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Psychiatry: a Human Rights Abuse tour

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights

Psychiatry: a Human Rights Abuse tour

Last month the international psychiatric watchdog group, Citizens Commission on Human Rights conducted a tour of North Island venues with a 40-metre display depicting psychiatry's failures over the past century.

The display, which was put up inside shopping malls, halls and prominent public venues, including a day at the Beehive, attracted over 8000 people. The Commission conducted surveys and interviewed people on video tape as part of the tour.

"We wanted to raise public awareness with a very loud, visual display on the history of psychiatry and what they have been doing, and the results and feedback was tremendous," said the Commission's Executive Director, Steve Green, who organised the events.

The display, which was in New Zealand for a month, covered various aspects of psychiatry from its Nazi links to the black slave labour camps in South Africa. Treatments such as electro-shock and brain operations and the use of drugs for child disorders were criticised on the 2-metre high panels with titles such as "Drugging for Profit" and "Murdering Healthy Minds".

Several people coming through the exhibit were themselves victims of psychiatric abuse here in New Zealand and the Commission conducted filmed interviews with a number of them. Mr. Green described the level of psychiatric abuse in this country as high.

"The Commission has been documenting cases of psychiatric abuse since 1976 and many of our complaints have turned into Government inquiries," Mr. Green said, referring to the Lake Alice child and adolescent unit of the 1970s to the exposing of Deep Sleep Treatment

which was also used in the 1970s.

CCHR began in New Zealand when the Church of Scientology set up the first group in 1976. One of their early tasks was an inspection of psychiatric facilities around the country. Several hospitals refused the group entry, but those that did soon became subject of public reports.

Lake Alice and Porirua psychiatric hospitals were amongst the first and the news of human rights abuse of children and women went around the country. CCHR continued to investigate further hospitals and cases from the death of Michael Watane in Oakley to Deep Sleep in Cherry Farm. A large number of the Commission's reports turned into Government inquiries and in 2002 $6.5 million was paid out in compensation to 95 former Lake Alice patients.

The CCHR display and literature states that anyone with with a mental condition should first see a competent, non-psychiatric physician to ensure that an undiagnosed, untreated physical condition is not causing "psychiatric" symptoms. CCHR does not give medical or legal advice, but does advocate standard medical care, believing such care can save a person from being subjected to abusive and damaging treatments by psychiatry.

CCHR's Declaration of Human Rights for mental patients and their work to secure human rights on an international level resulted in the United Nations General Assembly adopting a principles in 1991 to protect the rights of the mentally ill, which includes the right to refuse treatment.

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