drugs and electroshock.

I hope that you embrace what I call a third path, that endorses choice rather than the creed that I call the “Bully Model.” During your interview today, maybe you got over-enthusiastic, but you actually said that a diagnosis of “bipolar” may be “terminal” unless a person stays on their regimen of “medication.”

Yes, I realize that several times you also talked about the power of talk therapy, so I know you believe other approaches beyond the medical model can be helpful. However, there are many people, such as me, who reach some level of recovery after a bipolar diagnosis and are “off their meds,” as I have been since 1977.

To be a good ally for those of us in the mental health system, I hope that you endorse “choice” during your public appearances. You will find that leaders today tend not to use the term “mental illness” because invoking this phrase implies that one must follow a medical model to heal, when there is a rainbow of many choices that work. I have an essay about ending the use of the phrase mental illness here: http://www.mindfreedom.org/kb/mental-health-abuse/psychiatric-labels/not-mentally-ill

Many of us also have family members who are in the mental health system, and it is very important for us all to endorse a choice model to be awesome allies, especially for youth who have mental and emotional problems.

4. Is there really such a big division between “Normal” and “Crazy”?

During your interview, you mentioned that you originally wanted to use the title “Nervous Breakdown,” but your publisher thought the word “crazy” would have more of an “impact.” This may seem like I am making a joke, but isn’t “Normal” more scary than “Crazy”? Seriously, the most distressed person who is called bipolar, on their worst day, at least is not wrecking a whole planet. Truly global catastrophes such as the climate crisis require the complicity of billions of so-called “Normal” people. We are the 100%!

By the way, I am one of those mental activists who uses words such as “crazy,” “mad,” and even “cuckoo.” Unlike some folks with mainstream mental health groups, I believe in recapturing some of those bad words. However, by using the word crazy for this fictional mom, and maybe your own real mom, aren’t you discounting the trauma that might have led to her problems? Shouldn’t words like “crazy” be used in a way that pushes us all to reconsider who and what are crazy, rather than in a way that legitimizes using the medical model? Isn’t it better if we use such words about ourselves, rather than for others?

5. Can you refer people to our Mad Movement?

I know that some groups endorsing the current mental health system are referring people to your novel.

There is also an alternative, diverse, international, growing social change movement to overthrow the mental health system. This Mad Movement is led by psychiatric survivors. One great source of info about this movement, including many mental health professions, journalists, attorneys, etc., would be the great website Mad In America.

Can you please refer people to dig deep on this topic and hear the voices of critics of this industry, especially psychiatric survivors?

Good luck on the rest of your book tour, and I look forward to your replies.

Those who are interested can link to my blog entry here (which will help search engines find these questions), and look up your own website here:

http://www.lindavigenphillips.com/

 

Read More

Robin Williams or Patch Adams? Watch Brief Message from David Oaks to Mad In America International Event

You may watch a little eight-minute video message, below, I sent this past Sunday, October 12, 2014, especially created to be shown during the gala dinner for the Mad In America International Film Festival, which brought together many movies that challenge the mental health industry. I wish I could have been there physically because this certainly was one of the main Mad Culture events of the season and many activists, film makers, and other creative folks were in attendance.

My amazing wife Debra repeated my sentences so that everyone could hear my disabled voice and not miss a precious word. My good friend David Zupan, who is making a documentary about me, videoed us on our backyard deck. In the background, you may see our guest cottage, which used to be my writing studio. This is where I fell from a ladder while reaching up in our loft for our cat, Bongo, and broke my neck back in December 2012.

In the video, I mention that many of us love Robin Williams, but I choose to follow the path of joy, life, and love created by Patch Adams, who Robin portrayed in the movie by that name. My friend Patch is a psychiatric survivor who, as a young person, was suicidal and decided to make a life change to embrace the world, flawed as it may be.

