American Psychiatric Association Apology Fails To Fully Admit Psychiatry’s Racial Human Rights Abuses and Role In Creating Racism

The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) recent apology for its support of structural racism understates psychiatry’s racial human rights abuses and its long history of instigating racism by providing “rationales” that justified and perpetuated it.

Over the last 50 years, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) has exposed that sordid history and intensified its efforts last June by forming the Task Force Against Psychiatric Racism and Modern Day Eugenics. 

The APA’s apology, issued January 18, states: “The APA apologizes for our contributions to the structural racism in our nation….”

The APA further admits: “These appalling past actions, as well as their harmful effects, are ingrained in the structure of psychiatric practice….”

But the APA glosses over “those appalling past actions” by merely admitting that psychiatric “practitioners have at times subjected persons of African descent and Indigenous people who suffered from mental illness to abusive treatment, experimentation, victimization in the name of ‘scientific evidence,’ along with racialized theories that attempted to confirm their deficit status.”

That bare-bones admission fails to adequately portray the magnitude of psychiatrists’ role as prime instigators of “scientific racism,” creating and promoting the false theories of racial inferiority that have been widely used to “justify” the oppression, segregation, and population control of Black Americans.

It is noteworthy that in the late 1700s, psychiatry’s own “Father of American Psychiatry,” Dr. Benjamin Rush, a slave owner, created a medical justification for racism by claiming Blacks suffered from a disease called “negritude,” supposedly a form of leprosy, and recommended their segregation to prevent them from “infecting” others.  A logo with the image of Benjamin Rush is still used for APA ceremonial purposes and internal documents. The APA still gives a Benjamin Rush Award.

Psychiatrists in the American mental health movement later latched onto and promoted the false science of eugenics (from the Greek word eugenes, meaning “good stock”), which claims some humans are inferior to others and should not have children. 

Pushed by mental health practitioners, the eugenics idea of racial inferiority became ingrained in the U.S. and led to efforts such as Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s plan to reduce the Black population through sterilization and the Ku Klux Klan’s white supremacist activities. 

Further, the APA’s brief confession of “experimentation [and] victimization” of people of color “who suffered from mental illness” not only downplays the barbaric psychosurgery and psychiatric experiments conducted on African Americans, but also fails to honestly admit that many subjects in these experiments were perfectly healthy.  Those experiments include:

  • In 1951, psychiatrist Walter Freeman experimented with lobotomies on Black patients at the Veterans Administration hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama, describing the procedure as “a surgically induced childhood.”  (A lobotomy is psychiatry’s surgical procedure of cutting into the brain to try to alter behavior.) 
  • In 1951, psychiatrist Walter Freeman experimented with lobotomies on Black patients at the Veterans Administration hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama, describing the procedure as “a surgically induced childhood.”  (A lobotomy is psychiatry’s surgical procedure of cutting into the brain to try to alter behavior.) 
  • In 1951, psychiatrist Walter Freeman experimented with lobotomies on Black patients at the Veterans Administration hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama, describing the procedure as “a surgically induced childhood.”  (A lobotomy is psychiatry’s surgical procedure of cutting into the brain to try to alter behavior.) 
  • In 1951, psychiatrist Walter Freeman experimented with lobotomies on Black patients at the Veterans Administration hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama, describing the procedure as “a surgically induced childhood.”  (A lobotomy is psychiatry’s surgical procedure of cutting into the brain to try to alter behavior.) 

The APA has not admitted practitioners’ role in creating the present-day mental health system of psychiatric labeling, forced psychiatric drugs and treatment, and incarceration in psychiatric facilities that enabled racist treatment. 

African Americans are disproportionately diagnosed with mental illness and disproportionately committed to psychiatric facilities.  They are more likely to be labeled with conduct disorder and psychotic disorders, especially schizophrenia, and overly prescribed antipsychotic drugs.  Black men are more likely to be prescribed excessive doses of these psychiatric drugs.  Black children are overly labeled with ADD/ADHD.

The APA is correct, therefore, in stating, “The APA is beginning the process of making amends….”  There is much, much further to go in publicly taking responsibility for psychiatrists’ essential role in instigating and perpetuating racism and for the human rights violations of its experiments and treatments.  

Until it does so, its incomplete apology may be viewed as political pandering and an attempt to whitewash history to pave the way for the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industry to expand – very profitably – into the African American community.

Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Push To Profit From COVID-19 Pandemic Ignores Individuals’ Resilience In Times Of Crisis

Note:  The rising number of COVID-19 cases nationwide has generated alarming and self-serving predictions from the psychiatric industry about a potentially devastating mental health crisis in the making, along with a wave of urgent calls for huge increases in government funding for mental health treatment.  In response, we are republishing a May 2020 article from Citizens Commission on Human Rights International that reviews how wrong the predictions of mental health crises were in earlier disasters and how research has found that in times of crises, the individual’s own resilience has often proven to be the best “treatment” – and with no risk of the harmful and even life-threatening side effects of the psychiatric drugs used in mental health treatment.  [Warning: No one should stop taking any psychiatric drug unless under the supervision of a competent medical doctor.]

