Shiny & Free
Scooter does it again.
From The Medical Observer http://www.medicalobserver.com.au/news/battlefield-mind
From The Medical Observer http://www.medicalobserver.com.au/news/battlefield-mind
13th Sep 2010
Scientology’s latest attack on Australian psychiatrists has coincided with an attempt to bring GPs into the campaign. David Brill reports. David Brill all articles by this author
TORTURE, rape, fraud and corruption.
These are some of the accusations being levelled at psychiatry. Dig a little deeper into a “psychbuster” kit and you’ll discover psychiatrists are to blame for ruining communities,
manufacturing terrorism, creating racism and hooking the world on drugs. They were also behind Adolf Hitler, 9/11 and even the death of Marilyn Monroe.
This is psychiatry, in the eyes of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR).
Founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and rogue psychiatrist Dr Thomas Szasz, CCHR describes itself as a non-profit, public benefit “mental health watchdog”, which has “helped to save the lives of millions and prevented needless suffering for millions more”.
But away from these noble claims, concern is growing in Australia about the messages put out by CCHR and the Church of Scientology – most recently directly to GPs via the delivery of unsolicited anti-psychiatry DVDs – and the way in which they conduct their campaigns.
Denying mental illness
Broadly, the Church argues there is no scientific basis for mental illness – that while physical diseases have clear signs and symptoms, there is no proof that mental disorders stem from any detectable chemical imbalance in the brain. Treatment, therefore, is unjustified, and therapies are decried as unnecessary, harmful and potentially deadly.1
The origins of these beliefs are the subject of debate, which centres on the teachings of the religion’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, whose theory of Dianetics offers an alternative view of the mind.2
Some say he simply saw Dianetics as incompatible with mainstream psychiatry and psychology, while others have suggested that psychiatry’s dismissal of his theories made him increasingly bitter towards the profession.3-5
Media attention has focused on Scientology, while CCHR has remained largely out of the spotlight, even as it plays a key role in much of the anti-psychiatric activity assigned to the Church.
Many of the freedom of information (FOI) requests currently targeting Australian psychiatrists at their universities come from CCHR (known in Australia as the Citizens Committee on Human Rights, rather than Commission), as revealed last month in Medical Observer.6
And despite the Church’s attempts to separate itself from CCHR, former insider Paul Schofield says the two are inextricably linked. While the Church pronounces its views from a largely philosophical standpoint, it is CCHR that actively campaigns against psychiatry, with funding and support from Scientologists.
“CCHR is very much Scientology’s attack on psychiatry,” says Mr Schofield, a former Scientologist of 30 years whose wife helped establish a CCHR chapter at Cooranbong, NSW.
“Over the last five or so years, they’ve made a point of removing the offices from the Scientology churches. But they are staffed almost exclusively by Scientologists, and they work very closely with the Scientology Office of Special Affairs.”
Having “freed himself” of the Church two years ago, Mr Schofield is now committed to exposing its practices. He was among the former members whose allegations were tabled in the Senate last year by independent senator Nick Xenophon, in his ultimately unsuccessful push for a Senate Inquiry into the Church of Scientology.7,8
“CCHR is a hate group. They’ve toned it down a bit, but they used to have events where they were talking about Scientology’s campaign for the global obliteration of psychiatry,” Mr Schofield says.9
“Hubbard said that psychiatrists are responsible for all the bad things in society.
“And if you talk to any Scientologist about psychiatry, you will get the view that psychiatry is an incredibly evil thing... that psychiatry is trying to enslave mankind and only Scientology can stop them taking over the planet.
“I’m still embarrassed to admit it, but that was part of my belief system.”
Mr Schofield provided MO with CCHR’s Basic Action Kit – known as a “psychbuster” kit – sold to those who sign up to become a CCHR Human Rights Investigator and raise public awareness about abuses by mental health practitioners.
Mr Schofield bought the kit in 2005 – for $600 – but believes the anti-psychiatric rhetoric has changed little.
The kit comprises a DVD and poster; 19 books and pamphlets, each blaming psychiatrists for a different crime; a step-by-step guide on how and why to investigate and expose psychiatrists; questionnaires for surveying members of the public to find out whether their psychiatrist has abused, threatened or restrained them; and release forms for sharing this information with CCHR.
It’s not clear whether the surveys are still used in Australia, but CCHR continues to demonstrate publicly at psychiatry events, including the recent International Youth Mental Health Conference in Melbourne.
