Few people have experienced the struggle of psychiatric patients like Ronald Bassman has. Ronald has seen both sides of the locked door. At the age of 25, he was institutionalized at a psychiatric hospital and treated with electroshock, insulin comas, and massive doses of medication. In this episode, he retells the traumatic events that led him to pursue a doctorate in psychology. He is now the Executive Director of MindFreedom International. He has been part of multiple organizations vying to promote the civil and human rights of people with psychiatric disabilities and provide the tools to facilitate genuine community integration for people who use mental health services. Learn more about his story and the mental health pushing to cultivate a better world for people with mental illness.
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Fighting To Be From Both Sides Of The Locked Door: A Mental Health Advocacy For Psychiatric Patients’ Rights With Ronald Bassman
Ronald Bassman, PhD, is the Executive Director of MindFreedom International, a nonprofit organization that unites, sponsors, and affiliates grassroots groups with thousands of individual members to win human rights and alternatives for people labeled with psychiatric disabilities. In 1969, at the age of 25, Ronald Bassman was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for the second time in three years. The second time he was admitted, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia chronic type. His “treatments” included electroshock, insulin comas, and massive doses of medication.
He writes that after he recovered from his treatments and began addressing the identity issues that had triggered his excursion into a “madness” he entered graduate school and earned a doctorate, and became a licensed psychologist. Since then, he’s worked in a state hospital and private practice, been a consultant to schools and state agencies, taught graduate school courses in community mental health and has been the executive director of a seven-county comprehensive mental health center. He is passionate about his volunteer advocacy work and has served as a two-term President of the National Association of Rights Protection and Advocacy, known as NARPA. He’s been elected a member of the American Psychological Association’s Expert Task Force on Serious Mental Illness.
Ron, welcome. Thanks for being here.
I’m glad you invited me and happy to be here.
I’m excited to be able to talk with you. I’ve been reading your book. I’m looking forward to hearing more about if you’d let us know a little bit about what got you started in the work you do and what drives your passion for it.
I’d be glad to and try and condense the story. Essentially, I was interested in psychology in my senior year in high school. I had a teacher who was interested in psychology when I had never heard of it before. I was an unhappy young man. I never felt quite right about who I was. I was anxious in class and always told by teachers why I don’t try harder, “You’re obviously intelligent.” I didn’t like school. I would get anxious if I was asked a question and infrequently raised my hand in class. I’d be sweaty if I were put on the spot, which is odd that now I do interviews like this one, and I speak a lot in public. That’s part of my story.
When I was 22 years old, I got my Master’s Degree from Temple University in Psychology. That summer, I was deciding what I was going to do with my life. It was a time when I thought I was going to be drafted. It was the height of the Vietnam War. I thought, “Let me see what I can do this summer to feel better about myself and the way my life is going and not be so shy, introverted, and easily anxious.”
It was a very conscious decision that summer that I wasn’t going to care what anybody else felt. I wasn’t going to be so self-conscious. It was almost like a switch flipped for me. I started to get more outgoing. Nowadays, people would call it mania. I started to develop my sense of reality and do things differently. My personality was more outgoing. I was more dogmatic about my views. I also felt like I could expand the sense of excitement if I didn’t sleep.
I’d deprived myself of sleep. Somewhere in the midst of that, I wouldn’t say I was hallucinating, but I saw things the way I wanted to see. For example, if it was raining outside and I was talking to somebody, I could make myself believe it wasn’t raining. I could be soaking wet. My family saw me as being different from who I was for most of my life, and it frightened them.
It’s a myth that people diagnosed with schizophrenia never recover.
We had a cousin who was a clinical psychologist. He said I should see a psychiatrist, which was a terrible experience. He saw me for five minutes and said I should be taken to the hospital. I was taken to a general hospital with a psychiatric unit, which was for people who were picked up on the street and drunk and whatever.
