Mad Annals

For as long as there has been oppression, there has been resistance and Environmental Workographers provided examples of both. In (de)VOICED people who participated address oppression and resistance from all sides, as did people in the 19th century. In making public testimonials concerning their lived experiences of the asylum system individuals in the 19th century voiced the atrocities and torture they suffered at the hands of their keepers. Some of these testimonials are relied on in this volume to paint a picture of how over time, the perspectives of people who are involved with psychiatry has remained a call for the end of violence toward people who are psychiatrically labeled (Davis, 1860, 1855; Dix, 1844, 2001; Geller and Harris, 1994; Hornstein, 2005; Packard, 1868; The Opal, 1851-1860; Trull, 1891, Wood, 1994).

In fact, the entirety of the history of the asylum/psychiatric industry has been the subject of many academic inquiries, all detailing, if not directly naming practices such as restraint and seclusion if not as barbaric practices, abuse and torture of human beings across time, then social control or as a means to profit for the psychiatric industry and are explored in this volume (Foucault, 1965, 2006; Grob, 1994; Porter, 2002; Scull, 2005; Szasz, 1974/1961, 1998/1971, 2002; Whitaker, 2010, 2002).

Based on nearly a decade of research into this question of modern human rights violations committed by psychiatric industries with the sanction of state power, it seems that little has changed over time, beyond a more pervasive infiltration of psychiatry into the lived experiences of our society’s human environments in the twenty-first century.

Over time, the commonalities reflected through the writings of people who have been held in asylum/psychiatric systems and wrote to speak out about their experiences and people who have done the same, in recent years, are many. The most common differences between centuries are the replacement of discussions of the barbaric practices and procedures utilized in the nineteenth century such as antiquated restraining devices including the Utica Crib, discussed later, with modern experiences of barbaric practices and procedures of the last sixty years, including but not limited to, insulin and Metrazol shock, electroshock, neuroleptics and other psychiatric drugs, restraints, seclusion, and drugs (Bassman, 2007; Chamberlin, 1998; Frank, 2006; Kaysen, 1993; Millet, 2000/1990, Weitz, 2008, 2004, 2002). Across time, individuals who have psychiatric histories have spoken out about the abuse and torture they have endured and the murder and hostage holding of our brothers and sisters by the psychiatric system, today. Over the centuries, sometimes this opposition only occurred via individuals or small local clusters of people. In recent times, these clusters have expanded to organizations and networks, which are internationally based, where once we realize we are not alone in our fight for human rights, we join together in the form of a Movement.

This “Movement of Many Names” (Tenney, 2006) has its own distinctive culture, language, dialects, practices, days of observation, costumes, roles, goals, and symbols. Some of this information remains in yet-to-be-written folklore of how it was in years past, orally transferred from one inmate to the next, or the message is passed on through the distribution of photocopied excerpts, which were never published (Clay, 1994; Coletti, 1972; Declaration of Principles, 1982). Not everyone who was involved with (de)VOICED takes an antipsychiatry position. However, the position of antipsychiatry can be found in our data. Especially concerning language usage, of how people identify themselves, there was overwhelming distaste among those who were Environmental Workographers, concerning the label, “consumer.” Weitz (2002) wrote:

The labels “mental health consumer” and “consumer/survivor” are misleading and insulting to many of us who’ve suffered psychiatric abuse, the terror and injustice of involuntary committal, and other violations of our human rights. A “mental health consumer” is a person who accepts psychiatry’s medical model including pseudo-medical diagnostic labels such as “schizophrenia,” “bipolar mood disorder,” “attention deficit disorder,” as well as “medication,” and “mental health reforms.” “Consumer” also means real choices in the marketplace, but ironically there are virtually none in the psychiatric system—especially if you’re poor or homeless. The label “mental health consumer” makes no sense, we should stop using it along with “mental illness” and other psychobabble, and start using plain language if we want to be understood.

I proudly call myself both a psychiatric survivor and antipsychiatry activist. Like millions of other citizens, I survived psychiatric abuses such as involuntary committal (preventive detention), agonizing and traumatic treatment (50+ insulin subcoma shock treatments), and the libelous label “schizophrenic.” With many brother and sister activists, I also have been fighting against the psychiatric system and for human rights for 28 years. Human rights like freedom, freedom of expression and opinion, the right to refuse any medical-psychiatric treatment, the right to be treated with dignity and respect are always worth fighting for, even dying for. (Weitz, 2002)

Some of the history we share as an oppressed people who fight for our human rights has made its way to the academic and popular presses and is deeply addressed in this volume. As an example, Weitz (2008) addressed psychiatric torture in terms of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and specifically gave evidence for procedures such as insulin shock, electroshock, restraints, seclusion, and involuntary outpatient commitment as torture. Despite the fact that our platform is sometimes contested, sometimes, even within our own Movement, I argue we have found an avenue for finding answers to questions which have been sought out for centuries.

Through survivor research and participatory action research as overarching theoretical frameworks we developed an ambitious research design. We are suggesting that the answers we garnered from our research questions will lead us as a society to a deeper understanding of how to solve problems of the human experience and the lived crisis, without further violating the human rights of people involved with psychiatry, especially when that involvement is based on an involuntary or uninformed relationship, without consent of those who are assigned to such an arrangement of ‘help.’

