Psychiatrists’ Refusal to Align with UN, WHO on Ending Forced Psychiatric Treatment is Big Reason US Lags on Mental Health Human Rights

Citizens Commission on Human Rights marches in protest, opens human rights exhibit, delivers open letter to American Psychiatric Association leadership demanding it adopt international human rights standards to end coercive psychiatric practices.

by CCHR National Affairs Office

Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a mental health industry watchdog, launched a series of actions to draw attention to the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) refusal to reverse its support of forced psychiatric treatment, remaining instead at odds with international human rights standards and leaving the US lagging the global movement to restore human rights in the field of mental health.  Coercive psychiatric practices include involuntary institutionalization, forced drugging, mechanical and chemical restraints, seclusion, and nonconsensual electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, or electroshock).

In a protest march organized by CCHR, demonstrators marched through Times Square to the Javits Center in New York City on May 4, site of the APA’s annual conference, drawing the attention of conference attendees with chanting and signs demanding an end to forced psychiatric treatment, a ban on ECT, and an end to the rampant psychiatric drugging of children.  As a follow-on to the APA’s 2021 admission that systemic racism is ingrained in psychiatric practices, signs also demanded an end to those racist practices. 

Overhead, an airplane banner called for the banning of ECT, while a Jumbotron truck driving in the area broadcast CCHR’s documentary, Therapy or Torture: The Truth About Electroshock.

CCHR also hand-delivered an open letter to the leadership of the APA, Petros Levounis, President, and Saul M. Levin, Chief Executive Officer, at their conference, calling on the organization to renounce involuntary mental health treatment.  Copies of the letter were sent to the heads of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the U.S.-based office of the World Health Organization (WHO).

In 2023, WHO and OHCHR called for an end to all forced mental health treatment, saying coercive practices “violate the right to be protected from torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.”  WHO/OHCHR also advised, “International human rights standards clarify that ECT without consent violates the right to physical and mental integrity and may constitute torture and ill-treatment,” and called for banning ECT for children.  ECT passes electricity through the brain to cause convulsions, with the risk of brain damage and permanent memory loss.

The CCHR letter also referenced 2021 guidance from WHO that coercive mental health treatment should end even for those experiencing acute mental distress, pointing out that individuals in mental health crisis “are at a heightened risk of their human rights being violated, including through forced admissions and treatment….These practices have been shown to be harmful to people’s mental, emotional and physical health, sometimes leading to death.”

Among international psychiatric organizations, the World Psychiatric Association has stated its concern about “the extent to which coercive interventions violate” human rights, and the European Congress of Psychiatry has held a special session aimed at reducing the use of coercive measures.  Julian Beezhold, MD, current chair of the European Psychiatric Association’s Section on Emergency Psychiatry, is also on record saying that examining how to reduce coercive practices in psychiatry is a priority for his association.

In contrast, the APA has maintained its support of the profitable practices, which have left maimed and traumatized patients in their wake.

“We demand the APA renounce coercive practices that damage and traumatize patients and, in the case of ECT, cause brain damage, memory loss and even death in the name of mental health treatment,” said Anne Goedeke, president of the CCHR National Affairs Office in Washington, DC. “Psychiatrists should not be exposing their patients to these unconscionable risks.”

Watch now: Video from CCHR’s NYC protest and exhibit.

New Yorkers were invited to tour CCHR’s “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death” exhibit, which ran through May 12 at Union Square in New York City.  The free exhibit, which has toured the world, exposes some little-known history of psychiatry and how psychiatric practices have harmed patients.  Facts presented in the exhibit’s panels reveal the staggering number of children prescribed psychiatric drugs, psychiatry’s sordid history of brain-damaging psychosurgery and electroshock, and the prime role of psychiatrists in instigating and perpetuating racism.

Rev. Fred Shaw, CCHR International spokesperson and founder of the CCHR Task Force Against Racism and Modern-Day Eugenics, gave the keynote address at the exhibit grand opening May 5, followed by remarks by New York human rights activists Marion “Tiny” Frampton, a former gang member in The Black Spades (TBS) and now Harlem community activist and founder of TBS New Directions; former Harlem Globetrotter, now international goodwill ambassador Bobby “Zorro” Hunter; and Maliki Stone, human rights advocate and retired detective with the New York Police Department.

