Citizens Committee on Human Rights

The Mental Health Watchdog

Australian National Office

Urgent Call For Independent National Mental Health Investigation In Response To Victorian Abuses

woman and child looking at gravestone on graveyardWith a government ordered investigation in progress to address horrific conditions exposed in Victorian psychiatric hospitals, CCHR is calling for each state government to investigate conditions in their own psychiatric hospitals and for a federal investigation into deaths caused by psychotropic drugs. The latest figures from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) show there have been a staggering 629 deaths linked to antipsychotics, 15 of those for children under 19.

In September Victoria called an inquiry into their mental health system after it was revealed 975 people diagnosed as mentally ill, had died between 2006 and 2010. This included a man who died from a powerful combination of antipsychotic medications. These deaths are not isolated to Victoria and it is a national problem that needs to be cleaned up.

Figures from the TGA also reveal there have been another 286 deaths linked to antidepressants, 5 of those for children under 19 across Australia. As only between 1 and 10% of adverse drug reactions are reported the figure is expected to be much higher.

In addition to over drugging other alarming concerns in Victoria which contributed to the need for wide-spread inquiry included deaths from the use of restraints, electroshock being given without consent and unethical practices.

“We know such human rights violations are occurring in all states of Australia and the need to protect vulnerable people and ensure they have adequate care and respect is very important. Psychiatry should be held fully accountable for these deaths and practices with record spending of over $5.9 billion a year nationally,” Ms Wilkins stated.

Consider the following facts about your state which highlight the need for a full inquiry into your mental health system:

NSW: There have been a staggering 1,288 deaths between 2007/08 and 2009/10 in NSW.

  • In June it was exposed that patients have been anesthetised for more than 2 days to undergo court ordered electroshock. This is reminiscent of deep sleep treatment given at Chelmsford hospital in Sydney where patients were put into a drug induced coma and given electric shock. 49 people died and the practice is now banned.
  • Electroshock has increased by almost 30% in the past five years in NSW. Female patients under the age of 24 received almost 600 electroshocks, more than twice the rate in Victoria.
  • 211 electroshock treatments were given to people over the age of 65 in 2009/10, not including maintenance or continuation ECT.
  • The numbers of mechanical restraint used on patients is not collected by NSW Health.
  • N.S.W. is the ADHD capital of Australia, prescribing more ADHD drugs than any other state. NSW doctors prescribed ADHD drugs and the antidepressant Strattera for ADHD to more than 1,000 children under the age of 6 despite the fact they are not authorised by the Australian Government for any child under 6.
  • There are another 1,264 children under 6 prescribed antidepressants despite the fact that no antidepressant has been authorised for use in anyone under the age of 18 for major depression and they have warnings for suicidal behaviour.

QLD: In August it was reported that 2 girls aged 16 had hung themselves while on antidepressants that have been linked to suicide by the Australian Government.

  • Last month a coronial inquest revealed that a 27 year old died after he was forcefully restrained and injected with 2 doses of antipsychotics within 17 minutes when guidelines indicate there must be 2 hours between injections.
  • In 2008, indigenous youths were allegedly starved, stripped naked, manacled and forced to march naked around a courtyard, called animals and kept in seclusion for a week in Townsville’s mental health unit.
  • Justices of the Peace who write orders for the detention and assessment of people to a psychiatric institution against their will, were found to have ordered these assessments for more than 1,250 people when they were not justified over a 3 year period.
  • Qld has 402 children aged under 6 on antidepressants despite the fact that no antidepressant has been authorised by the Australian Government for use in anyone under the age of 18 for major depression. Antidepressants also have government warnings for suicidal behaviour.

W.A.: In June this year it was reported that more than 2,000 children under 17 were prescribed antidepressants, up 54 % on the previous year. This is despite the fact that no antidepressant has been authorised by the Australian Government for use in anyone under the age of 18 for major depression and they have warnings for suicidal behaviour.

