On January 23 2023, immediately following his comedy act, Jim Flannery was taken to the psychiatric emergency department of the Middlesex Hospital in Middletown. He was incarcerated there and subjected to daily forced injections of the neuroleptic drugs Zyprexa and Haldol. These drugs, often erroneously referred to as anti-psychotics, are in fact simply heavy duty tranquilizers.
He was released 6 days later after Mind Freedom International (MFI) mounted a campaign on his behalf to focus international attention on Jim’s incarceration. MFI members registered with the MindFreedom Shield program can instantly activate an international public alert system if a Shield member is threatened with coerced psychiatry.
In Jim’s case, the MFI Shield alert resulted in hundreds of letters and calls to the hospital by a diverse population of psychiatric survivors, mental health consumers, family members, researchers, scientists, and clinicians, who are opposed to forced psychiatric treatment.
His discharge was highly unusual in that it occurred on a weekend with no advance notice and was not accompanied by any discharge plan, explanation, or apology.
Jim Flannery was born and raised in Connecticut USA. He has been committed four times to mental hospitals across the United States where he received the most common form of mental health care available in our so called civilized world. This typically includes a psychiatric diagnosis followed by forced or coerced drugging and possibly electro shock treatment (ECT). If you resist or complain there is a strong likelihood of increased drugging plus restraint and seclusion. The process is designed to break a person’s spirit through a process of humiliation and abuse. It inevitably succeeds since being “broken” is usually the only way to get released from hospital. This treatment suppresses symptoms but it doesn’t cure. It also often does considerable psychological damage. After release from hospital some, unable to function effectively under the influence of the ongoing medication, just withdraw from life. Others, equally traumatised manage to keep going but may be subject to easily triggered angry outbursts. The ongoing medication often has horrible side effects and significantly reduces life expectancy.
Jim was interested in comedy from an early age. He started doing stand up comedy while in high school but became disillusioned by the amount of time and work involved in writing his own material for a five minute sketch.
At 22 years of age he started a company but become overwhelmed by the pressure resulting from a lack of business experience and support. He had also started hearing “voices”, more formally known as audible hallucinations. While it is common knowledge that perhaps as many as 15% of the population at some time or another in their life experience voices and most are able to manage them without drugs or other treatment, conservative elements in the mental health fraternity still consider them as prima facie evidence of serious mental illness. In Jim’s case, his concerned family stepped in and he was taken, very much against his will, to a psychiatric hospital.
Had he been treated in a kind, supportive and positive manner the outcome could have been very different but that is seldom the way. Jim was told the usual nonsense about being biologically damaged with an incurable brain disease and that he would need to be on medication for the rest of his life. It was a combination of embarrassment, shame and fear together with the powerlessness of being locked up and not knowing what was going on that really got to Jim. Everything he did or said, even wanting to leave the hospital was taken as further evidence of his insanity. He was told that if he didn’t comply with their demands things would only get worse. He said, “If you try to tell the staff that there is nothing wrong with you they just say that is another symptom of your illness”.
Jim uses the word torture but some think this he is being over dramatic. He says “They’ve got you tied down, but what did you do? You must have done something. Then they shoot you up with drugs. That’s the part that people focus on as being the torture, the needles, the restraints. How is a human being supposed to react in that situation? I didn’t do anything violent. What is the point of doing anything violent? There is no escape from this place. The doors are locked. There are staff, there are cameras, and you’re just stuck there. Then you get injected. You wake up you’re tied down and alone, really alone”.
Listening to some of Jim’s interviews, he comes across as an earnest, intelligent young man who is partly amused and partly angry at the situation that he has found himself in. Like many young people he wants to see changes in the world and seems to be trying to figure out the best way that he can to help facilitate it. In one of his interviews he says “If you want the laws to change, you have to change the culture. How do you change the culture? My hope is that hearing voices is no longer assumed to be some sort of a biological defect; that people would see this as a feature and not a bug. The label of bipolar disorder; I wish no one would say that to anyone ever. Having doctors say that to me has been the most destructive thing in my life. I would love for that to change. If those things change, is there any reason to lock people up in mental hospitals if you don’t think that there’s anything wrong with hearing voices? Or you don’t think that people are bipolar? One other hope is Soteria Houses, peer respites, and no forced drugging.
Jim’s comedy is certainly dark but so is a lot of other comedy these days. Jim also has a strong interest in hip hop music. In late 2020 he released his first hip hop album entitled “Sorry Its Not Funny”.
Could something like this happen to someone in Australia? It most certainly could. In theory the Australian laws protecting people against these sorts of atrocities are even worse than those in America but in practice it doesn’t appear to make all that much difference. The international mental health cartel, heavily funded by multinational pharmaceutical companies have made it quite clear that they will not tolerate criticism of their lucrative enterprises which is exactly what people like Jim Flannery are doing. Exposing and ridiculing these sorts of activities through comedy seem to be a really effective way to get up their nose.
Mind Freedom International is a nonprofit organization that embraces the principles of non-violence, mutual trust and cooperation. They challenge human rights abuses for people labeled with psychiatric disabilities. The MFI Shield program relies primarily on volunteers who embrace the notion that together we can make a difference.
We haven’t heard about anyone in Australia invoking MFI Shield protection but anyone wanting to join the Shield program or just wanting to learn more about it can do so here.