Monday, November 9, 2015

"I think it's time a light be shone on what's going on here"

I live in Canada, and I was invited by a psychiatrist to attend sessions in his private psychoanalytic psychotherapy practice. I was given a diagnosis (Complex-PTSD) and he wrote a letter about me, describing his theory about my subconscious. I didn't understand what it meant, and asked him and the psychologist who referred me to him, to clarify. Both of them refused to give me straightforward information about psychoanalysis, the diagnosis, or the proposed treatment.

I began seeing him, and again - no documents were signed and no clear answers about what exactly was the goal or boundaries of the therapeutic relationship. He used "doublespeak" by telling me that my fear and unwillingness to trust him were related to my condition, and proved how badly I needed the therapy. Gradually he began to abuse me, by saying shocking, hurtful statements out of the blue, in a calm, hypnotic tone. He asked me to let him know if I found him seductive, and told me I was in love with him. I told him he was hurting me, and he apologized but refused to explain anything. I tried to resolve this with him and he told me I was confused; he didn't know what I was talking about. Eventually I realized he was messing with me because he enjoys tormenting vulnerable people.

I had a nervous breakdown and wound up in the hospital. In the subsequent two years, I have re-lived the situation in my head hundreds of times. I am now absolutely certain that this was deliberate torture and narcissistic abuse (a phenomenon the profession won't acknowledge, even though it is under the category of criminal harassment, and mental health professionals are supposed to help us recover from it... not cause it.) Psychoanalytic dogma is the perfect cover-up for brainwashing.

The reason I'm speaking out about this - though it happens in all walks of life - is because it happens in isolation with professionals we're supposed to trust with our deepest wounds... this is utterly abominable. What's worse, the governing bodies have no requirement that these psychiatrists observe clients' human rights. They can say and do whatever the hell they want, and even if you nearly die, there is no proof and the boards protect the abuser with clauses to block and cut down any ethical violation you present. (I've been fighting for my life for nearly two years... the reason I'm okay is because I discovered the horrible truth). Basically unless they have sex with you (and you can prove it!) they can do anything and call it therapy.

I think it's time a light be shone on what's going on here. The public deserves a thorough written consent document and transparency before entering into an isolated "relationship" which is an invasive procedure. Without it, these are cults, flourishing right in front of our noses.

Thank-you for allowing me to speak.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

An Appeal for an Independent Anti-Psychiatry Movement

"Thus, a major crime of psychiatry is the theft of just that most necessary to our liberation from all oppression–the ability to rely on ourselves and each other."


By Sharon Cretsinger
Affiliate, Mental Patients Liberation Alliance
October 13, 2015

The piece you will see below makes many references to the International Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression held in Baltimore in 1985.  At that time, there were many important issues facing the psychiatric survivor movement and many important choices to be made with regard to whether the movement should take government money to continue its works.  

Thirty years later, on the first day of Alternatives 2015 in Memphis, we see what wrong choices were made.  The cooptation of which the authors warn here is almost complete.  In this piece, you will recognized many dynamics that have played out in over the last 30 years.  I offer this paper today to the people who do not know the history and do not fully understand how the movement has come to be not a movement for liberation and human rights, but a movement for “peer” jobs and monetized recovery porn.  I have very little more to add here.  This position paper speaks for itself.

An Appeal for an Independent Anti-Psychiatry Movement

By John Judge and Lenny Lapon

Position paper for the International Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression held in Baltimore in 1985. 


We are two anti-psychiatry activists who for eight years have regularly been attending the International Conferences for Human Rights and Against Psychiatric Oppression.  We have worked in our personal lives and in our communities and organizations to expose and attack psychiatric oppression.  One of us, Lenny Lapon, is a former psychiatric inmate/”mental patient” who has worked with the Alliance for the liberation of Mental Patients in Philadelphia and Mental Patients Liberation Front in Boston.  He presently lives in Springfield, Massachusetts,, where he and Chris Lapon are organizing a new group, Committee to Stop Psychiatry (CSP).  Lenny is also self-publishing a book, Mass Murderers in White Coats:  Psychiatric Genocide in Nazi Germany and the United States.  He is also involved in Arise, a welfare rights organization.


We are upset by and criticize several recent trends and developments in the psychiatric inmates liberation movement.  We oppose the vast increase in funds made available by the National Institute of Mental Health’s Community Support Services Program (NIMH-CSSP), state “mental health” systems, and so-called “mental health” associations.  The acceptance and use of these monies for salaries and national and local organizing purposes ALREADY constitutes a serious cooptation of our movement.  This cooptation has taken several forms:

  • the abandonment of the anti-psychiatry politics and unity represented by the Declaration of Principles voted on and adopted by previous International Conferences (Toronto, 1982, attached at the end of this statement).
  • the attempt to form a “national organization” through channels funded by NIMH, namely the Teleconference and the “Alternatives ‘85″ Conference in Baltimore.
  • a marked decrease in INDEPENDENT GRASSROOTS local organizing, accompanied by an increase in groups formed and/or supported mainly and directly by the “mental health” system.
  • the increasing tendency to work with and within the American Psychiatry Association (APA) and other organizations that promote psychiatry, such as NIMH, NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill), etc.  This has not accidentally been accompanied by a decrease in militant criticism of, challenge to, and confrontation with the psychiatric establishments.
  • the unrepresentative appointment of “spokespeople” for the movement, many of whom are salaried by and acceptable to the “mental health” system.
  • a tendency to discredit and dismiss any radical analysis of psychiatry and to create a false division–politics vs. support.