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CCHR Exhibit Exposes Psychiatric Human Rights Abuse

Notable New York City activists spoke at opening of Citizens Commission on Human Rights’ exhibit exposing sordid history of harmful psychiatric practices still in use today.

by CCHR National Affairs Office

Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), an international mental health industry watchdog, held the Grand Opening of its traveling exhibit, entitled “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death.” The exhibit brings to light the history to the present day of the harm and human rights abuses of coercive psychiatric practices, including nonconsensual electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).  Forced mental health practices violate international human rights standards but are still endorsed in the U.S. by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).  CCHR advocates for state and federal laws eliminating coercive practices and banning ECT.

The event’s keynote speaker, CCHR International spokesperson and founder of the CCHR Task Force Against Racism and Modern-Day Eugenics, Rev. Fred Shaw, spoke about the damage people can experience from psychiatric drugs and ECT and stressed the importance of patients getting the risks fully disclosed to them.

“A trap wouldn’t be a trap if you could see it coming,” he said. “This exhibit brings the truth about psychiatric drugs and electroshock.” 

Marion “Tiny” Frampton, a former gang member in The Black Spades (TBS) and now Harlem community activist and founder of TBS New Directions, a youth mentoring program offering alternatives to youth gang involvement, spoke passionately about the damage he has witnessed from psychiatric drugs and ECT. 

“I’m a former gang member in the ‘70s,” he said.  “Most of my comrades were placed in mental institutions and were given all kinds of drugs and were even given shock therapy (ECT).  For years I watched a lot of my comrades leave prison and be forced to take these medications.”

“Most of my comrades who are alive today are still on medication [and] are homeless,” he continued.  “The medication has been in their system so long, they can’t get off it.”

Former Harlem Globetrotter and now international goodwill ambassador Bobby “Zorro” Hunter saw firsthand the adverse effects of psychiatric drugs on teens when he taught at a high school for pregnant girls.  He talked about the need to give kids the help they really need instead of drugging them.

“Saving kids is so important because some day those kids will lead us,” he said.

His sentiment was echoed by Maliki Stone, a detective for 22 years with the New York Police Department and now a human rights advocate, who expressed concern that kids should not be harmed by the mental health treatment they receive.

The damage from coerced mental health treatment was the incentive for the 2023 call from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for an end to all forced mental health treatment, saying that nonconsensual practices, “violate the right to be protected from torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.”  Coercive practices include involuntary institutionalization, forced drugging, the use of restraints and seclusion, and nonconsensual electroshock.

Facts presented in the CCHR exhibit reveal the staggering number of children prescribed psychiatric drugs, psychiatry’s sordid history of brain-damaging psychosurgery and electroshock, and the prime role of psychiatrists in instigating and perpetuating the systemic racism still ingrained in psychiatric practices in today’s mental health system. 

The exhibit was open through May 9 from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. at 37 Union Square in New York City.

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Human Rights Group Marches in Protest to Demand American Psychiatric Association Denounce Electroshock for Children, Coercive Treatment, in Step with UN and WHO

Citizens Commission on Human Rights calls on APA to end the use of lucrative but dangerous coercive treatment and electroshock. CCHR’s exhibit in New York City exposes grievous harm that psychiatric practices have caused patients.

by CCHR National Affairs Office

Scores of protesters marched on the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) annual conference Saturday (May 4, 2024) in New York City, demanding the APA drop its support of coercive psychiatric treatments and electroshock and align itself to international human rights standards that argue against forced treatment. The protest was organized by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), an international mental health industry watchdog, which advocates for state and federal laws eliminating coercive practices and banning electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

The demonstration included an airplane banner calling for the banning of ECT and Jumbotron truck which broadcast CCHR’s documentary, Therapy or Torture: The Truth About Electroshock. The group invited New Yorkers to CCHR’s “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death” exhibit, which had its grand opening on Sunday, May 5, at 3 p.m. at 37 Union Square and run daily through May 9 from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The exhibit, which has toured the world, exposes the history of psychiatry and the grievous harm it has caused patients.