I was strapped down in the bed in that unit. I started yelling for somebody to talk with me that wasn’t right. At that point, because I don’t remember it that well, I was given an injection. The next thing I knew, I woke up in a psychiatric hospital, and I was in seclusion. I was in a room with a tiny window with a mattress on the floor. I started yelling once the drug that I’d given when I was transported to that hospital wore off.
I was innocent like most people who go. You don’t realize what can be done to you. I started yelling, “I’m going to sue. You can’t do this to me. These are my rights.” Eventually, I was led out of that room and given a lot of drugs. At that time, it was Thorazine and also some anti-Parkinson drugs to counteract the side effects. The drugs that were prescribed kept going up because I was still saying, “You needed to let me out.” I was still spirited. That’s a nice word for it.
I had a psychiatrist there who thought of himself as a star. I remember he came around to my room with what I would call his posse, some of the nurses. He asked me questions like, “Do you still think that you’re special, you can read minds and you have extrasensory powers? If you do, grow hair on my head. I don’t like being bald.”
There’s a great deal of disrespect and teasing. Two or three months into that stay, my mother came to visit me, and she said, “I got good news for you.” I remember this very clearly. She said, “You have had a lot of tests, blood tests and different things.” She’s going to say I’m getting out. She said, “You’re going to get a new treatment that’s going to be good.”
The new treatment was insulin coma therapy, which is no longer used because people died from that. You’re injected with insulin until you go into a coma. That was done to me for five days a week for eight weeks, I had 40 treatments, followed by electric shock. When I left the hospital, I’ve lost much in my memory about the preceding year, and it was a struggle.
You know that side of this horrendous situation and forced treatments and obliteration of rights. It’s amazing that you function at all, much less you’ve had the career you had from that.
I know Tim, you’ve told me before that you started my book and are reading part of it. Part of what I feel, I’ve asked this a lot, it’s a myth that I’ve been working to counteract for many years that people diagnosed with schizophrenia never recover. Now the myths extend. We have bipolar that you supposedly don’t recover from.
However, bipolar had become the diagnosis that you were. Back when I was interning in a mental hospital, before the time I went for my doctorate, I remember my supervisor saying to me, because we were doing tests for diagnosis, “Few people are diagnosed with manic depression that eventually turned into bipolar. It’s the diagnosis. People think they have it.”
I don’t believe diagnosis serves any purpose. It assures somebody, whether it’s the pharmaceutical company, the insurance company, or the doctor, feels comfortable that, “Now I know what you have, but do you know how to treat this person as an individual or as a class of people who you think will get better if they do whatever the formula you think you know?”
In terms of how I got into the field, I was always interested in this. I personally can’t leave some of the things that I did. After my second hospitalization, where I was in for another seven months, I believe it was about two years later, I applied for Doctoral programs, and I got accepted into the school. I was fine. They never knew that I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and hospitalized twice.
I probably wouldn’t have been admitted, but school was very easy at that point. I had the experience of knowing what was viable and what wasn’t. I made it a point to learn everything I could. When I got out of school, I would attend every training or conference. I studied hypnosis and postdoctoral training, family therapy.
I was at a lecture by somebody named TX Barber, who’s not that well known, but he was a theorist about hypnosis. I had also been studying with Milton Erickson on hypnosis. I was not a good hypnotist. I didn’t have the pattern and the comfort with it, but it was appealing because it offered some way of quickly getting connected with the person and helping them. I would read about these 1, 2 session cures by Milton Erickson.
During the break, I walked up to TX Barber, and I said, “You seem to have a different approach. I’m interested in how these people who are well-known do a couple of therapy sessions, hypnosis, direct hypnosis, and symptoms are gone. It’s miraculous.” He said to me, “Do you do therapy?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Is there anybody that you think you’ve helped?” I said, “Yeah, on occasion.” He said, “Write it up and keep writing up all the studies. Write up all the time you’ve helped somebody, and you’ll be as good as any of the others. You don’t see the failures.”
