From Positive to Negative in 1.5 minutes

There is a video going around on facebook at the moment, and it caught my attention.  Watch it now, but I ask that you hold off (for the moment) on the “Click Here to find out More” at the end of the video:

On the surface, it seems like it has a great message: People have a wide range of personalities, and they should feel safe expressing themselves without fear of stigmatization.

Sadly, the veneer of integrity of this video is perilously thin.

The organization that produced this rather slick video is the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a name which sounds like it’s positively dripping with universal appeal.  It sounds both official, and grassroots, and it encapsulates something we can all identify with: human rights. I mention this use of universally appealing language because this is a theme that follows later.

Who is the CCHR?  According to their About Us page (warning, it has a video on auto-play),

It is a nonpolitical, nonreligious, nonprofit organization dedicated solely to eradicating mental health abuse and enacting patient and consumer protections.

Perhaps the term “Human Rights” is a little misleading, since their mission involves the rather narrower scope of mental health abuses.  When I think of “Human Rights”, I also think of human trafficking, military torture, and systemic homophobia.  Am I a cynic for thinking that by sitting under the huge umbrella of human rights, they might be able to artificially increase their appeal to people unfamiliar with their mandate?  Yeah.  It must be me.

BOO!  No, seriously, BOO!

So how does the CCHR go about “eradicating mental health abuse?”  By trying to scare the ever-loving crap out of you by using talking points, cherry-picked quotes without context, spooky music, and pictures of graveyards. A quick perusal of their videos captures much of this spirit, and they hit on many of the same talking points we see from the anti-vaccination crowd:

  • Big Pharma makes a lot of money.  Like, you wouldn’t believe how much money.  Wowzers, they’re rich.
  • Doctors and psychiatrists are complicit sell-outs who receive kickbacks from Big Pharma.
  • Children take medication.  Medication sold by Big Pharma.
  • Are you scared yet?
  • Here’s a picture of a graveyard and some bullet holes.
  • Mental health disorders don’t really exist.  Not the way you know them anyway.
  • Boo! BOOOO!
  • Did we mention how much money Big Pharma makes?  ‘Cause it’s a lot.  Seriously.  That must outrage you, right?

Not scared yet?  Well, the CCHR also produced the artfully-named documentary, ‘Psychiatry: An Industry of Death,’ and this is the cover of the DVD, really.

The CCHR’s videos page has a few more tasteless gems like this one, including another documentary titled, ‘Psychiatry’s Prescription for Violence’, which has a cover featuring pills being loaded into a revolver.  The CCHR has such a hate-on for psychiatry, they’ve also opened a museum dedicated to destroying psychiatry.

There is no Spoon

Another method the CCHR uses to fight its seeming war on mental health abuses is by trying to convince you that there is no such thing as a mental health disorder at all. The CCHR freely admits that people get depressed, anxious, or even psychotic.  It’s just that they drastically depart from established, reliable science in singling out the causes and nature of these disorders.

For instance, the page, No Brain Scans for Mental Illness asserts that because there are no brain scans that can detect mental disorders, they must not exist.  I’m certainly not qualified to confirm or refute this claim, but a quick googling found this story, showing a promising new scan to detect schizophrenia.

They’ve also got a page trying to convince you that because diagnostic criteria were voted on, that must mean they don’t exist.  But here’s the problem: voting on scientific matters happens routinely.  Experts who best understand the field get together and democratically decide how best to further their collective understanding.  The vote itself may not be a scientific process, but the voters are trusted to be informed by the best science available.  It’s commonplace, even if we don’t always like the results.

The CCHR has an exhaustive page dedicated to undermining the entire concept of what a mental disorder actually is.  Do you have an elderly family member with schizophrenia?  Did one of your friends attempt suicide because of an undiagnosed/untreated severe depression?  The CCHR probably has some different, and tasteless things to say about that!

Since you didn’t ask, let me answer!

The CCHR attempts to address some of its critics, too:

People frequently ask if CCHR is of the opinion that no one should ever take psychiatric drugs, but this website is not dedicated to opinion.

I find the “…not dedicated to opinion” to be the most giggle-worthy part of a website that seems entirely dedicated to scare you out of your wits.  It’s hard to take that claim seriously when they also say (on the same page!)

