I only have a moment here at the hotel in Dresden, Germany to sum up a great deal of news.
Representatives of several psychiatric survivor/mental health consumer organizations held meetings with top leaders of the World Psychiatric Association during the past three days here.
The WPA conference is on the topic of coercion in psychiatry. For more than a year, several psychiatric survivor and mental health consumer groups have been aware of this situation.
I am very proud to report that these movement groups worked well together to address this challenge. We appointed author/psychiatric survivor Peter Lehmann as our negotiator/liaison with the WPA, and Peter did an absolutely brilliant job.
The results? A number of psychiatric survivor/mental health consumer issued a combined public statement, which alone is important.
In addition to peaceful protests outside, psychiatric survivors and mental health consumers were also speaking out inside, with exhibit tables, keynoting, presenting symposia, negotiating, protesting and most important UNITING.
The WPA made several pledges, but of course the proof will be in the outcome.
I would like to personally assure all who have concerns about whether WPA is telling the truth -- that we are being "tricked" -- that of course I share and respect your deeply held concerns. I too often I have seen positive words from psychiatric leaders without results, including when I was locked up and abused inside of a psychiatric institution.
But also MindFreedom principles begin with those of Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course we must -- and no doubt will -- use nonviolent direct action and protest, including even civil disobedience. But to do this well we also need to begin by speaking directly, in as civil way as possible, to our opponents, and clearly state our situation and demands.
So many psychiatric survivors and mental health consumers and our allies clearly explained the situation of human rights here at the WPA. Thank you.
A brief review of some of the news during the past three days, please watch this web site for more details.
* Dorothea Buck:
Because of our movement's efforts, Dorothea Buck was one of the keynote speaker. Whatever reservation one may have about our being "inside," this has to be put aside when it comes to Dorothea.
Dorothea is not one to be "tricked."
To a packed room that sat in stunned silence, we all heard from this survivor of forced psychiatry. Dorothea experienced 70 years of coercion in the German psychiatric system, including forced sterilization. Yes, we all have concerns and misgivings when talking with opponents, but seeing Dorothea Buck in front of this room of international psychiatric leaders "telling truth to power" was riveting. At 90 years old, Dorothea was present.
At the end, the president of the WPA made a moving thank you to Dorothea and came forward to shake hands. (See photo of Dorothea on our web site.)
From the summary of Dorothea's talk, please watch for the talk in print and video soon, here:
"70 Years of Coercion in German Psychiatric Institutions, Experienced and Witnessed"
Dorothea Buck was born in Germany in 1917 and can therefore be called a contemporary witness. She had five stays in psychiatric hospitals in the period from 1936 to 1959 and was subjected to various forms of coercion, such as forced sterilization, cold wet sheet packs and forced injections and was never granted a single talk about the origin or meaning of her psychotic episodes.
Facing the historical development of psychiatry and its effects on today's mental health system, she challenges biological psychiatry, which rejects communication with patients, and demands a paradigm shift toward a psychosocial system based on the wealth of patients' experiences that provides alternatives to psychiatry, such as the therapeutic principles of "Soteria" and Yrjö Alanen's "Need-Adapted Treatment."
* Extensive Meeting with WPA President Mezzich
On the first day of the conference, 6 June 2007, MindFreedom initiated a special meeting with the President of the World Psychiatric Association, Prof. Juan E. Mezzich. What began as a brief meeting became a three-and-a-half-hour discussion that covered a range of topics, and specific proposals. All involved decided to initiate a variety of mediated dialogues between psychiatric survivors and key leaders of the World Psychiatric Association, with a goal of educating the public about our human rights.
I would like to add a personal note about the nature of the discussion with Dr. Mezzich. All psychiatric survivor here felt this conversation was different than usual. Yes, once more, the proof will be in results. But all involved felt they were heard, and respected, in this discussion.
* In a reception, the conference organizer and President of the WPA called for more open dialogue with leaders of mental health consumer and psychiatric survivor organizations, and called up some of these activists to join them. The conference organizer passionately encouraged all present to see a special exhibit in Dresiden of "Deadly Medicine," about the killing of mental patients in Nazi Germany. This exhibit from the Holocaust Museum is extremely poweful.
* The WPA held a news conference, and invited myself and Peter Lehmann to sit on the podium on either side of the WPA President. We had a candid discussion about how psychiatric survivor/mental health consumer groups have become more united than ever before... but that what is necessary for action and fulfillment of promises by WPA to continue such a dialogue. Incredibly, during this news conference the immediate past president of the American Psychiatric Association pledged to work toward dialogue with the APA.
* In the only negative incident, three psychiatric drug exhibitors threatened to sue the WPA to reclaim money from their exhibits. These drug companies absurdly claimed they would do this was because I did a Patch Adams inspired skit about 'screening for normality' too near their exhibit. Believe it or not, there was a high-level negotiation about when and how to use the squeaky red nose! I ended up doing a brief version of the skit at a castle where the WPA held a dinner. During this I announced the launch of the "International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment." Watch for news about that during Mad Pride Month in July.
* This coming Wednesday, 13 June 2007, the subject of the MindFreedom Free Live Internet Radio Show will be the Dresden, Germany event at 4 pm ET at www.prncomm.net. (Apologies that an actual broadcast from the conference this past Wednesday turned out to be impossible due to logistics.)
For more info and another photo go here.
* A number of psychiatric survivor groups have relased a united statement with a vision for the end of coercion in psychiatry. You may read and download the special "Declaration of Dresden Against Coerced Psychiatric Treatment" by going here .
In this brief report, it is impossible to fully explain how grateful we are to all the groups listed in this statement, and those who are continuing to provide endorsement, for your united support!
by David Oaks, Director, MindFreedom International