  • Freedom of Information Documents reveal that deaths at Grayland’s hospital and have included: from jumping from a building, hanging themselves in a cupboard and were found hanging with a shower hose.
  • This month it was reported that an autopsy of a 27 year old patient who died at Graylands’ hospital found significant bruising to the neck of a man and that the death was “consistent with cardiac arrhythmia during restraint.”
  • In April it was reported that a patient was held in seclusion for 5 ½ days. This was not for the protection of the patient or anyone else but as a behavioural management tool.
  • It was revealed in 2009 that 40% of the patients at Graylands should not be in a psychiatric facility, yet it was reported earlier this year that many patients have spent months or even years in locked wards in psychiatric hospitals and one patient under 30 had spent every birthday and Christmas in a psychiatric hospital since the age of 10.

S.A.: During a heat wave in SA there were 4 fatalities for mental health patients on the antipsychotic clozapine. Deaths linked to clozapine Australia wide have increased from 282 in 2009 to 433 in 2011.

  • There were 2,139 electroshock “treatments” given in SA during 2010/ 2011. Of these 1,614 were given to females.
  • There are no laws banning the use of electroshock on children, the elderly and pregnant women. It can be given to children without the need for parental consent if a child is an involuntary patient.
  • The numbers of children aged 2-6 on antidepressants has increased in SA from 62 in 2007/08 to 90 in 2009/10 and this is despite the fact that no antidepressant has been authorised for use in anyone under the age of 18 for major depression and they have warnings for suicidal behaviour.

Tas.: 1,104 electroshock “treatments” were performed in 2010/11 in Tasmania including 30 of those on females over the age of 85. Only females under the age of 24 were given electroshock and men received 203 of the total 1,104 shocks.

  • In 2008 it was reported that Tasmania was the only state in Australia where 6 children aged 2 were on the antidepressant amitriptyline despite the fact that no antidepressant has been authorised for use in anyone under the age of 18 for major depression and they have warnings for suicidal behaviour. At the time there was grave concern from medical professionals who couldn’t explain why it was being given to 2 year olds. By 2010 the numbers of children under 6 on amitriptyline had grown to 51.

A.C.T.: In 2010/11 females in ACT received more than double the number of electroshock “treatments” that men received.

  • Between 2009 and 2010 there was a 39% increase in the numbers of ACT children prescribed antidepressants. This is despite the fact that no antidepressant has been authorised by the Australian Government for use in anyone under the age of 18 for major depression and they have warnings for suicidal behaviour.
  • There are now 4,282 people in ACT on antipsychotics known to cause diabetes, liver damage, hallucinations, heart problems and even death.

N.T.: There are currently 5,992 people on antidepressants in the NT. This includes 100 under children under the age of 16, despite the fact that no antidepressant has been authorised by the Australian Government for use in anyone under the age of 18 for major depression and they have warnings for suicidal behaviour.

  • An additional 1,341 people in the N.T. are on antipsychotics known to cause diabetes, liver damage, hallucinations, heart problems and even death.
  • There are 332 children under the age of 16 on ADHD drugs which are in the same category (Schedule 8 Drugs) as cocaine, morphine and opium. 13 of these children are aged 2-6.

Documentary: Dead Wrong

The DVD Dead Wrong: How Psychiatric Drugs Can Kill Your Child produced by award-winning documentary makers is about a family whose 17-year-old son Matthew Steubing was prescribed the SSRI antidepressant Lexapro for usual teenage angst. Just 8 weeks later—without any prior mental health problem—he committed suicide. A 2009 US Senate investigation into the manufacturer’s marketing of Lexapro revealed how $34.7 million was spent marketing to get psychiatrists and doctors to prescribe the drug known to cause suicidal thoughts. Warnings about antidepressants causing suicide came too late for Matthew as they are coming too late for many Australian children and mental health patients.

Matthew’s death sparked a mother’s search for the truth about antidepressants to discover the information that she and Matthew had been denied. Mrs. Steubing says: “We hope that by sharing Matthew’s story, other families will be spared the devastating heartbreak we live with every day.”

CCHR was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Professor of Psychiatry Dr Thomas Szasz to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights. CCHR was instrumental in obtaining the 1988-1990 Royal Commission Inquiry into Deep Sleep Treatment at NSW’s Chelmsford Hospital.

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