Here is the video message, followed by some links to info that I mention:

My blog about global warming and mental health: http://www.davidwoaks.com/eugene-area-chamber-global-warming

My blog where I, PsychoQuad, go to the movies, written because of the film festival: http://www.davidwoaks.com/psychoquad-movies

You can read about the Mad In America International Film Festival and the many great movies: http://madinamericainternationalfilmfestival.com/

Some other videos by David Zupan, including the building of Debra’s dream, an accessible path for me to our back garden: http://vimeo.com/user1758711/videos

By the way, Patch proudly does not get on the Internet (his employees do though). The great news is that Patch responds to every written message that he gets by old-fashion postal mail. You may just get a postcard back, but this pretty famous celebrity personally answers every letter. Thank him for being honorary chair for International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment! If that concept, first announced by Martin Luther King, is new to you just google it. Anyway, write to Patch here:

Patch Adams MD & Gesundheit Institute
P.O. Box 307
Urbana, IL 61803 USA

Read More

PsychoQuad Goes to the Movies: The Power of Sex, Bettie Page and Art Overthrow Psychiatry

Over the decades, I have had the good fortune to be immersed in what many of us call Mad Culture. In various cities, at a number of events, there would be a confluence of writers, researchers, artists, and otherwise creative people who all wanted to peacefully overthrow the psychiatric industry and find a new way of helping people in crisis. I am glad to hear that one of your chances for Mad Culture will be from October 9-12, 2014 in Massachusetts, because the Mad In America International Film Festival will bring many film titles and speakers together. In fact, I have been invited to speak for a few minutes via Skype near the end of this great event.

I wish I could be there physically, but in honor of this Mad film event, here are some movies that I have watched lately, along with my brief review.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/87/Betty-Page-Reveals-All-poster.jpgBettie Page Reveals All (2012, Documentary, 101 min., via Netflix streaming)

That’s right, one of the main pin-up personalities from the 20th century was a psychiatric survivor. Bettie Page was famous as a charismatic and sexual model whose images are still admired long after her death. This documentary reveals that from 1979 to 1992, after the height of her fame, Bettie Page was in psychiatric institutions in California.

This film is mainly a lot of fun, showing her history and how she became one of the leading underground characters in Americana. In fact, she may be more popular today than in the 20th century. There is a very sad part of this story though, because Bettie Page was a trauma survivor, her childhood was awful, she experienced abuse as an adult, and the men in her life were mainly negative. When Bettie retires down in Florida, her past seems to catch up with her and she ends up having a major mental crisis.

You can watch this documentary on Netflix and I highly recommend it. Bettie Page is a fascinating person, and you can get some insight into how our society misinterprets trauma as “mental illness.”

Read More

Your Local Chamber of Commerce and Global Warming: Can You Help?

Your Local Chamber of Commerce and Global Warming: Can You Help?

On Sunday, September 21, 2014, here in Eugene Oregon, I participated, with my wonderful wife Debra, in a local rally to support the major march in New York City for climate justice.

Everyone and every group working for mental health justice ought to make fighting global warming a priority right now. Of course, the whole disability movement, and in fact all sentient beings should be concerned about climate crisis, but those of us working for human rights and more choices for mental wellness have special reasons to make this planetary catastrophe a unifying theme for all of us.

Martin Luther King frequently talked about the importance of creative maladjustment as an answer to oppression, and many environmentalists are wondering where humanity’s creativity and maladjustment are right about now. The Mad Movement knows that the psychiatric industry has ground down the human spirit for centuries, but we never ever give up! MLK resisted the war in Vietnam toward the end of his life, and some civil rights activists were mystified that he seemed to be off topic. However, MLK knew that we are all in one big movement for the “beloved community,” as he put it.

But if you need something very specific to connect the Mad Movement to global warming, here it is: Those of us called psychotic are often coerced to take neuroleptic drugs (sometimes called antipsychotics), and these drugs are well known to suppress the temperature-regulatory part of the brain. During a heat wave, prison reformers have been talking about how horrible it is that those in non-air-conditioned prisons where people are forced to take these drugs often die. Well, most USA states have laws allowing citizens to be forcibly court-ordered to take these drugs while living at home out in the community.

