take your drugs and shut up

nami succeeds; psych survivors silenced

— a February 6 dispatch from


For almost fifteen years, the federal government has provided a modest amount of funding so that Americans using the mental health system would have a way to speak out. But on February 4, the Bush administration proposed that all such funding be “terminated,” starting immediately.

The National Empowerment Center, CONTAC, and the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse are among the non-profits to receive national tech­nical assistance (“TA”) center grants from the U.S. Center for Mental Health Services.

The popular and diverse TA centers run toll-free lines, provide educational info, do trainings, and organize the popular Alternatives conferences which have brought to­gether thousands of people labeled with psychiatric disabilities.

Usually, a government budget cut simply leaves out the line item on a project being ended. The Bush proposal uses the word “terminated,” a word which may ring a bell with some. Ten months ago the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) announced on its website that its policy director, Andrew Sterling, was lobbying the Bush administra­tion to “terminate federal funding” for certain “psychiatric survivor” organizations. Subsequent attempts to speak with NAMI director Rick Birkel were met with silence.

Birkel apparently prefers the silent treatment: he has upheld NAMI’s long-standing policy to refuse to publicly disclose the amount of funding it receives from psychiatric drug manufacturers.

Mother Jones magazine used an undercover reporter to discover that NAMI was, during the late 1990s, receiving close to $100,000 per week for a total of $11.72 mil-lion over a two-year period. Much of that money was used to lobby for national implementation of an ag­gressive program to enforce outpa­tient psychiatric drugging in people’s homes, complete with daily at-home psych drug deliveries.

The TA activities have not been popular with everyone. Psychiatrist Sally Satel, author of the book PC, M.D., publicly condemns such gov­ernment funding. Satel reportedly has close ties to the Bush White House. Her own website currently denounces the psychiatric survivor/ mental health consumer movement “crusade” for human rights.

David Oaks, director of Sup-port Coalition International, and one of many psychiatric survivors whom Satel criticizes in her book, said, “Apparently Satel is the new queen of political correctness... and her first decree is to blacklist those who question her troubled profession.”


Get on the phone and in the mail, asking your congressional reps to restore funding for the Mental Health Consumer and Consumer-Supported National Technical As­sistance Centers. If you’re equipped to go online, learn more at http:// www.mhasp.org/advocacy/budget-Alert-2-02.html.