CCHR functions solely as a mental health watchdog, working alongside many medical professionals including doctors, scientists, nurses and those few psychiatrists who have taken a stance against the biological/drug model of “disease” that is continually promoted by the psychiatric/pharmaceutical industry as a way to sell drugs.

But remember, the CCHR is not dedicated to opinion. Nope. It’s just that the current understanding of disease is wrong, and pharmaceutical companies perpetuate this myth for profit, but they’re not offering opinion. I hope that my sarcasm is coming across here.

Who wrote the Book of Crazy?

But let’s cut out all the minutiae, and lay out on the table who the CCHR really is, and what they really believe.

According to this page (which is where you arrive when you click the “more info” at the end of the original video), the CCHR claims the following, along with some running commentary (caps theirs)

  1. THERE ARE NO TESTS IN EXISTENCE THAT CAN PROVE MENTAL “DISORDERS” ARE MEDICAL CONDITIONS.   PSYCHIATRIC DIAGNOSIS IS BASED SOLELY ON OPINION. — Without having any medical training, I feel I can comfortably call bullshit here.  Their main point is that there are no physical tests that can determine mental disorders.  I’ll leave it to doctors to comment on that point.  But as for the diagnosis being based solely on opinion:  that’s what virtually all medical diagnosis is: medical opinion.  If there is a brain scan that can identify susceptibility to a certain mental disorder, it falls upon the opinion of the technician running the equipment, and the opinion of the physicians examining the data.  You don’t scan a part of the body and have a computer screen tell you “OMG!  You haz teh depreshunz!  You can haz pillz nao!”
  2. YES, PEOPLE CAN GET DEPRESSED, SAD, ANXIOUS AND EVEN ACT PSYCHOTIC.  THAT DOESN’T MAKE THEM  MENTALLY “DISEASED” — This is a straw man argument, one that plays on people’s fear of  the word “disease.”  The medical community has long abandoned the phrase “mental disease”, in favour the more deliberate “disorder” and “illness”.  These aren’t simple neo-logisms to capitalize on political correctness:  They have different meanings that reflect subtlety and nuance of diagnosis.
  3. THE CAMPAIGN TO “STOP THE STIGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESS” IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY… BIG PHARMA — This is blatant conspiracy mongering.  Any time you see an activist organization blame anything on a “Big X”, you can probably be sure that they’re not interested in the nuances of argument or fact, and would rather throw out a blanket term that is supposed to speak for itself.   That being said, how can anyone be against stopping the stigma of mental illness? The CCHR’s original video would seem to agree that stigmatization of mental disorders is contemptible.  But it seems that….
  4. PSYCHIATRIC “LABELS” ARE THE PROBLEM — The video is a none-too-clever misdirection.  It’s a bait-and-switch by this organization designed to tell you that it’s not the stigma of mental illness that is the problem, it’s identifying the problems in the first place.  Here’s where it gets especially dangerous: one needn’t think too hard about the consequences of undiagnosed schizophrenia, severe depression or suicidal ideation.
  5. PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS ARE BIG BUSINESS—AND THE PSYCHIATRIC/PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY IS MAKING A KILLING—$84 BILLION PER YEAR. — Did we mention how much money Big Pharma makes?  ‘Cause it’s a lot.  Seriously.  That must outrage you, right?
  6. WHERE TO GET THE FACTS ABOUT PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS — Following the links here takes you to a scary-looking page where you can “learn” about the side effects of some medications that the CCHR is warning you about.  One of the subheadings reminds you that Psycho/Pharma makes billions, and helpfully provides a donate button….so you can support the CCHR while they remind you just how many billions.  Another button on this page is a link to “Alternatives”, which can send you to numerous known quackery sites, such as Natural News.
  7. WHY SAFE, EFFECTIVE TREATMENTS TO MENTAL DIFFICULTIES ARE KEPT BURIED — Why? Their answer is predictable: it’s all in the money, and there is a giant conspiracy going on, and this great big system keeps people sick for money.  Once I hear blame being placed on a supposed vast conspiracy as a point of evidence for or against a claim, I can be reasonably safe that the world’s tinfoil hat supply is just a little bit less then it might otherwise be.