CCHR says it was calling for transparency of mental health funding and handing out its documentary, The Marketing of Madness: Are We All Insane?10
However, conference convener and Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry told Medical Observer the protestors were “harassing” delegates, and security had to be called.
CCHR also lobbies governments on mental health policy, making submissions to inquiries on ADHD and recent reviews of the mental health acts in WA and Victoria.11-13
The group appears to have less political influence than in the US, where CCHR has heavily influenced certain state policies, particularly around the assessment and treatment of children’s mental health.3
Even general practice has become a new target for CCHR’s campaign, with the group sending its anti-psychiatry DVDs to GPs unsolicited, prompting the RACGP to alert its members recently.14
Psychiatrists, according to Mr Schofield, have always been the major target for CCHR.
He says the overriding principle of this campaign – and a core tenet of Scientology – is to “noisily investigate” and try to find out the hidden crimes of all psychiatrists, and especially those who criticise the Church.
This “sacred trust to protect Scientology”, he says, would likely explain the Church’s recent unsuccessful attempt to access the emails of psychiatrists Professors Ian Hickie and Louise Newman under an FOI request.6,14
CCHR has also made several further FOI requests about the funding and research of psychiatrists, including Professor Hickie, under the guise of seeking transparency on conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry.
Vicki Dunstan, president of Scientology in Australia, told MO the Church had sought the chain of six emails – now understood to also include Professor McGorry, an unidentified member of Senator Xenophon’s office and David Crosbie, CEO of the Mental Health Council of Australia – to correct misleading information about itself, and empathically rejected Professor Hickie’s claim of harassment.
But Mr Schofield believes it is an example of Scientology’s “fair game” policies – whereby anything goes when responding to the Church’s critics.15
But while Professors McGorry, Hickie and Newman find CCHR’s campaign personally unsettling, and an apparent attempt to stifle discussion, they say their overriding concern remains the impact of the Church’s philosophy on the mental wellbeing of its followers.
The three professors had made a highly publicised joint statement in March, shortly before the Church’s FOI request, backing Senator Xenophon’s campaign and warning that the Church’s denial of mental illness was putting lives at risk.16,17
Their concerns are not unprecedented. The impact of rejecting psychiatric care came into sharp focus in 2007 when Linda Walicki, who had schizophrenia, murdered her parents and sister. Although she was cleared on the grounds of mental illness, the NSW Supreme Court heard that her father’s Scientology beliefs had prevented her from seeking help earlier.18,19
Other allegations made against the Church in the Senate last year included confinement and torture of members, covered-up sexual abuse and forced abortions – all of which the Church denies.20
Mr Schofield fears that there are still Scientologists in Australia suffering under the anti-psychiatric mentality.
Having lost two of his daughters while a Scientologist, he admits he “could have done with some decent counselling”, which never came. His wife’s postnatal depression also went untreated.
“If you see a psychiatrist, you’re shutting yourself off from the Church. You would basically face expulsion,” Mr Schofield says, explaining that psychiatric treatment renders devotees “illegal” for future Scientology counselling, and that senior members would actively prevent followers from seeking treatment.
Scientologists were also encouraged to get family members and friends to stop taking psychiatric medications.
Mr Schofield says that Scientologists who became depressed or developed a mental health issue would typically be given vitamins, nutritional supplements and Scientology counselling – as per Hubbard’s teachings.
In some cases, where people were delusional or manic, they were taken offsite for an “introspection rundown”21 , where they were watched around the clock until they recovered sufficiently to resume Scientology counselling.
Treatment for drug addiction – via the Scientology-linked Narconon program22 – involved a drug-free “sauna detox”, with addicts given large amounts of vitamins to help them “sweat the drugs out of the body”, before resuming Scientology counselling.
Mr Schofield held senior positions in Narconon Australia and says the program, like CCHR, is heavily linked to the Church.23
“There are a lot of hidden casualties in Scientology – a lot of suicides and unhelped mental problems among Scientologists.”
“They just internalise them because they ‘know’, quote unquote, that if they apply correct Scientology, these problems will go away.
“But they don’t. So you’ll have people suffering along with suicidal tendencies, compulsive behaviours, anything like that, and the hope is that somewhere along the line Scientology will fix it up for them while they suffer.”
