US Congress/Federal Government Track
The USA Government Implements Plans to Screen all Americans for Mental Health Problems
MindFreedom Forms “True Freedom Campaign”
A plan promoted by President George W. Bush to screen all Americans for “mental health problems” is being opposed by MindFreedom and a network of advocacy groups who say the plan was cooked up by the drug industry.
On its face, the idea of locating people, especially youngsters, with severe mental and emotional problems sounds humane. But critics — including the internationally prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ) — maintain the Bush plan could result in many more Americans being placed on the most expensive psychiatric drugs.
The Bush initiative is the outcome of a year long task force called the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. The task force recommended a nationwide screening program based on the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP), which was created in 1995 while President Bush was governor of Texas. Despite its technical-sounding name, TMAP is simply a series of flowcharts that directs doctors to a step by step treatment plan for their patients
BMJ reported that Allen Jones, an investigator working for the Office of Inspector General in Pennsylvania, claims in court documents that pharmaceutical companies promoting TMAP were influencing politicians with “trips, perks, lavish meals, transportation to and first-class accommodations in major cities.” Jones was fired and has filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania maintaining that he is a whisteblower.
BMJ also reported about Psychiatrist Stefan Kruszewski, who was fired on July 11, 2004 from his position at the Bureau of Program Integrity in the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, and who is also suing the state. Dr. Kruszewski was in charge of the state’s mental health and substance misuse programs to protect against fraud and waste. He maintains that TMAP has led to the death of patients, some of whom were placed on five or more psychiatric drugs at the same time.
One of the main goals of the President’s New Freedom Commission is to ensure “Early mental health screening, assessment, and referral to services are common practice” with subsequent recommendations to promote the mental health of young children, improve and expand school mental health programs… screen for mental disorders in primary health care, across the life span, and connect to treatment and supports.”
In response, MindFreedom has created the True Freedom Campaign, and maintains that the President’s New Freedom Commission promotes a biomedical approach to mental and emotional problems that relies on an unproven theory that people’s problems are caused by a chemical imbalance.
The medical model tends to lead to chemical and electrical solutions, rather than other alternatives, such as counseling, psychosocial alternatives, peer support, housing, jobs, etc. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT or shock therapy) also found its way into TMAPs treatment plan. If drugs fail to get the expected results, TMAP patients diagnosed with a wide range of “disorders” can expect to receive shock treatment.
MindFreedom also maintains that if Americans screened for mental illness refuse their drugs, they are vulnerable to laws in 42 USA states that allow for court ordered psychiatric drugging on an outpatient basis. Thousands of Americans are now under these programs, which require individuals to take psychiatric drugs against their will even while living in their own homes out in the community.
MindFreedom previously reported that President Bush appointed extremist psychiatrist Sally Satel from the American Enterprise Institute, to the National Advisory Council for the US Center for Mental Health Services. At the June 2004 National Advisory Council meeting Dr. Satel identified increasing forced treatment as a high priority. The NAC minutes add that Dr. Satel endorsed “coercive… intrusive, highly paternalistic… involuntary care.”
For a lot more information on President Bush’s planned screening see www.MindFreedom.org.
Photo: Psychiatric survivor Laurie Ahern, now on the staff of Mental Disability Rights International, a MindFreedom sponsor group, testifies at the President’s New Freedom Commission.
Krista Erickson is a young psychiatric survivor, blind, and an active leader in the cross-disability community. Krista works in a Chicago area independent living center and is on the MindFreedom board.
The Fast for Freedom:
Reflections and a Call to the Disability Community
by Krista Erickson
I participated in the Fast for Freedom in Mental Health. Six core hunger strikers and 18 solidarity hunger strikers from around the world fasted on a liquids only regimen. We talked to the media and the public, and challenged our opponents. The Fast for Freedom asked for scientifically valid evidence supporting their claims that conditions labeled as “major mental illnesses” are “biologically based brain diseases” and that medications are effective treatments.
The Fast for Freedom was not and is not a judgment of any person who may choose to take psychiatric medication or accept the dominant theory of the mental health system often referred to as “biopsychiatry.” Biopsychiatry is a belief in “biologically based brain diseases” caused by chemical imbalances in the brain or by genetic determinism and that psychiatric drugs are, therefore, the treatment of choice.
People must have the freedom to make this individual choice. The fast was and is about human rights and choice in the mental health system. It was and remains a protest against the mental health systems’ lack of human rights and provision of fewer real choices besides psychiatric drugs, the use of which can cause additional disabilities. Although alternatives other than psychiatric drugs exist, they are usually not offered nor available.
I came away from the fast strengthened, deeply touched and inspired by many of the people I met and by the experiences they shared with us. Participating in the Fast for Freedom left me with a reinvigorated determination to personally work harder to advance human rights and alternatives in the mental health system and to speak out more, not only from my own experiences as a psychiatric survivor, but also as a person who, as a staff member of a center for independent living, daily witnesses the disempowering and devastating effects that the lack of real choices and increasing coerciveness of the current mental health system has on too many peoples’ lives.
One of the main reasons why I volunteered to be a hunger striker in the Fast for Freedom was to call upon the disability community — my community — to increase awareness of and become involved in advocating more noticeably and passionately for human rights and real choices in the mental health system. We people with disabilities are the largest and most diverse minority group in the country. A fast-growing majority by definition or identity within the disability community are people labeled with psychiatric disabilities.