I don’t know how accurate it was, but it made me think about stuff in a different way. To close off the questions on my background, I started working at a mental health center, and then I went into private practice. Nobody knew my background at that time. I had a relatively successful career and tried to do some advocacy, but then I had something inside me that needed to come out, what I knew and have learned from my personal experience.
I started writing. The book that I wrote took me 25 years. I’ll tell you a funny little story. When the book was in print, my wife’s mother had peripheral neuropathy and was losing a lot of her abilities to do things. She couldn’t walk and needed assistance. She lived in an assisted care facility. When the book came out, I drove with my wife to where she was staying to show her the book in 2007. She held out her hand like this for me to put the book on top of her hand. I put it there, and she started going like this with the book. She said, “It took you 25 years to write this little thing?”
I loved it. The experience warmed my heart. She used to have the aides read passages from the book before she passed away. There was something that I skipped over, which on the paper cover, inset of the book, is probably the question that I’ve been asked the most, which is, “How did you get through this? How did you get to where you are now?”
It wasn’t through therapy and drugs. I thought about that. There’s a piece in my book, but it’s also the part that I put on the jacket, which I said, “The ability for me to pass through this, live a healthy life and do the work that I do, I put a lot of work in, but there was something else that allowed me to get to this place in life.” You could call it karma, luck, God’s blessing, fate, or whatever.
We try and control so many things and we’ll never know what we’re aspiring to do. Some of our attempts to take the mystery out is detrimental.
There’s a mystery in life that I embrace at this point that we try and control so many things. We’ll never know what we’re aspiring to do. Some of our attempts to take the mystery out are detrimental. I also say in following up that passage that I wrote that it’s the hope that keeps the spirit alive. No matter what happens to people, this is my belief that there’s a spark and sanctuary within people that can take that little piece of spirit that remains no matter what’s done to you.
It can be brought out and expanded upon, and that help might come from unexpected places. Keeping that hope alive is probably the most important thing. I have an advantage in therapy because I worked with people who have had the worst of times. I can share my experience. I can say, “I’ve seen a lot of things,” and that person can do it too if he believes it. My job is to get them to believe in themselves and start doing the work that does that.
Nurture that spark of hope. It’s a fight to be. It’s a psychologist’s experience from both sides of the locked door. I have to agree with you when you say that the diagnoses are next to completely useless in determining what to do and how to help a person. One of the founders of Journey’s Dream has had his own labels and gotten through it.
Many of the people that we’ve interviewed had their own lived experiences. They’re an integrative psychiatrist or a success in the business world. I’ve had many people through my caseload in many years who’ve been given a label like a schizophrenic or bipolar or manic depressive. There are people in the field who say, “That means this person will never get better,” but most of us who work in the field with people as people, not as a label, understand that’s not the determining factor.
The label is never the determining factor in an outcome for the person. It’s those things you were alluding to that spark of hope that the intangibles, the ability to connect with someone and respect them, and the ability to give them options other than the conventional, “Take this medication, go into this lockup,” become what we want you to become. There are so many other good options out there. That’s why I relish the ability to interview people like you and talk about some of the advocacy work you’re doing. You’re the Director of MindFreedom International.
Let me finish up what you were talking about, and then I’ll get into some of my other work, my passion. Often, I’m sure when you were doing therapy when a person wants to know what therapy you do, you’ve had that question. This is the way I answer it now after being a therapist for a long time and working with all sorts of people. I say I practice Wu Wei, which is a Daoist tradition, which means doing by not doing. The way I interpreted it is I learned this from a master of Tai Chi, which I’ve been practicing for many years.
He said that when you master something, don’t think about it anymore and you don’t use it, it becomes part of you and the pieces of it are what you use. For a therapist, it’s important to learn the principles and the systems, whatever that particular system is. When it becomes part of you and you see a person, you relate to that person as an individual, pull out from whatever you’ve learned before, use it, and adapt it to that particular person.
