To the Editor: The description in the June Open Forum of consumer activists and their history might lead your readers to conclude that the consumer movement is a fringe group—marginalized and bent on spreading disinformation. Readers should understand that the movement to ensure the human rights of people with disabilities is international in scope.
After many years of advocacy by the disability community, the United Nations General Assembly established a committee in 2001 to develop an international convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. The International Disability Caucus, currently composed of more than 50 nongovernmental organizations, was established the next year to help draft such a convention. The committee will hold its eighth session in New York this month to discuss the current draft of the convention.
Mental health advocacy groups have sought to include in the convention a universal prohibition of involuntary hospitalization and involuntary treatment. They oppose any language or action that would allow for mental health treatment, such as drugs or electroconvulsive therapy, to be forced upon any individual. They oppose any exceptions to be made to this prohibition for "exceptional circumstances," with "appropriate legal safeguards," or when it is "in the best interest of the person." Advocates oppose the model of substituted decision making because it gives away a person's legal capacity to another person, including a person's right to make treatment decisions (4). Instead, they stipulate a model of supported decision making to be the keystone of a voluntary system of services that provides noncoercive support for an individual experiencing a mental health crisis.
Users and survivors of psychiatry are not "antipsychiatry"—we are anti-psychiatric oppression, because we have witnessed or experienced such oppression under existing mental health laws and practices.
More information about the United Nations Programme on Global Disability and the work of the International Disability Caucus can be found on the United Nations Enable Web site at www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable.
Ms. Hill, who lives in Cobalt, Ontario, is a mental health industry reform activist and a member of Support Coalition International and Survivors of Psychiatry.