For Mental Health Month: The Mental Health Declaration of Human Rights

All human rights organizations set forth codes by which they align their purposes and activities. The Mental Health Declaration of Human Rights articulates the guiding principles and goals of Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR).

In 2017, Dr. Dainius Pūras, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health, called for a revolution in mental health care around the world to “end decades of neglect, abuse and violence,” and stating

“There is now unequivocal evidence of the failures of a system that relies too heavily on the biomedical model of mental health services, including the front-line and excessive use of psychotropic medicines, and yet these models persist.”

Human rights include the right to one’s own mind, and to protect oneself and one’s loved ones against any abusive or harmful “treatments” given under the guise of mental health.

Every man, woman and child is entitled to the fundamental human rights set forth in this Mental Health Declaration of Human Rights, regardless of race, political ideology, religious, cultural or social beliefs.

Given the fact that virtually no human or civil rights specifically protects citizens from mental health abuses, it is vital that the following rights be recognized and that all countries adopt this Declaration.

A. The right to full informed consent, including:

1. The scientific/medical test confirming any alleged diagnoses of psychiatric disorder and the right to refute any psychiatric diagnoses of mental “illness” that cannot be medically confirmed.

2. Full disclosure of all documented risks of any proposed drug or mental “treatment.”

3. The right to be informed of all available medical treatments which do not involve the administration of a psychiatric drug or treatment.

4. The right to refuse psychiatric drugs documented by international drug regulatory agencies to be harmful and potentially lethal.

5. The right to refuse to undergo electroshock or psycho-surgery.

B. No person shall be forced to undergo any psychiatric or psychological treatment against his or her will.

C. No person, man, woman or child, may be denied his or her personal liberty by reason of mental illness, without a fair jury trial by laymen and with proper legal representation.

D. No person shall be admitted to or held in a psychiatric institution, hospital or facility because of their political, religious or cultural or social beliefs and practices.

E. Any patient has:

1. The right to be treated with dignity as a human being.

2. The right to hospital amenities without distinction as to race, color, sex, language, religion, political opinion, social origin or status by right of birth or property.

3. The right to have a thorough, physical and clinical examination by a competent registered general practitioner of one’s choice, to ensure that one’s mental condition is not caused by any undetected and untreated physical illness, injury or defect, and the right to seek a second medical opinion of one’s choice.

4. The right to fully equipped medical facilities and appropriately trained medical staff in hospitals, so that competent physical, clinical examinations can be performed.

5. The right to choose the kind or type of therapy to be employed, and the right to discuss this with a general practitioner, healer or minister of one’s choice.

6. The right to have all the side effects of any offered treatment made clear and understandable to the patient, in written form and in the patient’s native language.

7. The right to accept or refuse treatment but in particular, the right to refuse sterilization, electroshock treatment, insulin shock, lobotomy (or any other psychosurgical brain operation), aversion therapy, narcotherapy, deep sleep therapy and any drugs producing unwanted side effects.

8. The right to make official complaints, without reprisal, to an independent board which is composed of non-psychiatric personnel, lawyers and lay people. Complaints may encompass any torturous, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment received while under psychiatric care.

9. The right to have private counsel with a legal advisor and to take legal action.

10. The right to discharge oneself at any time and to be discharged without restriction, having committed no offense.

11. The right to manage one’s own property and affairs with a legal advisor, if necessary, or if deemed incompetent by a court of law, to have a State appointed executor to manage such until one is adjudicated competent. Such executor is accountable to the patient’s next of kin, or legal advisor or guardian.

12. The right to see and possess one’s hospital records and to take legal action with regard to any false information contained therein which may be damaging to one’s reputation.

13. The right to take criminal action, with the full assistance of law enforcement agents, against any psychiatrist, psychologist or hospital staff for any abuse, false imprisonment, assault from treatment, sexual abuse or rape, or any violation of mental health or other law. And the right to a mental health law that does not indemnify or modify the penalties for criminal, abusive or negligent treatment of patients committed by any psychiatrist, psychologist or hospital staff.