The TELECONFERENCE was proposed and approved last year at the International Conference in Pueblo, Colorado solely as an information-sharing and communication network.  Instead, since its beginning the Teleconference has functioned as a decision-making body, appointing “spokespeople” for the movement, initiating the development of a “national organization” and even adopting a resolution in support of legislation that creates an advocacy system under the control of NIMH (U.S. Senate bill S. 974, The Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Persons Act of 1985, introduced by Senator Weicker).  This misuse of the Teleconference has violated the trust of those who agreed to its formation.  We don’t find it coincidental that those who have been most involved in taking it beyond its mandate are salaried by various elements of the “mental health” system.  We support the position taken by those ex-inmates who refuse to participate in the Teleconference, and in light of both its NIMH funding and blatant misuse, we call for its ABOLITION.

THE BALTIMORE CONFERENCE, “ALTERNATIVES ‘85″, was financed by NIMH-CSSP funds, including transportation, rooms and meals for many of the participants.  The 400 participants at this conference formed an interim committee to create a “national organization”.  There was no cohesive presentation of the anti-psychiatry politics that have guided the International Conferences and much of the psychiatric inmates liberation movement over the past 15 years.  This was so despite the fact that several of those who pushed through the proposals to form a “national organization” had long claimed to be anti-psychiatry activists and to be in unity with the Declaration of Principles.  These actions are a betrayal not only of the principles and those who agreed to them, but also of the Baltimore conference participants who were misled by the opportunism and false unity promoted by those who define”organizing” solely as increasing numbers, rather than as principled conscious-raising and real political unity.  Neither NIMH-CSSP nor the conference participants had a legitimate right to decide to form or to initiate the formation of a “national organization”.  Only an independent and representative body has such a right.  WE CALL UPON THE 13TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE TO REFUSE TO ACCEPT THE LEGITIMACY OF THE DECISIONS MADE AT THE BALTIMORE CONFERENCE CONCERNING THE FORMATION OF A NATIONAL ORGANIZATION.  We urge this International Conference to adopt instead Sue Doell’s proposal as stated on the petition which was submitted to this year’s conference committee:

“As members of the Mental Patients Liberation Movement, we oppose any further action being taken at this time to start a national organization.  We recognize the need to hear ALL arguments, both for and against, this proposal.  As movement activists, we adhere to the principle of INFORMED consent.  We ask that the MADNESS NETWORK NEWS be used as a public forum to discuss all aspects of this proposal.  We offer a counter-proposal that the final decision to form a national organization be made at the (1986) 14th Annual International Conference for Human Rights against Psychiatric oppression."


We struggle against psychiatry for the reasons outline in the attached Declaration of Principles, including opposition to forced “treatment”/torture, the medical model (medicalization) of issues of oppression, and psychiatry’s role of social control.  As stated in Article 5, “psychiatric procedures…humiliate, debilitate, injure, incapacitate and kill people.”  We especially support Article 26, which states that “the psychiatric system cannot be reformed but must be abolished.”

The struggle for liberation from psychiatric oppression is not an isolated one.  Our exploitative, profit-oriented economic system, discrimination based on class divisions, racism, sexism, heterosexism and other injustices are reflected in the mentalism of the psychiatric system.  In addition to threatening our survival, these conditions prevent us from gaining and giving the personal support we require in our daily lives.  The rapid and massive growth of the class of psychiatrists and other “mental health” professionals and their highly profitable methods of “therapy”and “treatment" serve as a direct roadblock to our realization that personal support is a political issue.


For example, a “non-political” drop-in center can only be a DROP-OUT center.  Rather than struggle with the contradictions in our lives and against the sources of our oppression, we are encouraged instead to blame the victims and to turn to the de-politicized, medical model of psychiatry.  Thus, a major crime of psychiatry is the theft of just that most necessary to our liberation from all oppression–the ability to rely on ourselves and each other.  Our continuing refusal to deal with these issues in our families, our communities and our movement serves to legitimize and replicate psychiatric oppression, rather than to end it.


NIMH is and has been the largest supporter of psychiatry and all its injustices, engaging in the training of thousands of psychiatrists and the promotion of forced “treatment”, the pushing of dangerous psychiatric drugs, electroshock, psychosurgery and behavior modification.  It might strike people as contradictory that such an institution would be willing to fund a movement that opposes such practices.  However, careful historical analysis reveals that THERE IS NO CONTRADICTION.  The pattern of cooptation in our movement and in many others has been as follows:

  • First, making the movement dependent on the funding.  In this stage groups and individuals are allowed some freedom to express their anti-establishment (e.g. anti-psychiatry) views.
  • Secondly, as the movement becomes progressively less independent and self-sufficient, its politics are defused and its militance is undermined.  At the same time the funded organizations are officially recognized by the establishment as the sole representatives of the oppressed class. 
  • Finally, the funds are eliminated or reduced to a minimal amount, thereby destroying the ability of the movement to function in any effective way.  This last stage accomplishes the ORIGINAL purpose of the funding.

Throughout the whole process energy and resources are drained from the independent movement and its urgent task of real liberation.


As previously stated, we urge this International Conference to reject the initiation of a “national organization” at the Baltimore “Alternatives ‘85″ Conference and their offer of “up to 50%” of the steering committee seats.  Instead, we support a full discussion over the next year, and we oppose making any decision to form a national organization before the 14th International Conference.

We propose the following alternative actions and strategies:

  • a focus on local grassroots organizing, based on a re-affirmation of the Declaration of Principles as a basis of political unity.
  • rejection of funding and salaries from the “mental health” system and the re-establishment of an independent anti-psychiatry/psychiatric inmates liberation movement. 
  • confrontation, rather than cooperations with the APA, NIMH, NAMI and other pro-psychiatry institutions.
  • the linking of our movement with other struggles against oppression in our society, especially around the issue of the increasing psychiatrization of such groups as the homeless, prisoners, poor people, workers, alcoholics, rape and incest survivors, veterans, and children.  We should also make a concerted effort to actively support the human and economic rights of all people.