In 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called for an end to all forced mental health treatment, saying coercive practices “violate the right to be protected from torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.”  WHO/OHCHR also advised that, “International human rights standards clarify that ECT without consent violates the right to physical and mental integrity and may constitute torture and ill-treatment.”  

Among psychiatric organizations, the World Psychiatric Association has stated its concern about “the extent to which coercive interventions violate” human rights, and the European Congress of Psychiatry has also held special sessions aimed at reducing the use of coercive measures. In contrast, the APA has continued its support of the profitable practices, which have left maimed and traumatized patients in their wake.

Since 2020, CCHR has put the APA on notice of the growing global concern about forced psychiatric institutionalization and treatment, which is rampant in the U.S.  New York City has been criticized for its aggressive approaches to mental health treatment, including involuntary commitment, compulsory outpatient treatment, high restraint use and forced electroshock treatment. 

The WHO/OHCHR guideline acknowledges ECT as a brain-damaging procedure, to which 100,000 Americans, including children, are subjected each year, but a sample of the websites of 12 New York hospitals delivering ECT revealed no mention of brain damage as an adverse effect.

“It is long past time for the APA to denounce coercive practices that traumatize patients and, in the case of ECT, cause brain damage, memory loss and even death in the name of mental health treatment,” said Anne Goedeke, president of the CCHR National Affairs Office in Washington. “Psychiatrists should not be exposing their patients to these unconscionable risks.”

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CCHR Calls Attention to New Reports on Risks of Antipsychotic Drugs, Including Loss of Self-Identity

How antipsychotic drugs are used is challenged by research reporting on the negative effect on patients’ sense of self and on the possibility of worse social functioning and quality of life from long-term use for some patients.

by CCHR National Affairs Office

Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is calling attention to new reports on the risks from taking antipsychotic drugs, including damaging or erasing the patients’ sense of identity and interfering with their recovery from their mental health issues. 

A brief report published in the Community Mental Health Journal discusses how taking antipsychotic drugs, or even being prescribed but not taking the drugs, can be experienced as “damaging, erasing and dulling people’s sense of who they are.”  The report refers to this risk as “the adverse effect no one is talking about.”

The researchers behind the report call for more attention to be given to the effect of antipsychotics on identity and the sense of self, to prevent interference with mental health patients’ recovery and their chance to live well, “where what constitutes living well is defined by the individual rather than decided for them by their clinical team.”

Challenging the belief that people with psychotic mental health issues need to take antipsychotic drugs for life, a separate study has tentatively indicated that stopping an antipsychotic drug rather than continuing to take it long-term for “maintenance” may result in better long-term social functioning and quality of life. 

The researchers note that many patients do not want to continue taking antipsychotics and decide on their own at a high rate to discontinue the drugs for reasons that include the serious side effects of the drugs.  Patients can perceive these effects of antipsychotics as worse than the mental health condition for which they are taking the drugs.

“One reason for a more cautious attitude are the adverse medication effects such as weight gain, sedation, insomnia, and metabolic and cardio-vascular complications that have a negative impact on patients’ quality of life and impede long-term social functioning,” the researchers wrote. 

A 2019 study took a closer look at the side effects of antipsychotic drugs.  Patients taking the drugs reported an average of 11 adverse effects, with an average of five of them rated as “severe.”  

The most frequent side effects were drowsiness/feeling tired/sedation (92% of patients), loss of motivation (86%), slowed thoughts (86%), and emotional numbing (85%).  Nearly three out of four (74%) experienced loss of sex drive, and over half (58%) reported suicidal thoughts or actions.  Older people reported high levels of side effects.  

Among the disturbing findings was that most (70%) of the antipsychotic users reported they did not recall their prescriber telling them anything at all about side effects before they started taking the drugs.

Because consumers can only make fully informed decisions about taking or discontinuing psychiatric drugs when they are given accurate information about the known risks of the drugs, CCHR encourages patients to insist on getting full disclosure of those risks and to discuss those risks with their prescribers.

