MindFreedom - Fighting Back Against Human Rights Abuses in the Mental Health System
MindFreedom is a human rights organization with members worldwide. If you care about freedom and human dignity in the face of forced psychiatry, you've come to the right place.
Welcome to the campaign for MindFreedom.
Unlike most other mental health advocacy organizations in the world, MindFreedom is financially independent from pharmaceutical companies, governments, religions, and mental health systems — we get our support from our members, people with first hand experience of what it's like to be forced into the mental health system, their families and their allies. Because of this fact, MindFreedom is in a unique position to publicly blow the whistle on psychiatric human rights abuses.
MindFreedom has members all around the globe, its roots lie in the 'Psychiatric Survivor Movement', a growing worldwide civil and human rights movement that fights for freedom of choice in the area of society's response to mental and emotional problems and distress.
Maybe you came to this site today because you're currently being subjected to forced medication or forced electroshock and you're looking for information and assistance to win back your basic human rights and dignity from a mental health system that is all too often violent, coercive, and downright abusive. Maybe you're visiting this website because you work in the system and have become disillusioned with the coercion and force you're asked to carry out against patients as part of your job, maybe you're visiting because you're considering training as a mental health nurse, social worker, or psychiatrist. Maybe you're considering having your loved one committed against their will. No matter who you are or the reason you've arrived here at the MindFreedom site, you are certain to find illuminating and useful information here on all topics related to the mental health system and human rights.
What is forced psychiatry?
Forced psychiatry, also known as 'involuntary psychiatry', 'psychiatric commitment', 'involuntary treatment', 'forced treatment', 'assisted treatment', 'court ordered treatment', 'sectioning', 'psychiatric hold', is the forced imposition of psychiatric interventions upon an individual by the government, against the will of the person targeted. Forced psychiatry has a long and grisly history dating back a couple hundred years that most people are aware of, but today, in the modern era, this controversial government practice hides in the shadows. Behind the closed doors of psych wards, government mental health system workers carry out violent forced 'treatments' against the will of those that are undergoing mental and emotional crises. To add to the silence, the stigma of being labeled a 'mental patient' and the trauma from these horrific experiences at the hands of the system prevents more people speaking out and fighting for their rights. Many forced into psychiatry have died at the hands of the system. While forced psychiatry may be an issue society would rather keep hidden and not talk about, this doesn't make this controversy any less real, as millions of people worldwide have had psychiatry forced on them. MindFreedom envisions a society where people no longer have to live in fear of psychiatry being forced on them, where human rights apply to all humans, not just those without psychiatric diagnoses.
Why is forced psychiatry so controversial?
Nobody denies that people can become very overwhelmed with life, and experience extreme states of mind or exhibit problematic thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Everybody at some point in their lives needs support, and anybody can undergo a crisis, or periods of overwhelm that would get labeled 'madness', or 'psychosis', or 'mental illness'. Growing numbers of people who've experienced these states of mind first-hand, and growing numbers of innovative mental health professionals, are beginning to see that society's response to these problems has been part of the problem, not part of the solution.
More and more people are coming to see the importance of freedom of choice not only in the solutions to mental or emotional problems, but the importance of individuals having the freedom to develop their own interpretation of their problems, even if that interpretation is at odds with the interpretation put forward by psychiatry. Any reasonable person will admit that labels of 'mental illness' are subjective, not objective, and that psychiatry, the dominant profession in this area, is an inexact science. Many would be aware also of the growing body of evidence that psychiatric drugs do cause damage to the brain and body when used long term, and do come with all sorts of risk/benefit trade-offs. Forced psychiatry is controversial because it imposes, by force, a choice made by others on the individual who is going through a crisis, this represents government forcing its interpretation of the person's problems on them, and most brutally of all, forcibly altering that person's body against their will. Forced psychiatry represents the ripping away of choice in what treatment a person may want, what interpretation of their problems they may have, and what solutions that person may seek to their problems.
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Forced psychiatry represents government making the assumption that drug-based psychiatry is the 'only way' to be responding to the disparate problems that get labeled 'mental illness'. Forced psychiatry in a very real sense, hands the profession of psychiatry a state enforced monopoly on human emotional and mental overwhelm. But if we admit psychiatry is subjective, possesses no biological objective medical tests to prove its assertions that those it labels mentally ill have bona fide 'brain diseases', then it becomes orders of magnitude more controversial that government is granting this profession the power to enter your body by force, against your express wishes.