The primary task of any anti-psychiatry organization must be the liberation of current and former psychiatric inmates and other victims of psychiatry from the bonds of their invalidation by and dependence on the “mental health” system.  To meet this goal, organizing work must focus on reaching these people and providing a clear analysis of and informed resistance to psychiatry.

 Membership in such organizing groups should be limited to current and former inmates, other survivors of psychiatric assault/ ”treatment” and “therapy”, and supportive anti-psychiatry activists who are not ex-inmates.  An independent organization can best function to oppose psychiatry when it excludes from its membership current psychiatric professional or other who make their livelihood from working within or taking salaries from any part of the “mental health” system.  Such people, ex-inmate or not, by definition, compose the class of professional who support and carry on the day-today machinery of psychiatric oppression.

As Sue Doell suggests,

Let us start a major letter writing campaign, expose', demonstrations and boycotts against big insurance companies who FUND electro-shock.  Let us do our speaking “engagements” at other political rallies.  Let us sell (or give) our literature out during all demonstrations.  Let us write letters and articles to other political journals.  Let us give panel to local bookstores and libraries to order our movement journals.  Let us walk the streets and talk to discussions in college classrooms, not to NAMI.  Let us force our way inside psychiatric hospitals, not the APA convention.  Let us leaflet at grocery stores, at the welfare, SSI and unemployment offices.  Let us blockade the doors to mental health centers.  Let us graffiti our cities.  Let us ask out those who are homeless.  Let us start bookstores and thrift-shops run collectively by psychiatric survivors.  Let us take all the tainted government money we now have and start a book-publishing collective, or distribute it equally to all movement groups, or send it to Nicaragua!  Let us end this financial cooptation!!

See the Declaration of Principles referenced above here:

Historical Note  

by Sharon Cretsinger,

This is a position paper written in the mid 80′s by my friend Lenny Lapon (then affiliated with the Committee to Stop Psychiatry/Psychiatric Genocide Institute) and the late John Judge (then affiliated with Veterans Against Military Psychiatry).  It is reprinted here with the permission of Mr. Lapon, who gave me the document.  Lenny Lapon is also the author of the seminal work on parallels between late 1930′s Germany under National Socialism and the increasing psychiatric genocide taking place in the mid 1980′s, Mass Murderers in White Coats:  Psychiatric Genocide in Nazi Germany and the United States.  These materials are just as relevant today as they were when they were written, if not more so.

The piece you will see below makes many references to the International Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression held in Baltimore in 1985.  At that time, there were many important issues facing the psychiatric survivor movement and many important choices to be made with regard to whether the movement should take government money to continue its works.  Thirty years later, on the first day of Alternatives 2015 in Memphis, we see what wrong choices were made.  The cooptation of which the authors warn here is almost complete.  In this piece, you will recognized many dynamics that have played out in over the last 30 years.  I offer this paper today to the people who do not know the history and do not fully understand how the movement has come to be not a movement for liberation and human rights, but a movement for “peer” jobs and monetized recovery porn.  I have very little more to add here.  This position paper speaks for itself.

Thank yous! 

To Lenny Lapon and the late John Judge for your work, insight, and contribution
To Sharon Cretsinge for bringing this seminal document in movement history to out attention.

Alternatives Conference Anti-psychiatry psychiatric survivor ex inmate ex inmate movement psychiatric survivor movement c/s/x movement cooptation peer movement certified peer support peer support mental health mental illness medicatedandmighty SAMSHA psychiatry mentalpatientsliberationalliance

I Am Not Participating in Alternatives This Year Because...

We need to reach out to each other and help stop the trauma. We need to give comfort and not let people feel so deprived of their voice, their empowerment that they pull a trigger whether on themselves or others or both. I've been on that path and felt that kind of rage. Others have too and we know what helps, what turned us from that path. Let us help bring the healing. Stop listening to the "experts" and everyone who knows what's best for us.

Post by Pat Risser - #StopMurphysLaw,  10/1/15

I am not participating in Alternatives this year in part because of political protest. I remember the days when we'd use Alternatives to bring us together to fight for our cause of human rights. We would march on state capitols and let legislators know that we were a force with which to be reckoned. However, for over a decade now, perhaps due to namby-pamby leadership at CMHS and the dictatorial edicts of Risa Fox, we've lost out backbone. They (those hosting the conference) have selected a NAMI National Board Member as a keynote speaker. I firmly believe that NAMI is the enemy. Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania has reintroduced his "Helping Families with Mental Health Act" legislation that would decimate SAMHSA, the Protection and Advocacy System, Peer Support and expand mandatory AOT (Assisted Outpatient Treatment). AOT is neither assisted nor treatment. It is a court order of compliance. My biggest fear is someone showing up at the door with a loaded syringe. However, now they're designing micro-chipped drugs to assure compliance. In any case, if NAMI support for this oppressive legislation went away, the legislation would wither away also. I cannot, in good conscience support anything that supports or features NAMI in any way, shape or form.

NAMI's ties to Big Pharma are proven fact and to have a conference with a "consumer" NAMI Board member as a featured speaker smacks of the Vichy government of France or Quisling or some other Nazi era sell-outs. What's next? Will we be seeing some toss the bodies of others into the ovens? Truly scary times. We are already dying over 25 years too soon. Isn't that enough? This pogram against us must end! I'm afraid a caucus won't get us there. I'm afraid that even just attendance may be seen as implied endorsement of the program.

Just as an aside, I want to point out that I was one of the original members of NCMHR. I joined as an individual because I had no formal group affiliation and proudly presented Dan Fisher with a $100 Dollar bill to join. I've never had a voice or say-so of any sort. I've never had my input solicited and I was not consulted regarding the goals of the organization.