One of the things that I reject is these systems that say, “You have this and that diagnosis. Let’s do CBTP, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Psychosis. Let’s do EMDR for post-traumatic stress disorder,” or one of the many things, which can work for people. I don’t believe that it’s a particular system. I believe that it gives the therapist the confidence that they know what they’re doing. That gets transmitted to the person. For the right fit and timing, it could be very effective.
In terms of my belief system and advocacy, forced treatment is detrimental to the development of anybody, especially if they go into an institution and are given psychiatric drugs, tranquilizers, let’s say. They’re not anti-psychotics. What they do is they slow down the person and may make them available. If somebody is out of control, a short-term time taking the drugs to get them to a stable state, but to take them for an extended period of time interrupts and changes the person’s attempt to find themselves.
People don’t go into these psychotic states or madness without reason. Many people go into it because they’re trapped. You take the typical diagnosis of bipolar. The person has a manic episode. That’s enough. It doesn’t have to be a series of manic episodes for them to be described as bipolar, but why didn’t they go manic instead of depressed? They can go either way because they feel trapped. They have no way out. This pursuit of madness is they’re learning how to cope or to change. With guidance, they may be able to make it through and not have this interrupted journey.
The United Nations has a project right now on deinstitutionalization. I participated with twenty people from different disabilities to talk about what institutional utilization means and how we can develop a culture and society that minimizes putting people in institutions. One of the things I said was, “These are my numbers. They’re made-up numbers. There’s no research that 95% of people experiencing emotional difficulties get treated with a sense of needing to be contained, like 5% may need that.”
There might be 5% of the people experiencing these diverse and unpredictable emotional states where they may do damage to the community themselves or others. We do the same thing for people that could be treated in a different way, supportive environment that can be spoken with. There’s a push now, a grassroots effort to create more pure respite centers. Some are modeled after Soteria that Loren Mosher developed many years ago, where people can feel safe, express themselves in whatever crazy ways they want, and people listen.
They can stay up all night but then get a sense of their worth and start participating in the community. Whereas we stabilize people in madness and mental illness by the way, we treat them. What I try and do right now is work to extend the rights of people. I am now Executive Director MindFreedom International and have been doing this for years. The MindFreedom was developed in the 1980s by David Oaks, who is a psychiatric survivor.
He had an accident several years ago where he fell off a ladder and is now quadriplegic. He’s an amazing individual and still helps me do the work with MindFreedom. The amazing part of him is, “How are you doing, David?” I speak to him on the phone fairly regularly, “I’m doing great,” he never complains. I’ve known David before and after his accident.
When I first met him, I had come out to Eugene, Oregon, where MindFreedom’s office is. He got together a bunch of people to meet me. They had dinner at his house. I came in. I said, “Hi, David.” He said, “Give me a hug.” I went over, and he had this elaborate chair so that he could move around with all the modern advancements. I’m afraid to knock something over. I go over to the side of him, and I put my arm on his shoulder.
He’s like, “No, a real hug.” I came around a little bit more, still tentatively. He said, “No.” He would insist until I came up and practically sat in the chair and hugged him. He’s still doing stuff and doing a lot of environmental work and things right now. David had a breakdown when he was in his freshman or sophomore year at Harvard. He eventually graduated from Hartford and became a strong activist in the mental health movement.
I should say mental health movement, mental survivor movement, people who had experienced mistreatment in some way or another. What we do in MindFreedom International right now is we’re developing the affiliates around the country and have some around the world. We’re networked. There’s a MindFreedom affiliate in Ghana, Ireland and Australia.
What we’re trying to do is educate people that people who experience emotional difficulties recover. They don’t need to be treated with force because force interrupts the process and reinforces the narrative that people are always going to be disabled with whatever the reality they’ve had during their battle with madness. My personal belief is everybody could do better with the proper care, friendships, and community.
This pursuit of madness is they’re learning how to cope or to change and, with guidance, they may be able to make it through and not have this interrupted journey.
