Learn about the people and plans in the MFI Global Campaign Committee as they support the voice of psychiatric survivors globally.
Celia Brown, president of MFI, and Janet Amegatcher, executive director MindFreedom Ghana, were two of the delegates on the MindFreedom United Nations Team.
Global activism for human rights in mental health
Celia Brown has her hands full. Celia’s a mom. She works in New York City as a peer advocate for people in the mental health system. She’s president of the MindFreedom International (MFI) board.
And yet Celia also finds time to head the MFI team of psychiatric survivors inside the United Nations. “It’s been great to be in the United Nations with survivors of psychiatry and many international disability groups from around the world,” said Celia. “We’re all fighting together for human rights, self-determination and freedom.”
This is the 5th year MFI has been the first and so far only group of its kind to have accreditation from the UN as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with Consultative Roster Status. MFI has used that status for several years to have a team of psychiatric survivors enter the UN to participate in international negotiating sessions about the human rights of people labeled with disabilities.
Celia is proud of the MFI delegates. Said Celia, “The MFI UN Team has educated and networked with government delegates and disability groups from all over the world to help them understand the issues faced by people labeled with psychosocial disabilities, such as forced mental health treatment.”
MFI’s UN Team is now multinational. “It has been great having Janet Amegather from MindFreedom Ghana and John McCarthy from MindFreedom Ireland in the UN,” said Celia. “Even though it was John’s first time in the UN he spent weeks arranging meetings with Irish and other government delegates.”
John relished the experience. “It was a great honor to be inside the UN particularly as a psychiatric survivor and a representative of MindFreedom,” said John. “I had the added privilege to be the only representative from civil society to have the opportunity to address the main convention during that session. This was for me a spiritually uplifting event I will never forget.”
MFI reps from the USA also did a great job. “I appreciate Myra Kovary’s expertise as an MFI UN representative,” said Celia. “Myra has educated and lobbied governments about forced treatment, especially the US delegation.” Another MFI rep is the famous feminist author Kate Millett. Said Celia, “Kate spoke to government delegates on the issue of forced treatment and read passages from her book, The Loony Bin Trip, reminding us of her strength and genius.”
Celia is grateful that MFI and other groups have so well worked together. “I want to especially thank the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (WNUSP) team, led by Tina Minkowitz,” said Celia. “The World Network team includes people from Hungary, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, India, New Zealand, Uganda, Ghana, Guinea, Peru.”
MFI UN rep Myra Kovary agreed with Celia. Said Myra, “Tina has taken a lead role as the advocate for the WNUSP. Her legal expertise and clear thinking have been invaluable.”
No matter what happens, one victory already is that psychiatric survivors have built relationships with disability activists worldwide. Said Celia, “Many international disability rights groups have been actively involved since the beginning of the process of the disability convention. We formed the International Disability Caucus which includes the World Federation for the Deaf, World Blind Union, Landmine Survivors Network, and about 70 other groups, including WNUSP and MindFreedom International.”
You do not have to be inside the UN to be part of this activity. For example, Mary Maddock of MindFreedom Ireland supports the MFI UN campaign from her home in Cork, Ireland. Said Celia, “I appreciate Mary who hasn’t attended UN meetings yet but helps with lobbying her government and educating survivors in Ireland. Mary gives us survivor stories, including her own, to share with governments.”
Myra asks that citizens encourage each nation to support our human rights. “The world is listening!” said Myra. “We need as much support as we can get from our fellow users and survivors of psychiatry all around the world in educating your governments about the inhumanity of forced mental health treatment and the necessity of drafting a Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that protects our right to freedom, dignity, autonomy and self-determination.”
Beyond the UN
As much work as it is to gain visibility inside the UN, there are two other main goals in MindFreedom’s Global Campaign
“The MFI Global Committee has begun to implement activities agreed upon at the MindFreedom Action Conference International Track,” reported Celia. “The Global has three parts: Influencing the United Nations. Influencing the World Health Organization (WHO). And supporting the emerging voices of psychiatric survivors in poor and developing nations.”
MFI has reached out to WHO via Dr. Benedetto Saraceno, WHO Director of Mental Health & Substance Dependence. MFI seeks to impact WHO’s policy about human rights and the mental health system.
Said Celia, “At our request, WHO declared a Global Emergency of human rights violations among people diagnosed with psychosocial disabilities. WHO even dedicated World Human Rights Day to this emergency.” Celia hopes the WHO will come through. “The MFI Global Committee has been approached by WHO to give feedback on including the voice of psychiatric survivors in their planning. We believe that a choice of humane alternatives shouldn’t take a back seat to the globalization of psychiatric drugs and electroshock in developing countries.”
That globalization of the psychiatric industry is why MFI is calling upon everyone in the movement to support the emerging voices of psychiatric survivors and mental health system users in poor countries. MFI is seeking resources to produce a handbook to assist movement organizing in developing nations. Said Celia, “The Global Committee has submitted a proposal to a funder for a handbook to address these human rights violations.”
MFI is developing a presence and leadership in developing countries, such as MFI’s affiliate in Africa, MindFreedom Ghana. Celia is in an Indigenous, Ethnic and Minority Working Group of people with disabilities working on the UN convention and beyond to support each other’s activism for human rights, including the right to culture and identity.
If you want more information on the Working Group, or on the MindFreedom Global Campaign Committee, contact the MFI office or email to global (at) mindfreedom.org.