When I speak of NAMI as the enemy, generally I'll hear from the fools (better than calling them idiots) who will whine about trying to change NAMI from within. These same folks would be appalled if I said I'd joined the KKK to try and change them from within but can't see their own complicity.

Or they'll say that there's good people in NAMI. To which I'd reply that I've known a fellow who didn't beat his wife or kids, didn't kick his dog, went to church every Sunday, kept his lawn, house and property up nicely and was a friendly fellow. Except, he was a member of the KKK.

Then I hear from those who whine that NAMI is the only game in town. I've always felt that if you don't like the game that exists, start your own. I've started many self-help, peer support groups and there are National TA Centers who can help that process.

Then I'll hear from those who feel I'm being too harsh by comparing to the Nazi's. Remember that everything the Nazi's did was legal, first they changed laws if necessary.

Also, we're already dying over 25 years too young (*more below) and I'm not hearing much outcry over that. NAMI and society and the psychiatric profession and industry have turned their backs on us and our shortened lives. It's all just rather disgusting. If family love us as much as they claim, why are they not raising hell over us dying so early?

Clarence Jordan is the one invited to keynote at Alternatives. Apparently, he's no longer on NAMI National Board. He must have come off recently because he claimed to be on the Board when he was announced as a keynoter. Also, he's closely connected with the National Council (for Community Behavioral Health) that is strongly drug company supported. I'm just very fed up with Big Pharma and the fact that we're dying and yet there's no outcry about it. Too many seem to want to play nice and get along (all the way to an early grave).

I think of so many losses. It makes me so sad and upset that another shooting happened in Oregon. And then I started flashing back to other losses. Howie (the Harp) is gone. Judi (Chamberlin) is gone. Rae (Unzicker) is gone. Cookie (Gant) is gone. Pearl (Johnson) is gone. Glenn (Koons) is gone. Sue (Poole) is gone. Robert (Faltens) is gone. Too, too many are gone. And yet the insanity continues.

I watch as people I care about march lockstep into the hospital or "treatment," looking to ease their pain and instead, they find only more misery and an early death. I too turned to the system for "help" and was addicted to "care." But, eventually, I found my way free and I want so badly to spare others from that misery but I feel so hopeless in the face of the damn system. My nerves are very sensitive and close to the surface right now and I just want Black lives to matter. I want children's lives to matter. I want mental patient lives to matter. I want everyone's lives to matter. I want the insanity to stop.

An "expert" said the recent Oregon shooter found the expression of his voice, his empowerment today. NO! Damn it! We need to reach out to each other and help stop the trauma. The shooter was a person who was hurting. We need to give comfort and not let people feel so deprived of their voice, their empowerment that they pull a trigger whether on themselves or others or both. I've been on that path and felt that kind of rage. Others have too and we know what helps, what turned us from that path. Let us help bring the healing. Stop listening to the "experts" and everyone who knows what's best for us.

We've got to stop the insanity! We've got to stop NAMI. We've got to stop Big Pharma. We've got to stop psychiatry. We've got to stop the politicians who scapegoat us. We've got to stop the cops Tasering us and killing us. We've got to stop the trauma. We've got to try and save the world. AAAAAAARGH!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Chronic Oppression - the Voice of Sharon Cretsinger

You can read Sharon in her own voice articulating the experience of "Chronic Oppression" at her blog: Mildly Dysthymic in America

Racial Justice in Memphis: Be an Alternative to Business as Usual

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane. 
-- Martin Luther King Jr.

In announcing our eAlternative to "The Alternatives" conference that is now happening in  Memphis, we've received feedback that our original message was too subtle.  We have been ask to make clear the important racial and social justice concerns we hope will be addressed over the next few days - both at our eAlternative (more info at eAltCon15, ) and at the actual SAMHSA-funded event for the national mental health community.

The theme of the eAlternatives (AltCon15) is "Marching Out Voices Out of Memphis" (conference details here:  This theme was intentionally chosen to raise consciousness about pressing racial and social justice concerns. These are not minority concerns impacting a few individuals or interest groups.  They go to the heart of the quality of human relationships - and therefore the health and well being -- of communities and community members across the United States.

Suffice it to say, we are saddened and concerned that the organizers of Alternatives 2015 in Memphis did not take the lead in addressing these issues. Alternatives 2015 is - and remains - a historic opportunity to connect with the people of Memphis and build relationships around intersectional social justice concerns.

We also are saddened and concerned that the organizers inadvertently have - as so many of us inadvertently do - exercised their power of voice to exclude other voices that rightly deserve their place at the table. It smacks strongly of colonialism - as well as bad mental and community health practice - to come into a community, appropriate its resources for your purposes, conduct your business without a thought to the people who live there - and then go on your way knowing nothing and having learned nothing about those who offered their hospitality.

It also smacks of cultural incompetence to go in to city like Memphis, with its known connection to the assassination of Dr. King - at a time in history when racial tensions are extremely high - and hold a 5 day conference on mental health - everyone's mental health - that barely mentions racial justice concerns.

Add to this that Memphis is replete with stories - the very kinds of stories - both told and untold - that peer specialists practicing peer support disciplines consider it a matter of pride to be interested in and attend to.  This is not - like clinicians to tend to think - simply because we have nothing better to do. It is because learning to listen for these stories - often buried in years of community and cultural denial - has everything to with only with both social justice and mental health.  

And not just individual social justice, or individual mental health. But the fundamental fairness and well-being of an entire society.

To be specific: The kind of attuned listening that mental health peer worldwide are learning to do is about way more than individual recovery and individual mental health.  It is what fosters the very kinds of relationships, neighborhoods and communities in which well being and recovery are possible, meaningful and actually accessible:

The message that this kind of wellness and recovery is possible - and for individuals, families, organizations and nations - is the gift of our movement to share with the world. 

