Speak Out to Break the Silence: President Trump Appoints Mental Health Leader Who Campaigned for Involuntary Outpatient Drugging

By David W. Oaks

Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz, appointed by President Trump to a important mental health position.

I am a survivor of human rights violations in the mental health system. And even though this was a long time ago, back when I was a college student in the 1970’s, the issues are more relevant than ever. My friend, Patch Adams, MD, has connected the dots for me: Our society needs to be very agile right now, but has to overcome centuries of mental health oppression. But with compassion, we can have a global nonviolent revolution! 

Recent events show that mental health human rights violations are important for everyone. MindFreedom International was my employer for 25 years before my accident in 2012. They are an independent, activist group, and we need that energy as never before. 

The White House announced this past Friday, 21 April 2017, in the evening, that President Donald Trump has, for a pivotal mental health position, appointed a psychiatrist who openly speaks out for involuntary psychiatric drugging of people living outside of institutions, even in their own homes. This appointee criticizes our social change movement, especially our dedication to empowering peer support and our concerns about psychiatric drugs and labeling. It is important for everyone who supports human rights, especially in the social change movements for disability rights and those critical of mass incarceration, to speak up and oppose this approach.

Please phone your U.S. Senators to block this confirmation. This is a chance to raise these issues, now!

This “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” (as supporters call it) or “Involuntary Outpatient Commitment” (as it is known by many) has been quietly growing on the State level for decades, but is now being funded on the federal level, such as through the enormous 21st Century Cures Act that was passed by Congress at the end of last year. Whatever it is called — AOT or IOC — under these laws judges may order folks to have mental health care, which could be a range of approaches. In my experience, staffing a human rights phone and getting hundreds of contacts for decades, “mental healthcare” for the “seriously mentally ill” almost always includes psychiatric drugging, often with neuroleptics, or “antipsychotic medications” as prescribers often call this family of pharmaceuticals.

Neuroleptic drugs began in the 1950’s with such brands as Thorazine, Stelazine, Haldol, Mellaril, etc., all of which I have had. I personally experienced involuntary neuroleptic injections more than 40 years ago as a college student at Harvard. About five times I was placed in a psychiatric institution for emotional difficulties, and twice I experienced the sharp end of a needle, when in solitary confinement I was held down on the bare mattress and got forced drugging in my butt. I graduated anyway, in 1977, and our class is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Now neuroleptics have dozens of more brands, but many of the hazards and risks are the same. For instance, in the long run there is the danger that many people can experience involuntary twitching that can apparently often be permanent. There is also the long term risk of brain damage and even death. Some folks choose these medications, but others do not. I choose to not take them, and I have not for these past four decades.

Takes One to Know One

President Trump has appointed Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz for a high-level position created by the 21st Century Cures Act. Dr. McCance-Katz would become the first Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse (SAMHSA) inside the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

In an essay published last year by the Psychiatric Times, Dr. McCance-Katz was highly critical of SAMHSA, especially its sub-agency Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), headed by Paolo Delvecchio, who has long-identified himself as an individual who has used psychiatric treatment. Many mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors know Paolo because of his work in this field for decades.

In her essay in Psychiatric Times, Dr. McCance-Katz:

  • Endorses federal funding of AOT (or IOC).
  • Criticizes SAMHSA for allegedly being critical of psychiatric drugs.
  • Challenges the support for “recovery” in mental health, a term used by many consumer/survivors as a rallying point for hope and empowerment.
  •  Calls for mental health care, which appears to be led by psychiatric drugs, for more than three million Americans.

Are You One of the Many Targeted? 

Dr. McCance-Katz wrote in the essay: “It is estimated that 10 million Americans (4.2%) are living with serious mental illness. However, only 68.5% of the most severely mentally ill will receive any type of mental health services.”

I wonder how many of these three million Americans would refuse psychiatric drugs? Of those who would refuse, I wonder how many this psychiatrist would like to see drugged against their will?

This professor challenges the great interest in using peer support as a humane, empowering alternative priority. She writes, “Workforce issues focus in large part on the development of a ‘peer workforce.’ This ideology purports that one can become a mental health professional by virtue of having a mental illness. Peer support can be an important resource for some, but it is not the answer to the treatment needs of the seriously mentally ill.”

There are only a few, small groups that focus on involuntary psychiatric drugging, such as the Treatment Advocacy Center. The topic actually divides a lot of folks, since the average American in my experience does not like the idea of the government forcing citizens to have involuntary psychiatric drugs, once the value of empowering alternatives are explained. IOC can even for a small group include involuntary outpatient court-ordered electroshock, or electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). For example, search the web for the names Ray Sandford and Elizabeth Ellis, with the word electroshock. These two Minnesotans who received such horrible involuntary procedures, but MindFreedom put out human rights alerts that stopped the series of electroshocks.

In my decades of work in the field of human rights and mental health, I have been impressed with the way concern about this issue crosses political lines. Yes, support for this field has often been among those who would be seen as on the left. However, some of the most effective organizing about psychiatric over-drugging of children has been done by activists that would be seen as on the right.

I have seen both the Libertarian Party and the Green Party both pass planks in their platform, years ago, expressing support for some of our goals. Today we are often seeing critics question the sanity of the President of the United States because of his support of untrue beliefs, such as his denial of climate crisis and his many years of championing the odd belief that President Obama was born in Africa.

