Psychiatric Survivor Movement – MindFreedom International
“We, as a society, need to recognize the existence of genuine spiritual emergences. It is crucially important for us to do this, for those who pass through this process successfully and become accomplished shamans, healers and teachers, have enormous gifts and blessings to share that will benefit us all. I had been doing Buddhist meditation for a full year before that lightning bolt flashed through my mind.”
Mental Health Experience: Inpatient, Outpatient, Commitment, Psychiatric Drugs, Coercive Treatment, Restraints, Solitary Confinement
Currently doing: Paul is a healer who facilitates groups using his visionary style of dream-work. He is a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, lecturer, writer, and artist.
Psychiatric labels: Bipolar Recovery methods: Lithium, Haldol, Anti-Depressants
Greatest obstacle: Overcoming emotional abuse by his father.
In the spring of 1981 I was sitting in meditation, when, just for an instant, a lightning bolt flashed through my mind. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, this was the start of a spiritual awakening that changed my life forever. I had stepped through the looking glass, never to return to the life I was used to living.
Within a couple of days I was brought by ambulance to a hospital. I had begun acting so unlike my ordinary, conditioned and repressed self that a close friend thought I was going crazy. I felt totally unselfconscious and amazingly free. I felt the creative energy of the universe flowing through me, like I was living on the forefront of the Big Bang itself. It was like my mind had spilled out from inside of my skull and was manifesting and expressing itself through events in the outer environment. What was happening in the seemingly outer world was magically related to what was going on inside of me. The boundary between dreaming and waking, between inner and outer, was dissolving. It was as if I had woken up in a dream. I knew without a doubt that I was going through a deep spiritual experience. The experience was so overwhelming that I had no choice but to surrender and let go.
It was so overwhelming, in fact, that I was hospitalized a number of times during the first year. I was diagnosed as having had a severe psychotic break and was told I was manic-depressive. I was put on lithium, and at times, Haldol. I was told I would have to live with my illness for the rest of my life. Little did the doctors realize that I was taking part in some sort of spiritual emergence/shamanic initiation process, which at times mimicked psychosis but in actuality was an experience of a far different order.
In the very first hospital room, some sort of lounge for psychiatric patients, there was a blind woman. Immediately upon seeing her, without any thought on my part at all, I went up to her and found myself looking at her eyes and saying over and over the following words: “All you have to do to see is open your eyes and look.” These words came through me effortlessly. I got closer and closer to her as I repeated these words, staring at her eyes all the while. Her eyes were blind, opaque with no color or radiance at all.
What happened next I will never forget. Her eyes began regaining their color and luminosity, going from the dead, diseased eyes of a blind person to normal, healthy, seeing eyes. She had regained her sight. At that moment a doctor brought me into another room and strapped me on a table. And there I spent the night.
The next morning I was brought to a room and the only other person there, sitting across a table from me, was, coincidentally, that (now seeing) blind woman. She’s looking at me and smiling from ear to ear, not having said one word to me as of yet. All of a sudden it was like a closed fist that was in my heart just completely opened. It was perfectly clear to me that this was my heart chakra blossoming. It is described as the opening of a thousand-petaled lotus, and though I had never had this happen to me before it was an experience that I immediately recognized.
I then had the spontaneous realization that explained what had happened with this woman the day before. I intuitively understood that her eyes were physically fine, it was just that she was not letting herself open her (inner) eyes and look. Somehow this had manifested into a perception of blindness.
And yesterday I “saw” this. Not only did I see this, but I somehow knew just what to say and do. It was like I had become a conduit for some deeper, healing forces. It was also clear to me that it was no accident that she and I had come together. It was clearly a synchronistic meeting, one in which we were both playing roles in a deeper drama. At a certain point she said to me “Aren’t you going to answer the phone call from Roy (my father)?” These were, literally, the first and only words she ever spoke to me. Moments later, the nurse came into the room and said my father was on the phone.
