“Citizens Commission on Human Rights”

Here is an organization that some of you may be familiar with.  It’s CCHR, the self-proclaimed “Citizens Commission on Human Rights.”  It refers to itself as a “watchdog investigating and exposing psychiatric human rights violations.”  www.cchr.org.  A review of its web site and claims provides a valuable lesson in prejudices and falsehoods about mental illness, as well as fallacious reasoning.

The group purports to “expose” the harmful effects that the supposedly bogus psychiatric drug industry has on Americans.  They deny the usefulness of psychiatric drugs to millions of people.  Indeed, they deny the very existence of psychiatric illness, as remarkable as that is.  Their web site is full of inaccuracies, distortions and hokum.

Here is a juicy piece from their web site that powerfully demonstrates their extreme ignorance of the uses and benefits of psychiatric drugs:

“Once reserved for the mentally disturbed, today it would be difficult to find someone—a family member, a friend or a neighbor—who hasn’t taken some form of psychiatric drug. In fact, these have become such a part of life for many people that “life without drugs” is simply unimaginable.”

“Mentally disturbed”?  What does that mean?  Would I find that in the DSM?  It’s also not a particularly flattering or respectful term for people with brain illnesses.

An excerpt from their web site incorrectly and disingenuously denies the very existence of psychiatric illness:

“Psychiatric disorders are not medical diseases. There are no lab tests, brain scans, X-rays or chemical imbalance tests that can verify any mental disorder is a physical condition. This is not to say that people do not get depressed, or that people can’t experience emotional or mental duress, but psychiatry has repackaged these emotions and behaviors as “disease” in order to sell drugs. This is a brilliant marketing campaign, but it is not science.”

This is a classic false premise fallacy.  If you cannot “prove” by a concrete lab test or “chemical imbalance test” that someone positively does or does not have a particular illness, it does not exist.  There is no “disease.”  False.  The presence of an illness need not depend upon a litmus test.  Brain illnesses are real medical diseases.  They do have roots in genetics and brain functioning, as well as personal history and other factors.  And they are diagnosed subtly through a process of rigorous questioning and psychological and medical treatment.  Diagnosing and treating mental illness is not as easy as this group makes it sound, but that does not detract one iota from the scientific nature of these processes or the illnesses they concern.

Here is an outright lie:

“Authors Richard Hughes and Robert Brewin, in their book, The Tranquilizing of America,warned that although psychotropic drugs may appear “to ‘take the edge off’ anxiety, pain, and stress, they also take the edge off life itself…these pills not only numb the pain but numb the whole mind.” In fact, close study reveals that none of them can cure, all have horrific side effects, and due to their addictive and psychotropic (mind-altering) properties, all are capable of ruining a person’s life.”

While some medications may cause a numbing effect in some people, it is totally misleading to suggest that all or even most psychiatric meds “numb the whole mind.”  It is even more outrageous to state that “close study reveals that none of them can cure” mental illnesses.  True, many mental illnesses are not “curable” as such, but neither is diabetes.  The point is that these medications help improve the lives of people living with real, devastating, and sometimes life-threatening illnesses.  Millions of people.

Here is a classic guilt by association fallacy:  “Consider also the fact that terrorists have used psychotropic drugs to brainwash young men to become suicide bombers.”  First, the term “psychotropic drug” could mean anything from prozac to heroin.  Just because some criminals or violent radicals use drugs to influence people to nefarious purposes has nothing to do with drugs used to help people.

Here they claim that 78 million Americans are taking psychiatric drugs:  http://www.cchrint.org/psychiatric-drugs/people-taking-psychiatric-drugs/

I have not been able to find the specific source of this alleged study, much less examined the results.  I would appreciate anyone who has a lead.

Here is another “source” that has worked its way around the internet:  “We do not know the causes [of any mental illness]. We don’t have the methods of ‘curing’ these illnesses yet.” —Dr. Rex Cowdry, psychiatrist and director of National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 1995″

I see this exact quote on many web sites, with the same brackets.  But I can’t find the full text in which this edited statement occurs.  If I can’t find the full text, I don’t know the context. In any event, even if it’s correct, it’s use is misleading.  We do not know with 100% accuracy the specific roots of mental illness in a given individual.  But science has a pretty good idea of the range of causes for mentally ill people in general.  They include, variously depending upon the individual: genetics, family history, personal history such as sexual or physical abuse, trauma such as the loss of a loved one or involvement in war, other stressors, alcohol or other substance abuse, and other factors.  These risk factors often work in combination.

Do we know everything about what causes mental illness?  No, of course not.  But neither do we know everything about cancer, but that does not mean that cancer is not a medical reality and that there are not treatments for it.  The point is that for both mental illness and many other medical illnesses–including cancer–we know just the tip of the iceberg.  But science is learning more and more people every day.  And it is able to help more and more people every day.

This is all not to deny that there may be some over-medication.  It’s also not to deny that there is a large, powerful corporate complex profiting from pushing all kinds of drugs on people.  But what it does mean that we cannot deny either the real, medical nature of psychiatric illness or the genuine benefit that many drugs do provide for millions of people.

In any event, I’ll finish my screed by pointing out the lesson of all this:  beware of bullshit and the many forms in which it comes.



I am a father of the most precious three year old and a beautiful wife. And don't forget the cat. She won't like it. I have bipolar, probably type I. The past is coming into focus and the future seems possible.