David Oaks, Director: MindFreedom International

Utne Reader visionary


| November-December 2009


Cue the psychotic murderer.

ABC News had just done a feature on mental health and had prominently featured MindFreedom International, a group that advocates for “psychiatric survivors” who have battled mental and emotional problems. But the second half of the show hinged on the lurid tale of a guy who had gone off his meds and committed an ax murder. Typical media sensationalism, says MindFreedom director David Oaks.

“How do you debate an ax murderer?” he vents. “There are no issues there. We’re pro-choice on taking psych drugs. So that was very frustrating.”

Despite constant frustrations like this—in fact, because of them—Oaks works to raise awareness about mental health issues and fight the media biases that he says reinforce cultural stigmas. His group’s members flaunt their “mad pride” and their right not to take medications, and they tell hair-raising stories of systemic abuses. Oaks himself is a psychiatric survivor who battled severe mental and emotional problems as a Harvard student decades ago.

“The human spirit is eccentric and unique and unconquerable and bizarre and unstoppable and wonderful,” he says. “So this is really about reclaiming what it is to be human in the face of so-called normality.”

Extras:

Mindy
11/24/2010 9:43:10 AM

I agree that David Oaks is a visionary. He has certainly changed the world, and he has been an inspiration to me. However, I do not believe that he will lead the revolution to reform the mental health system. I was on his e-mail list for five years. I made many suggestions for the "revolution." In recent times, I have tried phoning his office, (David Oaks accused me of being "rude" when I told his administrative assistant firmly but politely that I was unable to "hold" on the phone, but would have to call back), contacting an attorney who is a supporter of MindFreedom, and contacting the President of the MindFreedom Board of Directors-- all to make suggestions for the "revolution," and I have been rebuffed. The fact is that in many ways, oppression is getting only worse for individuals diagnosed with chronic and persistent mental illnesses. Inpatient commitment is horrendous, but at least once an individual is discharged from the hospital, he or she is free to find a new provider and quickly get re-evaluated. Now, with increasing push for "outpatient commitment" or mandated outpatient treatment, people can be sentenced to long-term forced "treatments," and possibly the wrong treatments, and even worse, for a misdiagnosis, and the consequences can be potentially grave. Who knows how long it could be until someone is entitled to return to Court for a reconsidered decision? One could certainly die in the meantime. -from another psychiatric survivor


Mindy
11/24/2010 9:35:15 AM

I agree that David Oaks is a visionary. He has certainly changed the world, and he has been an inspiration to me. However, I do not believe that he will lead the revolution to reform the mental health system. I was on his e-mail list for five years. I made many suggestions for the "revolution." In recent times, I have tried phoning his office, (David Oaks accused me of being "rude" when I told his administrative assistant firmly but politely that I was unable to "hold" on the phone, but would have to call back), contacting an attorney who is a supportor of MindFreedom, and contacting the President of the MindFreedom Board of Directors-- all to make suggestions for the "revolution," and I have been rebuffed. The fact is that in many ways, oppression is getting only worse for individuals diagnosed with chronic and persistent mental illnesses. Inpatient commitment is horrendous, but at least once an individual is discharged from the hospital, he or she is free to find a new provider and quickly get re-evaluated. Now, with increasing push for "outpatient commitment" or mandated outpatient treatment, people can be sentenced to long-term forced "treatments," and possibly the wrong treatments, and even worse, for a misdiagnosis, and the consequences can be potentially grave. Who knows how long it could be until someone is entitled to return to Court for a reconsidered decision? One could certainly die in the meantime. -from another psychiatric survivor


antthony_1
1/19/2010 6:59:42 AM

I have been following the mad pride movement for years and feel deeply encouraged by there work and endorse them with all my heart david oaks is a genius he has my respect







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