Even doctors who can prove genuine bodily diseases with objective science, like heart surgeons do, don't have the power to forcibly meddle inside your body. Yet this profession of psychiatry has reserved the right to force itself into your brain, this is at odds with every modern human rights ethic, and must come to an end.
Forced psychiatry usually involves the targeted person losing their right to own their own body. This can be a life destroying experience, and is experienced by many survivors of it, as torture. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture agrees, and has as recently as 2013 called for the abolition of forced psychiatric interventions, as you'll see in video below.
There can be no doubt, to reiterate, that people in mental distress and crisis can present challenges for those around them, but MindFreedom believes there is always a way to respond to our fellow human beings who are in crisis without ripping away their dignity and human rights. Sadly, across the world, mental health systems respond not with compassion and a range of choices and approaches and paradigms, but with a monopolized, psychiatric drug based paradigm, rooted in the theoretical 'medical model' of psychiatry
Millions of people around the world find mainstream psychiatry's drugs, labels and interpretations of their problems compelling and even helpful, MindFreedom acknowledges this.
It can be difficult for people to understand why others would object to having a popular chosen creed of 'mental help' forced upon them. MindFreedom is not against voluntary psychiatry, if you've found a solution that you've found helpful in your life, then we are very happy to hear it. Allowing government to force psychiatric drugs on your neighbors, however, becomes a whole different controversy.
Stripping basic human rights from people labeled 'mentally ill' is nothing new, governments, societies and those who choose to work in psychiatric wards have been dehumanizing 'involuntary patients' for generations. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people with psychiatric labels and other disabilities were murdered in the Holocaust. For generations, forced sterilization programs existed in western countries targeting those labeled 'mentally ill', only being abolished as recently as the 1970s. But societies still haven't got used to the idea of extending equality to those considered 'mentally ill'. Around the world, laws are on the books in most states and provinces, that make it legal for psychiatrists and their staff to forcibly drug and forcibly electroshock people. Even a forced 'diagnosis' can change the course of a life. Reaching out for help from the mental health system often comes at the cost of your basic rights, and many live in constant fear of being assaulted by the coercive and violent procedures that are central to modern forced psychiatry.
It is MindFreedom's position that nobody deserves to have their body assaulted by forced psychiatric drugging or forced electroshock. The drugs or 'medications' used in forced drugging are brain function disabling tranquilizer drugs, and although they go by the name 'antipsychotics', these drugs do not target or correct any biological abnormality that psychiatry can demonstrate or prove exists inside the 'patient'. They also come with massive side effects. It is clear that for expediency, to control people, these drugs are being used as chemical restraints, not as bona fide medicines. This is deeply inhumane, and a gross violation of human rights and the Hippocratic Oath. It is MindFreedom's position that chemical restraint, forced sedation, forced drugging, the coercive administration of psychiatric drugs, is a grossly invasive, cruel and unusual, decimation of the human right to bodily integrity. In all situations, in all cases, it is excessive force, excessively invasive, humiliating, and profoundly violent and traumatizing. It is our position that there is always a way to humanely deal with our fellow human beings no matter how distressed they may be.
People forced into psychiatry are overwhelmingly innocent people, very few are criminals, yet these law abiding people lose more human rights than even a convicted criminal loses in a super-max prison. Those targeted for forced psychiatry lose the right to own their own body. Forced psychiatry is often described by many survivors of it, as being experienced as a kind of biological rape. These practices are not 'help', they are human rights abuses. Forced psychiatry represents dehumanizing the most distressed and overwhelmed individuals in society, during their weakest moments of life. In mistaking violence for 'help that people need' we as a society have committed atrocities for too long against those who are at their weakest. Forced psychiatry often drives people to suicide, traumatizes people for life, and crushes their sense of humanity and dignity. There are better ways to help. And if you take the time to thoroughly explore the MindFreedom website you will learn about the growing movement that fosters innovative alternative approaches to these problems.
What does forced psychiatry look like? The video below shows a forced injection being carried out against a defenseless teenage girl who was in custody of the Canadian government. This is the brutal reality of forcing this brand of 'help' on people. Treating the bodies of detainees like toxic waste dumps, to be forcibly injected with drugs, with complete disregard for that person's basic human right to bodily integrity. Viewer discretion is advised, extremely graphic:
Below in another video a recent protest for human rights in response to the annual drug-company-money-soaked conference by the psychiatric profession. In New York in 2014, members of MindFreedom and other allied survivors of the mental health system reminded the world that they will not give up the fight for equality in the face of the psychiatric profession's 'involuntary help', violence and dehumanization.