I was in that particular hospital for three days. On the second day I was in the office of the doctor in charge of me, Dr. Lantz, and was looking at a print of a Van Gogh painting that he had on his wall. I remember an electric current coming out from my eyes and circulating around the print and then returning to my eyes. It was clear to me that this was some sort of “kundalini” phenomena, but at this point there was nothing I could do but merely witness it and marvel.
I needed to convince Dr. Lantz that I wasn’t crazy, or he was going to keep me here for a very long time. I decided that I didn’t want to hang out in a hospital much longer, so I literally forced myself down and began talking about my problems, my neurosis, my guilt, and my feeling “double-bound.” After awhile he said “Fine, you’re normal…you’re free to go.”
I actually got together with Dr. Lantz the next week over lunch. He explained to me that my being able to step fully into my “normal” state of mind upon demand in the hospital was proof to him that I wasn’t insane, as people who are in “true” psychotic episodes aren’t capable of doing this.
We, as a society, need to recognize the existence of genuine spiritual emergences. It is crucially important for us to do this, for those who pass through this process successfully and become accomplished shamans, healers and teachers, have enormous gifts and blessings to share that will benefit us all. I had been doing Buddhist meditation for a full year before that lightning bolt flashed through my mind.
I was one of the lucky ones, as I was able to extricate myself from the medical and psychiatric establishment, which is very ignorant of phenomena such as these. After years of incredible suffering where I struggled to contain the experiences, I feel that I’ve integrated them to the point where I have something very precious to offer. I have recently started to openly talk about my experiences, giving my first public lecture in Portland, Oregon in 1993, which I called “Awakening or Madness?” I have become a teacher, assisting people through their own process of spiritual awakening, and have developed a unique vehicle for waking up that I call “The Dreaming Process: A Path to Awakening.” This process is based on the realization that the same dreaming mind that is dreaming our dreams at night is actually dreaming our life.
I wonder how many cases of mental illness are actually spiritual emergence gone sour. Might it be that we’re all at different stages of the spiritual emergence process?
The MindFreedom Personal Story Project collects histories from psychiatric survivors and mental health consumers about their experiences of survival, resistance, recovery and self-determination in the mental health system. Many participants in the project have struggled through difficult emotional times, and all have suffered through psychiatric labeling and an often abusive and patronizing mental health system, yet they survived, and even thrive. Thank you to psychiatric survivor Oryx Cohen who first initiated this MFI program as an intern in the MFI Eugene office. (Please note that these are the personal stories of those who shared them, and do not necessarily reflect the views and positions of MFI.)
- Joe S Baletta
- “The most important thing in a person’s recovery process is to know that someone cares for you, someone outside yourself, and that you can care for yourself and that you can love yourself and get over those demons that haunt us all, that drive us crazy. You have to get up with some love in your heart and you have to be able to know that you can do something that you love.”
- Beate Braun
- “If you are diagnosed with schizophrenia, they talk with you like you are not there. They talk about you but not with you, but you have to hear it. But if you really want to talk, the doctors and nurses in the hospital don’t have time for a conversation.”
- Ted Chabasinski
- “When Miss Callaghan had discovered enough “symptoms,” I was sent to the Bellevue children’s psychiatric ward, to be officially diagnosed and to made an experimental animal for Doctor Bender. I was one of the first children to be “treated” with electric shock. I was six years old.”
- Oryx Cohen
- “Meeting so many people who have fought through an oppressive mental health system, who have been forcibly electroshocked and drugged, who have been treated as less than human–and who are now leading accomplished and fulfilling lives as authors, directors of organizations, social activists, etc., has been inspiring and empowering. I just hope that eventually the general public will hear our stories and take them as their own.”
- David W Oaks
- “Through a Haldol haze I meticulously printed out the legal letter and filed it. I found out later that the authorities reacted by contacting my parents, asking them to either commit me, seek guardianship, dissaude me, etc. My mother told them, ‘If our David wants to try freedom, we support him.’ I managed to stumble out of the institution when the taxi arrived, and that was the last time a psychiatric institution held me.”
- Donita Diamata
- “I didn’t get better because of anything that the clinicians did for me. I got better because I surrounded myself by people who showed that they cared about me who got me laughing again.”