WARNING:  Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of an antipsychotic or other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

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CCHR Issues Alert on Mortality Risk of Psychiatric Drugs After Researcher Estimates They Are Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S.

Hospital records and coroners’ reports often record deaths linked to prescription drugs as due to natural or unknown causes, rather than from the adverse effects of the drugs – especially psychiatric drug-related deaths, a leading researcher says.

by CCHR National Affairs Office

Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is alerting the public to the risks of adverse effects from psychiatric drugs that may result in death, after a leading medical researcher estimated that psychiatric drugs are the third most common cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.

In an article published by the Brownstone Institute, Peter Gøtzsche, MD, director of the Institute for Scientific Freedom and a former professor of clinical research design and analysis at the University of Copenhagen, writes that “in hospital records and coroners’ reports, deaths linked to prescription drugs are often considered to be from natural or unknown causes,” rather than from the adverse effects of the drugs.  He adds that “this misconception is particularly common for deaths caused by psychiatric drugs.”

By way of example, he says that when young patients taking antipsychotic drugs die suddenly, it is typically considered a natural death. However, he counters that it is not natural for young people to die and that antipsychotics are known to carry the risk of fatal heart arrhythmias.

Gøtzsche says his analysis corrects for the limitations, biases, missing data, and lack of sufficient patient follow-up in published placebo-controlled, randomized studies that report deaths from psychiatric drug use.  Because young people have a much lower risk of death than the elderly, the analysis focuses on estimating a death rate in people aged 65 and older.  He says his approach was conservative, as his estimates do not include psychiatric drug-related deaths occurring in hospitals or in those under the age of 65. 

Gøtzsche used data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and from published research studies for three classes of psychiatric drugs: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, and antianxiety/hypnotic drugs. He estimates that for each of these drug classes, the drugs cause the death of two in every 100 patients aged 65 and older each year in the U.S., for an annual mortality rate of 2%.  He notes that patients taking several psychiatric drugs are at an even greater risk of death.

“I therefore do not doubt that psychiatric drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer,” he wrote.

Currently, nearly 11 million Americans aged 65 and older are on antidepressants, over 2 million are on antipsychotics, and 8.5 million are on antianxiety drugs.  Many are taking more than one psychiatric drug or drugs in more than one psychiatric drug class. 

Gøtzscheo’s estimates suggest several hundred thousand deaths annually among older Americans could rightly be attributed to psychiatric drugs.

In criticizing the inaction of lawmakers on what he says are preventable deaths, Gøtzsche writes, “If such a hugely lethal pandemic had been caused by a microorganism, we would have done everything we could to get it under control.”

Citizens Commission on Human Rights continues to advocate for a government investigation on the dangers of psychiatric drugs and to raise public awareness of the risks of the drugs.

Because consumers can only make fully informed decisions about taking or discontinuing psychiatric drugs when they are given accurate information about the known risks of the drugs, CCHR encourages patients to insist on getting full disclosure of those risks and to discuss those risks with their prescribers.

WARNING:  Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of a psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

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CCHR Observes 25th Anniversary of Columbine Mass Shooting with Call for Government Investigation into Link Between Psychiatric Drugs and Violence

Mental health watchdog also calls for laws requiring toxicology testing for psychiatric drugs for perpetrators of mass shootings and other serious violent crimes so the full extent of the risk of violence from antidepressants can be known.

by CCHR National Affairs Office 

As the 25th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting approaches, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is calling for a long overdue government investigation into the link between psychiatric drugs and violence.

On April 20, 1999, two armed teenagers went on a shooting spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, killing 12 students and a teacher and wounding 26 others before taking their own lives. It was the worst school shooting in U.S. history at the time.

While the medical records of one of the shooters remain sealed, the other teen is known to have been taking a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant, a class of drugs linked to many other mass shootings, stabbings, and other senseless acts of violence.

Peter Breggin, M.D., a psychiatrist involved as an expert in legal actions related to the Columbine incident, has written that the journal of the shooter on antidepressants indicates he did not begin plans for the massacre until he started taking the drugs.

