CCHR Celebrates 50 Years of Eradicating Psychiatric Abuse

On its 50th anniversary, Citizens Commission on Human Rights rewards outstanding achievements, reviews its record of accomplishments

By CCHR International
The Mental Health Industry Watchdog
April 19, 2019

Human rights advocates, legislators, doctors, attorneys and community and civic leaders from across the globe gathered at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena on April 13 for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) 50th Anniversary and Human Rights Awards celebration. Dozens of proclamations, commendations and letters of congratulations acknowledging this milestone from government and community groups attest to the organization’s many accomplishments in the field of human rights.

  • Australian psychiatrist, Niall McLaren, wrote that CCHR’s work is “essential if we are to counter the endless propaganda of dehumanizing psychiatry” and “the idea that unhappy or distressed young people must be stripped of their human rights and drugged into conformity.”
  • Oleg Kilkevich, a U.S. college nursing educator, said CCHR “has a long history of fighting bravely and relentlessly for human rights. It has been responsible for many great reforms that now protect patients against, ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,’ as outlined under Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
  • Professor Lothar Krappmann, a former member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, wrote: “If you point out that I have achieved something for the misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated children, then I must add that this was possible, because of the good information and documents I have received from CCHR.”

Each year, CCHR presents Human Rights Awards to individuals who display exemplary courage in the fight for restoration of basic human rights in the field of mental health.

This year’s recipients of the CCHR Human Rights Award included:

  • Attorney Andy Vickery, recipient of the 2019 CCHR Human Rights Award

    For more than 30 years, Texas attorney Andy Vickery has taken on pharmaceutical companies over the violence- and suicide-inducing effects of psychotropic drugs. His $6.4 million judgment for the family of a man who killed three relatives and himself after taking the antidepressant Paxil, broke through the industry’s legal defense armor. Vickery believes in speaking out in pursuit of what is right despite the odds and opposition. His passion for bringing justice to those harmed by psychiatric drugs prompted the Indianapolis Star to nickname him “Eli Lilly and Co.’s legal nightmare.”

  • In accepting the award, Vickery said, “This year CCHR is celebrating its 50th year of speaking Truth to Power, by which I mean speaking an unpopular but essential truth to people in power who may not want to hear it.” Further, “I commend you for that dedication and tenacity and applaud CCHR’s endeavors and your continued support of them.”
  • Filmmaker Kevin P. Miller, recipient of the 2019 CCHR Human Rights Award

    Writer, producer and director Kevin Miller has trained a spotlight on profound and harrowing psychotropic drug damage through his inimitable documentaries Generation Rx and Letters from Generation Rx. Millions prescribed antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs have discovered the hidden perils of these drugs. These films tell the stories of thousands of people who experienced their harm firsthand. “We must immerse ourselves into the lives of others who have been victimized, or have experienced the kind of unfathomable loss” witnessed in these films, Miller stated. “Courage is something we are all honoring tonight, as we acknowledge CCHR and all they stand for and support on this, their 50th anniversary of defending human rights.”

  • Detroit Civil Rights Attorney, Allison Folmar

    Detroit Civil Rights attorney, Allison Folmar also gave a special address at the gala, saying, “As a civil rights lawyer that has worked with CCHR for many years, I am honored to be here in salute to CCHR’s 50 years of fighting for justice and freedoms in the mental health system.” Folmar spoke of being honored to become the latest member of CCHR International’s advisory board:  “Joining this prestigious group of advisors has inspired me even more to build an even bigger army of attorneys to fight alongside CCHR” because “too many parents, too many families, have been harmed, misled, threatened, coerced and forced by the psychiatric industry.”

In 1969, CCHR was cofounded by the Church of Scientology and professor of psychiatry Dr. Thomas Szasz. Its first abuse case involved the plight of Hungarian refugee Victor Gyory who was involuntarily detained in Haverford State Hospital in Pennsylvania after psychiatrists diagnosed his “babbling in tongues” as “schizophrenia.” He was drugged and electroshocked against his will. CCHR filed a writ of habeas corpus, Dr. Szasz testified that Gyory’s “babbling” was his speaking Hungarian, and CCHR secured Gyory’s release from the hospital.

As CCHR co-founder, the late Thomas Szasz stated, “The task we set ourselves, to combat psychiatric coercion, is important.  It is a noble task in the pursuit of which we must, regardless of obstacles, persevere.  Our conscience demands we do no less.”

In the early 1970s, in apartheid South Africa, CCHR discovered psychiatrists incarcerated 10,000 blacks and used them as slave labor. CCHR documented the crimes, including electroshocking patients without anesthetic and allowing them to die from easily treatable illnesses. The group reported them to the World Health Organization, which investigated the camps and issue a report in 1983 stating that “in no other medical field…is the contempt of the person cultivated by racism, more precisely portrayed than in psychiatry.”