After examining the psychbuster kit and Mr Schofield’s comments, Chris Tennant, emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of Sydney, dismissed the idea that drug addiction or depression can be treated with vitamins and a sauna detox as “garbage”.
He also strongly rejected CCHR’s argument that psychiatric therapies were unsafe and unproven, citing an extensive evidence base spanning more than 20 years, and noted CCHR’s portrayal of psychiatric treatments – involving asylums, lobotomies and crude electroconvulsive therapy – was “ancient history” and far from the reality of psychiatry today.
“It’s hardly low-key language – it’s highly emotive, highly paranoid in its whole flavour and designed, in a sense, to strike terror into people. If it wasn’t a little bit serious, it would be laughable,” Professor Tennant says.
With Scientology apparently having little overall influence in Australia (the Church has claimed to have 250,000 followers, but census data suggest the figure is closer to 2500)24,25, Professor Tennant was not concerned for his safety or that of his colleagues.
He was left in little doubt however as to the effects CCHR’s “alarming” literature might have on its followers.
“They’re the group who are most vulnerable, because they’re going to be persuaded by the Church’s highly emotional arguments and potentially avoid life-saving treatment,” he says.
Other psychiatrists, however, believe that some good can come out of the CCHR’s work.
Associate Professor Jon Jureidini, head of psychological medicine at the University of Adelaide, stresses he is no Scientologist, but as an outspoken member of Healthy Skepticism he has often been critical of mainstream psychiatry – particularly around areas of overdiagnosis, excessive prescribing and questionable interpretation of the Mental Health Act.
As a result, CCHR sometimes sends him information, much of it obtained under FOI from the TGA and the Health Department. While some of it contains mistakes and misinterpretations, and he does not enter into correspondence, Professor Jureidini welcomes any moves to bring information into the open.
“There are reasonable grounds to be concerned about things that psychiatry does, and having strong critics, even if they are over the top, should be good for the profession, not bad for it,” he says.
“Some of it’s so ridiculous that you would be making a mistake to dignify it by getting angry about it, but other stuff they say has got some validity. So I think we need to refute the stuff that’s wrong, respond to the stuff that’s true in a constructive way, and ignore the stuff that’s silly.”
Darwin psychiatrist Dr Jock McLaren also appears highly regarded by CCHR, who quote him extensively on their Australian website.
He says his critique of mainstream psychiatry, and its lack of a clear scientific model, is “music to the ears” of CCHR, and since it is in the public domain, he does not mind them using it.26
Dr McLaren has also visited the exhibition at CCHR’s Los Angeles office and found the material to be largely factually accurate.
“There are different ways you can come at the question of what psychiatry does, and there are plenty of reasons for disagreeing with it. My disagreement is a matter of logic and rationality, not a question of aesthetics or human rights,” he says.
“The Church of Scientology’s argument against orthodox psychiatry probably is not what I would call a rational, scientific argument. But I don’t care – that’s their point of view.”
One psychiatrist, meanwhile, has begun his own campaign to draw attention to Scientology’s war on his profession. Dr Steve Wiseman, of the University of British Columbia in Canada, has been researching Scientology’s views on psychiatry, and is chairing a hotly anticipated session on the subject this month at the annual Canadian Psychiatric Association meeting. Much of his material has already appeared online, to great acclaim from the Church’s critics.5,27
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists does not have a formal position on the CCHR or Scientology, but Professors McGorry, Hickie, Newman and Tennant told MO they continued to support calls for an inquiry into the Church and its beliefs on mental health.
But with Senator Xenophon failing in his bid to have the religion’s tax-free status scrutinised,28 it is unclear whether any political willpower remains.
Mr Schofield says, however, it is “vital” that psychiatrists continue to talk publicly about the dangers of Scientology’s views.
And with CCHR telling MO last month that it was looking at “investigating further” in light of Professor Hickie’s claims of harassment, it is clear the campaign has momentum.
“I’ve seen an intensity to the irrational behaviour over the last nine months from Scientologists,” Mr Schofield says.
Facts & figures
- 60,021,800 viewers of CCHR public service announcements
- 920,965 people saved from psychiatric abuse
- 604,501,930 people awakened to the horrors of psychiatry
- 25,048 members of the public educated on the truth about psychiatry through CCHR’s Industry of Death Museum
Ref: Psychiatry: Global Extinction. International Scientology News, August 2010