The Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a group established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology to “investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights,” briefly protested Oct. 5, designated as National Mental Health Screening Day, on the sidewalk outside Riverside Community Care on Main Street.
On the day when clinics across the country offer basic written questionnaires to those who choose to walk in and potentially walk out with anti-depressant drugs, New England Director of CCHR Kevin Hall said the screening is a “hoax.” The screening day is part of President Bush’s Mental Health Commission.
Though well intentioned, especially Hall says because of Michael McDermott, who in 2000 shot seven co-workers in Wakefield shortly after his anti-depressant medication was increased, the protest fell somewhat flat because Riverside has not conducted these screenings since 2001.
Wakefield police arrived about 30 minutes after the protest began and ordered Hall to roll up the banner that read “Psychiatry’s toxic drugs cause suicides and acts of violence” which was blocking the entryway to Riverside.
“We’re not protesting Riverside but the tests,” Hall said. And even though no one walked in, the protestors asked passersby if they remembered Michael McDermott and attempted to engage them in a discussion of the effects of psychiatric drugs.
“Psychiatry’s anti-depressants have been proven to double the rates of suicidal thinking and actions in children and adolescents, causing the FDA to require its strongest warnings on these drugs since 2004,” Hall said in a statement distributed to newspapers around New England. Saying that the screenings are neither comprehensive nor medical, and that drugs such as Prozac and Paxil mask symptoms and have dangerous side effects, Hall, who is a Scientologist, takes significant issue with the pharmaceutical industry.
“It’s time for people to wake up to this hidden cause of suicide and violence in our society that is making billions of dollars of profit for psychiatrists and their bed-fellows in the psychiatric drug industry,” he said. Hall contends that eight million children in the United States, or one in nine, are taking psychiatric drugs, and there are an estimated 374 disorders assigned to children and adults.
– Justice Anderson, Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, quoted at What judges have to say about Scientology
Hall said there are 137 chapters of Citizens Commission on Human Rights throughout Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut and Rhode Island working with legislators, health-care providers and other advocacy groups on informed consent legislation and trying to get warning labels printed on medications. He says the group has been most successful in the last year with a 21 percent drop in the prescription and use of anti-depressants for kids. This he says follows the printing of black-box warnings that began appearing in February on drugs such as Paxil, Prozac, Luvox, and Effexor as ordered by the FDA.
John Noyes, assistant director of Riverside’s Outpatient Center, came out to speak with Hall after the police left. Agreeing with the Hall’s criticism of the screening but contesting his stand on psychiatric drugs, Noyes said, “Anti-depressant drugs are helpful. They help those who need them function and deal with their problems.” Saying that the drugs should not be the singular treatment Noyes said Riverside’s patients are thoroughly evaluated by clinicians who try to help their patients get better and live a healthier lifestyle.
Jesse Probst of Wakefield watched the protest and had comments of his own about the value of psychiatric drugs. In his 20s, he said, “I was diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder and bi-polar. I was hardly given any tests at all and I don’t know how they came up with that.”
In and out of hospitals and on numerous medications such as Zoloft, Zyprexa and Prozac for a number of years, Probst said the medications intensified his negative feelings and made him worse. He eventually began seeing a psychologist, got off the medications, and felt better. “I don’t like taking any medications or drugs,” he said. “If you’re in this world, you shouldn’t need drugs to live. There should be more tests.”