Monthly Archives: January 2008

Mad news and views

This reprinted from Ron Unger’s blog today:

Posted by Ron Unger on January 31st, 2008

Below is the first paragraph of an exerpt from a recent book review, followed by some of my thoughts about the problems caused by looking at experiences as the result of an “illness” rather than as the workings of a mind that could eventually be better understood and worked with until they become something positive: Book Review Essay: An exploration of manic depression. Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture By Emily Martin Princeton University Press, 2007. Reviewer: Sander L Gilman The Lancet 2008; 371:293-294Emily Martin is “mad”—she uses this term in the preface of her book to
provide a context for her account of bipolar disorder/manic depression
in the USA today. Clinically diagnosed as bipolar, in this serious and
engaging book she repeatedly documents the symptoms of her illness.
Martin has hallucinations, including that of the “sinister figure, a
cold gray gargoyle, perched tenaciously on my shoulder, looking at
what I was writing…and muttering a devastatingly negative commentary”,
which haunted the very act of her writing. What that “cold gray
gargoyle” is reading over her shoulder is her study of “mania…a new
continent with a distant frontier, whose receding horizon invites
exploration and development”.
My comments:

My comments:To me, “illness” is an inadequate metaphor to describe what goes on with depression and mania and creativity etc. It just seems inadequate to describe say the “cold gray gargoyle” as being sourced in an “illness” – mood and imagination involve so much more than that. Instead, I tend to see it as about self regulation – creativity involves going out of control to some extent but those who are successful with it learn how to make their way around in that world, to make their way back if they get “too far out” in any particular direction. So if they create a cold gray gargoyle, they also find their way to a counter-figure or some resource that allows them to deal with it, and overall they eventually end up enriched instead of oppressed. Rather than let their creativity ruin their life as some do in mania, they rein it in when necessary, but also let it take them to the edge or even a bit over at times so they find new worlds.
The sad thing about teaching people to think of themselves as having “bipolar disorder” or other such things is that they learn to think of the less ruly parts of their mind as an illness, a defect, rather than as a resource which they could possibly learn to use. We seem to have no notion within psychiatry about the development of wisdom, so the idea that one could learn to have better judgment about when to take those “manic” risks doesn’t occur to us. Nevertheless, despite official denials that any such thing is possible, it isn’t that hard to find people who have been told they were “bipolar” (or schizophrenic, or schizoaffective) decades ago and yet they are doing fine now, without medications. (I know, ” but they still could relapse in the future.” Hey, even many of us who never had a manic episode might still have one in the future, but the existence of this possibility does not justify diagnosis of an “illness.”)

From MindFreedom International:

Save the Date!

Free Panel and Public Forum in Portland, Oregon, USA on:

Forming a New State-Wide Coalition in OREGON
of Mental Health Consumers and Psychiatric Survivors!

All are welcome and invited!



Friday, 15 February 2008



3:00 pm to 4:30 pm



Main Public Meeting Room
Multnomah County Central Library
801 S.W. 10th Avenue
Portland, Oregon, USA



A panel will speak briefly about how mental health consumer/
psychiatric survivor groups can work together in Oregon and
throughout the USA.

Then we hear from YOU in a moderated public forum — your questions,
comments, experiences, input!


* DAN FISHER, MD, PhD. of Massachusetts.

After a diagnosis of schizophrenia and psychiatric
institutionalization, Dan became a psychiatrist. He now directs the
National Empowerment in Center in Massachusetts which he co-founded
in 1992. Dan helped launch The National Coalition of Mental Health
Survivor Organizations. About half of USA states now have
state-wide organizations that belong to this new coalition.

* DAVID OAKS of Eugene, Oregon

David directs MindFreedom International which unites 100 grassroots
groups in an independent coalition to win human rights and
alternatives in the mental health system. David is a psychiatric

* ROLLIN SHELTON is a long-time leader for transformation in the
mental health system who has been diagnosed with a psychiatric
disability. Rollin is director of the nonprofit organization Peer
LiNC Oregon (formerly OCTA)/MHAO based at Portland State University’s
Regional Research Institute.

* AMY ZULICH of Multnomah County, Oregon

Amy develops self-directed supports and planning for mental health
. She works as a mental health peer advocate and program
coordinator for Empowerment Initiatives (EI). EI currently serves 25
people annually with brokerage-style self-directed supports. EI is in
the process of helping people with mental health labels transfer out
of group homes and foster care homes into more independent living.
Amy identifies herself as “a person who has experienced psychiatric

* YOU! All are invited! Mental health consumers, psychiatric
survivors, mental health workers, family members, advocates and
concerned members of the public. Your questions, feedback, concerns,
ideas are welcome.



It is time for mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors to
unite for a strong state-wide voice!