Well, it takes one to know one, and I am also a White Aging Crazy Citizen (WACC). Actually, what I have found in my work is that 100% of all people struggle about their mental wellness, it is a universal challenge. The distinction is between negative, bigoted craziness and positive, constructive, creative craziness. In fact, I would argue that the new PC is Positively Crazy.

Perhaps at this time, we need a Positively Crazy dedication to the First Amendment, which not only includes free speech, but according to the US Supreme Court, the right to think unusual thoughts, even irrationally. There are more compassionate, effective, sustainable ways to help troubled people. Let us all break the silence about human rights violations in mental healthcare, including IOC. Centuries of abuse in this industry have helped silence the population on many outrages, including the threat of climate chaos.

We need a nonviolent revolution throughout our society, in mental healthcare, in energy, in so many ways. There is no guarantee of results, but at least we can speak up about freedom!

End

Below, for the very interested, you will find an essay I have just submitted to be published in the Harvard Alumni Association publication that comes out every five years. In my essay, I appreciate that a Harvard volunteer group first placed me as an intern working for human rights in mental health. Unfortunately, the nonviolent revolution we have long called for in mental health has not quite happened yet. However, perhaps now this topic may get more attention. 

My Essay to Harvard Alumni Association for My 40th Reunion

Mental health. Activism. Community organizing. Human rights. Disability. Nonviolent revolution! Thank you, Phillips Brooks House Association, for placing me as an intern in my senior year as a community organizer of people in the mental health system, because the above passions became my career. The incredible riches I have gained from working with some of the most powerless in our society are invaluable. After 25 years as Executive Director of the human rights nonprofit MindFreedom International, I had an extreme accident and broke my neck, and I now use a power chair. While it would be impossible to be totally prepared for this, my work in the disability movement managed to teach me a few principles. For example, I apply lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr.: What is my creative maladjustment?

Reflecting back on Harvard, the most memorable and influential class for me was about comparative religion. It would be fun to be in touch with any of you reading this. You can find me easily by directing your search engine to this phrase: david w oaks blog. When I summarized my passions above, I included “nonviolent revolution.” Yes, for decades I have raised this as a real choice. Now, with the climate chaos looming, I feel nonviolent revolution is an option we might want to choose. Scientists have estimated that the lag for carbon-induced impact is about 40 years. In other words, the pollution during our years at Harvard is only now changing the climate. I am very concerned that during the next lag, many more feedback effects can be triggered. For the current moment and for seven generations in the future, we truly need a nonviolent revolution. I estimate seven generations would extend to about the year 2192. May there be a healthy graduating class that year! The Butterfly Effect gives us a good chance, uncertain, but a good chance. Perhaps it is up to you?

It is important to create a dialogue to address the values we need today for excellent care. Therefore, I am copying the commentary that I very much disagree with. You may read the essay by the Trump appointee from Psychiatric Times below:

The Federal Government Ignores the Treatment Needs of Americans With Serious Mental Illness

By Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz

There she was again—a middle-aged woman, disheveled, crouching in the doorway of a closed store, grasping a notebook and pencil and scribbling. Intermittently, her eyes darted around and she would mumble, then go back to her notebook. Her eyes never met mine, but I wondered why she was not getting help with what was clearly a severe mental illness. I would see her in that same doorway several times a week for a couple of years before I left Berkeley, California, to become the first Chief Medical Officer of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In doing so, I hoped to help people living in the grips of cruel disorders that affect one’s thinking, one’s reasoning, one’s ability to relate, and one’s ability to even understand that one suffers from a disorder that can be treated.

It is estimated that 10 million Americans (4.2%) are living with serious mental illness. However, only 68.5% of the most severely mentally ill will receive any type of mental health services. Whether those services are necessary and appropriate is not known. People with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and other severe mental illnesses often complicated by substance misuse need effective, safe, evidence-based treatments as well as community resources where their clinical service needs can be met. The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is composed of numerous agencies that address the health care needs of Americans, but only one agency within HHS is charged with addressing the needs of those with serious mental illness and that is SAMHSA.

SAMHSA is a small federal agency with a budget of roughly $3.7 billion per year; much of that is in the form of block grants to states that are the arbiters of how the funds will be spent in support of the treatment of substance use and mental disorders. SAMHSA does, however, have the ability to focus on areas and issues that would improve the lot of individuals affected by severe mental illness. Unfortunately, SAMHSA does not address the treatment needs of the most vulnerable in our society. Rather, the unit within SAMHSA charged with addressing these disorders, the Center for Mental Health Services, chooses to focus on its own definition of “recovery,” which generally ignores the treatment of mental disorders, and, as a major initiative under “recovery” services, focuses on the development of a “peer workforce.”

There is a perceptible hostility toward psychiatric medicine: a resistance to addressing the treatment needs of those with serious mental illness and a questioning by some at SAMHSA as to whether mental disorders even exist—for example, is psychosis just a “different way of thinking for some experiencing stress?”