In fact, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) has a bill to expand this outpatient forced drugging to many other Americans, ask him how many. People who are forcibly drugged tend to be poor and often do not have air conditioning, so coerced psychiatric pharmaceuticals can be a death sentence. The media have tended to avoid this topic, maybe because they are afraid that we will quit our drugs, as I did back in 1977.

I have always felt that we are in one big movement for a peaceful revolution, including about the environment.

Here is something I have been taking action against for a few years: one of the worst defenders of climate crisis is the huge US Chamber of Commerce based in Washington, DC. The US Chamber was taken over a number of years ago by a few big corporations that promote the current economic system.

Here in Eugene, Oregon, and in almost every medium and large city in the USA, there is a local Chamber of Commerce. It may surprise you to hear that your local chamber tends to be fairly independent from the big US Chamber. There is a campaign to have some of the locally-based chambers speak out that the US Chamber of Commerce is all wrong about global warming.

For years, the leading climate crisis group, 350, has had a campaign to ask each chamber of commerce to say “The US Chamber does not speak for us!” This campaign has only been able to convince 56 of the chambers to speak out. But we psychiatric survivors tend to not give up. I have helped mobilize several actions requesting that the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce make a statement of concern about human-caused global warming. I have organized several public events, street theater, protests, and lots of communication by email and even letters to the editor.

Unfortunately, the Eugene Area Chamber has refused to speak up about this disaster that may become one of the worst catastrophes in the history of planet Earth. Scientists know for certain that global warming is horrible. And there is a risk of run-away climate crisis that threatens life on Earth. I call this danger Normalgeddon. Here is where we stand:

Read More

Psychiatric Survivor Activist Blogs as PsychoQuad for a Revolution in Mental Health, Major Website Picks Up for Global Re-Distribution

EUGENE, OR — FALL 2014 — News Release

A photo of David W. Oaks

David W. Oaks, aka PsychoQuad

A recent blog entry by long-time activist David Oaks is receiving quite a lot of attention among fellow activists working for major change of the mental health industry. In the blog, David tells his friend Marcia’s story of mental health rights abuse and activism. He writes, “Marcia’s story riveted me because it involves activism, madness, psychiatric torture of her beloved daughter, Unitarianism, secret poisoned-pen letters, Scientology and global warming!”  The story is certainly intriguing, and has quickly gathered more than 30 lively comments.

It has been 40 years since David W. Oaks was locked up for the first of five times by the psychiatric system. For 25 years he served as director of MindFreedom International, one of the main independent human rights groups in mental health. Then he broke his neck, and for the last 18 months he has been in a powerchair with a new label of “quad.” He prefers PsychoQuad, and people can find his new website name www.psychoquad.com. David W. Oaks continues to speak out, and he is making waves.

Today, Oaks devotes himself to the intersection of the mental health system, disability and the environmental destruction of planet Earth resulting in global warming. Oaks calls this dangerous combination Normalgeddon.

Oaks turns 59 on his birthday, Tuesday, September 16, 2014. Oaks said, “Do not worry about cards or gifts. I’m not fishing for praise. Just comment here on my blog and that will be birthday gift enough for me. Please try to leave your comments again, it should work now!”

Author Bob Whitaker is the publisher of the website “Mad in America.” He said, “As the long-time director of MindFreedom, David Oaks has been a leading voice for ‘rethinking psychiatry’ for decades. His writings will serve as an important contribution to madinamerica.com.” Oaks, 58, is based in Eugene, Oregon, where he lives with the one he calls his “true love Debra.”