His journal entries became increasingly violent and bizarre over the time he took antidepressants and as his dosage was increased, according to Breggin.  A toxicology report showed that the shooter had an SSRI antidepressant in his system at the time of the incident. Breggin concluded that the shooter was on a drug that “caused violence or amplified any pre-existing violent tendencies.”

Breggin describes antidepressants as neurotoxic because they harm and disrupt the functions of the brain, causing abnormal thinking and behavior that includes the anxiety, aggressiveness, loss of judgment, impulsivity and mania that can lead to violence, with these harmful effects especially prevalent and severe in children and youth.

A Public Health Advisory issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2004 warned about serious adverse effects from this class of drugs. It advised that certain behaviors “are known to be associated with these drugs, such as anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, impulsivity, akathisia (severe restlessness), hypomania [abnormal excitement] and mania [psychosis characterized by exalted feelings, delusions of grandeur and overproduction of ideas]” in adult and pediatric patients. (The definitions in brackets have been added.)

Evidence of the violence-inducing risk of antidepressants was found in a 2010 study that examined the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS) for reports from 2004-2009 of homicide, homicidal thoughts, physical assault, physical abuse or other violence-related symptoms experienced while taking prescription drugs.  Of the 31 drugs most associated with reports of violence, 11 were antidepressants, as were five of the top 10.

“It is long past time for the federal government to investigate the role of antidepressants in mass shootings and other senseless acts of violence, which continue to plague the nation,” said Anne Goedeke, president of the CCHR National Affairs Office. “Toxicology testing for psychiatric drugs should be required by law for perpetrators of mass shootings and other violent crimes and maintained in a national database so the true extent of the risk of violence from antidepressants can be known. This is a matter of public health and safety.”

While not all antidepressant users experience symptoms of violence, and while not all acts of violence involve antidepressants, it has been documented in a significant number of high-profile shootings, stabbings and other incidents of violence that the perpetrators were taking, or were in withdrawal from, antidepressants.

Until more thorough data collection of the psychiatric drug histories and toxicology reports of the perpetrators of mass shootings and other senseless acts of violence is available, Americans may be denied the opportunity to find workable solutions to the real causes of the violence plaguing the nation.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

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CCHR Relaunching Campaign to Ban Use of Electrical Shocking Devices on Students, After Massachusetts Lawmakers Fail to Pass Bill

Citizens Commission on Human Rights New England is relaunching its campaign to prohibit the use of devices that the FDA has recently proposed to ban after citing physical and psychological harm to those receiving electrical shocks from the devices.

by CCHR National Affairs Office

The Boston-based chapter of Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is relaunching its campaign to raise awareness about a controversial electrical shocking device used for behavioral conditioning in Massachusetts, following the failure of the state legislature to pass a bill that would have prohibited the device.

CCHR will work with other organizations concerned with disability rights and mental healthcare reform to inform Massachusetts lawmakers and the public about the physical and psychological harm resulting from use of “electrical stimulation devices” on the vulnerable population attending the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC), a school for disabled and autistic students in Canton, Massachusetts. The device was developed by a psychologist who is the founder of the school.

Bill H.180 would have prohibited in Massachusetts the use of devices which can cause physical pain to persons with disabilities for the purpose of changing their behavior. The bill, which has been introduced and reintroduced in the Massachusetts state legislature for more than 10 years, was allowed to die in the current legislative session without a vote.

The harm from the devices is detailed in a recent proposal by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban electrical stimulation devices used for curbing aggressive or self-injurious behavior at JRC, the only facility in the U.S. known to use the devices. JRC staff administer electrical shocks through electrodes attached to a student’s arm or leg to cause a change in their behavior.

“These devices present a number of psychological risks including depression, anxiety, worsening of underlying symptoms, development of post-traumatic stress disorder, and physical risks such as pain, burns, and tissue damage,” the FDA wrote in its ban proposal.  JRC students with intellectual or developmental disabilities are particularly vulnerable, the FDA notes, because it may be difficult for them to communicate about pain or other harms they experience from the electrical shocks.