Developing our capacity to embody this message - and to reliably offer the principled peer-to-peer relationships that can make it possible - is very thing the Alternatives conference is supposed to be about. 
Suffice it to say: 

The organizers of Alternatives 2015 thus had - and still have a tremendous opportunity. They can choose right now not to continue with business as usual. They can choose right now to wake up to the pressing and powerful stories that are happening right under the nose of every dish being served and every bed being made - every 'Yes Maam' and "No Sir' - during their stay as guests of the people of Memphis. They can embrace this crisis of conscience as opportunity -- and begin the difficult work that recovery is supposed to be all about:

  • Recognizing you were got off on the wrong foot, 
  • Recognizing that you've taken a path that's leading to nowhere
  • Recognizing that it's time to self-correct before it's too late. 
Before the hurt runs too deep - and the price paid is unbearably high.   So unbearably high that someone checks out, acts out, shoots up -- or shoots you.  

These may be harsh words.  - But unless some of us start to voice them that is the price we can are paying every day for continuing on with business as usual.  

In a word:

This is not an opportunity that any of us can afford to miss - as individuals, organizers, advocates, neighbors, friends, communities, citizens - and members of a human family. 

The good news is that we still have time. We are barely starting our conferences - and, if we all sincerely make the effort and draw on the wealth of lived experience in our midst - there are a zillion ways to invite a meaningful conversation. With that in mind, we urge everyone to do their part in what ever role we play.  As participants, presenters, organizers, concerned observers, boycotters, whatever....  As human 'peers' in a world community where there is no role more important that any of us can play in each others lives as members of a human family.  

Let's not let this opportunity pass us by! 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Starting Tonight! The Alternative to 'Alternatives'

Marching Our Voices Out of Memphis - eAltCon15- Oct 14th- 18th

We are excited to announce the Alternative to Alternatives:

eAltCon15: "Marching Our Voices Out of Memphis."

All Are Welcome:

This is a totally free Virtual Conference/ Conversation. It will be take place by telephone and web connections from Wednesday October 14th through Sunday October 18th. Our aspiration is to host a meaningful 'alternative' for those who cannot attend - or are actively boycotting - the SAMHSA funded event by that name.

Conference Theme:

The conference will address the violence of 'othering' - to us, in us and around us. We will explore the connection between the surge in violence directed at society at large with the experience of 'othering by vulnerable populations across demographics. Our premise is that institutionalized "othering" is itself a violence. Our conversations will seek to address the cultural violence - by social 'in groups' against social 'others' - that is the true 'mental illness' of our modern world.

The inspiration for this theme comes in part from the fact that Memphis was chosen as the site for this year's conference on "Alternatives" in mental health. As many know, Dr. King did not leave Memphis alive, resulting in far too many decades of "dreams deferred" for racial justice in the United States. Sadly, nearly half a century later, the dream is still deferred - for far too many of us and for far too many reasons. The hope of this conference is to pick up Dr. King's dream again and do our part to march the world of human relations in to a new age.

Participatory Conversation:

This will not be a conference of talking heads and passive learners. For sure, we will offer many great speakers. But their job is not so much to teach us, as it is to share ideas and experiences that can awaken awareness and generate a good conversation. Most of the time, speakers will talk for about 5-20 minutes on topics they have lived and care about deeply. Participant contributions will then be invited, so that we have the opportunity to listen to and learn from the wealth of wisdom from the voices in the room.

In doing this, we will seek to be the changes we want to see in the world. If we really believe that all lives matter, then we must begin to treat each other that way. That implies taking seriously the wisdom every voice has to contribute to the conversation. In doing this, we challenge the culture of experts - and also the deVoicing by expertise - that has become so ingrained in the dominant culture.

Ways to Connect:

If this interests you we hope you will join us. There are many ways to connect:

Dial toll-free: 855-661-1243 (no pin)

Alt Phone:331-205-7196


Google Hangouts: click the link for the day you want to attend & follow the instructions.


Please note: If you try to connect and one way doesn't work please try another.This is not "Rolls Royce" Technology. It comes with a bit of frustration and requires a bit of elbow grease. That is the price of funding something on our own. You can also try calling or texting the the conference organizers at 802-552-8494. We'll do our best to assist you as soon as we are able to break away from the conference without disturbing the other participants.

During the conference: Please also be a bit patient if we struggle with a technical snafu or two. This conference will have a lot of heart. It was pasted together with hours of love and elbow grease. But our entire budget was about $5, and our 'techspertise' is still in progress..

More Information:

About the Conference: 

To get a flavor of the conference:


To read the blog -- which welcomes the voices and experiences of participants in the eAltCon15 conversation:


To visit the Google+ community -- where eAltCon15 participants can message each other and also post ideas, writings, photos or other media related to the conversation:

Schedule of Events (ever-evolving)

For Highights, see below.

Wednesday October 14th - 6 PM - midnight EST

Calling Our Voices Together - Remembering Memphis, Recognizing It's Relevance - intro to the intersectional conversation that we'll be having over the next several days, and some principles for how to go about it.


Thursday October 15th - 11 AM - midnight EST

Step 1: Walking With Each Other - Bearing witness to intersectional othering and its violence - What we've endured, what's been done to us, what that's felt like, the effect that it's had. Speaking the truth of our lived experiences.


Friday October 16th - 11 AM - midnight EST

Step 2: Walking In Each Other's Shoes: Connecting the dots - Making sense of intersectional othering. Making sense of the violence it leads to - to us, in, around us. How we got here, why it happened, what we're up against, why we feel so stuck - as individuals families, communities, a nation and around the world.