At MindFreedom’s office, we have a small office with a small staff. We believe in the rights of people to choose what works for them, which choose to work for the best to offer them informed choices where they can make good choices. Part of what has transpired over the years is the Shield program was developed, where 500 people signed up. There’s a commitment to help each other if somebody complains to our office, either on the phone or by email, that they’re being mistreated, being forced to take drugs, giving all sorts of symptoms, tardive dyskinesia, akathisia, some movement disorder.
We organize what we call a Shield Alert, in which we put together the names of the people who are treating. It might be the psychiatrist who runs the institution or who is in charge of that particular person. We write letters, make phone calls, write to the governor, assembly, anybody that’s involved and try to get the media involved. Media’s tough. The media has a fixed notion that people need to be taking their drugs.
That’s the only thing that you can do with people. It’s tough getting through, but we keep trying. I’ll write to the local newspaper, call them and see if they want to do an investigative report. One of the interesting things, though, is probably more than half the times we do a Shield Alert, we’ve done a couple on electric shock where people are being electroshocked against their will. Some places more than 50% when we start the alert desist from that treatment.
They stop because it’s not worth it. They don’t care that much. There’s also the other 50% who say, “You can’t tell me what to do. I don’t care.” We have to keep on doing it with the press releases. We have an alert out in Pennsylvania that’s dealing with a 72-year-old man who is trapped in a nursing system, even though he has his own home and can support himself. He’s been evaluated as not being incompetent, but a psychiatrist who was employed by the nursing home where he was staying said he was incompetent, he couldn’t take care of himself. We’ve been working with the independent living center to get him back into the community.
To get him back to his independent living state, which he’s capable of.
He probably will need some supports, but the independent living center is charged with helping do that. I don’t know if the people that are reading know what an independent living center is. Independent living centers are in every state. They’re supported by the federal government. It’s not their main charge, but they will do actions if a new restaurant, let’s say, opens up and it’s not accessible, the doorways, or they have steps that they don’t need. It’s not accessible to people in wheelchairs.
The main thing they do is bring people out of nursing homes and congregate living centers back into the community if they want to. If they’re capable of supports of living in communities, that’s their job. A lot of actions are being taken right now because of obviously the deaths due to COVID that have taken place in congregate settings in all the elderly people.
A lot of their work, which I participate in a supportive way, is attending meetings. We have a common theme that a person should not if they’re capable of living within the community and are not a threat to anyone, they shouldn’t have to be confined to a restrictive setting. There’s been a bit of a breakthrough with FEMA because people have had to get out of the nursing homes in emergencies. A lot of the governmental systems don’t understand the special needs of people with disabilities. It’s an ongoing battle. It’s a battle to make the public aware of the needs of the community.
The website is MindFreedom.org. If people want to learn more about it, we can send them there, if they want to support in one way or another through donation or learning about this so they can become an advocate themselves.
One of the things we also do, which we started up, is called Judi’s Room, which is a free Zoom meeting where we have presenters present on a topic for an hour. For the second hour, there’s a discussion, the one we did the first Wednesday of the month. If anybody’s interested, they can find out about it on our website. Let me explain a little bit. Judi refers to Judi Chamberlin, who was one of the pioneers. She’s passed away at this point. She’s done a lot of writing.
Her book in the 1990s was jump-started the movement is called On Our Own and talked about how people with experience working together, forming community was the best for people’s recovery, having that sense. A couple of people from the general disability movement had these meetings, and they asked us if I would get together people who knew Judi Chamberlin, and could speak about her life. We had a bunch of people that were probably 50, 60 people who knew Judi plus a larger audience of people who were interested.
Because of the turnout, I was asked if I would do something called Judi’s Room, where we could educate the public. We’ve been doing that. It’s across Disability Alliance. We have people who are blind, some hearing issues, people with mobility issues. Half the audience is composed of people with what we think of as disabilities. The other half is from psychosocial disabilities, people who are in MindFreedom. We create this dialogue.