Below, the founder of MindFreedom, 35 year community leader and survivor of forced psychiatry David Oaks, gives a speech in Philadelphia calling for nonviolent revolution in the mental health system.
Human rights lawyer and survivor of forced psychiatry Tina Minkowitz, interviewed on the topic of forced psychiatry in relation to international human rights law:
Below is a video of a British woman forced onto so called 'outpatient commitment' or 'community treatment'. She details how she feels about the government and its employees in the mental health system dictating to her what to put into her own body. She later was driven to suicide by these human rights abuses. From within the bodily prison of her forcibly drugged consciousness, she testifies to the horror of her situation with such bravery and dignity; watch this truly heartbreaking story to see the human face behind forced psychiatry.
In the below video, a news program debates New York City's policy of mass arrests of those labeled mentally ill, collective punishment of people who have broken no law. Judge Andrew Nepolitano says NYPD's policy is unconstitutional.
The UN says forced psychiatry is 'torture'
Did you know that the United Nations' top torture monitor has recently spoken out against forced psychiatry?
In a statement to a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in March 2013, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment called for a ban on forced psychiatric interventions including forced drugging, shock, psychosurgery, restraint and seclusion, and for repeal of laws that allow compulsory mental health treatment and deprivation of liberty based on disability, including when it is motivated by “protection of the person or others.”
Says the U.N.: “Deprivation of liberty on grounds of mental illness...that inflicts severe pain or suffering falls under the scope of the Convention against Torture.”
MindFreedom knows that many people both in the United States and abroad are being forced to have drugs put in their bodies against their will, even, shockingly, in their own homes under so called 'community' involuntary psychiatry orders. In many communities around the world, people are having their basic human right to self-determination and bodily integrity ripped away from them by violent mental health laws that crush dignity and hope. In many countries citizens targeted for forced psychiatry are denied even a court hearing. You can help MindFreedom bring this tragedy out of the shadows, and if you are in need of protection from forced psychiatry, joining MindFreedom may help you protect yourself against unwanted psychiatric intervention in your life and body. In a hostile world where the government thinks human rights abuses are 'help', you must plan for the future as best you can, by arming yourself with information and allies in the fight for human rights in the mental health system.
Those who have forced psychiatry on their records, lose many rights for the rest of their lives. People who have been 'involuntary patients' are many times, often denied the right to own firearms, serve their nation as elected officials or serve in the military, serve in the intelligence community or defense industry in roles requiring a security clearance working with secret information, work as pilots, and many other career dreams destroyed by the decision made by others, to force a person into psychiatry. You can also lose the right to get travel or immigration visas to certain countries.
Having been an 'involuntary patient' in the past, makes it easier for this status to be forced on you in the future. Your status as an 'involuntary patient' can be used as part of efforts to strip custody of your children from you, and to prejudice divorce and property settlement proceedings. Health insurance rates in some countries can be higher for people who have been in forced psychiatry. Even when you've passed away, your involuntary patient status may be used to contest your will. The complete list of lifelong devastating effects of being forced into psychiatry is too long to completely list here, it just goes on and on. Millions of people since psychiatry was first handed these powers by government, have been forced to live lives of humiliation and fear. Millions of people, over many generations, have had their lives and bodies mangled and blighted by forced psychiatry. Survivors of it are forced to live in fear for the rest of their lives, fear that they may one day be targeted against their will for such 'help'. Can YOU be sure that if you ever had a mental crisis, that YOUR life would not be destroyed? Would you trust your loved one's life to forced psychiatry?
MindFreedom believes in VOICE and CHOICE…not force!
MindFreedom believes in the dignity and VOICE of every human being, no matter how mentally or emotionally distressed, and we understand from firsthand experience that brutality in the name of psychiatric treatment is an horrific and deeply degrading practice that must end. We all have the right to CHOICE and true, informed consent in mental health care.
MindFreedom stands in solidarity with the United Nations’ pronouncement that “free and informed consent should be safeguarded on an equal basis for all individuals without any exception… provisions allowing confinement or compulsory treatment in mental health settings must be repealed.”
MindFreedom is dedicated to fighting for the right of all people globally to be free from unwanted psychiatric labeling, drugging, and intervention.
Want to support MindFreedom in this important human rights work?
You’ll have the opportunity to fight for the human rights of others and activate your very own MindFreedom Shield as a protection against any future threat of forced psychiatric treatment.
VOICE and CHOICE – secure both through the MindFreedom Shield program!