Saturday October 17th - 11 AM - midnight EST

Step 3: Reaching for the Dream.: How do we transform violence and intersectional othering? - Discovering our options - what's being done, how it's happening, what we can do, how we can support each other to get it done.


Sunday October 18th - 9 AM - 1 PM EST

Next Steps: Marching the Dream Forward - Shared reflections, learning, commitments, celebration, and where we'll go from here.


To see a detailed schedule and the evolving agenda for eAltCon:

Thanks for your interest!

Sarah Knutson
Wellness Recovery Human Rights Campaign
802-279-3876 (cell)

"It's not just that human rights are important in mental health. They are mental health."

Tell Me Who's Crazy...

By Jen Constantine

One View: 
“As it turns out, it’s just plain expensive for taxpayers to care for the small number of people with serious mental illnesses who refuse treatment and therefore end up homeless, incarcerated or draining the public coffers with multiple interventions and hospitalizations. At the same time, new psychiatric medications and methods have made it possible for people to get well without becoming long-term inpatients in the first place.”

–Time Magazine “Should Mentally Ill People Be Forced Into Treatment?” by Haley Sweetland Edwards

Thinking aloud for a paragraph, bear with me: Why would any sane person refuse treatment?  A cancer patient wouldn’t refuse chemotherapy.  Oh, wait.  Sometimes people with cancer do refuse treatment when they decide the torture of the treatment (risk) isn’t worth the possibility that life might be extended (benefit), especially if full recovery is unlikely and the quality of life that the person has in their remaining time is likely to be drastically reduced.  That’s a perfectly rational conclusion that people facing end stage cancer make every day.

And now for something that may seem entirely different, please bear with...

I am a mental patient who escaped by “refusing” treatment.  A piece of my story: Even as a kid, I had been diagnosed and ostracized by humans around me because of my strangeness. As a young adult I struggled deeply.  I was alone, scared by frightening worlds, in and out of many realities, unable to connect with people, I didn’t feel human, I talked to aliens and otherworldly beings.  I gave up, so lost in myself that I don’t exactly know how I landed in the adult psychiatric ward the first time. 

In the psych hospital I learned I was diseased, which was great at first, because things seemed to make sense.  Even though I couldn’t think clearly or feel much on the dope the hospital supplied, I learned that my brain was broken.  That’s why I never fit!  I met loads of other people who didn’t fit either, on various levels of dope and learned about how this amazing book could reduce our humanity to sets of symptoms, and the dope the hospital, and later the community mental health center, supplied could fix our symptoms.  I learned that I would never be able to hold a job, have a family, or finish college.  But none of that mattered.  The dope kept me from feeling too deeply, and I learned that the dope would sling freely as the only real requirement of my treatment, that I would be given money for food, housing, and living expenses when I wasn’t in the state hospital.  The drug companies would sling me the drugs for free even when my insurance wouldn’t cover them.  The staff of the mental health center would fill out the paperwork, all I had to do was sign with a shaky doped up hand on the dotted line.  They filled out all the paperwork: disability, food stamps, Medicare, and housing assistance, anything else they thought I needed.

Somewhere along the line, with all the free dope and people doing all these things for me, I learned I was too broken and I couldn’t be trusted to do things for myself.  The dope broke me so bad I couldn’t focus to read more than a sentence or two.  I learned this was just more symptoms of my more diseased brain, I took more dope and lots of different kinds of dope, prescribed on site, until I didn’t care anymore.  That’s a place I have seen a lot of people stay. 

I didn’t get out of it because I’m special or I have something other people don’t.  I got out of it because the conditions along the way allowed, and a lot of people supported me, and still do support me, in just the right ways to escape.  I hear things like, “you’re not like my client” and “I wish I could have as easy a time as you” a lot.  That first one just pisses me off, the second one both pisses me off and breaks my heart.  Many of my peers new to the idea of recovery assume I somehow have an easy time of things now, that my holding my shit together when I need to (most of the time) is some kind of luck or easy for me.  Providers don’t see me as their client because I’m not a doped up, ballooned out, shuffling patient anymore.

Here’s where I am inclined to say something gentle about mental health providers.  Most of those I’ve known are not intentionally damaging.  Most have really good intentions, many know someone close to them who struggled deeply with big problems that were diagnosed mental illness, and many professionals have had some level of difficulty with trauma and healing.  They go into the “helping professions” because they generally want to help.  They invest a lot of money, time, and resources in education that is supposed to prepare them to be qualified to help people in the ways they seek.  They care deeply.

I know many family members who consider themselves advocates for diagnosed adults who fall into similar categories and often feel intensely the desire to help what they see as the hopeless loved ones in their life.  I honor the intentions of all who seek to aid in the suffering of those diagnosed, whether through choice of profession or choice of volunteering in advocacy efforts.

Opening one's heart to the idea that the best intention to help invested in so fully may have prolonged the suffering of those same people is certainly an intensely painful and difficult reality for anyone to face, much less someone so wholly intending to make a life out of doing the right thing.

So what’s the alternative to facing this reality?  The alternative is clearly illustrated in dozens of articles like the one quoted at the beginning of this piece, thinly veiled in the scrutiny of those pesky individuals labelled as mentally ill & non-compliant.  These articles, and the viewpoint of the larger population they represent, point clearly to the effectiveness of diverting our attention in order to turn a blind eye to the uncomfortable truth-that what we have done in order to help, as a society, is not helping.  What we have done is, in many cases, making things worse.  As a society we are fully invested in the idea that mental illness is the root cause of many of our social problems; that if we could identify, isolate, and treat these people, then many of our social problems will just fade away.