In 2010, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, referred to the use of electrical shock devices for this kind of aversion therapy as torture and sent an urgent appeal to the U.S. government to investigate.  Another U.N. Special Rapporteur, Juan Mendez, said in 2012, “The passage of electricity through anybody’s body is clearly associated with pain and suffering.”  Mendez, a professor of human rights law, knew firsthand about that harm, having been tortured with electric shock during Argentina’s Dirty War in the 1970s.

The use of the shocking devices on vulnerable individuals may constitute a human rights violation, according to Colbe Mazzarella, president of CCHR New England. “We will continue to push forward at the state and federal level until this torture is abolished once and for all,” she said.

Exactly when the FDA could issue a final rule banning the electrical devices used at JRC is not known. In the meantime, CCHR is renewing efforts to prohibit the use of the devices at JRC, as well as to ban the electroshock machines psychiatrists use for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). To date, over 134,000 people have signed CCHR’s online petition to ban electroshock.

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Unlocking Work-Life Harmony: Strategies for Balance & Success

Work-Life Balance is a recurring topic in the news and on various social media. Perhaps we can narrow down the issues and alternatives.

One definition of Work-Life Balance is “the ability to manage one’s personal and professional life while maintaining well-being and self-care.” It seeks to minimize stress and maintain sustainable work and home responsibilities.

There are likely as many ways to do this as there are people needing to do this. Certainly there is no lack of advice from family, friends, co-workers, associates, doctors, and busybodies.

Discussions of Work-Life Balance are often coterminous with Burnout. This is where it overlaps with mental health and the insistence of the psychiatric industry that they can help. Unfortunately this is a red herring, since psychiatry also maintains that no proven general approach exists.

Examining various resources, the bottom line consensus seems to be the mitigation and elimination of Stress. Rather than providing a list of stress-reducing techniques, of which there are many, we focus instead on the topic of Stress itself.

One might observe that the more highly placed a person is, the more stress that hits them. While this is neither here nor there in the methods of handling the stress, it does bear noticing. A liability of stress is that persons under stress can react with momentary flashes of antisocial conduct.

A person under stress is actually under a suppression in one or more areas or aspects of his life. In this sense, suppression means a harmful intention or action against which one cannot fight back. We might also call this a “stressor”, which may be a person or persons (either present or past), a persistent thought, a harmful drug, something mental, emotional, spiritual, medical, physical, biological, environmental, or any combination thereof.

We’d like to emphasize that stress is not a mental illness. It may be promoted as such by the psychiatric industry, but that is strictly so that it can be diagnosed as a mental disorder (“Acute Stress Disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and prescribed some psychiatric treatment for which insurance will pay; usually a harmful psychiatric drug such as an antidepressant, antipsychotic, or anti-anxiety drug.

Stress can only be permanently fixed by finding and eliminating the stressors of the condition. It cannot be fixed with a drug. What’s keeping people from handling their stress? Well, there are vested interests who want the general populace immobilized by stress; the psychopharmaceutical industry, for example, who create patients for life.

How do you find these stressors? And how do you fix them? Pain is the main indicator of stress; that should give one a clue about where to look. Pain can be mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual in nature.

While there are myriads of advices on handling various aspects of stress, and one should pursue any of these that indicate, we’d really like to find just one thing to focus on that could lead anyone to some improvement. What is the most basic thing we can find that lies beneath anyone and everyone’s stress?

Here we find the dichotomy of Cause and Effect. In this Universe, all actions can be viewed from the gradient scales of cause and effect. A gradient scale is an increasing or decreasing degree of something. Any situation, then, is made up of degrees of causes and effects. A worst case example is when one is being the total effect of external and internal forces, another word for which is “victim.”

This leads us to the one thing common to all methods of handling or eliminating stress. It is moving from being the total effect of something, gradiently toward being cause over that situation; not necessarily all at once, but starting with slight gentle cause and moving gradiently toward more cause and less effect.

So the questions become, “How can one take some slight gentle cause over the situation?” or “What part of that situation can one take some responsibility for?”

