Quick report: supporting human rights defenders at MindFreedom International

“I am currently in a psych ward. I would be interested in finding out about alternatives to forced drugging. Many patients here have been traumatized, humiliated, and violated from forced drugging, coercive treatment, and psychiatric abuse. We would appreciate any suggestions you have on how we could address this.”

We received this plea for help over the summer from an Open Excellence subscriber, one of many we have received over the years from people caught in the web of involuntary ‘treatment’. Once adjudicated into congregate facilities or to ‘assisted outpatient treatment‘, many find it impossible to escape and are subjected to ongoing human and civil rights violations.

MindFreedom International’s more than three decades of work in public education and rights protection has centered on listening and responding to complaints from individuals who report that they are being forced into harmful treatments that are not of their choosing.

Today, hardships and closures related to COVID have challenged MindFreedom’s ability to meet the needs of the people they serve. An estimated 40% to 50% of all incoming calls and emails are from individuals who are being forced to endure psychiatric interventions that ignore their objections and personal choices. This unusually high number of requests for support and direct help have strained MindFreedom’s technology infrastructure.

A small grant from Open Excellence aimed to ease that burden and help MindFreedom staff and volunteers in their critical work.

Their mid-year report shows Open Excellence donor dollars being put to impressive use:

“COVID related social restrictions disproportionately impacted individuals living in congregate facilities. The grant from Open Excellence was a lifeline, helping MFI deal effectively with a higher than normal volume of human rights complaints, especially from those living in congregate facilities, against their will who are being forcibly drugged and/or shocked.

“Based on our best data available, we estimate that from December 31st to July 31st about half of the 3,987 email requests we responded to and 100% of the calls we returned (about 8-9, on average per week) were related to:

  • Psychiatric drug withdrawal, request for information/support.
  • Involuntary treatment issues or confinement in a congregate facility: help with hearings or finding an attorney.
  • Request help finding an alternative treatment provider or rights-based treatment program to dispute a diagnosis, overturn court ordered treatment, or help healing from trauma or iatrogenic harm
  • Help with advocacy or peer support delivered in a non-clinical, non-judgmental manner.

 

“With support from Open Excellence, during the first half of this grant period, MFI responded to approximately 140 unique requests for assistance, on average, per month, providing tailored responses, i.e. referrals, encouragement, and information, either in writing or by phone or both. Of those responses, several dozen resulted in one or more lengthy, in-person (virtual) meetings or advocacy type actions and seven resulted in public Shield alerts going out to our members. The number of Shield alerts we issued in 2021 to date is greater than the number issued in the last six years combined.

At least three of our Shield alerts to date snowballed into full-scale Shield campaigns, leveraging hundreds of volunteers who wrote letters, sent emails, and made calls advocating for Shield members whose rights were being violated in congregate facilities. All of our Shield campaigns were successful, as measured by the cessation of harmful or court ordered ‘treatment’ or the ability of an individual to move into a less restrictive setting.

“To date, MFI used the OE grant to make significant headway in making our operations more efficient in a time of challenging, increased demand. Specifically, OE funds were used to:

  • Install a new open source contact relations management system
  • Create and use our first segmented mailing list (Shield list)
  • Train staff on use of the new system”

 

To learn more about MindFreedom International and find out how you can get involved, visit mindfreedom.org.

 

 

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