- Andrea DoSantos
- “What led to the mania was actually an antidepressant. I was prescribed “PROZAC,” which after a month or so got rid of the depression but lead to a full blown manic episode. The fact that I had the mania as a side effect of Prozac was what made me decide that I couldn’t accept their diagnosis as bipolar.”
- Robert D Ewbank
- “I got to Clinic 3 in the morning and I was on the floor crying because I didn’t want to see anybody hurt. It was like a zoo. It was like a weird, toxic, horrible, blown-out nuclear plague that you couldn’t wake up from. It was unreal.”
- Leonard R Frank
- “We have to be witnesses for those millions who are not speaking up now for whatever reason. That’s the role that I feel our movement needs to play right now in society–to speak up, tell the truth about what we have known, what we have experienced in our own lives.”
- Victoria D Gaines
- “I am just naturally an energetic, passionate, playful enthusiastic, non-conformist weirdo who can be taken for a nut when it so suits peoples’ fancies. Once I realized what was going on in my life, I made sure I got away from those in the mental health system and others who wished me harm, so that I was able to settle back into my peaceful, uneventful life.”
- James B. Gottstein
- “To me the main thing is that I have learned to recognize the warning signs and have been able to work out things that work for me. I could just quit taking assignments that lead me into the situation where I need to take the medication. But that wouldn’t be a full life for me.”
- Robert J Gray
- “At first, I was tricked into voluntarily taking Navane and Haldol by being told that I had to take them as a condition of having shelter.”
- Barb Greene
- “Looking back, I realize that I was heartbroken because I was in this horrible living situation and not getting any support or validation for how I was feeling. Instead of dealing with that, they shocked my mind. This treatment was completely and totally irrelevant to what was going on for me. What I was going through was an emotional thing and not a mental thing.”
- Jody A Harmon
- “I’m a psychiatric survivor, and I don’t use that term loosely. I have been stored in warehouses labeled hospitals. I have endured weekly lectures termed therapy. I have been zapped until my brain burns white. I have been held down, tied down, put down. I have had pills forced down my throat and needles plunged into my flesh. All this to make me ‘normal,’ a mold I will never fit.”
- Leah I Harris
- “How wrong it all was I wouldn’t realize until over a decade had passed and I began to educate myself about the psychiatric survivor movement. Now that I look back, I think it’s obscene that a traumatized little child would be drugged up. It makes me sick. I want to reach out to that 7 year old child, to hug her and hold her to me and tell her that it was going to be OK, that she would get through it and she would be a better person for it.”
- Mike Hlebechuk
- “Why did the doctors tell me–an intelligent, gifted person–that I would never work, would never get through school, would be on medications for the rest of my life, and should stay on social security disability indefinitely? I tend to excel at whatever I do, but I was told I’d never do anything beyond a social security check.”
- Susie K Irwin
- “I want to be a part of connecting to other people–letting them know they’re not alone, and helping them discover within themselves that they can do whatever they can set their minds to.”
- Janet Foner
- “My children were not born until a few years after I was in the hospital, so they did not know about it until I told them. My younger son immediately started crying. He was outraged that anyone could have treated me like that. My older son made a very insightful cartoon about how bad the mental health system is.”
- Anthony S Lipinsky
- “The worst part of the mental health system is that there are so many well-meaning professionals that look at you as a lesser order human being–a human being who has to be controlled, made dependent, ordered about. That is not the way to treat a person who has a tendency to be depressed and suicidal. That is the perfect way to create depressed people by making them dependent, making them different, and making them feel that they stand out in a negative way.”
This artricle is a critique of psychiatry’s diagnostic practices, extracted from the work of Bonnie Sigren Busick, RN, MA and Martha Gorman originally published in 1986, delving into issues surrounding the fact that there are (still, to this day) no evidence of biochemical markers, biological tests, or hard evidence to “prove” the existence of “mental illness.”
David Oaks at Occupy the American Psychiatric Association, 5/5/2012
David Oaks, Director of MindFreedom International addresses psychiatric profession’s ‘involuntary help’, violence and dehumanization.
He rallies his troops at the Occupy the American Psychiatric Association rally before marching on psychiatry.
