A Remarkable Feat: A Psychopath Changes Restraint Laws

IFew people have succeeded in changing countries’ horrific laws regarding the forced use of psychotropic drugs and seatbelts for treatment. So I’m going to tell a story from Denmark. Very unusually, his obituary was written by a journalist and published in a national newspaper.

Silas Dam (photo courtesy of his mother)

Silas Dam committed suicide this summer at the age of 24. But during his short life, he made contributions that would benefit many mentally ill people in Denmark. In December 2021, he reached a settlement with the Ministry of Health, asking the government to amend the Psychiatry Act to improve the rights of mentally ill patients receiving belt immobilization. Silas also committed the Department of Health to working to improve treatments for people with autism.

Silas has autism and was exposed to the psychiatric system at a young age. He was hospitalized multiple times and spoke publicly about his experiences in an effort to improve the treatment autistic people receive when entering the psychiatric system.

He believes that when autistic people are voluntarily or forcibly treated with powerful antipsychotic drugs, they are mistreated and greatly harmed, which makes them feel worse. He noted that people with autism may experience anxiety attacks and panic attacks and may need to take sedative medications, but they typically do not develop psychosis and therefore do not need to be treated with antipsychotic medications.

Silas experienced firsthand the dangers of forced medication and leash restraints. In early 2019, he received a belt immobilization in the psychiatric ward. He considered this unreasonable and, although it was approved by the regional court and the high court, he took the case with the help of lawyers to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

In the case of another Danish patient, the court ruled that the belt immobilization he experienced breached the Convention on Human Rights prohibiting inhumane treatment because it continued to occur even though the patient was completely calm.

Bed with restraints.orange photo

Sellars’ case was very similar, and in order to avoid another defeat in the Strasbourg courts, the Ministry of Health offered him compensation of DKK 90,000. But money didn’t matter to Silas. He hopes the settlement will benefit other patients and calls on the Department of Health to recognize that belt restraints are a human rights violation that document serious problems in psychiatric wards.

Sellars also called for changes to the Psychiatry Act to require permanent guards monitoring patients who were restrained by belts to record the patient’s condition multiple times an hour. He insisted the government should ask the National Health Commission to develop an action plan on autism.

After lengthy negotiations, the Ministry of Health accepted Silas’ request. The Psychiatry Act has been revised so that guards must now record every 15 minutes whether a patient restrained by a belt shows signs of danger. If the patient is calm, he or she must be released from the harness.

In Iceland, segregation and confinement were abolished in 1932 and were never used again. That year, psychiatrist Helgi Tmasson took the handcuffs, straitjackets, and other physical restraints that existed at Claypool Asylum and burned them in a furnace, except for one set, which he sent to Parliament, which is still on display today. All countries should do this.

For his efforts, Sellars received a very prestigious award – the Kafka Prize, which is awarded to a person who has made special efforts to strengthen the legal status of disadvantaged groups in society.

Silas spent the last part of his life in a youth home. He was proud of the honor, but also shamed by his experience and found it difficult to grow at times. So he chose to end his life. In a farewell letter, he apologized to his parents and relatives and explained why he had to end up the way he did. The note read: “Psychiatry killed me, belt fixing killed me, forced medication killed me. Sharing my story,” he added.

Silas’ mother contacted me in October and wrote: I have seen firsthand the effects of psychotropic drugs on him. He described it carefully. I hope you’ll want to know about side effects and maybe use this information in your lectures. Even though he’s dead, I don’t think his case is over. In another email, his mother explained:

Silas fought tooth and nail to the end.While strapped in, he was force-fed the drugs Abilify and Stesolid [diazepam] at the same time. In addition to the fear of having a towel stuffed in his mouth, he described the drug making him drowsy and everything spinning, like being on a merry-go-round and you couldn’t get off. He was given extra forced medication which meant he was unable to remember his mother, father or siblings for six months. As his memories slowly return, he begins a fight to prevent others from going through what he went through. Psychiatry failed to recognize an autistic anxiety meltdown and so forcibly gave him psychiatric medication without entering into a conversation. However, the drugs caused irreparable harm. He couldn’t sleep or hold his head up. The ride down the carousel turned miserable. My son told the story of another hospital patient who was so drug-addled that he shuffled on the floor all day, drooled, and couldn’t even hold his utensils while eating.

Silas was killed by Psychiatry. I described in Mad in America that Tuva Andersson’s problem was anxiety and that he was also killed by psychiatry. Millions of people die from mental illness, many through forced treatment. Why do we accept this?

In 2014, UN special rapporteur psychiatrist Dainius Pras called on all countries to make forced treatment illegal, but no country has taken any action. Recently, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights declared his work groundbreaking, but major psychiatric organizations have been met with great hostility and disdain. A common linguistic strategy is to cast the Special Rapporteur, as well as the United Nations, as unscientific and biased, whereas current practice in psychiatry is essentially scientific and ethical.

An instructive article analyzes the response of psychiatric organizations to the Pras report. These include common lies, such as that antipsychotics clear out mental hospitals and enable people to live normal lives, and that drug treatments have been shown to reduce the risk of suicide (avoiding mentioning what kind of drugs they are), but without any references, Merely vague statements are like reams of data. The correct assumption that psychiatry violates human rights is called an absolute libel because it attacks the entire professional community indiscriminately and has absolutely no basis in evidence.

These responses are replete with strategic ignorance, in which psychiatric organizations appear to be completely unaware of any evidence that psychiatric drugs are harmful, allowing them to deny responsibility. There is also a lot of conceptual nonsense, where the rituals of politeness are completely abandoned and we are faced with primitive assertions of power or authority in rude gestures and commanding tones, and lines like “Advances in neuroscience are happening at an alarming rate.” class of misrepresentations. In terms of value to patients, unless at an alarming rate it means approaching stagnation.

Sorry to be blunt, but it must be said: the psychiatric community continues to mass-kill patients and is humiliated when the UN tries to stop it. This is a profession that cannot be repaired. It should be closed. Immediately, as an emergency.


Mad in America has blogs written by a diverse group of writers. These posts are intended to serve as a public forum for broad discussion of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the author’s own.


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