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Psychiatry and Human Rights

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Section: Health

June 6, 2005

Psychiatry and Human Rights

Bush's Drug Plan for America

by Pierre Loiselle

A protester in front of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturer's Association (PhRMA) in Washington DC in May. photo: Pierre Loiselle
On May 2nd, dissident mental health professionals joined forces with people who have been psychiatrized to protest human rights abuses in mental health treatments and what they call the collusion between the pharmaceutical industry and the psychiatric profession. Targeting the pharmaceutical industry's lobby group PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturer's Association) in Washington D.C., they sounded the alarm on a Bush Administration plan to screen all United States citizens for mental illness.

The screening initiative is the outcome of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, a year-long task force which concluded by making recommendations to improve the mental health of Americans, including mandatory nation-wide screening of individuals for mental illness. The screening is to be based on the Texas Medication Algorithm Program (TMAP), established in 1995 - coincidentally when Bush was the governor of Texas. TMAP is designed to standardize treatments for various diagnoses ranging from schizophrenia to depression and its use and influence has spread to over 9 states.

In states where TMAP has been implemented, critics say it has disastrous consequences for patients, while increasing profits for the pharmaceutical companies. David Oaks is the Director of Mindfreedom Support Coalition International, an umbrella group bringing together the voices of those harmed by the psychiatric model of mental health. He explains that TMAP "actually funnels people to the most expensive drugs first; then if those don't work, maybe they'll try the generics, and then next up is electroshock." TMAP recommendations not only suggest using new drugs that are, by their nature, the most experimental, but it excludes methods of treatment such as therapy, exclusively prescribing bio-medical intervention.

"They are already going into schools," said Oaks. "They are testing the kids and then pressuring (them) to be on the psych drugs but they've also called for this program to apply to every single adult, for instance through your general health care practitioner. In New York City already, physicians are being trained to ask certain mental health questions." The May-June 2005 issue of Mother Jones reported that "in one month, Texas put 19,000 kids on atypical antipsychotics. Half were overmedicated: and as many lacked a diagnosis that validated the drugs' use in the first place."

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) have made their allegiances clear on this issue, boasting of their role in suppressing attention to TMAP and Bush's screening of America. An article that appeared the APA's membership newsletter stated that the "mainstream media have not touched the story, in part thanks to the APA's work, for which the [Bush] administration is appreciative."

Allen Jones is a whistleblower who lost his job as an Investigator in Pennsylvania at the Office of Inspector General. In a legal affidavit, he reported that "the pharmaceutical industry has methodically compromised our political system at all levels and has systematically infiltrated the mental health service delivery system of this nation." He publicly exposed extensive pharmaceutical bribery used to bring TMAP into legislation and warned about how "the pervasive manipulation of clinical trials, the non-reporting of negative trials and the cover-up of debilitating and deadly side-effects render meaningful informed consent impossible by persons being treated with these drugs."

Informed consent is also being disregarded in many cases. In many states, government agencies can force people to take medication. In some documented cases, children were removed from the custody of their biological parents and forcibly drugged for months in state-run mental institutions. The parents had refused to place their child on medication.

"People suffer from real problems and struggle daily with mental health issues, making mental health an important priority," said Sandy Ingram at the protest outside of PhRMA. "But this initiative ensures individuals are denied a full range of treatment options while furthering human rights violations in the name of psychiatric treatment."

» British Medical Journal: Bush Plans to Screen Whole US Population for Mental Illness

» MindFreedom Online

» Law Project for Psychiatric Rights

» American Psychiatric Association

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