MindFreedom director David W. Oaks talks about his personal experience in the mental health system in a debate in the pages of The Register-Guard about the role of neuroleptic psychiatric drugs, also known as antipsychotics. The debate began when mental health worker Chuck Areford wrote a hard-hitting commentary critical of neuroleptics that was published 16 March 2008 in the paper.

letter to editor

29 March 2008 – The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, USA

Chemical-free mental health

I remember as if it were yesterday. The psychiatrist sat down with me face to face. He told me flat out that I had a genetically caused biochemical imbalance. He said I would have to stay on powerful neuroleptic psychiatric drugs, also known as antipsychotics, for the rest of my life.

The doctor was wrong. That was more than 30 years ago. Because of support from my family and a social change movement led by psychiatric survivors, I chose a chemical-free path toward mental and emotional well-being.

Congratulations to The Register-Guard for printing an often-silenced point of view. The guest commentary by courageous mental health worker Chuck Areford on March 16, “Antipsychotic drugs are doing harm,” sounded an alarm bell that long-term neuroleptics actuallycan shrink frontal lobes and shorten lives.

Please understand that I and the nonprofit I direct, MindFreedom International, are pro-choice about prescription psychiatric drugs. Many of our members make the difficult choice to take a neuroleptic despite hazards.

However, we are all united in warning that there is an emergency of human rights violations involving psychiatric drugs.

In another guest column, pharmaceutical sales person Tom Smyly protests that he is a nice guy (Register-Guard, March 19). Smyly sounds nice. We all ought to be civil with each other.

I wonder, though, when Smyly and other nice people will join us in opposing the way the mental health industry gives out disempowering and unscientific misinformation while neglecting to provide more nondrug alternatives.

David W. Oaks

Executive Director

MindFreedom International


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