After just a little more digging into the CCHR, I found what most seasoned skeptics probably suspected by now.  The CCHR is a front organization of the Church of Scientology.

The Scientologists have numerous front groups. So many in fact, that if you look up “Front Organization” on Wikipedia, they have an entire subsection dedicated to them!  Remember that point I mentioned about how the CCHR had nice, universally appealing-sounding names?  Well, see if you can see a pattern:

These names aren’t meant to stimulate a thoughtful mind, they’re universally appealing for a reason.  This is part of what makes everything the Scientologists do seem so cynical.  On the surface (and only the surface), it would be pretty easy to garner support  for something like “Downtown Medical” or “Applied Scholastics.”  But to me, it’s a bit like naming an invasive species of  dung beetle a “Canadian Canoe-and-Hockey Donut Beatle”.  Try and tell a moderate, uninformed observer that it will eat your lawn and poison your kids, and you’d be met with a “But….Canada!  And donuts!  Whatchoo got against donuts, anyway?”

Scientology has a long, crazy war against psychiatry (like in this absurdly quasi Asgardian-like presentation by Scientology president, and Leg0-man hairpiece wearer David Miscavige), and they even published a book called, get ready for it: Psychiatrists: The Men Behind Hitler: The Architects of Horrory (ISBN 0964890917).

Conspiracy theory? Check

Big Pharma?  Check

Godwin’s Law?  Check

Tom Cruise?  Check.

That Scientology is behind this original campaign should be enough to dissuade you from engaging with it.  If you’re still unconvinced, take a look at the Wikipedia page, where you can read of many examples of how Scientology’s messed up war against psychiatry has a body count.  Like this woman who killed her father and sister, and wounded her mother.  It was later revealed that she was diagnosed with a psychiatric illness, and it went untreated because of Scientology’s opposition.  Or, you could head over to WhatsTheHarm.net, and read their (depressing) entry on Scientology.

So remember that nice video at the beginning of this entry?  Turns out that the makers are trying to make you and your unique personality feel special by feeding you a pack of dangerous lies that could leave you or a loved one in prison, hospitalized, or dead.

As for myself, I think I’d rather seek medical advice from someone who went to med school.

Not from Maverick. Who went to flight school.

*UPDATE*

After this post was written a few days ago, Erik sent me this Australian story regarding the CCHR’s international president, Jan Eastgate.  Eastgate has been arrested and charged with…

“…perverting the course of justice in relation to allegations she coached an 11-year-old girl to lie to police and community services about the sexual abuse she suffered from her stepfather who was a member of the Church of Scientology.”

Obviously the usual caveats apply that a charge does not mean a conviction, and it is entirely possible that Eastgate is not guilty.  But if true (and I want emphasize, “if”), it would hardly be the first time the Scientology brass has worked to cover up sexual abuse.

P.S.
After writing this article, I fully expect to need the help of these people, an organization dedicated to defending people attacked and vilified by the Church of Scientology.  Knowing the organization’s history of harassment, I confess to a pang of libel chill before hitting publish here.  So just a reminder: these words are my own, and mine only. They do not necessarily reflect the attitudes and opinions of other authors at Skeptic North, nor any of my past or current employers.

17 Responses to “From Positive to Negative in 1.5 minutes”

  1. K.B. says:

    Two of my cousins have committed suicide, the most recent last August. I don’t wish the fallout from suicide on ANYONE.

    Big Pharma is saving other families from going through what their families have gone through.

    And if those beetles were from Canada, it’d be “doughnut” ;)

  2. AnonLover says:

    Good job on this, nice timely summary. Altho suppressiveperson.org is strictly an informational site (not an outreach organization), if you get any flack over this post the place to look for help is over at whyweprotest.net

  3. Mike says:

    As soon as I saw “Industry of Death” I was 95% sure this had to do with Scientology.

    If you halfway pay attention to these sorts of groups long enough, you tend to notice a theme.

  4. Orac says:

    You should get a load of what’s actually in the CCHR/Scientology “Industry of Death” museum:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/05/scientology_and_psychiatry_even_the_hitl.php

  5. daijiyobu says:

    Endorsed by Galactic Overlord Xenu?

    It all begins with a personality test…

    -r.c.

  6. Jeff Orchard says:

    Where you an investigative reporter in a previous life?