Volume II of this dissertation presents the first goal of the research design of (de)VOICED which was to give voice within the Academic World to people who have psychiatric histories by putting forth a research agenda, created by us, and for us, with nothing about us, without us. First, and foremost, (de)VOICED gives voice to a population of people who are often silenced by bringing what has often been considered ‘anecdotal evidence’ of the experiences of people with psychiatric histories to the research base as evidence of these experiences existing over the course of time. These experiences, over time, are described in overwhelmingly negative terms, as generalizable knowledge. Utilizing historical records of people who had psychiatric histories and historical records of people who organized and coordinated psychiatric systems or employed their use, as alienists and psychiatrists, I show this phenomenon’s unquestionable existence.

People who have psychiatric histories, if given—and more often, when we have made for ourselves—the opportunity to speak out about our experiences with Asylum or Psychiatric Systems, consistently cite problems we endured in the name of ‘help.’ These experiences, widely ranged from being misunderstood, mistreated, and de-humanized to outright abuses, torture, slavery, and even murder. We consider these crimes against humanity and massive human rights violations, often perpetrated by State-Sponsored Organized Psychiatric Industries and for-profit psychiatry, dating back to the 19th Century in New York State.

Indeed, as far back as the 17th Century in England, people were attempting to change the Asylums that held them in, often involuntarily, over their expressed objection (Hornstein, 2005). While for-profit psychiatry represents many of the same issues as SSOPI, it also represents many different issues than SSOPI. My interests in this dissertation have included what happens to people when they no longer possess private insurance and/or money—or for whatever reason—become, are, or have been involved with a public psychiatric service delivery system.



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Chamberlin, J. (1998). Confessions of a noncompliant patient. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing, 36, 49-52.

Clay, S. (2005). About us: What we have in common. On our own, together: Peer programs for people with mental illness. Vanderbilt University Press.

Coletti. (1972). Unpublished manuscript in The Papers of the Mental Patients Liberation Alliance: Utica, New York.

Davis, P. B. (1860). The travels and experiences of Miss Phebe B. Davis, of Barnard, Windsor County, VT, being a sequel to her two years and three months in the N.Y. state lunatic asylum at Utica, N.Y. Syracuse, NY: J. G. K. Truair and Co.

Davis, P. B. (1855). Two years and three months in the N.Y. state lunatic asylum at Utica, N.Y.:  Outlines of twenty years peregrination in Syracuse. Syracuse, NY: The Author.

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Foucault, M. (1965). Madness and civilization: A history of insanity in the age of reason. New York: Vintage Books.

Foucault, M. (2006). Psychiatric power: Lectures at the College de France, 1973-1974. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Frank, L. R. (Ed.) (2006). Electroshock quotationary. Retrieved on July 26, 2013 from

Geller, J., and Harris, M. (1994). Women of the asylum: Voices from behind the walls, 1840 – 1945. New York: Doubleday.

Grob, G. N. (1994). The mad among us: A history of the care of America’s mentally ill. New York: The Free Press.

Hornstein, G. (2005). Bibliography of first-person narratives of madness (3rd ed.). Retrieved on May 31, 2008, from

Kaysen, S. (1993). Girl interrupted. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Millett, K. (2000/1990). The loony bin trip. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Packard, E.W.P., 1868 The prisoner’s hidden life: Insane asylums unveiled. Elizabeth Packard: Chicago. Retrieved on October 18, 2013 from

Porter, R. (2002). Madness A brief history. New York: Oxford University Press.

Scull, A. (2005). Madhouse: A tragic tale of megalomania and modern medicine. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Szasz, T. (1974/1961). The myth of mental illness: Foundations of a theory of personal conduct. Revised Edition. New York: HarperCollins.

Szasz, T. (1998/1977). Psychiatric slavery. New York: Syracuse University Press.

Szasz, T. (2002). Liberation by oppression: a comparative study of slavery and psychiatry. New Brunswick (USA): Transaction Publishers.

The Opal. (1851-1860). The Patients. (Eds.). Utica, New York: Utica State Lunatic Asylum.

Trull, W. (1891). Madhouses of America. Cohoes: New York.

United Nations Drafting Committee. (1948). The universal declaration of human rights. Retrieved on February 23, 2014 from

Weitz, D. (2002). Call me antipsychiatry activist—not ‘consumer.’ Ethical Human Sciences and Services, 5 (1), 71-72.

Weitz, D. (2004). Insulin Shock—a survivor’s account of psychiatric torture. Journal of Critical Psychology, Counseling and Psychotherapy, 4(3), 187-194; see also

Weitz, D. (2008). Struggling against psychiatry’s human rights violations. Journal of Radical Psychology, 7. Retrieved on February 16, 2014 from

Whitaker, R. (2002). Mad in America: bad science, bad medicine and the enduring treatment of the mentally ill. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.

Whitaker, R. (2010). Anatomy of an epidemic: Magic bullets, psychiatric drugs, and the astonishing rise of mental illness in America. New York: Crown Publishers.

Wood, M. E. (1994). The writing on the wall: Women’s autobiography and the asylum. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press.

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