The first one we did was what mental illness is and what it is not. I believe the second one we did was psychiatric drugs, what they do and how the issues with withdrawal did. Another is protecting your rights. We had a film made by a woman from Jamaica. It’s an amazing story. We had her show the film, and then we had a discussion where she immigrated to Canada on her own, pregnant with a little child. She left Jamaica because she was forced to take psychiatric drugs, which she didn’t want to take while she was pregnant. They wanted to abort the child.
She created an amazing brief to become a Canadian called the psychiatric refugee. She was the first one ever named that. She documented the whole process, so we did that one. The one we did was part two of what reasonable accommodations are. For somebody who has a disability, is able to work and do things, they may need accommodation, sit by the window and take breaks. Somebody else might have to go to a therapy appointment.
These are mandated for somebody with a disability, but a lot of people don’t know about them. We had three lawyers talk about what is reasonable accommodations and what you can do, how do you find out about it. We’re doing as much as we can with Judi’s Room to create public awareness, to understand the issues.
Are those recorded in the archive? If they go to MindFreedom.org and either search for Judi’s Room or click on the reading for Judi’s Room, they can get access to the ones you’ve already done.
The easiest thing would be to write to Office@MindFreedom.org because they’re archived. I don’t know offhand how to get to it, but we have a YouTube channel where they’re posted.
They can go to YouTube and search for MindFreedom and maybe find it directly that way, too.
Everybody could do better with proper care, friendships, community.
Our partner in Judi’s Room is called I Love You Lead On. They take care of the video. Sometimes they put it on there, they put on both, but if you write to us, we can get you to what you’re looking for. The other thing that we’ve done, which people get a lot out of it, is we created it. We had a grant from a center for excellence that allowed us to make a series of eleven 10-minute videos interviewing people who had lived experience, what helped them, what they can do to understand what their rights are. They’re called Voices for Choices, which people like that you can find on our website or YouTube. You could do a Google search for Voices for Choices.
It’s an honor. I’m thrilled to be able to help make a little bit of a wave and maybe get some more exposure to what you’re doing with MindFreedom International. If anybody wants to take advantage of your book, it’s A Fight To Be: A Psychologist’s Experience from Both Sides of the Locked Door, Ronald Bassman. Ron, is there something else that you want to include here that we maybe haven’t talked about yet, or do you want to expand on a certain point?
For one thing, I’ve written a lot of journal articles at this point. They’re up on my website and are free. You can download them. My website is www.RonaldBassman.com. I also have a blog on there, something that I’ll write about. I appreciate your highlighting my book. It’s sad for me, one part. In 2020 in collaboration with a professor at Seattle University and two friends who are also people who have lived the experience, we wrote a book to share our experiences.
Unfortunately, we didn’t realize it was published by Macmillan, and it was selling for $125 a copy. We want the book to be free. They were using it for universities. We cover a lot of areas in it. The title is No More “Us” and “Them”. People with lived experience, who were therapists, all of us were therapists and talked about our work and what we believe about rights. Also, if anybody wants to write to me, it’s Ron@RonaldBassman.com, and I could give you information about other things.
Thank you so much for the work you’re doing. I will stay in touch with the people at MindFreedom, including you, since you’re the director. We’ll look forward to Judi’s Room as those are published.
Let me say one more thing. I’m excited about what we’re going to be doing on December 1st, 2021. The board chair of MindFreedom is an African-American woman. She’s been the chair for a long time. I’ve known her for probably many years. She’s somebody with lived experience. She’s going to be facilitating a meeting on December 1st 2021 for Judi’s Room for four people of color, BIPOC, African-Americans and one woman in Singapore, to talk about how we can make it more inviting for people of color to participate in these organizations that tend to be more White and make people more welcome. What are the blocks? How can we overcome these blocks? It’s going to be an interesting meeting for anybody interested.
What’s the name of the director of the board?
It’s Celia Brown.
