The Highlander Statement of Concern and Call to Action

March 25, 2000

In the tradition of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt and thousands of men and women concerned about social justice and progressive change, thirty people with long histories of fighting for human rights in mental health gathered for three days at the Highlander Center in Tennessee. We argued, came to consensus, and then quietly shared our pain, our concerns, our fears, and our hopes for the future.

We came to understand that our personal stories have power and that they must be heard. We must tell them to other people who have been damaged by psychiatric treatment, to the public, to lawmakers and to political candidates as well. We are compelled to share our collective struggle and claim our place as a civil rights movement along side of those who have been similarly discounted, disenfranchised, and marginalized: people of color; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people; people with physical disabilities; women; people belonging to religious, ethnic, and linguistic minorities; Jews and others now at risk for ethnic cleansing; and people forced to live in poverty amidst the great wealth and abundance of corporate America.

In the Highlander tradition, we came away from those three days on the mountain determined that we will not allow anyone to do for us, to discount us, or to pat us on the head instead of looking us in the eye. We came away invigorated and ready to act individually and collectively to insure that selfdetermination, respect, ethical behavior, and humane voluntary services and supports become the foundation of a reinvented mental health system.

We came away ready to make this a reality.

The Highlander Call for Action:

We call upon all people committed to human rights to organize and fight against the passage and implementation of legislation making it easier to lock up and forcibly drug people labeled with psychiatric disorders, legislation that is creating the back wards of the twentyfirst century not just in hospitals, but also in our own homes.

We call upon all people committed to human rights to work together to build a mental health system that is based upon the principle of self-determination, on a belief in our ability to recover, and on our right to define what recovery is and how best to achieve it.

We call upon people who have used mental health services to heal each other by telling our stories. We call for the creation of literature and other arts that use our truths to educate, to inform, and to validate our culture and our experience.

We call upon elected officials, political candidates, and those with power over our lives to recognize and honor the legitimacy of our concerns through their policy statements, legislative proposals, and their actions; and we hereby give notice that we will do whatever it takes to insure that we are heard, that our rights are protected, and that we can live freely and peacefully in our communities.

The Highlander 30: Laurie Ahern, Ron Bassman, Tom Behrendt, Gayle Bluebird, Celia Brown, Ted Chabasinski, Judi Chamberlin, Ty Colbert, Carla X Cubit, Patricia Deegan, George Ebert, Mary Ann Ebert, Janet Foner, Cookie Gant, Beverly Jones, Anne Krauss, Jay Mahler, Linda Morrison, Loren Mosher, David Oaks, Tom Olin, Sue Parry, Lawrence Plumlee, Ken Schlosser, Linda Sisson, Vicki Fox Smith, Mickey Weinberg, Lynda Wright, Kris Yates, Sally Zinman