by Ron Unger, LCSW
For decades, one of the most prominent voices for radical change, or “non-violent revolution” in mental health care has been David Oaks, former director of MindFreedom International. Many activists today were drawn into their work due to David’s influence. Robert Whitaker, for example has credited an interview he did with David in 1998 for propelling him into noticing and writing about the way psychiatric drugs were harming more than helping. My own journey in becoming outspoken on these issues has also been massively influenced by David’s activism and ideas, which is one reason I care strongly about the issue I am bringing up here.
While David has been helpful, directly or indirectly, to so many of us, he now needs our help. In December 2012, while attempting to retrieve his cat “Bongo” from a loft, he slipped and fell, breaking his neck (which was already very vulnerable due to a previously existing bone condition.) He then teetered on the edge of survival for some months, setting the record at the local hospital for longest stay in the ICU. An infection he suffered during this time resulted in a high fever which caused additional difficulties, partially impairing his ability to speak. David has worked hard since in rehab to regain some use of his arms, but lacks control of his hands and legs.
Since David’s accident, he and Debra have exhausted their savings paying for bills not covered by insurance. Friends and local agencies have donated some of the labor toward the remodel of their house to fit David’s wheelchair, but usually not the cost of materials. The cost of daily life has increased tremendously. And to continue working and to move freely about in the community, David will need technological help with the internet, a computer and a specially-equipped van.
Those supporting David have set a goal of raising $100,000 to assist him with both immediate and long term expenses. About half of this has already been raised, but we are hoping those of you reading this will be able to help with the balance, either by making a direct contribution, or by spreading the word to those who may have both the interest and the resources to make a contribution.
Here is how to donate:
By check: mail the check to Chase Bank, 1100 Willamette St., Eugene, OR 97401 Make payable to “David W Oaks Irrevocable Trust” Write account number 3008433244 in the memo line.
By credit card: Go to http://www.supportdavidoaks.org/ to give now using a credit card or to schedule a monthly donation. You will also find links there to videos about David.
If you are going to Alternatives 2013, you may want to attend the fundraiser on Wednesday, December 4, at Zax Restaurant and Bar, 312 Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas (a short walk from the hotel where Alternatives will be held). There will be two seatings for dinner: 5:30 pm – 6:15 pm and 6:15 pm – 7:00 pm. Please RSVP with which seating you would like to attend by emailing: Friendsofdavidoaks@gmail.com. The dinner is $25 per person includes a dinner and donation. You can pay in advance at support davidwoaks.org or in person at the Alternatives exhibit table. Even if you are not able to be present in Austin, we invite you to make a donation. The goal is to raise $5,000 which will give a boost to the effort to make an accessible van a reality for David. For more information, email Friendsofdavidoaks@gmail.com .
Whether or not you have money to donate, you can also help out by passing this message along to others who might be interested. You can also help by liking the “Support David Oaks” page on Facebook and sharing it with your Facebook friends.
David’s spirit in meeting with the awesome challenge of extreme disability has been inspiring to everyone who has encountered him. Rather than bemoan his fate, he has risen to every challenge, doing what it is possible for him to do with enthusiasm and lots of humor. Let’s do what we can to help him out, so that his voice can continue to be heard in our community and so that we can do our part to take care of him after all the years he spend fighting for us. Thanks for your consideration.
PS While the biggest part of David’s time has been going into “rehab rehab rehab” as he put it to me recently, he has taken time out for a bit of blogging, where you can see that he still manages to mix fun with activism: see http://www.davidwoaks.com/
This was first published at Mad in America