So what’s the problem with rolling with this idea?  It feels better to know that there’s a simple solution, and that the fault for the problem lies with “those people” who just stubbornly refuse to accept treatment.  To answer the question to what the problem is, we have to ask ourselves another set of questions, questions that are carefully avoided in mass media, questions I’m going to ask right now

Let’s say we catch more of these people and force or coerce them into services they don’t want.  Where do they go from there?  If force is required, they enter the public mental health system.  The truth is, most people forced into the public mental health system never get back out.  If they do, it’s because they are forced back out for non-compliance, not because they regained a full life.    So, what happens when we use “prevention” to force more people into an already overburdened system?  My first thought is there aren’t enough providers in the world to handle that.  We already throw billions into the public system, even though it rarely results in people getting back out healthier than they were when they went in.

Here’s another really good question.  Why don’t people want the so called help being offered, voluntarily?  If you’ll hold off on the blinders for just a bit longer, I think I can explain this pretty well.  As a public, we’re just supposed to believe these people lack insight into their illness, and if they just knew how much treatment would help, surely they’d volunteer.  If we haven’t been forced, or even voluntarily entered into treatment, it’s just some inordinate thing.  

What really happens in a psych hospital or a community “mental health” center are things you might not expect.  I’ll use a person who is having serious thoughts of suicide as a starter example.  We are taught, as the public, that treatment is the best option, and getting that person into treatment is an imperative.  Here’s what actually happens in most cases once a person is turned over to authorities for “help, try to put yourself in the place of the person receiving this help:

First, they strip all clothes and possessions.  Music player helps soothe you?  Friends on Facebook?  The comfy clothes you wear to soothe your depression?  They take it all.  You can begin to earn your things back, if you comply with the “treatment” and start showing progress.  Before you can get any privileges, though, you need to see the doctor.  If you’re unlucky enough for it to be a Friday, it’s going to be awhile.  Feeling less suicidal yet?

You also can’t have any caffeine, can’t phone a friend or family member, and can’t sleep very easily.  Oh, I didn’t mention your low rank on the privilege scale means someone will be checking on you at least every 15 minutes, with a flashlight if you’re trying to get some sleep at night.  All these lovely “helps” are available, voluntarily or involuntarily, through your local psychiatric ward.  

You came in voluntarily and now you want to leave?  That’s not how this works.  The difference between voluntary and involuntary is who pays the bill.  Feeling less suicidal now?  You’re not getting out until we are satisfied that you agree how wonderful your life is, and how foolish your suicidal feelings were.  Either you enjoy being disconnected from anything and anyone that helps you feel human, or you find a way to lie your ass off.

This process works similarly for other illness labels as well.  Let’s switch over to the case of someone like me, labelled with schizophrenia (among others).  I generally wake up having no idea how I ended up in hospital.  No one will answer my questions as to why I’m locked up, I don’t get to go to groups like people who come in suicidal or due to substance use.  I’m there for “med management”.  Which means I can color or play spades between the times I’m being given my “meds”.  

That’s as long as I’m compliant and I’m on the good side of the ward.  If I screw up and freak out when I come to in a strange place, in strange clothes, with strange people who won’t let me leave…well then, I’m going to be on the locked side where there is only sit in your cell and wait for meds and food with nothing at all to do.  

Do either of these sound “therapeutic” for someone who is experiencing intense fear of strangers and problems staying in “consensus” reality?  Keep in mind, I’ve also had my clothes removed along with my music player, my phone, and anything else that I normally use to connect and orient myself within consensus reality.  And I can’t smoke.  That really sucks because I’ve never found anything better than smoking to reconnect me with the world everyone insists is always around me, again with this “consensus reality” theory.

Now, I’m going to ask the very same question again.  Why don’t people want the so called help being offered, voluntarily?  Did your answer change?

Here’s another question.  Why are rates for recovery of a full life after psychosis so much higher (86%) in countries where there is extremely limited access to mental health services and where psychiatric medication is much less often prescribed? (World Health Organization in 2 long term studies).  Shouldn’t a developed country like the US, with all our advanced resources, have superior outcomes to an “underdeveloped” country like Nigeria?  What are third world countries doing that we can’t?

Now that’s just a way too loaded a question to answer in the same piece.  So I’ll leave you with just a bit until next time:

The truth is, we do know some things about what works to assist people in moving through severe emotional crisis, and even psychosis, and on with their lives.  Ways of doing this don’t come as naturally now that we’ve learned to fear these experiences and push people off into professional services if we think they might be having them.  The real trouble is that when we ask: “How do we get people to seek & accept the treatment?”,  we are asking the wrong question.  We should be asking “How do we find ways to assist people in ways they actually WANT to seek and WILLINGLY accept?”  

The answer to that is pretty simple.  ASK US.  Many of us who have found healing and/or recovery of a full life are doing some great work toward progress for all citizens, albeit largely unknown to the general public.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Remembering Memphis, Rejecting Murphy, Marching Toward the Dream Deferred


I am still thinking about the inaugural Destination Dignity March. As the recovery movement heads to Memphis, TN, for its annual Alternatives conference, it is important that I also remember the movement that helped birth modern civil rights/social justice movements.

However, as I look back on the civil rights movement and all that my ancestors marched for, I sometimes feel as if the civil rights movement has been a dream deferred.  We have come far but still have a long road ahead.  The intersection of civil rights, poverty and the psychiatric survivors movement has played out now for four generations.  As in 1963, the need for equal economic access still exists. Affordable housing and affordable healthcare are more accessible than ever, but much more is needed. On August 24, 2015, I marched for these issues similar to those in 1963.  I marched along with other psychiatric survivors asking for dignity and respect to affirm that lived experience matters in the conversation around developing and revamping the mental health system.  Having organizations like Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (PRA) march and voice their support gives us the hope and affirmation that we can work together cohesively to develop a system that offers dignity, hope and respect. PRA understands what we have been saying ourselves for decades: ”people can and do regain their lives.”