SAMHSA’s approach includes a focus on activities that don’t directly assist those who have serious mental illness. These include programs such as Mental Health First Aid, which seeks to teach people about the warning signs of mental illness in an attempt to provide support to those who are experiencing symptoms. Significant dollars are spent on hot lines for callers who may be experiencing suicidal thinking or who know someone who may be—yet suicide rates continue to climb in the US. SAMHSA supports integrated care programs that would bring some aspects of primary care to mental health services programs—worthy programs, but which do not address the treatment of serious mental illness. Programs that undertake the “re-education” of mental health practitioners who are assumed to be abusers of “consumer” rights and who dictate treatment to patients have been funded in the Recovery to Practice initiative.

Workforce issues focus in large part on the development of a “peer workforce.” This ideology purports that one can become a mental health professional by virtue of having a mental illness. Peer support can be an important resource for some, but it is not the answer to the treatment needs of the seriously mentally ill.

Lost in all of this are the real and pressing treatment needs of some of the most vulnerable in our society—those living with serious mental illness. Nowhere in SAMHSA’s stra­tegic initiatives is psychiatric treatment of mental illness a priority. The occasional vague reference to treatment is no substitute for the urgent need for programs that address these issues.

What’s needed?

What is needed is an agency soul-searching and a re-prioritization that places the treatment of serious mental disorders at the very top of the list of agency goals. SAMHSA needs leadership that acknowledges the importance of addressing serious mental illness. Initiatives that provide funding for new approaches to engaging the seriously mentally ill; for assisted outpatient treatment with enriched psychosocial services; and for additional psychiatric hospital beds, particularly for longer-term care given the severe shortage of such resources in the US, should be at the top of SAMHSA’s agenda.

Clinical education programs that address current, evidence-based treatment for serious mental illness, and new funding for the training of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, advanced practice psychiatric nurses, and psychologists, should be a major focus. SAMHSA should develop closer ties with the National Institute of Mental Health, which is helping us to better understand the neurobiological underpinnings of mental illness every day. The real hope, change and ability to recover from these disorders, lies in their effective treatment. To ignore this is to leave a large segment of some of the most seriously ill in our society abandoned—indeed, discriminated against by the very agency charged with serving them.

What can be done to change the current course? Stakeholder groups that seek to ensure psychiatric treatment for all who need it should band together and exert pressure on SAMHSA, on political administrations, and on congressional representatives to address the needs of the seriously mentally ill. Skilled behavioral health providers with patient care experience—psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors—should consider committing a period of service to SAMHSA and to other federal agencies to inform policy decisions related to substance use and mental disorders. This is especially important because too many in the government have education in behavioral health fields but have never worked with patients, or if they have, it was many years in the past. Being inside the Beltway also imbues an artificial perspective that may be informed by lobbyists if at all. This does not serve the American people.

Time for change

I left SAMHSA after 2 years. It became increasingly uncomfortable to be associated with an agency that, for the most part, refused to support evidence-based psychiatric treatment of mental disorders. It was also quite clear that the psychiatric perspective I brought—inclusive of assessment, diagnosis of mental disorders, utilization of evidence-based treatments, including psychotropic medication and psychosocial interventions as integral components of recovery—was a poor fit for the agency. SAMHSA needs a complete review and overhaul of its current mission, leadership, and funded programs. Congress should quickly address this through legislative mandate.

For too long the treatment needs of the seriously mentally ill have been ignored by SAMHSA, and this needs to change. In doing so, perhaps people like the woman in the doorway will be able to move out of the shadows to live full and productive lives in our communities.

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Patch Adams: Love, Earth & Revolution Now!

My Chat with Patch Adams on Nonviolent Revolution

David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.

David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at a recent Oregon Country Fair.

Last week I talked with my friend Patch Adams, MD, the hero in the movie by that name. Patch is a peaceful revolutionary in many ways, especially on the topic of medicine. Our chat turned into an interview.

Your comments here on this blog are invited. Do you support revolution? What kind?

Every time I talk with Patch I learn a bit more about nonviolent revolution, from the very first time I worked with him in 1992 when he spoke at a MindFreedom International (MFI) event.

Over the years, especially at the huge unique gathering each July, Oregon Country Fair, I have heard many stories from Patch.

For example: When Patch was a teen he would hear some people around him use the n-word in a racist way.

Patch developed this creative response: “I would scream because I was bothered by it. I was 16, 17, 18. The bullies would beat me up after school. If I screamed every time they said the word, they would eventually stop. They didn’t always stop on the first go.”

Patch reports that his creative disorder worked fairly well, and the use of the n-word around him abated a great deal. I wondered a few years ago if this same approach would work for another n-word: Normal? I tried this with my employees: We howl whenever we hear the word “normal,” and this funny method has worked.

As a tribute, we are launching this call and response as a game that I call “Howl4.” This game is very simple. When anyone says the word “normal,” you respond by howling! To paraphrase and build on a poem by Allen Ginsberg, “I have seen some of the best minds of my generation destroyed by normality.”

Last week I asked Patch about applying his innovation to the word “normal.” Our game, Howl4, might catch on. The other day I made a video about this call and response. What did Patch think of this game? Patch replied, “I would of course know nothing about ‘normal.’

Patch said that he first came up with the idea about fighting racism by making a noise because he needed a peaceful,  creative way to respond to bigotry. He told me, “It’s just an encouragement to not be silent. I chose never to take violence as one of my options, so all I have is performance. ”

Patch on What he Would do to Help Save the Planet: Revolution!

