Welcome to our blog that will keep you updated on the Sunrise Center. We hope this Center will become a catalyst for a movement of people creating places for people who want to stop using psychiatric drugs.

We will have stories by people who have stopped using psychiatric drugs about how they did that, articles by a doctor who is working with us on our project, articles by allies and relatives of people who have stopped taking drugs and articles by psychiatric drug survivors about their work on this Center.

Why we are Creating the Sunrise Center

Many people now using psychiatric drugs have been convinced or forced to use them while being treated in the mental health system. A good number of people are eager to stop using these drugs, but are often discouraged by others from doing so. Many psychiatric survivors believe that they can never stop using these drugs because they were told they would need to use them the rest of their lives.

In 1967/68 I was a patient in a mental hospital and was told the same thing. I happened to be lucky, and my psychiatrist, who was in training at the time as a resident psychiatrist, helped me stop using the drugs by decreasing my prescription gradually, since he knew I wanted to get off the drugs. On my entry into a mental hospital I was forcibly injected with both Thorazine and Stelazine. I knew instantly that there was something wrong with these drugs, because I passed out. The next day I tried to refuse the drugs but I was injected again. I knew I didn’t want them, because they made me extremely tired and unable to think. I even forgot how to draw, which was terrifying to me as an artist. I felt like I was living in a strange nightmare, like a spy story, where the spy is being drugged by the ‘bad guy’.

As soon as I finally got off the drugs a year and a half later, I felt happier and much lighter. I no longer had trouble thinking. This experience convinced me on a personal level that psychiatric drugs were not helpful. I never used mental health services again after that, nor did I ever use psychiatric drugs again. Years later I decided to try to change the mental health system and work with others for the rights of psychiatric survivors.

I got a master’s degree in Community Psychology in 1986, with the idea of becoming a mental health worker and changing the system from within. However, after trying for a year to get a job as a mental health worker, I realized that I was too much against psychiatric drugs to get hired. I got a job with the psychiatric survivors movement instead. Meanwhile, in 1973, I had gotten involved in Re-evaluation Counseling (RC), otherwise known as Co-Counseling (see www.rc.org for more information about Re-evaluation Counseling). I worked with other psychiatric survivors within RC to build a group working towards mental health liberation. (There are many such liberation groups within the RC Communities: women, men, parents, African heritage people, Japanese people, young people, artists, etc. We call our issue mental health liberation, meaning that our work encompasses the way that particular oppression hurts everyone, as well as psychiatric survivors. Everyone in our society gets hurt by this oppression by being made to look good and act “normal”. For further explanation, see frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Mental Health Liberation on the Sunrise Center website www.thesunrisecenter.org)

Forming The Center Board

When I got my master’s degree in community psychology, my thesis was about a community mental health Center that would use Re-evaluation Counseling. I didn’t have the degree necessary to run such a Center, nor the people to work with me on it, so I put that idea aside for awhile. In 2003, a family doctor who was active in the RC Communities and had stopped prescribing psychiatric drugs to his patients, asked me if we could set up a place where doctors could come to learn that they don’t need to prescribe psychiatric drugs, and could use Re-evaluation Counseling with their patients, instead.

We started talking about forming a Center that would use some of the ideas I’d had in my thesis and would be a place where people could come and decrease their use of psychiatric drugs and finally stop using them. At the Center, people will use the natural emotional healing process of Re-evaluation Counseling, in which people exchange listening time with each other to release emotions as they begin to reduce the amount of psychiatric drugs they are using. Since psychiatric drugs hold back emotions, as people reduce the amount of these drugs that they are taking, more emotions are likely to surface and the process of RC will be very useful to help people release their emotions in a safe, healing way.

Eventually they can complete the withdrawal and stop using psychiatric drugs permanently. A number of people who already use the Re-evaluation Counseling process have successfully used it to stop taking psychiatric drugs and stop being involved in the mental health system permanently.

Our Goals For The Center

We want to create a Center where many more people can learn the process and at the same time use it to stop taking psychiatric drugs. We want the Center to be a catalyst for creating a group of people who have stopped using psychiatric drugs, reclaimed their minds as their own, and are helping others do the same. As well, we want the Center to become a teaching Center where people can come to learn how to create their own, similar Center.

Eventually doctors and mental health workers who are interested allies can also come to learn how to use this process in their work, and create similar programs to help people stop using psychiatric drugs.

Development of the Project

In 2005 we held our first Board meeting, and most of the same people have continued as our Board. The Center was incorporated as the Pajaro Valley Sunrise Center around 2006, and received 501(c)3 non- profit status in 2007. It has been a wonderful experience for me as Chair of the Board to hear great thinking about the Center from Board members every month.

In 2012, we realized that we hadn’t been able to raise money as fast as we would like, and we needed to find a way to start the Center now, without having a building and staff. In this way, we hope that our project will accelerate more rapidly. We created a new brochure for our new idea, a handout about our best practices for getting off psychiatric drugs, and another handout with anonymous stories of people who have used RC to stop taking psychiatric drugs. These are available on our website.

Our First Sunrise Centre Project Workshop

Our first workshop, in September, 2014, was extremely successful. It had as participants people who want to help others stop using psychiatric drugs. All the participants have become part of our Sunrise Center team that is working towards creating the Center. Our next workshop in March, 2015 invited a few people who want to stop using psychiatric drugs to attend. At this point, we are inviting to our workshops only those who are already using RC. Once our Sunrise workshops are more established, we will invite others to the workshops, where we will teach them how to use RC, as well as what we know about withdrawing from psychiatric drugs.

Stay tuned to this blog for reports from our first workshops and more news about the Center.

Janet Foner