In the later 1960s, the targets of Dr. King's activism were starting to focus more often on the underlying poverty, unemployment, lack of education, and blocked avenues of economic opportunity confronting black Americans. Like so many of us today who are fighting for social justice, dignity and respect for the psychiatrist survivor community.  We are faced with the highest unemployment rate among those with disabilities, our poverty level as a group is among the highest of the disability community.  In 2015, we are still being told that we can never get better, marry or become educated.  Dr. King believed that all people had the right to be treated by the content of their character and not their skin color or economic status.

Dr. King went to Memphis in April of 1968 to march with the cities striking sanitation workers.  The march had not gone as planned and the city placed an injunction against the marchers.  Julian Bond, one of Dr. King’s protégés and an up and coming young leader, was charged with negotiating with the city to come up with a plan that would allow the next march to move forward.  Mr. Bond was successful in getting the city to lift the injunction, and the march was back on.  Mr. Bond relayed this information to Dr. King on April 4, 1968.  To celebrate, they decided to head out to dinner.  As Dr. King joined his colleagues for dinner, they stepped out of the door and he was assassinated.  A dream deferred for generations of black Americans.

Now the psychiatric movement faces it biggest hurdle in 2015.  We are asking our allies, representatives and members of our community to stand up. We urge you to not endorse The Murphy Bill.  We ask you to work with representation to create an alternative that won’t strip the rights of those with psychiatric disabilities. The bill calls for the defunding of SAMSHA, it tries to define what Peer Support is, but Peer Support should only be defined by those who created this para-profession and that consist of folks who provide and live within the culture of true support.  Someone who has no interest other than to hamper how we support each other should not define it.  Peer support was never meant to be a replacement for clinicians, we are and have always been complementary and non clinical.  No one gets to define my personal recovery story. My reality and my narrative come from my lived experience -- not a clinical handbook of supervision.

This is our fight today. For those going to Memphis, go with a renewed vision of what we want for our community: dignity, respect, economic opportunities, and the decriminalization of those with mental health issues. Remember Dr. King, Fannie Lou Hammer and Julian Bond and the hundreds of thousands folks who walked, marched and sang ‘We Shall Overcome.’

Our struggle involves brutality, the denial of basic human rights such as voting, affordable housing, equal and affordableassess to medication and treatment. Access to treatment that is not physically forced and/or judicially forced is a basic human right we should all have. None of us should fear that our privacy would no longer be between us, our treatment teams and whoever else we give permission to. An act from Congress should not open our privacy door wide open for all to bear and witness.

Make your calls today to your representatives and let them know why you do not approve of them signing on to the Murphy Bill.  Create the future you want by being the change you want to see in the world.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Introducing eAltCon2015

Marching Our Voices Out of Memphis

Wednesday October 14th - Sunday October 18th

Welcome to eAltCon2015!  We welcome you to join us as we march the conversation forward. We live in a time where human beings are beyond frustrated - with ourselves, each other and the world we have created.  We have also becoming increasingly coercive, controlling and violent in the solutions our culture as a group is proposing.

But is this getting us anywhere?  Or is it just perpetuating the viciousness of a cycle that had far too much of that already? Equally important, what can we do about it and where do we go from here?

Over the next several days we will ask ourselves these questions.  We will speak for ourselves, from our own experience.  We will listen deeply - both to ourselves and each other.  There is a vast wealth of experience that has been lived among us. Together we will make sense of what we know.

And together, we will figure out where to march from here.  We are ordinary people with a deep belief in the power of the ordinary.   We believe that has value. We believe that is enough.  We are tired of a world of experts speaking about us, without us, making careers from of our suffering and leaving us on empty.

We are peer-organized, peer-run, peer-funded. That makes for certain challenges, but it also buys us freedom.  We say things others won't.  We do things others don't.

We speak for ourselves, and we want to hear from you.  We honor your right to voice.  We are committed to building communities with the capacity to honor all our voices.

BTW, to us, all means all: Every voice.  Without exception.  Because every voice is living experience.  Because every voice is living conscience.

This is especially true of voices that are marginalized or othered.  These are the voices we simply must learn to listen to.  We cannot afford the price of continuing to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that business as usual is still okay.

Think about it.  If you're a marginalized Voice, everyone, everywhere sees you as a nuisance.  You are a problem - they want you dead.

As such a Voice, who would risk talking, dare talking, keep talking?  Who would keep trying and trying to speak?  
Unless there were something that Living Conscience urgently knew that the human community needed to know.
Suffice it to say, we need to speak -- and also to hear and respond to the message.   

Accordingly, over then next few days, we will bring our ordinary selves and our ordinary lives. We will use ordinary telephones, ordinary computers and free/ freely available technologies.  All told, it will take us less than $5 to put on this event.

If we each play our part, however, the conversation we create will be everything but ordinary.  

Here, we will reclaim authorship and agency.  We will take back our stories, we take back our knowing. We will make our own connections, draw our own conclusions, generate our own wisdom.

From there, we will take back our power to act and take back our lives.  We will reclaim our right to participate and support each other to exercise it.  We will do this in every place and every way that human beings affect each other.  We will reclaim our rightful roles in families, neighborhoods, communities and as citizens of nations.  The fate of our planet and the fate of living beings depends us and our willingness to do this.

We can't do this without you.  The trauma has cut all of us deeply.  Our collective blood flows like rivers.

We need you to take the risk to show up.  We need your energy, your effort, your willingness to try.  We need your honest authentic voice.  We need to you say what is working and what isn't.

We can't get conscious without each other. 
We have to get conscious or we will all die.