Upcoming blogs by David will include his review of a new film about global mental health, how everyone can and should be a leader to stop Normalgeddon and more about the strange controversy involving Unitarianism and Scientology. Below find some links for you to explore:

Read More

My Top 11 Ways to Reunite for a Mental Health Revolution!

My very good friend Marcia Meyers of Portland, Oregon is one of the most powerful leaders I have seen in my nearly 40 years of activism in the little-known movement for deep change in the mental health industry. She joined my amazing wife Debra, some friends and me for a backyard party at our Eugene home this summer and brought to my attention an issue that deserves a larger audience. Marcia’s story riveted me because it involves activism, madness, psychiatric torture of her beloved daughter, Unitarianism, secret poisoned-pen letters, Scientology and global warming!

So while I have been blogging for a few years, please understand that this post is the longest one yet. The major web site Mad in America, which is now like the Huffington Post of over-throwing psychiatry and inspired by the books of journalist Bob Whitaker, is picking up my blog for re-distribution. My primary concern here is with honoring the incredible work of Marcia and her group Rethinking Psychiatry. Marcia can teach our whole social change movement an important lesson about unity that can help all people as we struggle against environmental catastrophe, which I call “Normalgeddon.”

I include my top 11 ways that our Mad Movement can reunite, none of which involved any religion.

Thank you Marcia Meyers!

Marcia Meyers, mother of a psychiatric survivor and activist with the Unitarian Universalist church in Portland, Oregon.

Marcia Meyers, mother of a psychiatric survivor and activist with the Unitarian Universalist church in Portland, Oregon.

Marcia is a 68-year-old, effusive retired teacher, who in her own words, “Identifies, in this order, as a grandmother, a teacher and an activist.” She dedicated 33 years to teaching in the public school system, during which she was active in the teacher’s union, both locally and nationally. Marcia describes this work as foundational to the activism that would follow. As she puts it, “From my many years of teaching and my years of union work I honed my skills as an organizer and activist.”

Marcia retired in 1999 and attended the World Trade Organization protest, the huge Battle in Seattle, later that year. This event was particularly transformative. She told me, “The new and privileged freedom of retirement along with this historic event catapulted me into local and national economic justice activist work.” It was in the wake of the Battle in Seattle that Marcia began her work with the Economic Justice Action Group of the First Unitarian Church of Portland. This branch of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) church is one of the largest congregations ever, and for five years, has provided a safe, supportive home and platform for Marcia to fight corporate personhood.

The trajectory of Marcia’s work was changed once more about four years ago, when her youngest daughter was suddenly and inexplicably brutalized by the police and criminal justice system, and incarcerated in an Oregon state mental institution. Marcia refers to the trauma that her daughter was subjected to as “needle-rape.” Her daughter, a 28-year old vegan who believes in natural medicine and does not drink, smoke or voluntarily use drugs, was held down and forcibly injected by psychiatric workers. The Oregon psychiatric system locked up and involuntarily medicated this precious family member for an entire year. From April 2010 to April 2011, Marcia’s daughter continuously resisted as Zyprexa, Haldol, Abilify, Risperdal and Ambien were forced into her body.  Without warning, she was suddenly released. Of her daughter, Marcia says, “She remains very sensitive, caring and creative as well as more challenged than ever by the contradictions of this reality and in trusting others.”

Read More

Part-Time Admin. Needed for Long-Time Activist David Oaks

Debra with her husband David.

Debra with her husband David.

Would you like to work for a few hours a week for a social change activist? I need someone to support my activism and writing projects about two to six hours per week, more or less.

Below are my criteria. If you are possibly interested, just email me.

Necessary:

Writing skills: You are a good writer and proofreader.

Attitude: You are a self-starter, friendly with good communication skills, including the ability to hear someone with a disabled, soft voice.

Basic computer abilities: You are fairly comfortable on both PC and Mac’s.

Transport: You can visit me in my Churchill-area home, though some of your work can be done from your home.

Activist friendly: You support the principles of social change, such as stopping global warming.

Read More