    Oh yah, we don’t believe in past lives. Never mind.

    Isn’t it amazing to think that all this was started by a science fiction writer?! Good luck with the “fair game”. We’re behind you 100%. Umm… maybe 50%.

  7. Freedom to Reason says:

    Excellent article. Thanks! I love it when someone over-turns a rock and shines light on the crazies hiding under it.

  8. Yay me! I called “Scientology” when I read the first quote!

    I’m fully in agreement with them that labelling is probably harmful, and that many people are medicated who don’t need to be (and would benefit far more from lifestyle changes, such as more exercise or a better diet), but the idea that this is true of all people suffering from a psychiatric illness is just play stupid.

    Just because anecdote is the singular form of data, I had a great aunt with schizophrenia and you could tell just by looking at her whether she’d been taking her meds or not. It was like night and day, between a sane sweet old lady who was pleasant to talk to and could carry on an intelligent conversation and a crazy violent screeching woman who thought that we were all trying to murder her.

  9. Heather G says:

    Really good job covering a broad subject matter. I love the Church of Scientology. Just when you think you’ve plumbed the depths of their hypocrisy, the International President of their “human rights” organisation, who rails against psychiatrists as criminals who cover up their own crimes against children, she’s exposed for… allegedly… yeah, you get it.

  10. Thanks for such a comprehensive, accurate and well written article! Conveys much of what I learned after I left the memberships of Scientology and CCHR many years ago and began exorcising the totalitarian indoctrination.

    Besides the scientology doctrine and affiliation, CCHR has become a cult unto itself. Lets hope your article becomes one of the mainstay resources to inform the public.

  11. India says:

    They need to take my husband off his medication and then spend the night in the same room as him. I’d love to see them yelling, “Wow you are SO creative!” as he screams in terror and tries to kill them. (My husband is a schizophrenic, and I HAVE slept in the same room as him and had him wake up in a night terror and try to off me.)

  12. Joey H. says:

    Yeah, “eradicating mental health abuse” tipped me off to where this was headed. It’s funny, if Scientology were really so gosh-darn amazingly keen, would they have to stoop to recruitment through deception (see also “personality test”)?

  13. ItsInMyNature says:

    1:50 is not 1.5 minutes.

  14. Joe says:

    Mental Disorders don’t really exist in the same sense as other ailments. They exist in the same way as good or bad exist. It’s really a judgement call, not a diagnosis. Now I know that some people have a genuine problem with their brain and medication really does help, but I also feel there are a lot of people who don’t need it and are forced to take it regardless. I also think that a change in diet and exercise could solve many problems much like a lot of other health problems that the medical professions just throw pills at. Doctors aren’t going to tell you to change your eating habits, take supplements, and exercise more. That wouldn’t be profitable for them in the long run. The beauty of mental health medications and many other medications is that they don’t cure you. Pharmaceutical companies don’t want to find cures, they simply want to find a way for you to live with your problem so they can maximize their profits which is the basic goal of any corporation.

    • Steve Thoms says:

      “Doctors aren’t going to tell you to change your eating habits, take supplements, and exercise more.”

      Every doctor I have ever had has asked about my diet/exercise habits. I think you’ll find that is a widespread experience because diet and exercise is standard part of medical care.

      As for your charge that “Pharmaceutical companies don’t want to find cures”

      Perhaps you could provide evidence that supports this. I would think that the company that finds a cure for AIDS or Cancer would stand to gain incredible, generations-long profits (not to mention a permanently high stock price, and a Nobel Prize in medicine).

  15. Rick says:

    So the Australian Scientology brass are alleged to have tried to cover up the sexual abuse of a child ? The Catholic church has a public, published policy of not reporting Clergy sexual abuse of children too.

    Religion is good for what ?

    Protecting psychopaths fom prosecution.

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  • Steve Thoms

    Steve is a professional music teacher living in Kitchener, Ontario. He studied recorded music production at Fanshawe College, and Political Studies/History at Trent University, where he specialized in political economy and global politics. He is an amateur astronomer, and an award-winning astro-photographer. Steve also runs the blog, Oot and Aboot with Some Canadian Skeptic." can can be followed on Twitter, @SomeCndnSkeptic.