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MindFreedom International, founded in 1988 to advocate against forced medication, physical restraints, involuntary electroshock therapy, and other human rights violations in the mental health system, is an international coalition of over 100 grassroots groups and thousands of individual members in 14 nations. MindFreedom International is dedicated to winning and protecting the rights of people around the globe who have been labeled with psychiatric disorders. MindFreedom has been recognized by the United Nations with consultative roster status. A majority of MindFreedom members identify themselves as survivors of human rights violations in the mental health system, and membership is open to everyone who supports human rights, including mental health professionals, advocates, activists and family members.
Origins and purpose[edit | edit source]
MindFreedom International is rooted in the psychiatric survivors liberation movement itself, which came directly out of civil rights ferment of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The term 'psychiatric survivor' is used by individuals who assert their human rights were violated by the mental health system. In late 1988, leaders from several of the main national and grassroots psychiatric survivor groups decided an independent coalition was needed, and under its original name, MindFreedom Support Coalition International was formed. MindFreedom's first public action was to stage a counter-conference and protestin New York City, in May, 1990, at the same time as the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting.
MindFreedom opposes mainstream medicine's psychiatric paradigms, which MindFreedom asserts are based on a 'chemical imbalance theory. This opposition forms the basis for resisting the western mental health system by which MindFreedom identifies a "global embrace" and which it declares is abusive.  
MindFreedom is currently campaigning against surgically implanted antipsychotic drug delivery devices, which usurp control from individuals who are labeled with mental illness diagnoses, and turning over control to doctors. MindFreedom contends these implants further undermine the human rights of some of society's most vulnerable members, the mentally ill, continuing a trend toward more invasive, heavy-handed methods, such as electronic implants. "The most complex thing on earth is the human mind, and we're using monkey wrenches and throwing switches to see what happens," says MindFreedom director, David Oaks. "All of these newer techniques, which are really extensions of the old psychosurgery, are based on an inaccurate view of the mind, a mechanistic, reductionist paradigm. They reduce the brain to a machine -- and that ain't how it works."
Opposition to "New Freedom Commission"[edit | edit source]
Among the causes championed by the coalition is the campaign to thwart President George W. Bush's] New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. Since 1992, Dr. Patch Adams, a physician and advocate for alternative medicine, has taken a leading role on behalf of the coalition in campaigning against the New Freedom Commission's attempts to expand the use of mental health screening programs, supported by the pharmaceutical industry and based upon the Texas Medication Algorithm Project. Adams has volunteered to screen President Bush, saying "He needs a lot of help. I'll see him for free."
One of the main goals of the President's New Freedom Commission is to ensure "Early mental health screening, assessment, and referral to services are common practice," said MindFreedom director David Oaks.
Debate over 'chemical imbalances'[edit | edit source]
According to MindFreedom, scientific evidence does not support the contention that mental illness results from chemical imbalances in the brain. In 2005, debate over the chemical imbalance theory of psychiatry was sparked by Tom Cruise's criticism of the theory as pseudoscience (viewable here along with a response by the president of the American Psychiatric Association). MindFreedom director David Oaks responded to the debate, stating that "The APA failed to come up with even one piece of scientific evidence for a chemical imbalance. The APA cannot name one scholarly citation or provide one reliable diagnostic lab test for any chemical imbalance." 
Speaking against the marketing of medicines using what many consider to be unscientific claims about chemical imbalances, Oaks added, "Pfizer , Inc. does not explain the following important indisputable fact: There is no scientific evidence for such a chemical imbalance. For example, there is no reliable diagnostic lab test for any alleged chemical imbalance for any mental disorder. Pfizer, Inc. has broadcast this fraud many times on television, in print, on the web and in other material reaching millions of Americans." MindFreedom does, however, supports the choice of many of its members who decide to take psychiatric medicines.
MindFreedom Shield Program[edit | edit source]
The MindFreedom Shield Program is an "All for one and one for all" registration system and network of members seeking as much protection as possible from involuntary psychiatric treatment.
If a member is known to be involuntarily treated, an alert is sent to the MindFreedom Solidarity Network on that person's behalf. Members of the network are expected to participate in constructive, nonviolent actions recommended by the program when an alert has been issued.
Range of campaigns[edit | edit source]
- Psychiatric Industry Watch: The Watch campaign seeks to expose pharmaceutical industry financial and political influences upon the direction of 'mental health', such as its efforts to expand the use of outpatient commitment programs calling for coerced and forced psychiatric drugging.
- The Right to Remember: Campaign to end to involuntary electroconvulsive therapy by publicizing instances of forced electroshock and lobbying decision-makers to stop such practices.
- Oral Histories: Program seeking to compile and publicize psychiatric survivor stories, promoting individual empowerment by highlighting stories of those who attain a state of stable remission or regain self-direction, from the perspective of those who have experienced the mental health system.
- Mad Pride: Advocates self-determination among those deemed 'mad'. The coalition has proclaimed July as 'Mad Pride Month', and supports events around the world celebrating the experience of 'madness'.
The MindFreedom News Hour[edit | edit source]
Touting a nonviolent revolution in the mental health system geared to human rights and mental health care alternatives, a free public Internet radio show, the MindFreedom News Hour began airing on June 13, 2006. The program is hosted by MindFreedom director and psychiatric rights activist David Oaks, and is broadcast each Tuesday at 1 pm EST, 10 am PST.
You're invited to tune in on the web at
See also[edit | edit source]
- Bruce Levine
- Elliott Valenstein
- International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology
- Joe Sharkey
- Laura's Law
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Orthomolecular psychiatry
- Peter Breggin
- Sally Satel
- Trauma model
- Treatment Advocacy Center
- World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry
[edit | edit source]
- MindFreedom.org - MindFreedom International homepage
- ADHD-Report.com - 'Biopsychiatry Illuminated: The Candlelight Project', Bob Collier, (September 1, 2003)
- AntiPsychiatry.org - 'The Antipsychiatry Coalition: a nonprofit volunteer group consisting of people who feel we have been harmed by psychiatry', Douglas A. Smith
- MindFreedom.intenex.net - 'The MindFreedom Shield Program'
- MindFreedom-Fast.blogspot.com - 'A blog committed to the creation, realization, exercizing and fulfillment of social justice, human rights, self-determination and freedom in mental health: Dedicated in Memory of David W. Hilton', Freedom in Mental Health Blog
- NIMH.NIH.gov - National Institute of Mental Health
- NMHA.org - National Mental Health Association
- Omega.twoday.net - 'MindFreedom Shield Program: Re-Election of President Bush may mean more Psychiatric Coercion', MindFreedom News (November 3, 2004)
- PsychRights.org - Law Project for Psychiatric Rights, Douglas C. Smith
- Utne.com - 'Freeing Your Mind', Keith Goetzman, Utne (May/June, 2006)
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