“The Campaign to 'Stop the Stigma' of Mental Illness was launched by those who profit from people being labeled with mental disorders and drugged…. the Pharmaceutical Industry. The 'Founding Sponsors were Abbott Labs, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Pfizer, Novartis, SmithKline Beecham and Wyeth-Ayerst Labs. .”
By Kelly Patricia O’Meara
May 8, 2015
May is Mental Health Month and the campaign organizers, Mental Health America (MHA), would have the public believe it is an altruistic campaign to “Stop the Stigma” of mental illness and to “help all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives.” But the MHA organizers fail to mention its activities are largely funded by Pharmaceutical companies, having received, since 2001, more than $26 million in pharmaceutical funding.
Absent from MHA’s “Stop the Stigma” information campaign are the startling data that reveal that America currently is in the midst of a prescription drug epidemic, with more than 78 million Americans being prescribed psychiatric drugs, which carry more than 286 drug regulatory agency warnings including mania, psychosis, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, suicide, and sudden death, to name a few. Also absent from MHA’s information campaign is that the psychiatric drug epidemic in America includes eight million children prescribed these mind-altering drugs, with a staggering one million of them between the ages of 0-5.
Nowhere on MHA’s website is there a complete list of the well-known serious, and even deadly, risks associated with the plethora of psychiatric drug “treatments.” For example, antidepressant risks are listed as “insomnia, constipation, weight gain, sexual problems, tremors and dry mouth,” yet there is no disclosure about the 37 international drug regulatory agencies citing suicidal ideation, 30 citing heart problems, or 10 drug citing violence, hostility or aggression. The MHA’s website omits the same drug risk disclosures on all categories of psychiatric drugs, not just antidepressants.
There is, however, an abundance of misinformation (including the unproven chemical imbalance theory) on mental disorders, which appear to be geared more towards psychotropic drug sales than consumer awareness or patient’s rights, blatantly obvious in light of its cherry-picked “facts” about ADHD.
According to MHA’s website section on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), “A 1990 study at the National Institute of Mental Health correlated ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder] with a series of metabolic abnormalities in the brain, providing further evidence that ADD is a neurobiological disorder.” This is inaccurate and misleading information. In fact, the 1998 statement from the National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference on ADHD clearly states, “We do not have an independent, valid test for ADHD, and there are no data to indicate ADHD is due to a brain malfunction.”
Like so many of the Pharma-fronts that are mental health organizations, MHA does not directly promote the drug interests of its pharmaceutical funders, nor does MHA and other Pharma-front groups readily disclose on their websites the amount of pharmaceutical funding received, the purpose of the funding or even how the funds are specifically utilized by the organization.
For example, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is in lock-step with MHA, asking Americans to take the “Stigmafree Pledge” to “bring understanding and education to others.” Like MHA, NAMI also does not provide detailed information about the adverse events associated with numerous psychiatric drugs offered as “treatment” options, which may be due to its cozy financial relationship with pharmaceutical companies, nor does it openly disclose its pharmaceutical funding sources.
However, as part of a U.S. Senate investigation, NAMI’s dependence on pharmaceutical funding was “outed” to the tune of $23 million in just three years (2006-2008) representing about three-quarters of its donations. An earlier campaign by NAMI, the “Campaign to End Discrimination” against the mentally ill, was funded by the “Founding Sponsors” Abbott Labs, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Pfizer, Novartis, SmithKline Beecham and Wyeth-Ayerst Labs.
Among the other “mental health help” groups that espouse “understanding,” “education” and “prevention” campaigns of some mental illness through pharmaceutical support is The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), which, since 2008, has received $2.19 million dollars from pharmaceutical companies such as Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Forest Laboratories, etc.
Likewise, The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) enjoys pharmaceutical support to the tune of $4.2 million since 2005, and The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (formerly NARSAD) has received more than one million dollars in funding since 2007. While the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) receives funding from Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly and other pharmaceutical companies, its annual reports fail to disclose specific funding data.
This lack of disclosing pharma financial support on the part of mental health organizations is the subject of a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Public Health titled, “Health Advocacy Organizations and the Pharmaceutical Industry: An Analysis of Disclosure Practices.” The study revealed that of the publicly available data of Eli Lilly and Company’s grant registry, for example, none of the health advocacy organizations in the study disclosed the exact amount of a Lilly grant.
Of the more than $10 billion in Lilly’s 2007 US net sales, nearly half came from psychiatric drugs, which is easily understood when one considers that of the 161 health advocacy organizations that received Lilly funding, the majority—85%—represented “treatment” for alleged mental illnesses. In other words, almost all of Lilly’s grants were directed toward patient advocacy groups touting mental health “treatments.”
In light of big pharma’s substantial financial support, much attention should be paid to the missing message during Mental Health Month. While these pharma-funded organizations espouse bringing mental health out of the dark in the catchy “Stop the Stigma” campaigns, at the same time, all fail to readily disclose that it is largely the for-profit pharmaceutical companies making this message possible.
Kelly Patricia O’Meara is an award-winning former investigative reporter for the Washington Times’ Insight Magazine, penning dozens of articles exposing the fraud of psychiatric diagnosis and the dangers of the psychiatric drugs—including her ground-breaking 1999 cover story, “Guns & Doses,” exposing the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of senseless violence. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed book, Psyched Out: How Psychiatry Sells Mental Illness and Pushes Pills that Kill. Prior to working as an investigative journalist, O’Meara spent sixteen years on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer to four Members of Congress. She holds a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Maryland.