“I want women in charge of everything.” I certainly would agree with Patch. I learn from my brilliant wife and about half-a-dozen wonderful female employees, as well as many female friends and relatives almost every day! (I also learn from my three male employees, who are also superb.)

Does Patch want a revolution? Of course. He said:

“How do I feel about it? I live it! Nonviolent revolution!” Patch said that nonviolence is very important to him.

“Most revolutions in history were nonviolent. I made a commitment as a teenager to never do physical violence, not even to defend my family. I just know my father died from war as a soldier and I just am not going to do it.” Yes, this is a complex topic, and I, like most people, am not a pacifist, but I find this philosophy fascinating. Plus I certainly want to try nonviolent revolution!

Patch told me, “Everyone has to make their own decision. I’m not going to hurt somebody.”

I asked Patch about some hypothetical situations that are challenging for folks who choose nonviolence, for example, instances that would lead many of us to call 911, or the military.

Patch answered, “I would use creativity and find nonviolent solutions. There is very little creativity in that world, so I think there are a huge number of things: For one, you’re asking what to do in a large nationwide solution.”

Patch on President Donald Trump:

“If the president was a ‘Love President,’ there are lots of thing a Love President could do. We’d have to have access to a lot of people and a lot of media so we could have creativity to deal with horrible situations.” Patch very much opposes the bigotry we are seeing from President Trump.

“He’s an embarrassment in just about every way, and dangerous, and thoughtless, and lying. Everyone should be worried and get more proactive.”

I have many relatives that voted against President Donald Trump. I voted for another candidate. But I have a few dear relatives who told us that they did indeed vote for President Trump. This has created a few awkward moments, and I am sure many other Americans have also had such moments. Patch told us that these are extremely challenging time:

“With whatever discomfort or anger one might have for the current election process, it is not the time to face it with anger and discontent. There never has been a time when a life in radiance and love has been more important. So let your wildest and craziest love and fun infect every environment.”

Are You On the Revolution Bus?

My friend, the late and beloved Ken Kesey, liked to say:

“Are you on the bus? Or off the bus?”

Let us be on the bus, now! I am talking about the bus of revolution, global revolution.

Most people, when I ask them, support revolution.

A few others first ask, “What kind of revolution?” Good question.

I tend to say, “A quality revolution!” I do not know exactly what to name what is required, you may call it whatever you wish. Some may want a nonviolent revolution. That is OK with me. In fact, if you look up the phrase “nonviolent revolution” in Wikipedia, you will see that MindFreedom International has long been one of the groups to officially have revolution in its mission.

I blogged a few months ago about why folks should support MFI now, and you can read this here.

Let Us Have Free Minds 

And yes, I helped start MindFreedom International. Please be truthful about this, many, many folks helped start MindFreedom International. We all co-started MindFreedom. This will be a brief entry to say “Thank you, thank you, thank you! MindFreedom International community!”

For example, there is a Board of Directors of MFI. I have never been on the Board of MFI. After my neck broke about four years ago, I retired after about 25 years of having the incredible pleasure and honor of being the Executive Director. But because of severe challenges I could not continue after my accident in December 2012.

On her way to the airport for one of her many trips to her beloved Ghana, Africa a few days ago, the spectacular Celia Brown, President of the MFI Board, called me with the wonderful news that the board has decided that our Aciu Institute will be official consultants for MindFreedom International.

For those who do not know, Aciu Institute is a fairly new for-profit. “Aciu” means thank you in Lithuanian, which is my heritage. Yes, I am working with a for-profit, my first in 40 years of nonprofit work. Keep an eye on this blog and the website www.LoveEarthRevolution.com for developments.

There are millions, perhaps billions, who support nonviolent revolution, today. Let us make this “R” word more visible. There is no guarantee of success, but I know that I would feel better!

Many people, such as Patch, are thinking outside of the box, people mainstream psychiatry as tended to squash. Patch evaded a lifetime of mainstream psychiatry after his psychiatric institutionalization as a young person. Patch is a psychiatric survivor who believes that we can have good humor even when facing the difficult parts of life. The name of our for-profit was partly inspired by the name of the group Patch works with: “Gesundheit Institute.”

One can end up in an infinite loop by saying “Aciu” to someone with Patch’s group. They might respond “Gesundheit” and you might respond “Aciu.” Let me end with some humor that a super employee has given a good grade to, Grade B actually:

From Pun of the Day:

“Sir Cumference built King Arthur’s round table, and Sir Ramic Tile did the flooring.”

As I said, your feedback about this blog are welcome in the comments section below. Do you howl for revolution? How do we make this more visible?

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Disability Movement Tips About Supporting Each Other During Crisis (Like a Trump Presidency)  

 

A Gold Lining: People Are Finally Using the Word, “Revolution”!

 

More Than Ever, Let Us Support MindFreedom International

 

By David W. Oaks

dw-oaks-standingchair-2016

I tried out a “standing chair” during my rehab.

Stand up now & fight back!

“Now” in Lithuanian, my heritage, is “Dabar”!

Dabar!

Last month we watched my nation’s presidential inauguration. The reality of the USA’s catastrophic election started to sink in.