14. The right to sue psychiatrists, their associations and colleges, the institution, or staff for unlawful detention, false reports, or damaging treatment.

15. The right to work or to refuse to work, and the right to receive just compensation on a pay-scale comparable to union or state/national wages for similar work, for any work performed while hospitalized.

16. The right to education or training so as to enable one better to earn a living when discharged, the right of choice over what kind of education or training is received.

17. The right to receive visitors and a minister of one’s own faith.

18. The right to make and receive telephone calls and the right to privacy with regard to all personal correspondence to and from anyone.

19. The right to freely associate or not with any group or person in a psychiatric institution, hospital or facility.

20. The right to a safe environment without having in the environment, persons placed there for criminal reasons.

21. The right to be with others of one’s own age group.

22. The right to wear personal clothing, to have personal effects and to have a secure place in which to keep them.

23. The right to daily physical exercise in the open.

24. The right to a proper diet and nutrition and to three meals a day.

25. The right to hygienic conditions and non-overcrowded facilities, and to sufficient, undisturbed leisure and rest.

Speak Out About Psychiatrist/Psychologist Sexual Abuse

With studies showing that an average of 6% to 10% of psychiatrists and psychologists sexually abuse their patients, including children young as 3 years old, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is encouraging victims of sexual abuse by mental health practitioners to contact us and speak out about it.

The observation of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April would not be complete without a cautionary look at how common it is for psychiatric practitioners to have sexual contact with patients, often under the guise of therapy.

The sexual crimes committed by psychiatrists are estimated at 37 times greater than rapes occurring in the general community, one U.S. law firm stated. [1]

Psychiatrists themselves indicate that 65% of their new patients tell them that they have been sexually abused by previous psychiatrists. Sexual assault or rape is not just limited to females. Men are also victims of therapist sexual abuse or rape. And so are children. [2]

Data from national studies suggest one of every 20 sexual incidents between psychotherapists and their patients involved minors – the average age was 12 for boys, 7 for girls. [3]

Psychiatrists who sexually abuse patients are often serial abusers, with some surveys noting over 50% of male therapists reporting sexual involvement with more than one patient. [4]

Clinicians have compared psychotherapist-patient sexual involvement to rape, child molestation, and incest, putting victims at increased risk of suicide, according to the study, “Psychotherapists’ Sexual Relationships with Their Patients” in Annals of Health Law[5] 

Sexual assault victims commonly struggle with emotional repercussions such as: Feelings of no self-worth, denial, crying spells, paranoia, helplessness, loneliness, shame, anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, flashbacks, numbness, withdrawal, depression, fear of relationships and intimacy, and more. [6]

The findings of a national study of 958 patients sexually abused by their therapist suggested that 90% were harmed and of those, only 17% recovered.  About 14% of those who had been sexually involved with a therapist attempted suicide. [7]

Women are the usual targets of sexual assault, but men and children of both sexes have been attacked in the name of therapy.

A person seeking help is already in a fragile state and may already feel victimized by their situation. To add a sexual attack is heartless, cruel, and blatantly wrong no matter how these activities are justified.

The prevalence of such behavior has prompted laws in some states prohibiting any sexual contact between practitioner and patient. CCHR has long pushed for uniform state laws prohibiting mental health practitioners from engaging in sexual relations of any sort with a patient, making it not only a gross violation of medical ethics, but also illegal.

Colorado is one of the several states that specifies that “consent” is not a valid defense. The state takes the position that the psychiatrist is in a position of overpowering influence and trust. Therefore, a patient cannot consent to sexual relations with a therapist and ANY sexual contact is considered a “boundary violation” and is illegal, even if initiated by the patient.[8]

A report in Annals of Health Law said that when sexual contact occurs in a psychotherapeutic setting, it is not unusual for the patient to have been persuaded that it was a necessary and integral part of the therapy itself. [9]

In a therapeutic setting, such relationships by and large involve male practitioners assuming domineering roles to bring usually much younger female patients under their sway. Done under the guise of therapy or love and never to the patient’s benefit, a complaining or protesting patient need no longer be blamed for the seduction, experience shame and regret or be coerced into silence.

