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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You Are Invited to a Free Street Theatre in Eugene! Ghost Buskers 40

Do you live in or near Eugene, Oregon? Then you will want to enjoy our free street theater skit tomorrow, Saturday, April 1, 2017. Really!

Below is info about this, including a flyer you can download and a Facebook event page. Since the event is based on street theater in a busy location, we expect mainly an audience from passers-by. But the more the merrier, hope you can be there!

Saturday, April Fool’s Day, April 1, 2017, at 6 pm, at Kesey Square, in downtown Eugene, a little troupe of us will be doing a free street theatre skit, Ghost Buskers 40. For me, I dedicate this to my mom’s memory.

April Fool’s is my favorite fun holiday, the truly universal holiday here on our planet Earth! More info on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1747190835570892/

Or you can download this flyer: ghost-buskers-free-20170401-flyer

Here is more info, spread the word, thanks, see you there:

Free Street Theatre!

“Ghost Buskers”

April Fools Day, this Saturday, April 1, 2017

6 to 7 pm

Kesey Square, Willamette & Broadway, Eugene, Oregon

This is a peaceful creative street theatre called “Ghost Buskers.” You can just watch, or play along. Will we start a revolution and reach the year 2192, which is seven generations down the line?

The troupe includes activist David Oaks, folk singer David Rogers, performer Dale Kegley, humorist Howard Falk, activists Sue Barnhart, Clay Hurand, and Ian McTeague. And you? Play Ask-It Ball designed by Ken Kesey.

Logo by artist Isaac Paris, 2016, for International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment (IAACM)

Logo by artist Isaac Paris, 2016, for International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment (IAACM)

Sponsored by the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. The IAACM is dedicated to peaceful action for social and environmental justice. In this day and age that is revolutionary! Performance in memory of Violet Oaks.

www.LoveEarthRevolution.com   

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Violet Oaks, Mom, Would Be 100 Years Old March 29, 2017!

Dear friends, relatives, and readers! 

My mother, our #1 volunteer at MindFreedom International office for a decade.

If you ever met my mother, Violet Oaks, you know that she almost always smiled. Wednesday, March 29, 2017, she would have turned 100 years old. She died just short of her 98th birthday, apparently in her sleep over at the Eugene Hotel, an active retirement center that she lived in her last decade here in Eugene, Oregon.

If you did not know my Mom, her smile may reach you somehow. At bottom is a little letter that I shared with some friends and relatives.

You will find links with bio info, still photos, and lots of videos.

I will remember Mom in many ways. For example, this Saturday, April Fool’s Day, April 1, 2017, at 6 pm, at Kesey Square, in downtown Eugene, a little troupe of us will be doing a free street theatre skit, Ghost Buskers. For me, I dedicate this to Mom’s memory. Yes, I am the fool, but Mom loved the world even though foolishness appears to be our universal holiday. For those of you in Eugene, more info on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1747190835570892/

Or you can download this flyer: ghost-buskers-free-20170401-flyer

“Mom, I hope you do not mind if I tell the world that your spirit lives through the kindness we show one another!” I will hopefully sow peace and love, now and throughout my life, or at least try. Sowing kindness was kind of a mantra for Mom.  Mom and I, like many of our relatives, have Lithuanian heritage and Chicago connections.

In her 80’s Mom left her beloved Illinois and I had the immense pleasure and honor of being close with her for about a decade. Incredibly, for the first few years she volunteered about two or three days per week, almost every week, at our MindFreedom office, where I worked as Executive Director. Mom probably touched and filed every single paper in the entire office, and she was “old school” which means she worked in a focused way from beginning to end. Even into her 90’s, Mom volunteered there about one day a week. Only in her final years did she stay at home, and even then she supported my activism for human rights and mental health.

One quick story: About the fifth time I was locked up in a psychiatric institution way back in the 1970’s, I learned from an activist from Mental Patients Liberation Front how to submit a “three day letter” which would force them to release me or go to court. The head psychiatrist phoned up Mom.

He said, “We would like to go to court to commit David.”

Mom famously replied, “If our David wants to try freedom, we support him.”

Yes, I was very troubled, but Mom knew that the inner me was far more complex than the mental health system recognized, apparently. Mom would say later, “They did not know who you were.”

Mom and the rest of our home family, Dad, brother Tony and Uncle Al, were all there to attend my graduation in a few months in 1977, 40 years ago.

Thanks Mom, for supporting freedom!