Even if you voted for Donald Trump, my intuition is that your disappointment has already started, dabar.

But I notice a number of gold linings, recently:

A lot more people are starting to use the word “revolution.”

For another, as I have often hoped, the word “normality” is no longer being used much.

We must look, and keep looking, for gold linings. I draw here upon the wisdom of the disability movement, which I have been an activist in for more than four decades. I have especially been a community organizer for deep change in the mental health system.

I am a psychiatric survivor. That is, about 40 years ago, as a working class kid going to Harvard, I ended up in psychiatric institutions five times, where I experienced forced drug injections and solitary confinement. I graduated anyway, in 1977.

I helped start one of the key independent groups in the psychiatric survivor movement, MindFreedom International, and I was the Executive Director for about 25 years. The MindFreedom community, and their hard-working board, have won many campaigns for human rights in mental health care over the years. Four years ago, I fell and broke my neck, and because of complications, I had to retire from working for this superb group.

The past four years I have been doing about two dozen rehab activities, so I have been a bit isolated. But now is a good time to say “I am still alive,” and share what I have learned. My main goal in this note is to encourage everyone to give urgent support to MindFreedom International, which as we will see is going through a crisis of its own.

A Whole Lot of Falling Sure is Happening Now

Yes, Uncle Sam certainly fell down at the voting booth in November. The very same week as the election, the global climate crisis talks in Morocco fell apart. It feels as if the world is paralysed over the climate crisis.

As the author Hunter S. Thompson once said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” With the world slowly coming to the realisation that we are all, 100%, collectively “disabled,” both physically and mentally, let’s turn to the social change movement led by people with disabilities for some tips about how to get through these trying times, and even to thrive.

Here is something you can tangibly do: Support the crucial nonprofit MindFreedom International, which has worked independently for decades to radically change the mental health system.

We wonder why the world seems to be stuck right now, well one of the reasons is that centuries of psychiatric oppression of new thinking has taken a toll. The population gets these messages: Avoid any reality that is uncomfortable, and thinking outside of the box is often punished.

Because people in the mental health system tend to be so poor, the vast majority of activities in the mental health consumer field have been government-funded: The conferences, the offices, the research.

MindFreedom has maintained its independence, and it is one of the few groups in the mental health advocacy field that receives its funding from everyday people and a few foundations who care about human rights.

While I am proud that MindFreedom International has avoided mental health system funding, I have always tried to maintain a supportive relationship with my many colleagues who work for groups that are funded by the government. But now, especially now, we need groups that are free from mental health system strings. We need groups to be activist.  

MindFreedom is a positive way to challenge this oppression. And now we must all come through for MindFreedom.

We Can All Learn From The Disability Movement

The disability movement is one of the biggest in the world, though we usually think of “disability” as being only about part of the population. Perhaps now we can realize that the disability movement encompasses every single person and their whole life, all the time. Let me explain.

It has been about four years since I fell off a ladder and broke my neck, becoming a quad in a powerchair with some additional challenges: An impaired voice. My fingers that used to type more than a hundred words a minute, and played improvisational piano music for 50 years, now cannot move independently.

For the past few years, I have been doing physical therapy, vocal exercises, and even had a surgical implant in my vocal fold. And now I am coming out of my rehab closet to encourage you to free your minds, and support MindFreedom International with your time and money.

A few days ago, I talked with my friend, the brilliant retired psychologist, Al Galves, of New Mexico. Al is MindFreedom Treasurer, and he reports: “From 2004 when I joined the Board to 2012 when David got hurt, MindFreedom received at least $65,000 a year in membership dues, donations and grants. Since David’s accident we have been limping along on less than $10,000 a year.” I guess that is a kind of compliment for me, but the bottom line is that my accident took quite a toll on MindFreedom.

“This is understandable,” said Al. He went on to say this about the difference between when I worked for MindFreedom and when I retired: “David was spending a lot of his time on membership relations and fundraising. Without a full-time, paid Executive Director we were unable to sustain that kind of income.”

I asked the MindFreedom board how we can all be supportive. Al said: “We are hoping that this appeal to our long-time members, friends and supporters will gain us enough money to rebuild our membership relations and fundraising capacity and return to our previous level of activity.”

Each one of us is called to support MindFreedom with both donations and also your time. Please help MindFreedom immediately. If you need more motivation, here are my top seven reasons why it is time to volunteer and/or donate to MFI now:

