Monday, January 10, 2011

A Watchdog that Attacks

If you saw my last post, you saw a video by CCHR Int., an organization created by Scientologists that are speaking out against psychiatry. They claim to be a mental health watchdog, yet they appear to be attacking those who are already suffering. They have created many videos, the most recent a campaign to spread the word that psychiatry labels on kids are bogus. They show images of kids with psychiatric labels on their t-shirts with sad faces, then a burst of uplifting music comes in as these labels are ripped off to reveal new words such as “Leader” (under oppositional defiant disorder), “Activist” (under anxiety disorder) and “Artist’ (under bipolar disorder).

Now I don’t argue that kids with these labels can also be leaders, activist or artists, but you can’t dismiss that they have a real illness. To say that a child that throws chairs through walls and becomes paralyzed by their sadness and thoughts of suicide is just an “artist” or that a child that can’t have fun with other children because their social anxiety has them so sick they vomit is just an “activist” is ludicrous.

CCHR Int. seems to simplify symptoms when explaining how labels are diagnosed. Here is an example of that on their website:
For example, If an adolescent is strong willed, this is redefined as “oppositional defiant disorder.” If a kid acts like a kid, sometimes losing pencils or toys, or acting “on the go” then this has been pathologized into “ADHD.” If a teenager has normal adolescent mood swings, then this has been repackaged as “bi-polar disorder.” And shyness? Doesn’t exist. It is now called “social anxiety disorder.” Moreover, once labeled, these kids are stigmatized for life. [1]
CCHR claims on their website that they created this video to dispute NAMI’s (National Alliance on Mental Illness) campaign “To Stop the Stigma of Mental Illness”. [2] They claim that these labels are bogus and were created to allow the pharmaceutical industry to maintain their hold on the $84 billion dollar-a-year psychiatric drug industry that is based on marketing and not science. [3]

From my own experience, regarding psychiatry labels, getting a “label” to diagnosis your child’s mental illness is extremely hard, if not impossible. I’ve been told more than once by doctors that they won’t diagnosis my son since he’s so young, even if he has the symptoms. It is my experience that the mental health system is very careful with labels and I’ve been warned that it could take up to 10 years to get a diagnosis. I also find that doctors are careful to give labels because they themselves are concerned with the stigma that goes with it and want to treat the child without making their life any harder.

I wish that I could show this organization what mental illness really looks like. That they could see the look in my son’s eyes change, as the chemistry in his brain changes. That they could see my son crying in pain because something is wrong with his brain. To see him suffer after a rage because once the rage is over, he realizes all the damage he’s caused and knows that he can’t stop it because the bad side of his brain takes over. To see him terrified because he saw visions of a monster in his room and a man outside our house with a gun. To see him isolated from kids because his social anxieties make it hard to make friends. To see him cry because the restaurant is too loud and the store is too crowded on a fun family outing. To see the self hatred he feels as depression kicks in, making him feel worthless. To see my precious child cry out that he doesn’t want to live anymore.

I also wish they could see the smile on my son’s face when he started to take a mood stabilizer and how he said he felt “happiness” inside for the first time in months. How medication is giving my son a chance to be a leader, an activist, an artist or anything else he desires. How medication is giving my son an opportunity to have a good life.

I truly wish this organization knew what it’s like to have a child with a real mental illness and would use all their abundant resources to support research, so that one day we’d have better ways of diagnosing our children and better yet, a cure.

Citizens Commission on Human Rights International
Campaign to “Stop the Stigma” of Mental Illness—Is a Pharmaceutical Marketing Campaign
December 20, 2010

Citizens Commission on Human Rights International
Psychiatric Disorders: The Facts Behind the Billion Dollar Marketing Campaign
Consulted: January 10, 2011


  1. I can relate to this post so much! What you described about your son is almost exactly equivalent to what we experience with our 8-year-old. Our treatment team is also careful with the labels because they want to make sure he has what the symptoms are showing. If they gave him a diagnosis now and it changes then it follows them around for a lifetime. When we found the right medication (Abilify) he came to us and said, "Mommy and Daddy, I have a brand new life!" This tore us apart and we were happy at the same time, too. He had never experienced happiness until then. Is it perfect? No, but he's getting the help he deserves. I wish these people knew who they're hurting. Mental illness is real. I also know from personal experience as I have Bipolar Disorder that is controlled well with meds.

  2. Thanks for your comment Shari, it is amazing to see the change in our kids after they get the right medication. You see them and can tell that a weight has been lifted off them, and even the sound of their voice changes to one that sounds positive. It's moments like those that you realize just how bad they were feeling prior to meds.

  3. CCHR is such an odd organization. I can completely relate to the Abilify comment above. I take it and it felt like knots in my brain finally relaxed. All my feelings of loathing, crying, and suicide went away.

  4. That is awesome In the Pink! I remember when they added Seroquel and my world suddenly changed!

  5. I think there will always be people that don't believe mental illness is real or that it is just an overreaction from parents or society or whatever. And sometimes it is an overreaction. There are kids who are medicated that shouldn't be.

    But why people as a whole group would refuse to believe that every part of the body except the brain can get sick or not function at full capacity is beyond me. It is not even logical. But human pride is always an amazing thing. And can be very damaging.

  6. Meg- You bring up a good point that some groups can't believe that it’s possible that the brain can't function at full capacity, that is unbelievable! The body is an amazing machine, but it doesn't take much to make something not work right.

  7. Thanks for a great piece, Mama Bear. It's sad that there is still so much ignorance and stigma when it comes to understanding mental illness. I keep thinking of the obviously mentally ill young man who shot all those poor people in Tuscon. Perhaps this tragedy wouldn't have happened if he'd received help. From what I've read so far, it sounds like his family may have been in denial about his illness. I also relate to all the other commenters. Abilify has made an amazing difference in my 8-year-old's life, too. No, it's not perfect--but as Shari said, it has given her back her childhood.