After the fall of apartheid, CCHR obtained a national government inquiry into psychiatric racism in institutions. They also presented testimony to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission providing a detailed history of mental health studies that had helped to entrench and perpetuate apartheid, as well as psychiatry’s role in apartheid abuse.  In 2001, a South African government minister applauded CCHR for its courage, compassion and exemplary fight against apartheid psychiatry, which had “blatantly discriminated against Black people.”

In 1976, CCHR helped secure passage of a California law prohibiting the use of electroshock (ECT) and psychosurgery on children and adolescents. Now used as a model the world over, the law has inspired other countries to enact restrictions and, in Western Australia, criminal penalties if ECT is administered to minors.

For a decade, CCHR investigated and exposed Deep Sleep Treatment (DST) at Chelmsford Private Psychiatric Hospital in Sydney, Australia. Patients were rendered unconscious with drugs and electroshocked daily—48 died. The result was the 1983 Mental Health Act making it a criminal offense for psychiatrists to use DST and, in 1990, a Royal Commission was held into DST and mental health treatment.  Patrick Griffin, an Australian Lawyer, who represented CCHR in the Royal Commission said: “The campaign by CCHR in relation to Chelmsford Hospital and to obtain a Royal Commission was the most sustained and thorough exercise in whistleblowing, investigatory reporting and public interest work in the history of this country – bar none!”

After CCHR exposed inhumane conditions in Italian asylums, 97 were shut down and the patients rescued and taught to care for themselves for the first time in their lives.

In Germany, CCHR investigated the role of German psychiatrists and The Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry role in the Holocaust, including helping legitimize sterilization and the murder of the so-called “unfit.”  In 2017, Sociologist, Dr. Peter Shulte, wrote that in response, “The Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry pulled out all stops to refute or eliminate the allegations regarding its past.”

However, CCHR’s research culminated in the 1995 publication of Psychiatrists: The Men Behind Hitler. In 2010, Dr. Frank Schneider, president of the German Association for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (DGPPN), wrote an apology and confessed that German psychiatrists “lied to and deceived patients in their care and their families. They forced them to be sterilized, arranged their deaths and even performed killings themselves. They also murdered physically and mentally disabled children in more than 30 psychiatric and pediatric hospitals.” The DGPPN went further to say, psychiatrists had also “laid the scientific foundations of the euthanasia program.

In 1991, CCHR helped push through FDA hearings into antidepressants and their involvement in suicidal and homicidal reactions in users. It took 13 years of persistent work alongside parents, medical experts and attorneys to force the FDA to issue a stringent black box warning that antidepressants can cause suicidal thoughts and actions in those 18 years of age and younger—a warning later extended to age 24.

In 2004, CCHR was also among those that obtained a U.S. Prohibition of Child Medication Safety law that banned schools from forcing schoolchildren to take prescription psychotropic drugs as a requisite for their schooling.

In 2007, CCHR helped secure language in the FDA reform bill making it mandatory for all printed pharmaceutical ads to advise patients to report drug adverse reactions directly to the FDA. Following the first ads, adverse drug reports increased 33 percent.

For nearly 30 years, CCHR has investigated psychiatric fraud that has included psychiatrists billing their sexual abuse of patients as “therapy,” billing for treatment never rendered and even for patients that were dead.  In the for-profit psychiatric hospital industry, this has resulted in their paying more than $2 billion in civil and criminal fines since the early 1990s. CCHR helped secure 28 laws around the world that now make mental health practitioner sexual abuse of patients a criminal offense punishable by jail. And an average of 170 psychiatrists and psychologists are now disciplined for or convicted of crimes every year that include sexual abuse and fraud.

CCHR presented submissions to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), warning about the massive prescribing of psychotropic drugs to children in 14 countries. UNCRC responded with hearings on the increasing rate of children labeled with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and drugged with psychostimulants. It recommended establishment of a system for “monitoring of the excessive use of psychostimulants to children.”

In 2010 and 2012, CCHR New Zealand presented reports to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, detailing violations of human rights at Lake Alice Hospital in New Zealand where ECT and other coercive psychiatric techniques were used to punish children. The UN responded by directing the New Zealand government to implement systems to prevent psychiatric abuses in the future.

CCHR’s decades of exposing psychiatric treatment as torture was vindicated by a 2013 UN Rapporteur on Torture report that condemned coercive shock treatment and called upon states to “impose an absolute ban on all forced and nonconsensual medical interventions against persons with disabilities, including the nonconsensual administration of psychosurgery, electroshock and mind-altering drugs.”

Nearly 200 laws and countless regulations protecting human rights in the field of mental health today stand in testament to the passion and perseverance of the members, partners and supporters of Citizens Commission on Human Rights.