Thank you so much for taking the time. I will do my best to stay in touch and carry on. Good luck. There’s a lot to be done. I’m glad there are people like you out there doing it.
Tim, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity and letting me freely rift all these things. I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing too.
Thanks. Take care.
Ronald Bassman, PhD, is the Executive Director of MindFreedom International, a nonprofit organization that unites sponsor and affiliate grassroots groups with thousands of individual members to win human rights and alternatives for people labeled with psychiatric disabilities. In 1969, at the age of 25, Ronald Bassman was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for the second time in three years. The second time he was admitted, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia chronic type.
His “treatments” included electroshock, insulin comas, and massive doses of medication. He writes that after he recovered from his treatments and began addressing the identity issues that had triggered his excursion into a “madness,” he entered graduate school, earned a doctorate, and became a licensed psychologist.
Since then, he’s worked in a state hospital and private practice, has been a consultant to schools and state agencies, taught graduate school courses in community mental health, and has been the executive director of a seven-county comprehensive mental health center. He is passionate about his volunteer advocacy work and has served as a two-term President of the National Association of Rights Protection and Advocacy, which is known as NARPA.
He’s been elected a member of the American Psychological Association’s Expert Task Force on Serious Mental Illness. Working with six like-minded colleagues, he was Cofounder of the International Network Towards Alternatives for Recovery, which held its first public meeting of alternative practitioners and psychiatric survivors in 2004. He is the Chair of the Community Consortium, a nonprofit organization created to promote the civil and human rights of people with psychiatric disabilities and provide the tools to facilitate genuine community integration for people who use mental health services. He has received numerous awards, including the American Psychological Association’s Presidential Citation for Empowering Individuals with Mental Illness.
- MindFreedom International
- Judi’s Room
- On Our Own
- MindFreedom – YouTube
- A Fight To Be: A Psychologist’s Experience from Both Sides of the Locked Door
- No More “Us” and “Them”
About Ronald Bassman
In 1969, at the age of 25, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for the second time in three years. The first diagnosis, schizophrenia, paranoid type was followed by a second hospitalization and the diagnosis schizophrenia, chronic type. My treatments included electroshock, insulin comas and massive doses of medication.
After I recovered from my “treatments” and began addressing the identity issues that had triggered my excursion into “madness,” I entered graduate school, earned my doctorate and became a licensed psychologist. I have worked in a state hospital, in private practice, been a consultant to schools and state agencies, taught graduate school courses in Community Mental Health and have been the executive director of a 7-county comprehensive mental health center.
Passionate about my volunteer advocacy work, I served as a two-term president of the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA). I have been an elected member of the American Psychological Association’s Expert Task Force on Serious Mental Illness. Working with 6 like minded colleagues, I was a co-founder of the International Network Towards Alternatives for Recovery (INTAR), which held its first meeting of alternative practitioners and psychiatric survivors in 2004. Currently I am chair of The Community Consortium, a non-profit organization created to promote the civil and human rights of people with psychiatric disabilities, and to provide the tools to facilitate genuine community integration for people who use mental health services.
I have received the following awards:
Ed Roberts Award For Advocacy promoting Independent Living in the Community for Individuals with Disabilities Bill Johnson Award for Exemplary Support of the Mission of the National Association for Rights Protection & Advocacy Citation of the New York State Assembly for Advocacy of Individuals with Disabilities Sage Graduate School, Outstanding Faculty as voted by students 2005-2006 American Psychological Association’s Presidential Citation, For Empowering Individuals with Mental Illness After working in New York for 17 years, my wife and I moved to Boulder, Colorado, where on March 15, 2016 we celebrate 30 years of marriage. In Boulder I have a private psychotherapy practice and continue my commitment to rights advocacy as an Advisory Board member of Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI). Always striving to keep my heart and mind open, I balance the serious with Tai Chi Ch’uan and a life-long love of sports – and especially for some unfathomable reason the Detroit Tigers – my favorite baseball team.
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