Citizens Commission on Human Rights

Australian National Office

CCHR Calls For Full Transparency and Accountability in the Budget Call for $3.5 Billion for Mental Health

Many Australian 50 dollar notesCitizens Committee on Human Rights (CCHR) Australia have called for full accountability of government funding as calls for increased mental health funding remains a hot political issue in the soon to be released Federal budget.

Included in the $3.5 billion being requested is $1 billion for the “early intervention” mental health programs, with $40 million for research of “early psychosis”. Detailed in the report, Connecting, Contributing: a blueprint to transform mental health and social participation in Australia released by the Independent Mental Health Reform Group last month, a startling admission is made that concerned psychiatrists and health authorities cannot produce any outcome reports for the $5.5 billion already spent annually from past mental health budgets.

The international controversy about Australia’s “early intervention” mental health program is central to this issue of transparency and accountability. The issue has raged for the past year and centres upon the invented disorder “Psychosis Risk Syndrome”, also known as “attenuated psychotic symptoms syndrome”, which peer psychiatrists argue not only has no merit but also is very dangerous. Australia is now the leader in PRS.

Prof. Patrick McGorry pioneered the Early Psychosis Intervention Centres (EPPIC) model which the Australia government has adopted. He is also the self-proclaimed “father of PRS”, which has caused international criticism.

“Early intervention” is the program behind the demands for more taxpayer dollars under the new budget. Yet it is lacking evidence of effective results based on science rather than subjective rating scales being touted.

The chair and editor of psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders IV, Prof. Allen Frances, condemned PRS in the Psychiatric Times as “most ill-conceived and potentially harmful.”1 He also points out that it has a potential false positive rate of between 70 and 90 percent. “This means that as many as an astounding nine in ten individuals identified as ‘risk syndrome’ would not really be at risk for developing psychosis,” he said. In December he wrote that PRS creates a mental illness where there previously was none and with an emphasis on “early intervention,” this would cause a “wholesale imperial medicalisation of normality” and “a bonanza for the pharmaceutical industry,” for which patients would pay the “high price [of] adverse effects, dollars, and stigma.”2

In a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. Richard Warner wrote that early intervention for psychosis policy used in Australia has been given a “high priority.” The enthusiasm, however, is not backed by satisfactory research evidence.”3

This blueprint for mental health reform claims that it can reduce “the potential impact of mental illness through evidence-based early intervention programs.” But Prof. Frances warns of the role PRS plays in the early intervention strategy: “everything that could possibly be wrong was wrong.” It is “dangerous and stigmatising,” and the antipsychotics prescribed to treat it “have no proven efficacy in preventing psychosis, but most definitely have terrible side effects-especially enormous weight gain and its life threatening complications.”

CCHR Executive Director Ms Shelley Wilkins states: “The outcome we have seen from the “early intervention” model today is the frightening trend of drugging more and more Australians with psychoactive drugs that can cause the very symptoms they are supposed to treat: depression, psychosis, hallucinations, anxiety, hostility, and suicide. Add to that the physical disabilities they cause such as diabetes, heart irregularities and stroke and these drug treatments are escalating healthcare costs.”

There has been a 645% increased expenditure on psychiatric drugs since 1993, which is three and a half times the growth rate of overall PBS expenditure. This includes antipsychotic drug costs increasing an incredible 3,701%.

CCHR is campaigning for greater transparency and accountability says Ms Wilkins. “Where are the results from the money already spent on mental health? Surely, this money should be causing decreasing mental illness rates rather than the incessant message we hear that it is a “crisis situation” requiring specialised services, and a budget that likely exceeds in ratio any other country?

“We need efficacy studies and reports that are free of pharmaceutical-industry influence/conflict of interest. We are requesting a policy be implemented that members of any committees advising the government must fully and publicly disclose all financial ties to any pharmaceutical company, psychiatric treatment device maker and/or mental health groups from which they receive consultant or other fees,” says Ms Wilkins.

For further information contact: Shelley Wilkins on (02) 99649844

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.

  1. Allen Frances, MD, “DSM5 and ‘Psychosis Risk Syndrome:’ Not Ready For Prime Time,” Psychiatric Times, 10 Mar. 2010
  2. Gary Greenberg, “Inside the Battle to Define Mental Illness,” Wired Magazine, Dec. 27, 2011.
  3. Dr. Richard Warner, “Problems with early and very early intervention in psychosis,” The British Journal of Psychiatry (2005) 187: s104-s107