  1. Resist Forced Outpatient Psych Drugs! At about the same time as the election, less noticed was this tragedy: The US Congress fell down, too, when it voted overwhelmingly in favor of the multi-billion dollar 21st Century Cures Act. This was a huge bill, but deep down inside it included millions of federal dollars in support of outpatient coercive psychiatric drugging, from what was once called “the Murphy bill.” That’s right, the federal government will now support, with taxpayer dollars, getting a court order and forcing many Americans to take powerful psychiatric drugs against their will, while living at home out in the community. Note that this awful idea came from a “small government” politician, Tim Murphy (R-PA). We need independent, activist groups such as MindFreedom to challenge what amounts to chemical warfare. Studies show that this outpatient forced psychiatric drugging is disproportionately done to people of color. #BlackLivesMatter!
  2. Yes, USA Psychiatrists Still Do Involuntary Electroshock! By far my favorite campaigns at MindFreedom were stopping occasional instances of forced electroshock, which is electricity to the brain. Here in the USA, electroshock is usually signed for by the patient, but there is still the use of involuntary electroshock, now and again. Incredibly, sometimes forced shock is done even with a court order on an outpatient basis. For example, direct your search engine to: Ray Sandford. Every Wednesday morning, a van picked him in his group home in Minnesota for another court-ordered involuntary electroshock at a nearby hospital. Ray phoned us for help and we activated thousands and of course won. Want to unite good Republicans, Democrats, Greens and Libertarians? Fight forced shock, and all good Americans of all political persuasions are outraged. All you have to do is prove that forced shock is a reality, such as producing court papers. MindFreedom is the main group to expose and fight this atrocity, which is actually pretty common in poorer countries.
  3. Let’s Support People Who Are Resisting and Escaping Their Forced Outpatient Psych Drugs. Here is a “creative maladjustment” to the absurdity of the USA Congress approving millions for involuntary outpatient psychiatric care: Almost all USA States have these outpatient commitment laws. MindFreedom has over the years supported about a half-dozen American citizens who have pursued their own underground railroad to evade forced outpatient drugging. A weak spot in forced outpatient treatment, is that people can simply leave their region or State to escape. You may read about one of these successful escapes by directing your search engine to this phrase: gabriel hadd mindfreedom. One proponent of forced outpatient drugging knows about this vulnerability, and has even discussed his need for a federal extradition law. But at this time, there is no such law. Yet. Today, there is no known underground railroad for psychiatric survivors. The MindFreedom family supports human rights and can applaud people who create such an underground railroad for themselves, so if anyone could support such a sanctuary movement, it would be MindFreedom. There is even a great name for such a campaign: C/S/X Railroad. Let’s make this support real, by proposing this idea! (Note that I am not on the MFI board, and this is a proposal.)
  4. During a Crisis, Let’s Use Alternative Supports. MindFreedom has pointed the way to common sense, humane options other than corporate mental health. Create your small group for mutual support. At any moment we all can use creative thinking right now, the mind is free! Al Galves said this: “In 2014, 2015 and 2016 MindFreedom held ‘Creative Revolution in Mental Health’ conferences in which we advocated, promoted and supported alternatives to the medical model in mental health. These were well-attended, full of energy and inspiring to those great people who have created these alternatives.”
  5. MindFreedom is for Revolution! For many years, the MindFreedom mission statement has included a call for a “nonviolent revolution.” In fact, the Wikipedia page about “nonviolent revolution” has long included MindFreedom International as a model of a group with that goal. For example, Martin Luther King would say that the salvation of the world may lay in the hands of the “creatively maladjusted.” He repeatedly brought up this theme for more than a decade. MLK said the world was in dire need of an International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. This IAACM was a dream of MLK that never became realized. But MindFreedom has made the IAACM real, and the physician psychiatric survivor Patch Adams is the honorary chair. The IAACM will soon launch a new project, for a preview see: http://www.LoveEarthRevolution.org Celia Brown, an African American psychiatric survivor activist, leads the hard-working board of MindFreedom. She said: “We need independent, activist and civil rights groups to challenge mass incarceration, oppressive psychiatric laws and racism that threaten the wellbeing of our people. MindFreedom encourages your voice to liberate mind, body and spirit, create non-violent alternatives and human rights for all. I’m proud to be creatively maladjusted.”
  6. This Grassroots Group Uses Every Donation Effectively! MindFreedom has a very specific and effective goal that can be reached with your donation: A new website. However, MindFreedom has many great ways to use every dollar that is donated to them. Janet Foner, long-time board member and co-founder of MFI, said “Donate to MFI to help us run our campaigns, to help us do another MFI Creative Revolution Conference, and to help us spread the word to new affiliates, etc.” Please help them today. You can support MFI by donating and/or volunteering, especially with the Shield and support calls.
  7. MindFreedom is a Powerful Way to Unite! Even after retiring from MFI’s staff, and now as “just” a member, I find being in touch with MFI is a way to be a part of a great community. One of the biggest challenges for me as an organizer during my time at MindFreedom, is that many of us psychiatric survivors prefer to pursue our own individual paths, like lone wolves. But even lone wolves might benefit now and again by travelling in a pack! I have met so many people who are grateful for MindFreedom putting them in touch with our social change movement. Sue Barnhart, a social worker with more than 30 years experience said, “MindFreedom may be the first organization that people find that offers alternatives to medication, such as education and support.”

To get involved with MindFreedom, see MFI’s website at: http://www.mindfreedom.org

To go directly to the DONATE button on the right side of the home page, click here: http://www.mindfreedom.org/join-donate

To see MFI’s Facebook page, search for MindFreedom International, or go directly here: https://www.facebook.com/MindFreedom-International-33579368821/?fref=ts

Those interested may stay in touch with me: davidwoaks@gmail.com. My blog is at www.davidwoaks.com

Please forward this appeal to support MindFreedom to others who understand the value of free, united minds!