Some Media are Starting to Report How Resilience (Not Mind-Altering Psychotropic Drugs) is Better at Facing COVID-19 Restrictions

Hands on window
CCHR wants people better informed about the psychiatric-pharmaceutical agenda to use normal reactions to virus restrictions to push harmful psychiatric labels and drugs. The sources of predictions about “mental health epidemics” often have conflicts of interests with manufacturers of psychotropic drugs.

By Jan Eastgate
President CCHR International
The Mental Health Industry Watchdog
May 29, 2020

Throughout April-May 2020, Citizens Commission on Human Rights International has researched and provided information about the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industry using COVID-19 to scare people into believing that their mental health may be irreparably damaged. Antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs, that carry a heinous list of side effects, have been promoted, taking advantage of people’s understandable vulnerabilities—their normal reactions to abnormal times. Psychiatric drugs are already being tested to be repurposed to treat COVID-19, despite their own potential life-threatening risks.

However, CCHR’s research has also found that people’s resilience in times of disasters, including wars and terrorism, has often been the people’s best “treatment.” It was, therefore, a nice change to see mainstream media report and further substantiate this.

For example, on May 25, 2020, The Australian reported that rather than a “mental health epidemic” as a result of COVID, “history suggests we often rebound from mass trauma events.” In the late 1930s, “as Britain braced itself for a looming war and predicted mass civilian casualties from German bombing,” a committee of psychiatrists predicted that the bombs would cause three times more mental injuries than physical. Several large psychiatric hospitals were built outside London to deal with the mass trauma.

But despite 57 sequential nights of bombings, 41,000 Londoners killed and two million homes destroyed, every one of the predictions about how Londoners would react turned out to be wrong. In fact, the psychiatric hospitals remained empty and were repurposed for the physically wounded.

Something similar occurred following the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001. It was predicted that one in four New Yorkers would suffer PTSD and 9,000 counselors were dispatched across the U.S. to be prepared to deliver. But the tents established to deliver such services remained largely empty, and only half of the $200 million set aside for mental health help was spent.[1]

Richard Bryant, a professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales, who studied the impact of Australia’s devastating Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 said that 82% of people remained resilient.[2] Approximately 400 fires were recorded across Victoria; 173 people tragically lost their lives from the series of fires in 2009 and 414 were injured.[3] But as one study Bryant was involved in found, “Several years following the Black Saturday bushfires the majority of affected people demonstrated resilience without indications of psychological distress.” Only a minority required services for persistent problems.

Responding to recent mental health experts expecting a “tsunami of mental health disorders” from COVID, Bryant stated: “We know that time and time again over every disaster, including previous pandemics, most people will end up being resilient.” [4]

One of those doomsday mental health “experts” was Dr. Ian Hickie who, writing in The Guardian in the UK, claimed “the potential mental health and suicide impacts resulting from the massive economic and social dislocation caused by Covid-19 are front and center internationally.” He further reported a “predicted 25-50% increase in suicides over the next five years” according to his Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney, of which he is co-director of health and policy. Hickie reported that the Australian health minister, Greg Hunt, made “Covid-19-precipitated mental ill health the same status as physical ill health.” The government has announced AUS $48.1m (U.S.$32 million) in additional funding for mental health.

Hickie, along with his cohort, psychiatrist Patrick McGorry, are the co-founders of Australia’s national headspace: Youth Mental Health Centers in Australia which treat 12-25-year olds. Researchers have criticized the centers for being used as “’clinical laboratories’ for applied research.”[5] McGorry and Hickie were part of a joint statement on COVID-19 issued on May 7, that predicted “increases in youth suicide and a surge in demand for specialist mental health services,” and the telltale “calling for long-term modelling and investment in mental health to guide critical decision making in social, economic, and health policy to help Australia transition out of the coronavirus pandemic.” That “modeling” is based on one developed by the Brain and Mind Centre, and Australia’s The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Centre for Research Excellence on prevention of youth suicide (YOUTHe), in which McGorry’s research group Orygen and the University of Melbourne are partnering. McGorry is the Professor of Youth Mental Health at the university.

It’s easy to “predict” that from such demands that this could lead to increased antidepressant and other psychotropic drug prescriptions, with individuals uninformed that the drugs can actually induce suicide prescribed to “prevent”—and that those suicides will be attributed not to the drugs but to “COVID-19 related” issues.