Hi everyone,
Just a note that our mom, Violet Oaks, would have turned 100 today, and I wanted to reach out and mark the occasion.
Mom of course was so very nice that any fashion of marking this occasion would be fine with her. Here are some still photos and videos to share.
Feel free to forward this, and I will post this on the GageParkOaks group on Facebook. Thanks!
There are a bunch of photos of mom in the gallery for her online memorial here: http://violet-elizabeth-oaks.forevermissed.com/
And we put a few hours of video on YouTube here:
VIOLET OAKS’ VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE (updated list):
David’s Birthday 1995 http://youtu.be/oZzvp1LiREg
David’s Birthday 1997 & 1998 http://youtu.be/a1pNUse0YYg
Mom’s Birthday 1997 http://youtu.be/NnIMeCdUXq0
Violet Oaks 2001 Oral History Part 1 http://youtu.be/7uFloB5mOqE
Violet Oaks 2001 Oral History Part 2 http://youtu.be/gfMK0guHDh4
Coast Videos Part 1 http://youtu.be/BkKbj2HA6qA
And here is a YouTube video of the grave side ceremony in Chicago, thanks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCXejV9ImYw
Love,
David​
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Ruby Rogers Center in Danger of Being Defunded by Massachusetts

Ruby Rogers Center in Danger of Being Defunded by Massachusetts

One of the very first community centers run by and for psychiatric survivors is at risk of losing its funding from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I know about the roots of this user-run space, because as a senior at Harvard College back in the 1970’s, I was placed at Mental Patients Liberation Front as an intern by Phillips Brooks House, Harvard’s social service group.
MPLF, with the leadership of the late Judi Chamberlin, author of a book on empowered mental health centers, created the community gathering locations that eventually became the Ruby Rogers Center in Somerville, Massachusetts. Here are some of the highlights as we created the center:

  • In the mid-1970’s a handful of us in MPLF came together for weekly mutual support. We were gratified to see that Judi’s book, On Our Own, was published. We often met at the storefront of an early activist space, Vocations for Social Change, near Central Square, Cambridge.
  • For a while we created a center at Stone Soup Art and Poetry storefront in Boston, thanks to the generosity of Jack Powers, proprietor. I recall briefly meeting poet Allen Ginsberg when he visited Jack. Activist Ted Chabasinski, survivor of forced electroshock, also visited.
  • Thanks to a grant from Haymarket Fund, we established an office and community center across the street from Boston Common.
  • As a group we met with state-employees at Department of Mental Health headquarters to explain our deep concerns about human rights violations and the need for humane alternatives.
  • About at that time, 1981, I left Boston, but the MPLF members won an agreement from Massachusetts to create a community center that was eventually named after Ruby Rogers, one of the early psychiatric survivor plaintiffs in a key lawsuit against forced psychiatric drugging. I saw Ruby, a charismatic African American psychiatric survivor, who I heard spoke up while locked up in a psychiatric ward, supported by MPLF organizing and a petition by other folks who were locked up.
  • During the three decades since then I have been very delighted to hear that the Ruby Rogers Center, keeping alive the name of MPLF, has continued to do great work. You can read about the details here.

Now the center is in danger of being eliminated by DMH, even though there is a need more than ever for independent living centers run by and for people diagnosed with mental health issues. Not only are such alternatives cost effective for taxpayers, anyone may someday need to have such a welcoming place for their own well being. If not you, then perhaps a loved one may benefit.

I remember a few years ago when I was chatting with a employee of the small, activist-friendly foundation, Resist. They were unfamiliar with our movement, but I knew they were located in Somerville. I asked them if they were familiar with the Ruby Rogers Center, and it turns out that was right across the street. Perfect to illustrate how our movement was widespread but little known! We got the small grant for MindFreedom International, and I recommend other grassroots groups in our movement apply for a Resist grant.

You can read about the Ruby Rogers Center on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/rubyrogercenter/

Thanks to a Facebook post from Harry Agritha, shared by Karen Langley, that alerted me about this. Charlie Carr commented and this brought my attention to the danger, here.

I encourage all those who support the disability and prison justice movements to speak up about the importance of the Ruby Rogers Center, now! I especially call out for support from disability activists in the hundreds of independent living centers, which form the backbone of the funded disability movement in the USA today.

You are invited to join me in emailing a civil but strong message to DMH of Massachusetts via this address: dmhinfo@massmail.state.ma.us

 

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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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