I call myself a psychiatric survivor.
More than three decades ago I was a troubled Harvard student who ended up in psychiatric institutions five times. I was diagnosed “psychotic.” I remember that several times I was held down on a bare mattress and forcibly injected with powerful psychiatric drugs. I remember days in solitary confinement. I vowed then that when I got out, I would speak out.
Because of support from family and friends and activists, I did get free, I got back on my feet and I graduated with honors. I became a community organizer of mental health consumers and other psychiatric survivrors. For the past two decades I’ve directed a nonprofit, MindFreedom International, that campaigns for human rights and alternatives in mental health.
I suppose today a few misguided experts might mistakenly consider me normal. I have not used psychiatric care since 1977. I’m married to a wonderful, loving woman. We are peaceful, tax-paying homeowners with a nice big garden and a cat.
I suspect, though, that my beliefs would still be labeled by many as delusional. Because my beliefs are about deep social change, and mainstream society often does not want to hear such points of view, I wonder if even this program will dismiss unusual beliefs like mine as soapbox editorializing.
I believe tens of thousands of us so-called mad people and our allies internationally are making history by quietly transforming how we as a society approach the whole subject of mental and emotional well being.
I believe everyone should have a choice about personal health care decisions, including whether or not to take prescribed psychiatric drugs.
I also believe that for me personally, psychiatric drugs would have been the wrong decision, and would likely have led to brain damage, addiction or even an early death.
I believe there is an emergency of psychiatric human rights violations internationally including over-drugging and even forced electroshock without offering humane and safer options.
I believe our society is in an extreme, unprecedented global crisis. I believe Earth faces environmental catastrophes and a disastrous imbalance in wealth.
I believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. was prophetic when he said, several times, that the world was in dire need of an “international association for the advancement of creative maladjustment.”
I believe the best of science has shown that none of us has a grip on reality, and that reality appears to be far weirder than generally imagined.
I believe that if madness exists at all, then to be human is to be mad, and this is neither inherently good nor bad.
I believe those of us who have been officially labeled mad, and who have since recovered and returned, have something valuable to offer to the majority who are erroneously considered normal, especially during this time of global crisis.
I believe I am a psychiatric survivor who has mad pride.
I believe our planet needs more than incremental reform, we need a nonviolent global revolution.
This I believe.
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