PATCH ADAMS ON ART BELL SHOW ON MAY 8, 2001

BELL: My guest is the real Patch Adams-the real Patch Adams. You may have seen the movie with Robin Williams and I guess, to some degree, that was representative and we're finding out how representative because we're talking to the real guy right now. We'll keep that up in a moment.
ADAMS:

Patch Adams.

BELL:

Patch, welcome back.

ADAMS: Hey.
BELL:

All right. So there's nothing really right about anything we're doing right now medically?

ADAMS:

Well, you actually asked about the delivery of care.

BELL:

Yeah, the delivery of care, sure.

ADAMS:

Okay, and yes, there’s nothing good about managed care. It’s a nightmare and it is a vulgar invasion of greed and what can be a beautiful profession.

BELL:

What made you get into this profession, anyway? In other words, you were suffering yourself, ( mean how did you transition. ...

ADAMS:

I was a science nerd. I was always going to be a doctor.

BELL:

You were always going to be a doctor. Even before you got ill you wanted to be a doctor.

ADAMS:

Right.

BELL:

Okay. Alright...so that never...that's interesting...that never changed. You've got a lot of passion then.

ADAMS:

I do.

BELL:

You talk about passion in your book a lot.

ADAMS:

It's the label for living. Can I do this thing that I want to do for my friend?

BELL:

Yes. You can always do something, whatever you want.

ADAMS:

Great. I just want to let the listeners be aware of my concern for forced psychiatry; it's a violation of human rights.

BELL:

Forced psychiatry?

ADAMS:

Right. Where...

BELL:

Involuntary commitments.

ADAMS:

Involuntary psychiatric commitments, forced electric shock, forced medication. I want to go on record for being very much against those things and, you know, I've had a lot of concern for the psychiatric profession anyway. I saw how I was treated. And I've looked in psychiatric texts all over the world and I've never found one with a single sentence on mental health. These are supposed to be the mental health experts.

BELL:

How were you treated?

ADAMS:

Well I was medicated first of all and not talked with. It was pretty infantile. I was not a forced admission. I admitted myself. I was suicidal. But there are tremendous numbers of people who are. I worked eight years at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, which was the only federal mental hospital and I definitely saw forced psychiatry there and I want to read a statement of my friend Rodney Yoder who's in Illinois, who... his story. I've not met him in person but we've exchanged many, many, many letters numbering in the hundreds of pages. I know certainly as he is very intelligently, desperately trying to find freedom from his forced incarceration by people who are abusing our profession to keep this man in prison. I'm going to read a statement. I talked with him last night and I asked him to fax me a statement:

I am Rodney Yoder. For ten years I have been confined to an insane asylum in Illinois as a retaliation for suing a lawsuit against a state official, for making repeated complaints about my incarceration and for speaking and writing against forced psychiatry. At present, mine is the most controversial case of madhouse incarceration in the US and experts from around the US have volunteered to testify at the upcoming trial on my captors' petition seeking my continued confinement. Among those who've volunteered to testify is clown and physician Patch Adams. Patch has helped me to garner the media and press coverage needed to ensure that I receive a fair trial before an impartial judge and jury.

Information about me and my plight and regarding psychiatric oppression generally may be viewed at www.stopshrinks.org, that's www.stopshrinks.org, or many other great websites linked to it.

ADAMS:

It goes on to say some other things. I'm not sure that that's germane right here. What I’d like the listener to do is to remember the name and know that every day that they are free that this man is held and he is not insane. I know and would stake all of my knowledge of humanity that this man is not insane; that there is a vindictiveness here and an unjust commitment and using psychiatry for that unjust treatment.

BELL: Do you have a link to him on your page also?
ADAMS:

All I see is it says here "information about me and my plight can be [seen] at www.stopshrinks.org" and so I’m hoping—cause I know Rodney is listening--I'm hoping that he’ll make sure there's a way for people who are willing to write him a letter or to be part of his team, maybe the people in Illinois willing to go to bat for him. I'd like to also tell the listening audience that going to bat for people--just put yourself in their shoes. I don't know Rodney, but he wrote me and then he told me a story and now I care about Rodney. This is not the first media experience I've had. This is, in a way, maybe a microcosm of the medicine that we offer. Here is a man in another state who because of an unconnected and certainly not a mental problem ended up in incarceration and then because of his behavior wanted to put him away and he’s been put away for now up to a decade and he screams in tears for me, he says "Patch, I could be here the rest of my life."

BELL: Right.
ADAMS:

And I tell you listening audience, if you want to do something, take a little time out and just go to the website and find a way to put your voice on the line for him and say that he has the right to walk free.

BELL:

Do we need mental institutions?

ADAMS:

Well, again it's to me not the right question. What we need is a healthy society. Right now our society is dominated by a love for money and power. We teach our children that.

BELL:

No, but it's a valid question, Patch.

ADAMS:

If we had a society based on compassion and generosity there wouldn't be mental hospitals and there wouldn't be nursing homes ...

BELL:

There wouldn’t?

