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Mental Health Awarenes Week exhibition opening

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week (6-12 October 2014) the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is holding an exhibition entitled "Mental Health and Human Rights" documenting the dark side of psychiatric treatment.

The exhibition which opens on 6 October at 163 Broadway, Newmarket, Auckland, confronts the extent of abuse within the field of psychiatry which has dominated the mental health industry for more than a century with abhorrent treatments such as the rack, ice-baths, electroshock, brain surgery and mind altering drugs, as well as behavioural theories and treatments that have been adopted by fascist and totalitarian regimes.

"The purpose of the exhibit is to raise awareness," said the Commission's director, Mr. Steve Green. "Many people are familiar with New Zealand cases of psychiatric abuse and this display gives an insight as to why psychiatry has been tarnished with labels of torture and cruel, degrading and inhuman treatments."

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights has been the most vocal campaigner against psychiatric abuse in this country. In 1976 they exposed the child abuse and torturous treatment of young people in Lake Alice psychiatric hospital which culminated in the Government paying out over $12 million in compensation to 200 of the victims. CCHR took the matter to the United Nations Committee Against Torture who made various recommendations to the NZ government so that victims would be listened to, obtain adequate redress and perpetrators of the abuse would be prosecuted. Changes to the Crimes of Torture Act now allow independent inspectors to look into, report and prevent ill-treatment against the mentally ill and others in state care.

Other hospitals and controversial treatments have been criticised by the Commission over the years. They were instrumental in the banning of Deep Sleep Treatment and are outspoken about the continued use of Electroshock (ECT) in this country, especially on the elderly, pregnant women and children.

The display also dispels the idea that mental illness comes from imbalances of brain chemicals. The Commission says the unscientific claims of chemical imbalances has led to false hope and the widespread use of psychiatric drugs.

"One of the major areas of psychiatric drugging today, and one causing the most concern, is with young children," Mr Green said. "The escalating use of psychiatric drugs as a therapy for children who have trouble learning is completely wrong-headed and a short road to trouble, both for the children and society as a whole," he said.

CCHR's main roll has been to help psychiatric victims find a voice and support them to lay complaints with various medical authorities and even criminal complaints where warranted. They help document cases with the use of patient records and corroborating evidence. Medical professionals also assist with interpretation of medical files and CCHR works alongside lawyers and other professionals who believe everyone has a basic human right to obtain safe and ethical mental health care.

"The object of CCHR is to re-install basic medicine and medical ethics into the field of mental health," said Mr Green and he cites the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ban all forms of non-consensual psychiatric treatment as it is often seen as torture. "This signals a turning point to a more positive future for human rights in mental health," Mr Green said.

CCHR was established by the Church of Scientology and Professor of Psychiatry, Dr Thomas Szasz in 1969 and it works toward the establishment of real human rights in mental health and an elimination of psychiatric ill-treatment and abuse in all forms.

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