NIAGARA FALLS – A weekend conference of psychiatrists was picketed here Friday by Scientologists who marched outside the convention center banging drums and carrying signs that read, “Psychiatry kills.”
More than 200 psychiatrists and mental health professionals from across the country are attending the second annual Comprehensive Review of Psychiatry in the Conference Center Niagara Falls.
The pickets belong to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, which was co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and has more than 135 chapters in 34 countries. One of the organization’s more famous members is actor Tom Cruise.
“Their beliefs have nothing to do with psychiatry,” said Dr. Steven Dubovsky, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University at Buffalo, which is co-sponsoring the conference with the Western New York Psychiatric Society. “They have the same credibility as people who say they’ve been kidnapped by aliens in flying saucers.”
One of the speakers on Friday’s program was Dr. Daniel Fisher of Washington, D.C., a former schizophrenic who said he was cured by psychiatry and psychiatric drugs.
The Scientologists weren’t allowed inside the convention center, but they wouldn’t have been swayed in their beliefs.
One of their signs, “Psychiatric drugs create kid killers,” referred to school shootings such as the one that occurred at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999. Eric Harris, one of the two teens who killed 13 and wounded 21, was on the Prozac-like drug Luvox at the time.
“At least eight of the 13 school shooters in recent years were on mind-altering drugs,” said Bruce Wiseman, the commission’s national president, who came from Los Angeles for the protest.
Wiseman said there are 10 million children in the United States on psychiatric drugs that are known to cause suicidal thoughts and behavior. Children with attention deficit disorders are given Ritalin, which is as addictive as cocaine, he claims.
Dubovsky brushed aside that argument as “nonsensical.”
“That’s like saying you shouldn’t give penicillin to a child with pneumonia,” Dubovsky said.
The Buffalo chapter set up an exhibit of anti-psychiatry panels and videos in the Niagara Center, the former Occidental office building near the Rainbow Bridge, that will coincide with the convention.
Dramatic placards and video images decrying psychiatrists as “Masterminds of destruction” and the science as “An industry of death” had a profound effect on some of the people viewing them.
Patricia Felske, a mother of four from Toronto, had one word for her reaction to the exhibit: “Horror.”
The Scientologists said they will picket outside the convention center again today and Sunday.
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