An earlier post was on the same day, February 17, as a General Strike, which turned out to be more of a practice day for May Day. For more info about the General Strike, go here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1190364557743669/

National link:

http://www.strike4democracy.com/

That day was also a very important day for me, February 17, which is the commemoration for Giordano Bruno, the last person to be burnt at the stake in the Inquisition, back in 1600. As readers of my blog know, Bruno is very important to my family, starting with my grandfather.

Here on this blog:

February 17th is a great day for free minds and to remember Giordano Bruno!

On the web:

http://freethoughtalmanac.com/?p=1390

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giordano_Bruno

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Winona, Water Protectors, Kogi & Gold Thread: My Newest Letter in Eugene Weekly

Here is my brief letter to the editor this week in Eugene’s main alternative newspaper. So far, I am in dialogue with the editor of the University of Oregon Emerald, and he does not see any reason to publish it.

We Younger Brothers must hear the warning from Elder Brother about Earth, now, now!

We Younger Brothers must hear the warning from Elder Brother about Earth, now, now!

LISTEN TO ELDER BROTHER

Winona LaDuke, Native American environmental leader and executive director of Honor the Earth, spoke to many hundreds of us in Eugene in November.

Before the program, attendees might have noticed a spool of golden thread was unraveled person-to-person, starting near the front and reaching individuals in the back. We are all connected, hanging by a thread.

This independent activity was inspired by the Kogi people, an indigenous civilization in Colombia. They call themselves “Elder Brothers” and have been warning “Younger Brothers” about the risk environmental catastrophe poses to life.

Scientists know that the lag between extra carbon in our atmosphere and negative effects is about 40 years. Harm from this year’s pollution will not be experienced for a long time. If enough positive feedback loops are triggered, we face chaos and unknown hazards.

In the Kogi people’s documentary film Aluna, which is free on the internet, we can learn from the way golden thread is used by the Kogi. Each of us has the powerful influence of the butterfly effect and can lead a peaceful, global revolution.

Let us not wait a moment longer. We Younger Brothers must hear the Kogi and leaders such as Winona LaDuke. Now.

David W. Oaks, Eugene

Following this blog entry is my letter to the Eugene Weekly editor that was published last month about the both the local and US Chamber of Commerce remaining silent about the climate crisis. Meanwhile, the big news is that we are moving forward on the pre-launch for LoveEarthRevolution, you may see the splash page on the preliminary website.

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Letter to Editor of Eugene Weekly: Dakota Access Pipeline & Chamber of Commerce

Oregon Community Credit Union leader will become chair of Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce in January 2017.

Oregon Community Credit Union leader will become chair of Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce in January 2017.

The local alternative paper, Eugene Weekly, published my letter to the editor today, 12/15/16. At the end, please see a way you can email a peaceful, strong note to Mandy Jones.

Climate Crisis

The Native American Water Protectors’ victory over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) may seem remote, but there is a way this climate crisis issue is directly in front of me, and all Americans.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, based in Washington, D.C., is one of the main groups championing DAPL and the petrochemical-industry rape of Earth. The climate defender group 350 asked for five years that local chambers assert their independence and say “the U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for me.” Unfortunately, only 56 out of 3,000 of these local chambers have spoken up.

Rather than viewing this as a failure, I look at it as a challenge.

Several activists and I have petitioned the local Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, but despite many years of emails, peaceful protests and outreach, the leadership has maintained silence about the climate crisis and the U.S. Chamber.

In 2017, the chair of the local chamber will be Mandy Jones, the chief executive officer for Oregon Consumer Credit Union. I’ve been a proud member of OCCU since 1988. I am encouraging OCCU, as a member-owned entity, to ask the local chamber to speak up about the climate crisis.

David Oaks, Eugene

Action: Please send a message to Ms. Mandy Jones about how you encourage OCCU to speak out about the climate crisis and the US Chamber. Use the website here, and put your comment on the left side form: https://www.myoccu.org/contact-us

For more info about 350 campaign started in 2001 about the US Chamber, see:  http://chamber.350.org/

For news about Eugene-area activity about the chamber, see:  http://www.davidwoaks.com/normalgeddon

 

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Call Me Loony, But Al Gore Gave Me Hope Today About Climate Crisis

Two loons against the climate crisis!

Two loons find each other and oppose the climate crisis!

My wife Debra insisted this morning that I load up and watch with her a TED (Technology Entertainment Design) Talk that Al Gore made earlier this year, February 2016. Al explains why he is optimistic about addressing the climate crisis, if we all jump on board right now. The last few years I have watched hundreds of documentaries, including countless TED Talks, however this one is indeed special.

So call me loony, but with Debra, I did watch Al Gore’s latest TED presentation, 25 minutes, and I gained positivity:

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about this crisis? Please leave your comment at the end of this blog entry.

Yes, I know that I have brought up on this blog the worst case scenario more than once, to try to do my part in waking up a seemingly-hypnotized public. This year’s TED Talk by Al starts off with the updated reality of the catastrophe, and how we need to mobilize immediately. After this frightening wake-up call, the next two points he brings up are very, very positive, and I hope everyone watches his explanation.