Keeping in mind, throughout, that psychiatry and psychiatric drugs are not a method for handling stress of any kind.

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Brain Injury Awareness Month 

Citizens Commission on Human Rights Renews Call for Ban on Brain-Damaging Electroshock

Brain injury can be caused by electric shock and seizures, two key elements of electroshock, a psychiatric procedure not proven safe or effective, some experts say. Patients may not be given enough information about electroshock risks to give true informed consent for the procedure.

by CCHR National Affairs Office

During Brain Injury Awareness Month, a month focused on bringing attention to causes and prevention of brain injuries, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is renewing its call for legislation to ban electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, or electroshock), a controversial psychiatric procedure performed on the brain.  Brain injury can be caused by electric shock and seizures – key elements of electroshock. The procedure, performed by psychiatrists on depressed patients, has not been proven either safe or effective, some experts say. 

“Patients should not be exposed to the risk of permanent brain damage just because their psychiatrists don’t know what else to do for depression,” said Anne Goedeke, president of the CCHR National Affairs Office. 

ECT shoots up to 460 volts of electricity through brain tissue to induce a grand mal seizure, the most serious type of seizure – the kind usually caused by epilepsy.  After 85 years of performing electroshock, psychiatrists still cannot explain how ECT is supposed to work to treat depression, how much voltage it will take to produce a grand mal seizure in a patient, or how many sessions of ECT to administer.  ECT is done by trial and error. 

Psychiatrist Peter Breggin, M.D., describes how the electric impulses of electroshock reduce the connectivity of the frontal lobes with the rest of the brain.  He explains that frontal lobes are “the seat of our capacity to be thoughtful, insightful, loving, and creative.”  He calls the brain damage from ECT “a closed-head injury in the form of an electrical lobotomy.” 

“This is what I call ‘the brain-disabling principle of psychiatric treatment,’” he writes.  “Lobotomy, ECT and psychiatric drugs all share the common factor that they ‘work’ by damaging the brain and suppressing brain function.”

CCHR co-founder, the late Thomas Szasz, M.D., a professor of psychiatry considered by many academics as present-day psychiatry’s most authoritative critic, wrote, “Most neurologists regard it as self-evident that epileptic [grand mal] seizures cause brain damage and that all injury to an intact brain is harmful.” 

For all the risk of brain damage from electroshock, the procedure has never been proven effective in clinical trials, experts say.

John Read, Ph.D., a professor of psychology; Irving Kirsch, Ph.D., associate director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Harvard Medical School; and psychologist Laura McGrath, Ph.D., reviewed prior ECT studies to look for any clear proof of effectiveness and found none.

“There is no evidence that ECT is effective for its target demographic – older women, or its target diagnostic group – severely depressed people, or for suicidal people, people who have unsuccessfully tried other treatments first, involuntary patients, or adolescents,” they concluded, publishing their findings in 2020 in Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry.

The researchers found there have only been 11 placebo-controlled studies of ECT since 1985, all of which had very small sample sizes and serious flaws in methodology, according to Read.  He further wrote that even the short-term benefit reported by some patients was not due to the ECT, but was primarily a placebo effect.

Most importantly, none of the studies found any lasting benefit to patients after a course of electroshock.  “No studies have found any evidence that ECT is better than placebo beyond the end of treatment,” Read wrote. 

He further noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires electroshock machines to have signs next to them stating: “The long-term safety and effectiveness of ECT treatment has not been demonstrated.”

However, patients are not being given enough information about the serious risks and lack of effectiveness of the procedure to give true informed consent to receive it, according to Read.  He conducted a survey of information pamphlets given to patients considering ECT and found that risks were minimized, or effectiveness was asserted without mentioning that similar rates of recovery were achieved by people receiving sham (placebo) treatment.  “The minimisation of risks is not uncommon in ECT practice and research,” he wrote. 

Nobody knows how many Americans get electroshocked each year.  A widely used, but outdated estimate of 100,000 appears to come from a 1995 study. 