Every MindFreedom member has the opportunity to initiate a human rights protection against forced psychiatric interventions known as a “MindFreedom Shield.” If psychiatric force is threatened, the member may request MindFreedom issue a HUMAN RIGHTS ALERT to the network of psychiatric survivors and their allies who stand in solidarity with the Shield Program.
Picture thousands of survivors of
forced medication writing and emailing your local newspapers, media,
politicians, and mental health system administrators, all in support of YOUR
human rights. You may not be able to protect yourself from terrifyingly powerful
mental health laws in your state or province, but you can bring the full force
of MindFreedom’s activism to bear with the Shield Program. This is but one of the many benefits you'll receive from joining MindFreedom and joining in unison with others who share an interest in winning human rights in the mental health system.
MIND YOUR FREEDOM!
JOIN MINDFREEDOM TODAY to activate your Shield and do what you can to protect yourself from unwanted psychiatric intervention, and join the worldwide network of Shield Solidarity working to protect the rights of others.
An anonymous MindFreedom member said this of the shield program — "I don't know if psychiatrists will lock me up and forcibly drug me again, this is the fear they force us to live with, but I do know that when it happens, if I can get a phone call out of the hospital and activate my MindFreedom Shield, the members of MindFreedom will do their best to lobby for my rights".
A selection of our MindFreedom Shield victories, proudly applying pressure to the mental health system and ending the use of force against MindFreedom members:
- We activated a MindFreedom SHIELD on behalf of Glen K. of New York, who was being given electroshock against his will. It took just 48 hours of rallying MFI members to make the difference and stop the shock! 4 months later, Glen walked out of New York’s Rockland Psychiatric Institution a free man. His attorney said, “His ability to successfully live outside of the four walls of his inpatient unit was regained by the cessation of this most drastic remedy of ECT [electro-convulsive therapy].”
- MindFreedom activated a successful MindFreedom SHIELD for Elizabeth Ellis of Minnesota. While in a psychiatric institution, she had endured numerous electroshock treatments against her will. At the close of the MindFreedom Shield campaign to stop the forced shock, Elizabeth wrote to us from her home, “If it hadn't been for MindFreedom I would still be getting forced shock. I know the hospital recognized they had a power to reckon with in MindFreedom. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for the support!"
MindFreedom conducted a year-long campaign to stop the forced outpatient electroshock of Ray Sanford (pictured at right). Ray described the procedure as "scary as hell" and did not consent to it. MindFreedom actions including numerous human rights alerts, letter-writing campaigns, and a protest in the Minnesota state capitol building just days before another of Ray's "treatments." In October 2009, after nearly 40 forced electroshocks, Ray was finally able to say "no" to the intervention! Click here to read more about how MindFreedom members helped stop Ray's forced Electroshock.
The MindFreedom Shield program is unique in the world, and those mental health systems that have forgone 'reaching out' to help, in favor of 'reaching in' to forcibly 'help', have been able to carry out their abusive procedures away from the sunlight of transparency for too long. But across the world thousands of MindFreedom members are blowing the whistle on these abuses and saying 'don't tread on me'. If a MindFreedom member is targeted for forced drugging, if a MindFreedom member is made an 'involuntary patient', the psychiatric system will feel us fight back with nonviolent activism until that member's human rights and dignity are fully restored.
Forced psychiatry is absolutely unacceptable in a free society.
It is discrimination, cruel and inhuman treatment according to the United Nations.
It is not a fait accompli that 'drug based psychiatry' is the 'one true' solution to these problems so it is therefore unjust that drug based psychiatry has monopoly powers to force itself on people against their will.
Forced psychiatry sometimes kills.
Forced psychiatry is always a human rights abuse.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive..." - C.S. Lewis
Other helpful websites that could set your mind free:
The website above, Mad In America, founded by journalist and author Robert Whitaker, is the premier alternatives to psychiatry website in the world. Hundreds of authors, growing to 1.2 million readers a year only 2 years since its founding, this is the hottest place in alternatives to psychiatry right now, especially for those seeking alternatives to the medical model of 'mental illness'.
Madness Radio is the most comprehensive alternatives to psychiatry radio show in the world, hosted by Will Hall, with over 150 hours of podcasts to listen to, this radio show has hundreds of interesting guests from all over the globe, journey into critiques of neuroscience, stories of survival, the history of psychiatry and much more.
Also this one above, the Open Paradigm Project, has some great videos from real people who've survived it all, the system, the labels, the drugs, etc. Great to watch.