It is time to support the principles of empowerment, self-
determination, recovery, human rights and a full range of
alternatives and choices for our well being throughout Oregon!

It is time for all who care about these important issues to support
this voice!

One year ago a number of mental health consumer and psychiatric
survivor groups supported the adoption of a mission statement and
tenets for an Oregon Consumer/Survivor Coalition (OCSC).

A dozen groups have joined, OCSC is now incorporated, and draft
bylaws are being prepared, all without funding from the State of Oregon.

This year it is time to launch OCSC. Let us hear your ideas,
enthusiasm, suggestions, feedback and questions. Bring a friend!



Free. Wheelchair accessible. Free refreshments.

For more information about OCSC contact Mark Fisher at

See web folder:

To receive updates about OCSC please join this free, private, one-
way, no-spam e-mail announcement list:

For more information about the 15 February 2008 meeting contact the
MindFreedom Oregon office at (541) 345-9106 or


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Take a moment

laughing children

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The 1913 Italian Hall Massacre

The copper strike of 1913-14 started in July and lasted nine months. It was one of Michigan’s most bitter labor actions. The introduction of the one-man drill triggered the strike. Miners feared cutbacks on the number of jobs and working alone. Strikers also demanded recognition of the Western Federation of Miners as their bargaining agent, a reduction from a 10-hour to an 8-hour work day, and $3.50 per day wages. The mining companies refused to recognize the union or to return to the two-man drill, but did, in the end, cut hours and increase wages. Miners who returned to work found themselves alongside men who had been hired as strikebreakers. In the following years, many experienced miners left the Copper Country for the auto factories of Detroit, mining jobs inthe western U. S. or military service with the outbreak of World War I in 1917. The strike was a bitter struggle. Michigan state militia, on horseback, was deployed against the strikers. Strike leaders, lead by “Big” Annie Clemenic, rallied the strikers by hosting a Christmas party at the Italian hall. While the miners’ families were celebrating Christmas Eve at Italian Hall in Calumet someone yelled, “Fire!” In panic, the crowd rushed to get out of the second-floor hall. They could not open the door to the outside, and 73 people–mostly children–died in the crush.There was no fire. Many miners believed that the mine companies had sent the person who caused the panic, although this could never proved it seems the most likely explaination. Eye witnesses saw company agents in the area but could not identify them. The crime remains unsolved.

In recent times the hall fell on disrepair. Local Unions, including the North West Upper Peninsula Labor Council, and a variety of volunteers, purchased the site and the surrounding land. They restored it and preserved it as a monument to Michigan’s workers. These individuals kept the incident and the site from fading into the mists of history.


Mother Jones marches with the strikers before the masscreMother Jones marches with the strikers

The victimsThe victims

Woody Guthrie’s song about this event


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Tibeten folksong

Kinda perty. I like it.

tenzing wongmo – ajeb bu das tha hay yhe

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Yip yip Martians

An unusual and little known recorded interaction between the beings of Mars with earthlings. This undeniable proof of extraterrestrial intelligence was first broadcast on the respected science education program, Sesame Street. Click below.


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It’s almost time

for Mad Liberation by Moonlight. There are times (like tonight) when I am really dragging to get myself to showtime. But Daniel says, “the show must go on” or some such rot. Tonight I am hoping to get some calls from my friends at the Interactive Theater project- From the Inside Out.

On the other hand, I am very excited about getting my 3rd (third) comment since starting this blog. Woot! And I’m not sure but I think that only the first one was from someone I know.

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Oregon State Hospital Caught with it’s Pants Down

SALEM, Ore. — The U.S. Department of Justice has found numerous civil rights violations of patients at the Oregon State Hospital. In a report released Wednesday, federal investigators listed inadequate conditions and practices at the mental hospital ranging from life-threatening use of restraints to widespread patient-on-patient assault. Federal law entitles patients to certain standards of care. State health officials say many improvements have been made since the investigation took place in 2006, but acknowledged problems still exist. “The conditions reported on … are completely unacceptable,” said Dr. Bruce Goldberg, director of Oregon’s Department of Human Services. “It’s unacceptable as a state and its unacceptable for us as a state hospital for the health and well-being of our patients.”

