Freedom Center (mental health organization)
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Founded by Will Hall and Oryx Cohen,[when?] the Freedom Center is a Northampton, Massachusetts-based support, activism, and human rights community run by and for people diagnosed with severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Aims of the Center
The Freedom Center is part of the international psychiatric survivors movement and was founded to provide mutual aid and support to people facing emotional distress who have not been helped by mainstream hospital and professional care. The Freedom Center works to defy stereotypes of helplessness, break the silence around psychiatric abuse, expose the corruption of pharmaceutical companies and work for change in mental health care.
Freedom Center exposes psychiatric abuse experiences locally and challenges the 'disease and disorder' medical model of mental illness. It favors a recovery model approach and creating dialog that encourages personal exploration of the uniqueness of individual experiences of "madness" instead of diagnostic categories. Freedom Center does not present one interpretation of what gets labeled as "psychosis," mental illness or personality disorder, and its members reflect a diversity of explanations, such as trauma and abuse, holistic health, spirituality, cultural difference, and social oppression.
By presenting the work of journalists, scholars, and scientists[when?] such as author Robert Whitaker, Elliot Valenstein, and Paula Caplan at public forums, Freedom Center works to educate about the lack of scientific consensus behind biological, "chemical imbalance" and genetic theories of what gets labeled as mental illness.
Its educational work emphasizes the social and political nature of diagnosis, how medical interpretations are driven by profit and professional power, and how the biomedical view has limited the range of possibilities for recovery and often worsened treatment outcomes. Freedom Center has been vocal about the failure of medication-based treatment for many people, and the reoccurring trauma that many people experience from their hospitalizations. While working to create alternatives to mainstream treatments and alert people to the dangers of medications and hospitalization, Freedom Center welcomes participation by anyone with mental health experience, including those taking or not taking medication or those who use hospitalization and therapy.
Despite hosting prominent psychiatrists and welcoming people taking medications, opponents have sought to discredit the organization as "anti-psychiatry" and "anti-medication."
Viewing current options for psychiatric treatment as too narrow and "one size fists all," the Freedom Center has been the first in the Pioneer Valley to promote a range of holistic therapies for people who have experienced what gets labeled as "psychosis," including acupuncture, yoga, support groups, hearing voices groups, writing groups, helping people reduce and come off medications and working for system-wide change, such as non-hospital programs like Soteria House and trauma-informed care. The group's support and activism work has helped pave the way to establishing peer recovery-based alternatives in Massachusetts, such as the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community.
Freedom Center seeks to provide people space to find their own pathway to recovery and let them explore, with support, a variety of wellness resources, which may or may not include psychiatric medications.
The charity has co-published a Harm Reduction Guide To Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs to help those who want to do so. The guide has been published in several languages and widely distributed, and includes an Editorial Advisory Board of 14 healthcare professionals.
The center undertakes educational work and public events, and hosts a radio show that is also broadcast globally over the internet. Projects include a weekly support group, writing group, free community acupuncture clinic, and yoga class, as well as responding to information and resource requests from around the local area and beyond.
The Freedom Center's stated goals include:
- ending all force and coercion, including involuntary treatment such as forced drugging and involuntary commitment
- ensuring access to resources such as housing is without strings and not conditional on treatment "compliance"
- defending human rights and ensuring protective laws and regulations are enforced
- ensuring all treatment decisions are based on true informed consent and accurate information about risks
- changing drugging as the medical standard of care for psychosis
- ending all psych drugging of children and offering alternatives instead
- supporting effective alternatives such as nutrition, exercise, holistic health care, nature and animals
- providing voluntary, non-paternalistic social supports such as peer-run programs, housing, income, and individual and family therapy
- supporting reducing and coming off psychiatric medication to improve health and as a personal right
- creating Soteria-style options
- exposing psychiatric and pharmaceutical industry myths, propaganda, and corruption
- ending wasteful bureaucracies and expensive professional elites
- breaking the silence around trauma and abuse
- ending fear and misunderstanding of "madness" and extreme states of consciousness
- making common cause with progressive movements for social justice and ecological balance
- Harm reduction
- Hearing Voices Movement
- National Empowerment Center
- Psychiatric survivors movement
- Recovery model
- The Icarus Project