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Today our office dealt with another instance of involuntary electroshock, this time on an outpatient basis of an individual, Ray Sandford, living in his own home in the community. Isn’t it time to explore the path of Gandhi and Martin Luther King — nonviolent direct action?

As those of you who get our human rights alert — and there are thousands of you — are aware, MindFreedom is supporting the liberty of Ray Sandford. (To read the alert click here.)

At age of 54, Ray is under court orders that even though he lives at home in a supported living facility in the community, he receives electroshock each week against his expressed wishes. Every Wednesday he’s escorted from Victory House to Mercy Hospital where he receives electroshock against his expressed wishes.

We put out the alert, and I encourage everyone to act on it (click here to get to the alert).

But this incident underlines some personal thinking I’ve been going through.

You see, this past couple of years MindFreedom International initiated an attempt to have mediated, moderated dialogues with two of the professional associations of psychiatry: World Psychiatric Association and American Psychiatric Association (APA).

I did this, because my own modest reading about Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., is that it is important to at least try dialogue. The surprising thing is that last year, in 2007, this outreach actually worked. The WPA agreed to extensive meetings with us in Dresden on the topic of forced psychiatric procedures. The WPA president at that time, Juan Mezzich, met with us for hours, and even held a combined news conference with us.

(To read about our Dresden meeting with WPA and Dr. Mezzich, and to view video, click here.)

In September 2008, at the invitation of Dr. Mezzich and the WPA, I flew to Prague to speak at the World Psychiatric Association World Assembly. My hopes were lifted. Thankfully, I was able to bring my wonderful wife Debra with me. There were a number of supportive members there, including members from Norway and also publisher Peter Lehmann. So I did have support.

Well, the conclusion is this: Three key contacts with the WPA were unanimous. They said there was growing opposition within the WPA to even speak with us in dialogue. As Dr. Mezzich put it, “The thinking is that if you won’t start by admitting there’s a role for involuntary psychiatric procedures, there’s no reason to meet.”

But I thought dialogue was especially important when parties had major differences of opinion.

The bottom line is that after repeated overtures — letters, outreach, discussion — official representatives of both the WPA and APA have refused dialogue, even mediated and moderated dialogue, with representatives of organizations speaking on behalf of psychiatric survivors. So the official representatives of psychiatrists in the USA and the world have officially refused dialogue with groups representing those who have been harmed by human rights violations caused by that profession.

But of course? Isn’t that to be expected?

Yes, but the bottom line is this: On a personal quest, I and MindFreedom have followed the path of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, in our own flawed way. Repeatedly we have reached out to both WPA and APA.

We will keep reaching out.

But now is the time for nonviolent, peaceful direct action. This can include civil disobedience. But for those who are not able to risk arrest at this time, such as because of their experience of trauma, there is also cultural disobedience, such as mad pride skits, music, street theater and more. Together this is what Martin Luther King called “Creative Maladjustment.”

(To read about MLK and Creative Maladjustment click here.)

Those who have read through this long blog entry so far, are interested in what we are doing. So let me here announce that the MindFreedom board of directors has approved supporting peaceful protests of the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting this May 2009 in San Francisco. While MFI itself is providing support for legal activities, some individual may engage in Martin Luther King, Jr. style civil disobedience.

And those who don’t may engage in “cultural disobedience.”

(To see an example see our simple street skit called The Normathon the Big Giant Pill, click here.)

Join us! Cases like Ray show us it is beyond time for nonviolent direct action!

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