[Hpn] Washington Post Covers Mental Health Hunger Strike: Fast for Freedom

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Mon, 01 Sep 2003 01:30:21 -0400

Below is a forward of an article, as forwarded via a 'Dendrite' from 
MindFreedom -- Support Coalition International (SCI),  which may be of 
interest to you and others whom you know. My apologies if you have already 
come across the following either directly or from elsewhere.

Morgan W. Brown, Administrator
E-mail: mffastblog@justice.com
MindFreedom Fast Blog:
A blog committed to the creation, realization,
exercizing and fulfillment of social justice, human
rights, self-determination and freedom in mental health


-------Forwarded FYI-------

From: "www.MindFreedom.org" <dendron@efn.org>
Reply-To: office@mindfreedom.org
Date: Sat, 30 Aug 2003 07:08:55 -0700
Subject: _Washington Post_ Covers Mental Health Hunger
Strike: Fast for Freedom

   _The Washington Post_ 29 August 2003 *BELOW*
covers the Fast for Freedom in Mental Health, which is
an ongoing hunger strike (Day 15) that says the
psychiatric drug industry is squeezing out freedom of
choice in America, and globally.

More info on Fast check out http://www.MindFreedom.org.
Plus there are lots of other links at the bottom of
this. The hunger strikers ask: "Please forward this far
& wide!"


_The Washington Post_ 29 August 2003
Raising Doubts About Drugs
Calif. Hunger Strike Challenges Use of Antidepressants
By Kimberly Edds
Special to _The Washington Post_

Saturday, August 30, 2003; Page A08

PASADENA, Calif., Aug. 29 -- After two weeks, four
mental health advocates are still on a hunger strike,
protesting the widespread use of prescription drugs to
treat mental illnesses and challenging psychiatrists to
document their rationale for prescribing them. Over the
last few decades, doctors have embraced the view that
depression, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses
result from imbalances in brain chemistry, and they
have treated such illnesses with drugs intended to
rebalance that chemistry. In recent years, the use of
antidepressant drugs has grown dramatically in the
United States, with the number of prescriptions nearly
doubling since 1998, according to the pharmaceutical
consulting company IMS Health.

As more people turn to antidepressants, mental health
experts and patient advocates are beginning to raise
questions about side effects and the potential for

The strikers are calling on some of the strongest
voices in the psychiatric profession, including the
American Psychiatric Association and the National
Alliance for the Mentally Ill, to provide concrete
evidence that mental illnesses are the result of brain
chemistry imbalances. They also want to call attention
to alternative treatments.

"Millions of people are signing up for these
prescriptions because they are convinced they have a
chemical imbalance. But there is not one piece of
evidence that can back that up," said David Oaks,
executive director of MindFreedom Support Coalition
International, or SCI, an organization of current and
former psychiatric patients that organized the strike.

A spokesman for the American Psychiatric Association
referred a reporter to a letter the association's
medical director, James H. Scully, wrote to Oaks on
Aug. 12. "In recent years, there has been substantial
progress in understanding the neuroscientific basis of
many mental illnesses," it said. "Research offers hope
and must continue."

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) did
not respond to several requests to comment, but Oaks
made available an e-mail he received today from Rick
Birkel, NAMI's national executive director.

"NAMI has never stated to my knowledge that 'mental
disorders are caused exclusively by biological
factors,' " it said. "Instead, we are saying that
biological or genetic vulnerability appears to be
pre-requisite to serious mental disorder."

Birkel added that "mental disorders result from
complex interactions of many factors, including
environmental forces, stress, personality, social
support, illness and injury."

Birkel's e-mail reflects a growing consensus in the
psychiatric establishment. Most psychiatrists say that
complex mental disorders are like arthritis and other
chronic physical ailments -- no less real because they
cannot be spotted with laboratory tests.

The hunger strikers, who include three former mental
patients, said that the responses were not
satisfactory and that they wanted a study and a
diagnostic lab test that proves the connection.
admit that none exist, see URL below.] Until then,
they plan to continue their protest.

They began with six hunger strikers, but two,
including Oaks, left because of health difficulties.
The remaining four have been downing daily a dark red
brew of juices from garlic, beets, kale and carrots,
and spending their time answering supporters' e-mails
and making phone calls to media outlets.

Hunger striker David Gonzalez said he spent two years
confined in an inpatient facility after being
diagnosed with major depression and, later, manic
depression, and that he was forcibly drugged during
that time. He said the drugs impaired his eyesight and

"When someone has cancer, they don't lock the door
behind them, and they show them the tests," Gonzalez
said. "But when someone has a mental illness, they
lock the door behind them and show them no tests. When
they lock that door behind me, I want to know why."

Oaks said he, too, had been confined in institutions
and forcibly drugged for what was diagnosed as
schizophrenia. He recovered, he said, through the love
and support of his family, rather than drugs.

"People do not know what it's like to be on these
drugs," Oaks said. "If you want to take it and it
obliterates your pain, that's one thing, but when you
are pushed to be on it, it's like a wrecking ball to
your thoughts and feelings."

Studies have shown that daily exercise, psychotherapy
and even changes in diet and nutrition are as
effective as, if not more effective than, prescription
drugs, said Stuart Shipko, a Pasadena psychiatrist and
panic disorder specialist who serves on an SCI
scientific panel. But there is not widespread support
for such treatments.

"We're overdiagnosing. How many of these supposed
mental illnesses are really just problems in your
family life? They're anxious, and they're being put in
a chemical straitjacket," Shipko said.

 2003 The Washington Post Company



[CAPTION:] David Gonzalez, left, and Mickey Weinberg
are participating in a hunger strike to question the
treatment of mental illnesses through drugs. (Kimberly
Edds -- _The Washington Post_)

[To submit letter to editor of _The Washington Post_
e-mail to: letters@washpost.com.]

- END -


For news releases, published media articles, contact
info, links to photos, lots of updates, fact sheet,
commentary, and latest actions you can take to support
the fast, see:


To  e-mail support for Fast for Freedom:

For daily Fast photos, a lively public message board
including chat with hunger strikers, and more see:


For photos of a delegation of hunger strikers meeting
with the President of the American Psychiatric


For some of the latest published media articles on the


For direct link to the lively public message board
that you can post to, and dialogue with fasters:


A statement by David Oaks, Executive Director of
MindFreedom, as Fast for Freedom goes into 3rd week:


Original statement of demands by Fast for Freedom:


The latest request by hunger strikers to APA -- 28


Rumor-busting: Fast for Freedom and MindFreedom are
*NOT* connected to Church of Scientology or Citizens
Commission on Human Rights:


How to join MindFreedom Support Coalition International
and donate to Fast for Freedom at the same time:


For a sample of the debate going on about the
"biological basis of mental illness" see:


For a "blog" started by a Fast supporter see:




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-------End of forward-------

Morgan W. Brown, Administrator
E-mail: mffastblog@justice.com
MindFreedom Fast Blog:
A blog committed to the creation, realization,
exercizing and fulfillment of social justice, human
rights, self-determination and freedom in mental health

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