Over the past few years, I have continued to observe, with dismay, that the disability community has allowed discriminatory, segregationist, separate and unequal programs, services, policies and even laws harmful to people labeled with psychiatric disabilities.
While the Fast for Freedom has officially ended, the highly relevant and urgent questions it raised remain before us all, essentially unanswered. Additional information about the Fast for Freedom in Mental Health including the official Fast for Freedom statement, photos of the event and news updates are online at www.mindfreedom.org.
Photo: Much thanks to the core hunger strikers (from left) Mickey Weinberg (Pasadena, CA), Vince Boehm (Wilmington, DE), Romi “Cat” Sayama (CA), Krista Erickson (Chicago, IL), David Oaks (Eugene, OR), David Gonzalez (NYC). Plus, thanks to solidarity strikers and hundreds of people who took action in support of the fast which won international publicity, including the Washington Post.
MindFreedom is pro-choice. Many members choose to take prescribed psychiatric drugs; many others do not. But we unite to challenge the way the psychiatric drug industry dominates the mental health system with its “chemical imbalance” model, squeezing out other alternatives. Al Galves is a psychologist and MindFreedom board member who is on the MindFreedom Scientific Panel that debunks psychiatric drug company myths.
MindFreedom Exposes Psychiatric Industry Lies
by Al Galves, PhD
With the hunger strike, MindFreedom threw down the gauntlet to biopsychiatry. The hunger strikers said, “Please provide us with scientific evidence that mental disorders are biologically based brain diseases. Prove that psychotropic drugs correct chemical imbalances in the brain. We are not going to eat solid food until we get evidence that meets the conventional standards of scientific truth.”
After a back and forth exchange of letters between the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the MindFreedom Scientific Panel, the APA issued a news release to defend themselves from the hunger strikers. The APA was forced to admit, “[B]rain science has not advanced to the point where scientists or clinicians can point to readily discernible pathologic lesions or genetic abnormalities that in and of themselves serve as reliable or predictive biomarkers of a given mental disorder or mental disorders as a group.”
MindFreedom has moved on to challenging psychiatric drug corporations who fund the APA. Television viewers in the USA regularly hear Pfizer, Inc. claim that their psychiatric drug Zoloft “helps correct a chemical imbalance in the brain.”
Earlier this year MindFreedom sent a letter to federal agencies charging that these claims by Pfizer, Inc. constituted false and misleading advertising. Cathryn Clary, MD, a Pfizer Vice President, replied to MindFreedom on behalf of Pfizer, Inc. This led to a back-and-forth written debate between Pfizer, Inc. and MindFreedom, for a total of five letters.
The upshot of this debate is that mainstream psychiatry has been unable to answer a simple request from MindFreedom for scientific evidence to back up their claims that mental disorders are biologically based brain disorders and that psychotropic drugs are suitable treatment for them.
Photo: Much thanks to the founders of the MindFreedom Scientific Panel during the hunger strike: Fred Baughman, MD (CA), Peter Breggin, MD (NY), Mary Boyle, PhD (United Kingdom), David Cohen, PhD (FL), Ty Colbert (CA), Pat Deegan, PhD (MA), Thomas Greening, PhD (CA), Albert Galves, PhD (NM), David Jacobs, PhD (CA), Jay Joseph, PhD (CA), Jonathan Leo, PhD (CA), Bruce Levine, PhD (OH), Loren Mosher, MD (CA), Stuart Shipko, MD (CA).
Readers who want to read the full text of the letters from the APA and Pfizer and the responses from MindFreedom’s Scientific Panel can find them by going to .
MindFreedom provides a significant amount of public education, networking and action alerts. Far more than 90 percent of that communciation is using the Internet. Please regularly check out MindFreedom’s revised web site: www.MindFreedom.org
And while you’re on the web check out the all-new Mad Market web site. Webmaster Brian Schaeffer has worked hard to allow the Mad Market to frequently offer discounts, sales, gifts and products that are one-of-a-kind, to benefit MindFreedom’s human rights work. Visit often: www.MadMarket.org
MindFreedom Shield Begins
by Krista Erickson, MindFreedom board member
When MindFreedom is notified that any person is subjected to coerced or forced psychiatric treatment, we do what we can to improve or end the situation. In order to better utilize our limited resources, MindFreedom is collaborating with sponsor group The Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (PsychRights) to initiate a program called the MindFreedom Shield. “Through this mechanism people saddled with psychiatric labels can unite and offer effective resistance to psychiatric abuses,” explained Jim Gottstein, director of PsychRights.
If someone who has registered for MindFreedom Shield is verifiably found to be subjected to coerced or forced psychiatric treatment, an alert will be sent to the MindFreedom Solidarity Network. Everyone in the MindFreedom Solidarity Network is expected to do something in support of the person for whom an alert has been issued. While we can’t guarantee the results of issuing alerts, it has been our experience — including recently using this very method to help free a person from a Canadian psychiatric facility — that it can improve or end situations of forced psychiatric treatment.
Any current member of MindFreedom can register at MindFreedom Shield free. No separate fee, apart from the standard membership dues in MindFreedom, is required to register for MindFreedom Shield. To register, please complete and mail in a MindFreedom Shield Registration Form, available online at www.mindfreedom.intenex.net/shield. If you cannot access the online form, please notify the office and we will be glad to assist you with the form.
Last Modified 4/15/2005