ADAMS:

...and there wouldn’t be orphanages—there would be integration of all people. See, rjght now, in the current system of profit, care has been relegated to the burden category: the burden of our elderly, the burden of our poor, the burden of our mentally ill, the burden of the criminal element—and these are all burdens—where it’s really the multinational corporations that are getting the gigantic cuts in subsidies and benefits but we never hear about them being our burden. And so though we ...in the world that I’m working for we wouldn’t need mental hospitals; we would have ...one, people would not be working all the time just to make money to consume more; they would ...the work would be connected to the integration of their community.

BELL:

But even in this perfect world that you envision wouldn’t there be mental illness, real mental illness? Wouldn’t there also be crime?

ADAMS:

What would real mental illness be? The labels that the mental professionals use do not make them diseases.

BELL:

Okay. Let me --

ADAMS:

They are labels for a constellation of behaviors.

BELL:

But Patch, let me put it this way to you. We're gonna have, even in an almost perfect world there'll still be crime and crime will have to be addressed in one way or another in this perfect world or almost perfect world.

ADAMS:

Maybe we would surround them with people saying "I love you."

BELL:

Some of these criminals are going to be mentally unstable so how are you going to separate them from. ...

ADAMS:

I'm not ...you're trying to talk me into saying that is a scenario and I'm saying that you can't convince me there's a scenario. You know, if we celebrated eccentrics, if we celebrated difference and diversity, then maybe there wouldn’t be such a narrow, tightass version of what normal is.

BELL:

Maybe there wouldn’t.

ADAMS:

My friend Bowan White, a great physician from Kansas, wrote a book that people should really look at called Why Normal Isn't Healthy. And Emily Dickinson, who easily would be diagnosed by any psychiatrist in the modern day realm, said this: "Much madness is divinest sense to a discerning eye; much sense the starkest madness. Tis the majority in this, as all, prevail. Assent and you are sane, demur and you are straight away dangerous and handled with a chain." And there's Rodney Yoder right there: he demurred. And what l’m very confident is—is that if compassion and generosity, if empathy were to weigh we would have no idea what mental illness in that society would be. I actually am not convinced there would be any. There could be a celebration of eccentricities.

BELL:

So we would just broaden the definition of eccentricity and you're there?

ADAMS:

Well, no. There’s a huge difference between being called eccentric our society and being called schizophrenic. If you’re called eccentric people admire you. The instant somebody hears you labeled schizophrenic they’re walking in the other direction.

BELL:

Yes I know.

ADAMS:

It's probably the worst label you can give a human being and it actually doesn't label something. It is a horror ...it’s a horror that you’ve experienced and…

BELL:

You were suicidal right?

ADAMS:

Hey, I was Psycho-Patch for a couple of years after my mental hospital vacation. Now I wish people would call me Psycho-Patch.

BELL:

But you said you were suicidal.

ADAMS:

I was suicidal.

BELL:

Okay, one of the definitions of putting people in mental institutions against their will is if they threaten the life of others or themselves, right?

ADAMS:

Right.

BELL:

So you fell into that category even though you weren't there mandated to be there? You …

ADAMS:

I was a voluntary commitment And certainly, yes, a doctor can commit a person who is suicidal now. As a matter of fact there are lawsuits if they kill themselves, suing the doctor—l like that, you know, a person kills themselves, who’s to blame for crying out loud?

BELL:

The doctor?

ADAMS:

Well they’re trying to sue doctors because they say, "Well, the patient was suicidal: you should have committed him." Like somehow you can prevent a person from killing themself. It’s such a stupid, typical behavior. In order so that Jeffrey Dahmer could be served his papers, my favorite headline in my 56 years is the top, two-inch headline "Jeffrey Dahmer is Sane" and they needed him to be sane in order to try him.

BELL:

Yeah, that’s right.

ADAMS: So let's just make him sane. So how can we believe anybody about anything to do with mental illness? You know, for me, mental illness--and this is what Rodney put in his last paragraph--and he knows how much I consider almost all mental illness a consequence of a society that loves money and power
BELL: Instead of what happened, if you hadn’t gotten the care that you got when you voluntarily committed yourself . . .
ADAMS: What kind of care did t get in that mental hospital?
BELL:

You’d know better than l. But what I'm saying is if. ...

ADAMS:

I didn't get squat for care.

BELL:

But you were suicidal. Do you think that if you had not committed yourself that you might have committed suicide?

ADAMS:

You want speculation from almost 40 years ago.

BELL:

Well it is and only you can answer that I mean did that save you?

ADAMS: No. I actually, as I've grown and been with thousands of people thinking about suicide, I didn't get very close.
BELL:

Okay. So. ...

ADAMS:

I don't know, I woke up really quickly and made a decision to never have another bad day and I'm 38 years into it.

BELL:

Still succeeding?

ADAMS:

Oh yeah.

BELL:

Was it, was it . . .

ADAMS:

Can I just end there and just say Rodney, please, I hope people write you. I just want .. ...In a way this is my retrorocket for the listeners to know unless you're incarcerated you don't have a due to know what it would be like to be involuntarily incarcerated. Please go to that web page –www.stopshrinks.org--and take a stand for one human being. Okay, carry on.

BELL:

No, that's fine. A lot of people will go there. Believe me.

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Crazed-looking shrink with huge hypo over shoulder. Link to home page.