The Oregon State Hospital is the state’s primary psychiatric facility for adults, which has a main hospital in Salem and other satellite facilities. Officials found violations in Salem and at its smaller Portland campus, which is used for psychiatric rehabilitation. Some of the cases highlighted in the 48-page report include:

  • Nearly 400 cases of patient-against-patient assault over one year.
  • Infection control issues such mice in rooms, deaths from pneumonia and outbreaks of norovirus and scabies.
  • Patients injuring themselves, including multiple suicide attempts, while under staff observation.
  • Failure to follow common standards of care: A patient with a disorder that causes excessive thirst was left at the water fountain and gained 13 pounds in water weight in one day.
  • Patients being put in seclusion indefinitely: One patient had been in seclusion for a year with no other treatment when investigators arrived. Other issues included improper medication, failure to diagnose mental health conditions, improper use of restraints, nurses working excessive overtime and patients waiting for discharge for more than a year after being approved. The report sets out recommended changes but does not set timelines to complete them. It is the latest in a series of critical looks at the hospital. Multiple state-commissioned reports found major health and safety dangers there, primarily from the crumbling century-old facility in Salem. It was the setting for the 1975 film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The Oregon Legislature last year authorized $458 million to build two new state-operated hospitals by 2013: a 620-bed hospital in Salem and 360-bed facility in Junction City. The hospital also hired a new chief medical officer and additional staff. “It’s not the same hospital today that it was in 2006,” Goldberg said. A spokeswoman for Gov. Ted Kulongoski said the governor takes the findings seriously, but is pleased with progress made since the 2006 investigation. Others were more dismayed by the report. “It’s the worst report I’ve read in my entire life,” said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem. “Every word was something else that was terrible. No standards, no progress … it goes on and on.” Courtney said he will create a a legislative oversight committee to monitor progress toward compliance with the Department of Justice’s recommendations. “In my opinion, this is the number one issue for Oregonians today,” he said. The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Oregon said it wants a comprehensive review of the entire mental health system so the 2009 Legislature will know how to respond. The Department of Human Services says it will request additional positions from the to improve patient care and safety. “This is a symptom of years of neglect to our entire mental health system,” Goldberg said.
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    Post MLK Day post


    This in from David Oaks:

    Repeatedly, in the last two decades of his life, Rev. King said in 
    speeches and essays that he was proud to be “psychologically 
    maladjusted” to oppression, war and poverty.
    MLK said the “salvation of the world lies in the hands of the 
    More than 10 times MLK said the world desperately needed a new 
    organization, the International Association for the Advancement of 
    Creative Maladjustment (IAACM)!
    As far we know, the IAACM never officially formed. Time Magazine 
    called it a “half joke.”

    But last year, in 2007, MindFreedom International helped launch the 
    IAACM at its international conference as part of the “Mad Pride” 
    movement that celebrates the right to be nonviolently different, odd, 
    crazy, nuts, strange, weird, or whatever term society would like to 
    toss our way.

    Who else could have intentionally and consciously formed the IAACM, 
    in reality, other than psychiatric survivors?

    The Mad Pride movement asks you a simple question:

    By MLK’s 80th birthday in 2009, what action will you take to show 
    your “creative maladjustment”?

    For a decade “Mad Pride” celebrates each and every human being’s 
    creative uniqueness and right to be nonviolently different, including 
    we people who have survived the psychiatric system. Like Gay Pride, 
    Mad Pride events have included parades, theater, “bed pushes,” 
    concerts and more.

    From the Inside Out: 

    In Portland we are fortunate to have a group called “From the Inside Out”. Led by Cathy Clemens, FTIO provides workshops and produces community events using interactive theater to explore issues and solutions related to mental health and it’s accompanying stigmatization. Based on the techniques of Theater of the Oppressed as developed by Augusto Boal, Interactive Theater participants create small plays that engage the audience in creatively changing the outcomes through active involvement with people who have mental health issues.

    I will try to keep FTIO events posted as they come up. The group is currently working on planning for the coming year.


    Mad Liberation by Moonlight is coming this Friday night, 1:00 a.m. PST on KBOO radio, 90.7 on your FM dial (to the left of NPR). Also streamed live on set your alarm. This time your radio really is talking to you.

    Martin Luther King on “Normalcy”:

    “The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy that 
    recognizes the dignity and worth of all of God’s children.

    “The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy that 
    allows judgment to run down like waters, and righteousness like a 
    mighty stream.

    “The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy of 
    brotherhood, the normalcy of true peace, the normalcy of justice…

    “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with 
    itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be 
    a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the 
    day of [hu]man as [hu]man.”

    -from MLK’s 25 March 1965 speech in Montgomery, Ala.

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    Lets see if this works

    Sound bite- Daisy, a blue front amazon who is part of my family, claims that she is a good bird. We know otherwise.


    If this doesn’t work, I’ll try another way.


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    Another thing

    For people in Portland this Friday evening:

    January 25th 7-9 pm
    4312 SE Stark, Portland
    “The Challenges Facing Religion Today”
    Speaker Imam Mamadou Toure of Institute of Islamic and Interfaith Studies will explore the guidance we can draw from the Gospels, the Torah, and the Koran to answer the question “What is it that God demands of us in these troubled times?”

    The program will begin with a few moments of silent worship (Quaker style).

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