Psychiatrists performing electroshock can greatly increase their income.  It has been estimated that a psychiatrist spending just a few hours a week to do 20 ECT procedures can bring in an additional $300,000 per year.  Electroshock rakes in more than $3 billion a year in the U.S. alone.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) advocates a total ban on ECT and continues to raise public awareness about the brain damage it can cause.  To date, more than 134,000 people have signed the CCHR online petition to ban ECT.

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Citizens Commission on Human Rights Calls for Congressional Investigation into Psychiatric In-Patient Treatment

Study Finds Suicide Risk High after Hospitalization for Depression or Attempted Suicide

Recent studies indicate patients discharged from psychiatric facilities are at greater risk for suicide than mental health patients not hospitalized, suggesting that psychiatric hospitalization itself may be a major risk factor.  Antidepressants used as treatment during hospitalization are also linked to an increased risk of suicide.

by CCHR National Affairs Office 

Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) National Affairs Office is urging Congress to investigate after a new study has found that patients released from psychiatric hospitalization for depression or attempted suicide are at the highest risk of completing suicide in the days immediately following their hospital discharge.

Researchers examined all psychiatric hospitalizations for depression in Finland from 1996 to 2017, along with a follow-up period of two years after hospital discharge. They reported that the time frames with the greatest risks for suicide occurred in the first three days after discharge, followed by days 4 through 7. Of the patients who took their own lives within two years after discharge, 9% died during the first week after discharge, 23% during the first month.

“In this study, patients hospitalized for depression had extremely high risk of suicide during the first days after discharge,” wrote the study’s lead author, Kari Aaltonen, M.D., Ph.D.  “Thereafter, incidence declined steeply but remained high.”  The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

The findings are consistent with other research indicating that psychiatric hospitalization may not reduce the risk of repeat self-harm for some patients, but may instead increase it.

Research has found that patients who have been discharged from psychiatric facilities seem to have a greater risk for suicide than mental health patients who have not been hospitalized; that the risk of suicide after discharge from psychiatric facilities is very high, especially in the weeks and months immediately after release, and that even many years after discharge, previously hospitalized psychiatric patients have suicide rates that are many times higher than in the general population.

People who were admitted to a psychiatric facility against their will were even more likely to attempt suicide after discharge than mental health inpatients who were not forcibly admitted.

Concerning the psychiatric hospitalization of children, research has found that young people 12-24 years of age who were admitted to psychiatric facilities were at significantly higher risk for self-harm and death in the first three years after discharge when compared to young mental health patients who were not hospitalized.

All this research suggests that psychiatric hospitalization is a major risk factor for significantly worse outcomes for some patients. 

The antidepressants used in psychiatric treatment of depressed and suicidal patients have also been linked to suicidal behavior.  Researchers conducting a 2019 re-analysis of safety summaries in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) database found evidence that antidepressants significantly increase the suicide risk in adults with major depression.  The rate of attempted suicide was found to be about 2.5 times higher in those who were given antidepressants in clinical trials than those who received a placebo.

Further evidence of a link between antidepressants and suicide is provided in a newly published study, which found that the suicide rate in the U.S. increased right along with the increase in antidepressant prescriptions over the three decades from 1990 to 2020.  

This was a time frame in which a key rationale for prescribing antidepressants – the unproven theory of a chemical (serotonin) imbalance in the brain – was popularized. During the period of 1990-2010, there was significant coverage of the theory in psychiatric and pharmacological publications.  At the same time, there was a rapid upswing in antidepressant prescriptions.

However, a landmark 2022 study found no scientific support for the theory, calling into question the prescribing of antidepressants.  The spreading of that unproven theory by psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry led to the mass prescribing of antidepressants in the U.S and worldwide.  Today some 45 million Americans take antidepressants, over 2 million of them children under the age of 18.

Despite all this antidepressant prescribing, a new study has found that increased antidepressant prescribing is not associated with any reduction in sadness, worry or unhappiness in Western nations.

Due to the number of recent studies showing a potentially adverse relationship between the treatments given and the rate of suicide, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights National Affairs Office is calling for a Congressional investigation into the matter.

WARNING:  Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

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