Bringing Psychiatry to Justice for More than Four Decades
The Citizens Commision Commission on Human Rights has been on the front lines of mental health reform since 1969. Acknowledged by the Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Commission as responsible for “many great reforms” that protect people from psychiatric abuse, CCHR has documented thousands of individual cases that demonstrate psychiatric drugs and often-brutal psychiatric practices create insanity and cause violence.
Over the course of more than four decades, CCHR's work has helped to save the lives of millions and prevented needless suffering for millions more. Many countries have now mandated informed consent for psychiatric treatment and the right to legal representation, advocacy, recourse and compensation for patients. In some countries, the use of psychosurgery and electroshock on children is banned.
And with hundreds of chapters in 34 countries, CCHR members are active worldwide—organizing marches, public hearings, exhibits, and other actions to raise public awareness about the criminality rampant within psychiatry.
What follows, then, is a brief summary of CCHR’s many accomplishments:
Legal Rights & Informed Consent
- In the early 1970s, CCHR’s investigations led to government inquiries into state psychiatric facilities in California, Illinois, Hawaii, Michigan and Missouri, thanks to the abuses CCHR had uncovered against patients. This resulted in hospital administrators and psychiatrists being dismissed, criminal and grand jury investigations being held, and closure of major psychiatric units due to the abuses.
- In 1976, due to CCHR’s efforts, the first law to protect patients against enforced electroshock and psychosurgery was passed in California, providing informed consent and banning their use on children under the age of twelve. This became a model law, adopted in substance by legislatures across the United States and in other countries. In Texas, psychiatrists must also ensure that autopsy reports are done on any deaths within fourteen days of ECT administration.
- In Italy, the birthplace of ECT, the Piemonte regional parliament responded to CCHR’s evidence by unanimously voting to ban the use of ECT on children, the elderly and pregnant women.
- In the 1990s, CCHR helped uncover and expose the fact that up to 150 restraint deaths occur each year in the US alone, with nearly ten percent of these being children, some as young as six. Federal regulations were passed in 1999 that prohibited the use of physical and chemical (mind-altering drugs) restraints to coerce or discipline patients, ordered a “national reporting system” and cut government funding for any facility that did not comply.
- In the 1980s/early 1990s, CCHR spearheaded a campaign to expose and ban Deep Sleep Treatment (DST) at Chelmsford Private Psychiatric Hospital in Sydney, Australia. The “treatment” involved knocking the patient unconscious for three weeks with a cocktail of psychiatric drugs and electroshocking them daily, without their consent. It killed 48 people. CCHR achieved its ban under the Mental Health Act and it is a criminal offense for psychiatrists to administer it. CCHR also obtained the country’s highest level of government inquiry into DST and mental health, leading to significant reforms.
Protecting Children’s Rights
- Working with journalists, CCHR helped investigate and subsequently expose the fact that numerous school shooters had been under the influence of psychiatric drugs documented to cause violence, suicide and mania, resulting in state hearings investigating this issue and national press coverage on the link between senseless acts of violence and psychiatric drugs.
- CCHR also documented numerous cases of parents being coerced/pressured or forced to give their children psychiatric drugs as a condition of attending school, including parents charged with medical neglect for refusing to give their child a drug documented to cause suicide and violence. By working with parents, doctors and numerous civil and human rights advocates, this issue was exposed in the national media, was brought before state and federal legislators and resulted in the 2004 passage of the prohibition on forcing parents to put their children on psychiatric drugs.
- The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child responded to reports from CCHR Finland, Australia and Denmark, expressing concerns that ADHD and ADD “are being misdiagnosed and therefore psychostimulant drugs are being over-prescribed, despite growing evidence of the harmful effects of these drugs.” The Committee recommended, “other forms of management and treatment be used as much as possible to address these behavioral disorders.”
- In 1991, largely due to CCHR’s efforts, the FDA held hearings into the antidepressant drug Prozac, where dozens of consumers testified that the drug had turned people with no previous history of psychosis, suicidal and homicidal. Due to the vested interests of the voting FDA board members, no action was taken to protect the public until nearly thirteen years later when CCHR’s more than ten-year campaign to expose the dangers of these drugs came to fruition, and the FDA (under pressure from Congress) finally issued the agencies strongest warning that antidepressants can cause suicidal thoughts and actions in those 18 years of age and younger. This was later extended to age 24.
