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An online publication for “citizen journalists” has a brief article about the Mad Pride movement that includes mention of MindFreedom and MFI director David Oaks

Mad Pride: Beyond depression, a demand for rights from mental illness sufferers

Author: Paul Wallis (Wanderlaugh)



link to oroginal article:



Mad Pride: Beyond depression, a demand for rights from mental illness sufferers


Mad Pride is about mutual support and rallies in support of rights for people with mental illness.

This isn’t exactly an over-publicized cause. It took 20 years fordepression to finally get some general recognition as a disease. Nobodywill ever know how much suffering was involved, how many suicides, andhow much collateral damage was caused.

Society isn’t good at facing its problems.

Mental illness is the bottom of the heap, socially. It’s a problemother people don’t want, don’t understand, and don’t want to beassociated with if they can help it. It’s hard to understand, hard totreat, and hard to relate to unless it affects someone close to you.

Now, the New York Timeshas put Mad Pride on the front page. That’s a step forward in socialawareness, even if the really tough work is still to be done.

About 5.7 million Americans over 18 have bipolar disorder,which is classified as a mood disorder, according to the NationalInstitute of Mental Health. Another 2.4 million have schizophrenia,which is considered a thought disorder. The small slice of thisdisparate population who have chosen to share their experiences withthe public liken their efforts to those of the gay-rights and similarmovements of a generation ago.

Those 8.1 million people represent about 3-4% of the population.That’s a very lonely demographic, and each case is individual-specific.The prognosis is usually a management scenario, not a cure.

Support is where it can be found. Many people have to battle on alone.Some aren’t even diagnosed. Need I say that these people don’t haveanything resembling a safety net. It’s hard to admit you need help, andharder to get the help you need.

“Take a pill” leaves a lot to be desired as therapy. For the poor,support is even harder to find. Add Big Pharma’s genocidal pricingpolicies, the irresponsible, obsolete health policies, and “tough”hardly describes it.

Mad Pride has to be seen as one of the few available mechanisms for making any sort of statement:

Mad pride events, organized by loosely connected groups inat least seven countries including Australia, South Africa and theUnited States, draw thousands of participants, said David W. Oaks, thedirector of MindFreedom International, a nonprofit group in Eugene,Ore., that tracks the events and says it has 10,000 members.

RECENT mad pride activities include a Mad Pride Cabaret in Vancouver,British Columbia; a Mad Pride March in Accra, Ghana; and a Bonkersfestin London that drew 3,000 participants. (A follow-up Bonkersfest isplanned next month at the site of the original Bedlam asylum.)

David Oaks is no neophyte. His own experience reads like a massive obstacle course.

… Members of MindFreedom International, which Mr. Oaksfounded in the 1980s, have protested drug companies and participated inhunger strikes to demand proof that drugs can manage chemicalimbalances in the brain. Mr. Oaks, who was found to be schizophrenicand manic-depressive while an undergraduate at Harvard, says hemaintains his mental health with exercise, diet, peer counseling andwilderness trips — strategies that are well outside the mainstreamthinking of psychiatrists and many patients.

Treatment isn’t standardized. There are common medications, common problems, but the result is whatever happens.

Apparently expectations aren’t too high.

If you get another disease, there’s a road map. Not for mental illness.The big ones, like schizophrenia and bipolar, were originally treatedby medicine which was horrendously primitive by modern standards. Now,the technology is there, but the industry isn’t trying too hard. That4% or so also isn’t a great sales demographic.

The internet has created online forums like the Icarus Project,a New York site which gets 5,000 hits a month. There are a lot ofsupport groups which are more or less creating themselves. Icarus saysit’s “Navigating The Space Between Brilliance And Madness”.

What, there’s another space?

There’s even Madness Radio, a massive page with so much content it’s hard to describe.

This is support where there was none. The hideous desert of mentalillness may not yet be a garden, but there’s an awful lot ofwildflowers showing up.