ALERT – Civil Rights Violated: Escape Forced Psychiatric Outpatient Drugging and Forced Electroshock – APA is the problem not the solution – “Normal” is not “normal”.
Brain Damage Caused by Antipsychotics/ Neuroleptic Psychiatric Drugs
In the past two decades, countless medical studies have shown that use of neuroleptic psychiatric drugs (also known as antipsychotics) is associated with structural brain changes, especially when taking high dosages for a long time. These brain changes can include actual shrinkage of the higher level parts of the brain. The shrinkage can be seen in brain scans and autopsy studies.
In response to industry defenders who claim that this shrinkage is from the “mental illness,” studies show neuroleptics lead to similar brain changes in animals. While the medical side of large libraries has this information, the public media side of the library does not. In other words, the public, patients and their families are not being informed about what medicine has long known. More Info
Ron Unger: Latest News on Brain Tissue Shrinkage from Antipsychotic Drugs Ron Unger, chair of MindFreedom Lane County affiliate, is a full time mental health counselor, who has raised concerns about the way the neuroleptic or “antipsychotic” psychiatric drugs have been linked to shrinkage of brain tissue.
“antipsychotics are prescribed for almost everything these days: depression, anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, kids that misbehave.”
MindFreedom International is a nonprofit organization that unites 100 sponsor and affiliate grassroots groups with thousands of individual members to win human rights and alternatives for people labeled with psychiatric disabilities.
MindFreedom is one of the very few totally independent groups in the mental health field with no funding from or control by governments, drug companies, religions, corporations, or the mental health system. MindFreedom International is a nonprofit under IRS 501(c)(3) that is the only group of its kind accredited by the United Nations as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with Consultative Roster Status.
MindFreedom is where the power of mutual support combines with the power of human rights activism. MindFreedom International is where democracy is finally getting hands on with the mental health system.
In a spirit of mutual cooperation, MindFreedom leads a nonviolent revolution of freedom, equality, truth and human rights that unites people affected by the mental health system with movements for justice everywhere.
- Win human rights campaigns in mental health.
- Challenge abuse by the psychiatric drug industry.
- Support the self-determination of psychiatric survivors and mental health consumers.
- Promote safe, humane and effective options in mental health.
Talk with Tenney
Lauren Tenney survived forced psychiatry’s violence to go on to become a successful academic. Lauren’s internet talk show ‘Talk with Tenney’ has around 200 hours of content for you to listen to. With insightful guests and cutting analysis of the issues that matter to all of us who have been touched by psychiatry, this is a podcast you absolutely must listen to if you want to keep informed on what’s happening. Recent guests include Bonnie Burstow and Paula Caplan. You can also call in and share your story or thoughts.
Today’s guest: Emily Sheera Cutler on ending forced psychiatric treatment. Emily lives in Los Angeles, California and is currently working to start up a grassroots group called Southern California Against Forced Treatment, which advocates against all forms of forced psychiatric treatment including confinement and abuse in psychiatric institutions, forced medication, forced electroshock treatment, and involuntary outpatient treatment. Emily will speak about the group’s work thus far. Southern California Against Forced Treatment prides itself on having a diverse membership who have come to the table to fight against forced treatment for a variety of different reasons and have a variety of different perspectives. Some members are survivors of forced psychiatric treatment; others are family members of survivors who have seen the drastic impact that forced treatment has had on their loved one. The group is also home to psychologists and mental health professionals who advocate for humane, compassionate, unlocked alternatives to the psychiatric system. While some group members choose to reject medication and all forms of psychiatric treatment, other members identify as “mentally ill” and still choose to fight forced treatment. So far, Southern California Against Forced Treatment has focused their efforts on reaching out to various community organizations that support their mission. The group has been working with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, as Autistic people are significantly impacted by forced and coerced treatment, as well as the Westside Center for Independent Living and other disability rights activists. In addition, they have spoken to several libertarian groups in the LA area. They are also working on the campaign for Luca Barton, a neurodivergent City Council candidate who supports the complete abolition of all forced psychiatric treatment.