- In 2007, working with whistleblowers, parents and consumer groups, CCHR helped secure language in the FDA reform bill that makes it mandatory for all pharmaceutical ads to advise patients to report drug adverse reactions directly to the FDA. Following the first ads being published, the number of Adverse Drug Reports increased by thirty-three percent.
Human Rights Secured
- CCHR photographed and then exposed secret psychiatric “slave labor” camps in South Africa where tens of thousands of Africans were incarcerated in the 1970s and ’80s, against their will, in disused mining compounds, were drugged and subjected to painful electroshock without anaesthetics. The apartheid government responded in 1976 by banning the photographing or dissemination of any information about psychiatric institutions, at which point CCHR obtained a World Health Organization investigation that substantiated CCHR’s allegations. When apartheid ended, CCHR presented oral and written testimony to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigating apartheid crimes and obtained a national government inquiry into psychiatric racism. The government repealed the ban on disclosing information about psychiatric abuse.
- CCHR in Germany conducted comprehensive research that established conclusively that Germany’s leading psychiatrists provided the theory as well as the “scientific” justification for the Nazi government to destroy “life unworthy of living.” Euthanasia was first piloted in psychiatric institutions before being exported to the concentration camps. Many Nazi psychiatrists escaped justice at the Nuremberg Trials and continued practicing after the war. In 1995 CCHR published the acclaimed book Psychiatrists: The Men Behind Hitler. Four years later, the German Psychiatric Association issued a report affirming that psychiatrists were “active in and primarily responsible for the different euthanasia organizations. They guided and directed the different euthanasia campaigns.” They “observed and controlled the selection of those to be killed.”
- CCHR extensively researched ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo, reporting its findings to the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague and the Council of Europe. It discovered that psychiatric ideas of racial hygiene and eugenics were behind the conflict, in particular the works of Jovan Rašković, founder of the Social Democratic Party and Radovan Karadžić, wartime leader—both psychiatrists. In 1999, members of the Council of Europe issued a resolution that recognized psychiatrists as the architects of the ethnic cleansing and encouraged Council members to “study the material that has been put together and researched by the French chapter of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights.” When Karadžić was captured in 2008, it was widely reported that Karadžić’s ethnic cleansing stemmed from his psychiatric background.
- Along with officials and members of the Italian Parliament, CCHR Italy inspected concentration camp-like conditions in the country’s psychiatric asylums. Staff had pocketed government funds while patients were left naked and starving. The government responded to the evidence, issuing a resolution that ordered the closure of the ninety-seven asylums. The abused and neglected inmates were transferred to humane homes, many taught to read, write and care for themselves for the first time in thirty years. CCHR was presented with a mayoral medal for its humanitarian efforts.
Exposing Criminal Psychiatric Abuse
CCHR has campaigned for uncompromising execution of justice for mental health practitioners who rape or sexually abuse their patients, but hide behind their roles as therapists to mitigate their crimes. In protecting patients from sexual abuse and fraud the following are a sample of safeguards achieved:
- At least twenty-five statutes have been enacted defining sex crimes committed by psychiatrists and psychologists in the United States, Australia, Germany, Sweden and Israel. The laws label therapist-patient sex as sexual assault or rape. Hundreds of psychiatrists and psychologists have been convicted and jailed.
- CCHR’s investigations led to a major private psychiatric hospital chain in the US being investigated by fourteen federal and state investigations for fraud and patient abuse. Before closing, the hospital chain paid out over $1 billion in criminal and civil fines. Laws were subsequently passed outlawing the practice of using “bounty hunters” for locating individuals with good insurance in order to involuntarily institutionalize them in psychiatric facilities and milk their insurance dry.
- Numerous other private, for-profit psychiatric hospitals were subsequently investigated. By 2003, state and federal authorities had eighty percent of the US private psychiatric hospital market under criminal investigation, which resulted in $2.1 billion in criminal and civil fines.