With the #MeToo movement shining an unprecedented spotlight on this complex societal issue, it is time to uncover the perpetrators of sexual abuse and bring them to justice.

If you or anyone you know has been the victim of sexual contact by a mental health worker, we want to talk to you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

[1] “Doctor Sexual Assault Cases: Capable Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers Fight for Justice,”
https://www.beasleyfirm.com/medical-malpractice/doctor-sexual-assault/

[2] Op. cit. “Doctor Sexual Assault Cases.”

[3] Kenneth Pope, “Sex Between Therapists and Clients,” Encyclopedia of Women and Gender, Academic Press, Oct. 2001

[4] Gary C. Hankins et al, “Patient-Therapist Sexual Involvement: A Review of Clinical and Research Data,” Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry Law, Vol. 22, No.1,

[5] Clifton Perry, Joan Wallman Kuruc, “Psychotherapists’ Sexual Relationships with Their Patients,” Annals of Health Law, Vol. 2, Issue 1, 1993
https://lawecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.bing.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1356&context=annals

[6] Doctor Sexual Assault Cases: Capable Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers Fight for Justice,”
https://www.beasleyfirm.com/medical-malpractice/doctor-sexual-assault/; Kenneth S. Pope, “Therapist-Patient Sex as Sex Abuse: Six Scientific, Professional, and Practical Dilemmas in Addressing Victimization and Rehabilitation,”
https://kspope.com/sexiss/therapy1.php

[7] https://kspope.com/sexiss/sexencyc.php

[8] “Psychiatrist/patient boundaries: When it’s OK to stretch the line,” Current Psychiatry, 2008 August;7(8):53-62
http://www.mdedge.com/currentpsychiatry/article/63241/psychiatrist/patient-boundaries-when-its-ok-stretch-line

[9] Clifton Perry, Joan Wallman Kuruc, “Psychotherapists’ Sexual Relationships with Their Patients,” Annals of Health Law, Vol. 2, Issue 1, 1993, https://lawecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.bing.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1356&context=annals

Man Died in Restraints at Colorado State Psychiatric Hospital

CMHIP withholds data requested by the district attorney and county coroner

An obese man who died in the custody of the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (CMHIP) suffocated while being restrained face down on a table. He may have been hog-tied.

Troy Allen Geske, 41, died August 10 at the psychiatric institution. An affidavit for a search warrant says that Geske died after he was put in four-point restraint, in which the feet are attached to the hands behind the back.

A spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Human Services, which oversees the psychiatric facility, denied Geske was in four-point restraint. But Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut said the information in the affidavit is corroborated by evidence that has been collected, including video of Geske in restraints, according to the Pueblo Chieftain:
http://chieftain.com/news/local/article_f75a23c2-b72f-11df-9494-001cc4c002e0.html
http://chieftain.com/news/local/article_59e5ca9c-b653-11df-8d64-001cc4c002e0.html

At 5-feet-8 and 265 pounds, Geske was at greater risk of “positional asphyxiation” when he was restrained on his stomach with his own weight pressing down on his lungs and diaphragm. Federal law requires constant, close monitoring of anyone face down in restraints to prevent suffocation.

The results of an autopsy and toxicology tests have not yet been released.

After Geske’s death, hospital police could have called in the 10th Judicial District’s critical incident team (CIT) for an independent investigation of the incident by a team of investigators from outside law enforcement agencies, but did not do so, according to the Pueblo Chieftain: http://chieftain.com/news/local/article_b4e5d92e-b7f1-11df-abf2-001cc4c002e0.html

The CIT investigates serious incidents involving police officers under an agreement to which CMHIP is a party. Hospital police were reportedly present when staff attempted to revive Geske.

CMHIP has also refused to turn over certain information requested by investigators. District Attorney Thiebaut says he will go to court if necessary to get information he believes his office is entitled to, according to the Chieftain.

For more than 40 years, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights has advocated against any form of psychiatric treatment that is torturous, cruel, inhuman or degrading, as laid out in its Mental Health Declaration of Human Rights.