An open letter by David W. Oaks, MFI Director, to those who created the book “Coercive Treatment in Psychiatry” that was released one year ago. The “psychosocial and moral illness” of the power imbalance between psychiatric survivors and the mental health industry is witnessed.

Dresden 2007: Psychiatric Survivors Meet with World Psychiatric AssociationIn early 2011, leaders of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) released a book entitled Coercive Treatment in Psychiatry, including a chapter by me. The book one was one of the few tangible results from an historic dialogue in 2007 in Dresden, Germany.  There, leaders from the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) met with leaders of psychiatric survivor groups for an extensive dialogue… that apparently went no where (see photo above). 

One year later, here’s my letter to publisher, editors and contributors:

Dear Drs. Marsh, Kallert, Mezzich and Monahan, and fellow contributors,

It is nearly one year after the release of the book Coercive Treatment in Psychiatry.

I’m writing to you all, and copying to the book’s contributors, to ask if there is any interest in dialogue about these topics? What have been the results? Is there hope?

I appreciate the opportunity to have my chapter with the perspective of survivors of coercive psychiatric human rights violations and abuse, included in this book.

I am grateful the publishers chose to make my chapter available as a free sample. In case others are not aware of that, my chapter can be downloaded free here:

You all may find it amusing that this Fall a well-known psychiatrist, Dr. Thomas Szasz, condemned my decision to submit my chapter for your book, during a public conversation with me at a conference, at our book table. He apparently felt my chapter submission was unduly collaborating with professionals who support coerced psychiatric practices. I noted in a friendly way with Dr. Szasz, that he apparently has had no trouble accepting paychecks for decades from tax-payer funded universities that also support coerced psychiatry.

On a positive note, I know professors such as Dr. David Cohen, are using portions of the book as official reading material for their classes.

Whether negative or positive, such civil discussions can at least surface these issues for discussion, and that’s beneficial.

In the enormous power imbalance between people who are coercively treated, and the mental health professions that are charged with supervising coercive treatment, there is a psychospiritual and moral illness of such magnitude, that is so toxic, that it silences, it mutes. I think the Catholic Church engaged in such a silence for decades, before that institution’s leaders were forced by society’s courts to discuss human rights violations against far too many children. The issue for the Catholic Church and psychiatry is similar, because this is not just about ‘bad priests’ or ‘bad psychiatrists,’ this is about systemic, inherent, prolonged and immoral institutional silence, in which all of us who stay silent about abuse are complicit.

Throughout time, those who are oppressed have lost countless physical power struggles, but have often at least had the unconquerable ‘still small voice’ that Socrates referred to, before his own tragic and terminal forced drugging.

This Sunday, I hope you join me in remembering and celebrating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. He noted that it is natural to be psychologically maladjusted to oppresion. He said he was proud to be psychologically malajdusted. But he emphasized that the key is to be “creatively maladjusted.” If you google the words — Martin Luther King Creative Maladjustment — you’ll see that he spoke about theme for ten years, including in front of an annual meeting of mental health professionals. MLK affirmed that the ‘still small voice’ of justice eventually bends the universe itself.

Remember, your book directly came out of an historic, positive dialogue nearly five years ago in Dresden, Germany. Several of us felt hope from that meeting, preserved by video and text on this web site:

For me personally, Dresden in June 2007 was an attempt at dialogue between our social change movement and WPA leaders, an attempt which seemed hopeful back then. But I’m sorry to say I was naive. For whatever causes, perhaps my own included, that attempt at dialogue seems to have largely failed. Since then, I’ve seen too many doors to dialogue with representatives of psychiatric survivor organizations, firmly closed by representatives of psychiatric professional organizations, including by the World Psychiatric Association. Working with a few individual psychiatric survivor researchers, rather than representatives of organizations of surv ivors, is not enough.

This is one personal reason for me that, about five years after the Dresden meetings, this May 5, 2012, a number of us intend to peacefully protest in front of the American Psychiatric Association when their Annual Meeting is in Philadelphia to witness and address this silence. We will question the human rights implications of the APA voting upon behavioral guidelines for us all — through DSM 5 — without real representation from those whose lives can be impacted, and even ended, by that unscientific book’s coerced enforcement.

I look forward to any reply, either personally or via reply all.



David W. Oaks, Executive Director

MindFreedom International