I need Al’s dose of accurate optimism. Two things I am most concerned about:

First, scientists have known for a while that there is a 40-year lag between dumping carbon in the atmosphere, and the end result. In other words, the increased heat we are experiencing now came from the carbon that was released in about 1976. The worst carbon pollution, from the past few decades, has not yet had a chance to have its hellish consequences. If you would like to read more about this lag see: http://www.skepticalscience.com/Climate-Change-The-40-Year-Delay-Between-Cause-and-Effect.html

But second, my biggest worry, is that most of the general public does not seem to understand what a revolution in the sciences. Unfortunately there is no one word that sums up this paradigm shift, but some of the words for it are: complexity theory, emergence, the Butterfly effect, systems theory, nonlinearity, self-organizing, feedback, chaos theory, fractals, etc.

Even Aristotle lectured about this idea. With the advent of computers, scientists gathered clear evidence that self-organizing feedback loops are extremely significant and influential. Inital conditions, even very slight ones, may have enormous consequences. Many of us have heard of the “Butterfly effect.” I hope that you know that the Butterfly effect is literally true and has been shown to be correct by the evidence. Yes, the flap of a butterfly wing in Brazil can eventually lead to changing when and where even a tornado arrives in Texas. Of course it is impossible to predict which butterfly may influence which tornado.

You may read a quick summary of emergence theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence

You may read a brief description of Butterfly effect here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect

A nice article about Edward Lorenz, the professor who developed the Butterfly effect: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/422809/when-the-butterfly-effect-took-flight/

The logic behind the Butterfly effect is that when a feedback loop is altered, even incrementally, this can cascade into major changes. One of the most pessimistic thinkers about the climate crisis, author Guy McPherson, has identified dozens of feedback self-reinforcing loops that can be triggered and make the climate crisis worse, in a non-linear and chaotic way. This is the so-called runaway climate crisis that we are sometimes warned about. McPherson famously believes that it is already too late to stop.

My impression is that because dealing with the climate crisis involves such a dispute with business leaders, that scientists have focused on what is highly likely to happen, such as the approximate increase of sea level rise in the next few decades, etc.

However, for me, the most scary part is that if humanity continues to insufficiently address the climate crisis, more and more positive feedback loops can be triggered. Think about driving late at night on a highway near a cliff. You spot what might be black ice on the road, and it would be wise to stop business as usual. Unfortunately, it is as if humanity has spotted black ice and seems to be driving even faster. If our imagined vehicle does hit black ice, and we begin to spin toward the cliff, then this chaotic feedback loop may become all too plain, but by then we may be learning too late.

There is such a thing as too late

Back in 2012, I climbed a little ladder for our cat, Bongo, who was playing in our loft in my writer’s studio. For some reason, these steps were the only ones I had not put tread on. I slipped, fell, broke my neck and now I am in a power chair. Because of pre-existing conditions, I even have a few more disabilities.

My point is, that many of us with extreme disabilities recognize how even a moment can lead to massive loss. Humanity looks like it is climbing up a slippery ladder, but Al Gore is warning folks about that step, and appears to also bring us hope about a revolution of solutions. The Butterfly effect can work to our advantage, too. Even small actions for our Earth may lead to massive good change, we do not have control over that exact outcome, but we must take those actions.

For example, for about three decades I have meditated. Obviously there are a lot of disputes about the unknown, spirituality, etc. I realize that even something as a good, mindful breath can have a positive effect. Hey, that means we can all be revolutionaries with every breath! And if we ever needed to be revolutionaries, and find other revolutionaries, it is now.

Earlier I mentioned that I had brought up the worst case scenario involving climate crisis. If you would like to read about that rather frightening horror, I even invented a new word for it: Normalgeddon! Click on that word to learn more.

But if you watch only one thing, please watch the Al Gore TED Talk from this year, he has made a great follow-up to that earlier TED Talk.

Thanks Debra! She said about the talk, “Positive, realistic, and not b.s. There are things that each of us can do to help. It gave me the courage and conviction to take action today!” Heck, her action even led to this blog entry. You could say Debra was the butterfly today. Debra has complained to me about how some climate activists dwell on the negative. While I respect Guy McPherson, the worst case scenario would rely on triggering chaotic, unpredictable feedback loops. In other words, it ain’t over yet, Guy!

Other folks believe that something like nuclear power or geoengineering will be the main solution. However, as Al points out, even if problems with nukes are addressed, they are only a small part of the answer. For me, I agree with Al that we need to build global will, and will is a renewable resource. One of my renewable sources of will is my community, especially Debra.

So here is a free, two-and-a-half minute video, about the call a loon, we can actually sound pretty beautiful as we locate other loons, as I did 33 years ago when I first met my wonderful Debra:

Eight years ago, Al Gore gave a TED Talk about new ways of thinking about the climate crisis. Thanks, Al, for re-visiting this topic and pointing out hopeful solutions. You may watch his earlier TED Talk from 2008 here:

During this past Summer, I reflected on who my actual audience is. While contemporary readers are welcome, thanks, I believe we need to all be creating for an audience seven generations ahead. Currently, an estimate of how long a generation is about 25 years. Then next year, 2017, seven generations ahead will be the year 2192. That will be a memorable year. That is also the 700th anniversary of the European invasion of this hemisphere.

Let us all take action now so that there is an audience in 2192! Thanks Al Gore for this optimism revolution, maybe there will indeed be an audience.

So are you positive or negative about our future? Will there be a healthy, positive generation in 2192? Leave your comment on this blog entry below, thanks!

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