Hickie has served on the professional advisory boards convened by the drug industry in relation to specific antidepressants made by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and Eli Lilly and has led projects funded in part by BMS, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Wyeth and Servier.[6] He has served on advisory boards convened by the pharmaceutical industry in relation to three specific antidepressants.[7]

McGorry is renowned for his debunked dangerous theory that pre-drugging adolescents with antipsychotics can prevent psychosis.[8] Mental health specialists told Australia’s Sunday Age that the focus on early intervention for adolescents and young adults had been “massively oversold” by the “McGorry lobbying machine.” “It’s extremely worrying that the government is listening to professional lobbyists who have a massive personal investment in the programs they’re recommending – and they are undoubtedly overstating the evidence. There’s a massive conflict of interest there,” said Professor David Castle from Melbourne’s St. Vincent’s Hospitals, referring to both Hickie and McGorry.[9]

McGorry has had financial ties to the drug companies, Janssen-Cilag, Eli Lilly, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Novartis. He has also received honoraria for consulting and teaching from Roche, Lundbeck, and Astra Zeneca. His Orygen Centre operates four of the 27 headspace centers in Victoria.   Orygen has also been funded by drug companies Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Janssen-Cilag and Bristol-Myers Squibb.[10]

In the U.S., the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has purported that those put in isolation are “more likely to develop PTSD or increase substance use;” that the required excessive cleaning of hands could lead to compulsions;[11] and that almost 60% feel that the virus is having a serious impact on their day-to-day lives.[12] APA posted on its website that an “anxiety pandemic” is following fast on COVID’s heels.[13]

Perpetuating this, on May 21, the American Psychological Association released the results of a 10-point subjective survey of parents with children under 18, asserting that 46% rated their average stress level regarding the pandemic as 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. An article quoted Charles B. Nemeroff, professor and chair of the department of psychiatry at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin and president-elect of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). He stated: “This kind of chronic stress brings about, for all those people who have never had anxiety before, it sort of overwhelms them.” Pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Forest Laboratories, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Solvay Pharmaceuticals, and Wyeth fund ADAA.[14]

Nemeroff came under federal investigation for his failure to declare $1 million he took from pharmaceutical companies. He’d taken the money while conducting supposedly unbiased research for the National Institutes of Health on drugs made by the companies he was receiving money from. A front-page report by The New York Times in October 2008 said that congressional investigators found Nemeroff had received $2.8 million in consulting deals with drug makers over seven years and failed to report at least $1.2 million of that to Emery University.[15]

The Wall Street Journal reported at least some of the warnings about the drugs: “Because benzodiazepines can reduce the body’s drive to breathe, overdoses can be deadly” and the drugs “can be difficult to stop, too. Withdrawal symptoms can include a surge in anxiety, tremors and, in some cases, seizures. The medications can be particularly dangerous for older adults: In seniors, their use is associated with falls and cognitive problems.” Overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines more than quadrupled between 1999 and 2013, according to a study published in 2016 in the American Journal of Public Health.[16]

CCHR’s online psychiatric drugs side effects searchable database is an excellent resource for finding free information about adverse effects of psychotropic drugs and the many drug regulatory agency warnings about them.

CCHR is fully aware of how the country’s challenging times (with its own staff part of the stay-at-home restrictions) and how, generally at a societal level, it can impact mental and physical health. But APA and other mental disorder groups making claims that high percentages of people will be anxious, depressed or have PTSD (based largely on surveys of a small number of people, and often with a Public Relations firm spin) is self-serving to rake in future profits. CCHR is researching more articles that convey how individuals’ innate resilience, including that which comes with a recovered economy and job safety, is most likely to be a winning “medicine.”

References:

[1] “Blitz Spirit: Fortunately for the COVID-19 generation, history suggests we often rebound from mass trauma events,” The Australian, 25 May 2020,  https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/covid-health-crisis-trauma-could-be-overstated/news-story/a6146f9449f3748d1e21c2d1f11ad310
[2] Ibid.
[3] https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/black-saturday-bushfires; https://knowledge.aidr.org.au/resources/bushfire-black-saturday-victoria-2009/
[4] Op. cit., The Australian, 25 May 2020
[5] https://www.cchrint.org/2015/04/27/drugging-kids-patrick-mcgorry/
[6] https://www.cchrint.org/2017/03/15/patrick-mcgorry-plans-to-dope-12yearolds-with-cannabis/
[7] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1751-7893.2012.00366.x
[8] https://www.cchrint.org/2017/03/15/patrick-mcgorry-plans-to-dope-12yearolds-with-cannabis/
[9] https://www.smh.com.au/national/mcgorry-accused-of-conflict-of-interest-20110806-1igxd.html
[10] https://www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/240814/sub290-mental-health.pdf
[11] https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/sites/default/files/legacy/mm/digital/media/03Mar_PTMorganstein_Coronavirus_PDF_V2.pdf; https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/psychiatrists-beware-impact-coronavirus-pandemics-mental-health
[12] https://www.jnj.com/personal-stories/covid-19-taught-doctor-resilience-and-hope
[13] https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/anxiety-disorders
[14] https://www.cchrint.org/issues/psycho-pharmaceutical-front-groups/adaa/
[15] https://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/04/health/policy/04drug.html
[16] “More People Are Taking Drugs for Anxiety and Insomnia, and Doctors Are Worried,” Wall Street Journal, 25 May 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/more-people-are-taking-drugs-for-anxiety-and-insomnia-and-doctors-are-worried-11590411600