Talk with Tenney is a new internet radio call in show, founded in 2014, this exciting new show is hosted by psychiatric survivor academic and longtime MindFreedom member Lauren Tenney PhD, join her for regular interviews with many guests and call in and have your say on issues related to mental health and psychiatry.
Above is a link to MindFreedom's own internet radio show, there are many hours of informative listening about the issues that matter to you in human rights and mental health. Get to know who we are and listen to archived episodes of interviews and lively debate around these issues.
Psychrights.org, the Law Project For Psychiatric Rights, founded by lawyer and forced drugging survivor Jim Gottstein, is an extensive and comprehensive resource about all legal aspects of forced psychiatry.
The Forced Drugging Legal Defense Package:
MindFreedom in collaboration with Psychrights.org proudly presents the Forced Drugging Legal Defense Package, a collection of documents, affidavits and evidence of the damage and harm psychiatric drugs cause that may be useful to you in your attempts to lodge an appeal against your forced treatment:
Some tips for surviving forced psychiatry:
- You have a right to be angry at having your human rights ripped away from you by the people who work in the mental health system. But sadly, if you voice your anger in meetings and negotiations with the forced psychiatry system in relation to your case, this can and will be used against you to justify even more use of forced drugging and delay you winning back your freedom. We know from first hand experience being on the same side of the forced needle as you that it is a superhuman task to remain calm when having your brain assaulted. But we strongly urge you to try and remain calm. Others have survived the sorts of things they are doing to you and you can get through this situation too. Stay strong, try and remain civil, and remember you are not alone.
- If you have the resources, always be represented by a lawyer at any procedural hearing, meeting, or negotiation with the government psychiatrist/s who are seeking to force drugs into your brain. Remain calm. Find a safe place and time to vent your anger and let all that hurt, humiliation and outrage out, but try not to do it in front of the government workers who have enormous power over you. It can and will be used against you. Passionate pleas for freedom are seen through prejudiced eyes as 'illness'.
- Keep a record of all paperwork handed to you by the government workers seeking to force psychiatric drugs or electroshock on you. Seek legal advice or read the law carefully beforehand. Formally request a complete copy of your medical records. Have your lawyer examine them.
- Remember that such situations are adversarial legal situations. The psychiatrists (who have carried out no tests on your body) want to force things into your body, and you want to keep your right to own your own body. The stakes are very high, you must remain calm. Learn what little legal rights you do have in relation to your local mental health laws, and if you or your family has the resources, employ professional legal advice. After you have read them, have a trusted family member or friend if one exists, read all the official government pamphlets available on how the legal procedures work in your area. Specific legislation can often be found online.
- Please don't give up hope. Many people are driven to suicide by the prospect of government psychiatrists, and their subordinates, nurses and case workers, taking away their basic human rights. It is one of the most violent and distressing experiences in all of modern human life, as traumatic as war or any life threatening situation. Forced psychiatry is deadly serious business, and involves acts of extreme violence at the hands of the system's staff against the people with 'involuntary patient' status. It is important to remember that the staff are trained to believe that forced drugging is 'help', and that most staff believe wholeheartedly that their actions are justified and legitimate, even humane. They believe they are 'helping you for your own good'. If the government psychiatrists assigned to you don't trust you, they are likely to extend the period of time they are taking your freedom away. Consider trying, as hard as it may be to co-operate with people who have taken away your basic rights, to build trust in what little ways you can. This may help you win your freedom sooner.
- Channel your righteous anger into productive pursuits once you get free from forced 'treatment'. There will be time to heal and recover from what they are doing to you. It is NOT OK what they are doing to you, and there ARE people all around the world trying to change the system and make sure people no longer have to live in fear of these horrific practices. You can join us by getting involved in our movement for change. Nobody should have to live in fear of the people who claim to be working in jobs that 'help' us. Join us in non-violent activism blowing the whistle on the system's violence against people like you and so many millions of others forced to have psychiatry's drugs enter their body.
You are not alone: Man subjected to 14 years of "community" forced drugging speaks out in the video below:
International Day of Protest Against Electroshock, May 2015, electroshock has of course long since been rebranded by psychiatry, misleadingly minimized by the dishonest acronym 'ECT':
GET INVOLVED with MindFreedom!
The MindFreedom Shield Program is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to activism for human rights and alternatives in mental health care, please, we invite you to take the time to read the rest of our extensive website as we are sure you'll find lots of helpful information.
So become a member today, and learn about all the other ways you can GET INVOLVED with MindFreedom and join our non-violent revolution in mental health care.
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MindFreedom blows the whistle on psychiatric abuse.
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Last updated July 2015