Citizens Commission on Human Rights

The Mental Health Watchdog

Australian National Office

Psychiatric Abuse: To The Age

Psychiatric abuse is rife in Australia, but psychiatrists like Patrick McGorry and Ian Hickie are trying to silence their critics.

10 June 2021

Mr. Ben Schneiders
The Age

Re: Citizens Commission on Human Rights

Dear Mr. Schneiders,

I am the Executive Director of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights Australia. CCHR is a mental health watchdog organisation established by the Church of Scientology in 1969, along with the late Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus Thomas Szasz. Internationally, CCHR has helped to enact more than 150 laws protecting individuals from abusive and coercive mental health practices since it was formed. CCHR is dedicated to eradicating psychiatric abuse and to ensuring patient protections against mistreatment. www.cchrint.org, www.cchr.org.au

I was advised of your query regarding Patrick McGorry and Ian Hickie. Your questions should have been directed to CCHR. The entire premise of your inquiry is misguided: CCHR has been outspoken and straightforward in its activities to reform barbaric and inhumane practices in the field of mental health and to expose conflicts of interest and false information entered into the public discourse on the subject. It has been well known for years that we have exposed conflicts of interest and false and/or unscientific information in the field of mental health, including the activities of professors McGorry and Hickie. Our protests are public and prominent and any “pamphlets” we distribute are factual and neither defamatory nor hidden. It is apparent that McGorry and Hickie are seeking to deflect growing outrage and very serious questions about their “work” by claiming it is just one group “complaining”—CCHR.* That is provably false. We are one voice among a chorus calling for mental health reform and an end to abusive practices.

CCHR Australia is a not-for-profit organisation, funded through public donations and contributions from its affiliate, CCHR International. Academics who speak out on mental health abuse do so because the issue is one that concerns our nation and the wellbeing of future generations.

                       

You apparently have failed to conduct any investigation into the long history of mental health brutalities, torture and worse inflicted on individuals in Australia and around the world by abusive psychiatric practices. CCHR has worked to protect the security, safety and human rights of all citizens and has endeavoured to restore rights to those victimised by these abuses for decades:

  • In the 1980s, CCHR spearheaded a campaign to expose and ban deep sleep therapy (DST) at Chelmsford Private Psychiatric Hospital in Sydney, Australia. The “treatment” involved knocking the patient unconscious for two to three weeks with a cocktail of psychiatric drugs and electroshocking them, sometimes twice daily, often without their consent or knowledge. Forty-eight people were killed. CCHR’s work in exposing these outrageous abuses helped lead a two-year Royal Commission, established in 1988, that investigated the practice and resulted in a ban of DST under the Mental Health Act. It is now a criminal offence for psychiatrists to administer DST in 4 states and territories in Australia.
  • CCHR was instrumental in exposing horrific psychiatric child abuse occurring at Lake Alice Hospital in the 1970s. From 1972 to 1977, over 300 children were subjected to prolonged torture, including painful drug injections, beatings, sexual abuse, and electroshock throughout their body and to their genitalia. One child described the electroshock as “the worst pain that you can ever feel.”

    The Citizens Commission on Human Rights toured Lake Alice and made its findings public in an official report. CCHR pursued the matter for years, demanding reform. The shock ward was shut down, but CCHR continued to demand compensation for the children tortured. In 2013, the United Nations issued a 50-page report categorizing such psychiatric treatment as torture and demanding oversight.

    Thanks to CCHR, victims of psychiatric abuse will have a voice in a New Zealand Royal Commission hearing on Lake Alice on June 14. Authorities have expressed gratitude for CCHR’s work to expose the horrors and abuse.

  • In Western Australia in 2012, a draft Mental Health Bill proposed to allow children of any age to be able to consent to sterilisation if a psychiatrist determined they had the “capacity to consent.” No further consent would have been needed from anyone, including parents. The bill also proposed to allow children age 12 to be able to consent to electroshock and psychosurgery without parental consent. CCHR launched an education campaign to inform parents and the general public, including placing ads in newspapers and bulk mailings. As a result, there was worldwide condemnation of the bill, with over 1,000 submissions to the WA Mental Health Commission.

    Not only was the proposal to allow children to consent to sterilisation dropped, but sterilisation was completely removed from the Mental Health Act. The age at which a child could consent to electroshock and psychosurgery was lifted to over 14 years of age. CCHR continued to educate the public and the psychosurgery ban was lifted to 16 years. The new act with these changes was implemented on 30 November 2015. These improvements to the legislation were achieved thanks to more than a decade of work by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights and like-minded groups and people.

  • In 2016, as a result of years of work by CCHR and like-minded professionals and members of the public, the type of psychosurgery involving cutting and burning the brain was banned by the Queensland Parliament for all ages. Psychosurgery can cause memory loss, irreversible brain damage, bleeding in the brain and postoperative death.

For CCHR’s work to raise awareness of the need to protect patient rights, see documentaries at www.cchr.org/documentaries.

You speak of “social harm.” This is precisely what CCHR works to correct, driving our exposure of psychiatric abuse—a cause that has global support. International bodies such as the United Nations similarly support this campaign for the social good:

  • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report in 2018 on mental health and human rights, calling for member states, including Australia, to repeal psychiatric practices such as:

    “Coercion and forced interventions, including involuntary hospitalization and institutionalization, the use of restraints, psychosurgery, forced medication, and other forced measures.” … “States should reframe and recognize these practices as constituting torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…” https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/MentalHealth/A_HRC_39_36_EN.pdf

  • UN Special Rapporteur and psychiatrist Dainius Pūras has called for an end to what he describes as “decades of neglect, abuse and violence” in the psychiatric industry. In an interview this past week, Pūras pointed out:

    “The most worrying feature of psychiatry is that the leadership, under influence of hard-liners, tends to label those experts who blow the whistle and critically address the status quo as anti-psychiatrists… if influential psychiatrists continue to repeat that values are not a priority in mental healthcare, we should not be surprised that global mental and global psychiatry is facing a crisis.” https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21689

  • Even the World Psychiatric Association in 2020 condemned the same coercive psychiatric practices CCHR has exposed, including detention, treatment without consent, seclusion and restraint.

                       

Psychiatrists including Prof. Patrick McGorry and Prof. Ian Hickie have betrayed medicine, governments, professionals and the public.* CCHR makes no apology for exposing the facts related to their “work.” Science involves observation, collection of data and creation of theories that can be proven to be facts in replicable studies. Their “diagnosis” and “treatments” remain unproven.

Prof. McGorry champions “emerging mental illness,” or “at-risk,” claiming that it is possible to predict future mental illness by the use of a checklist of arbitrary questions. How unscientific is this? A publication describing McGorry’s mental health model reveals that a staggering 82% to 90% of those deemed “at-risk” for psychosis by the McGorry model will in fact not go on to develop psychosis within a year of “diagnosis.”1

As reported in The Age, Patrick McGorry aborted a controversial antipsychotic drug trial on children in 2011 amid an uproar from Australian and international experts who lodged formal complaints about its harm. McGorry advocated the drugging of youth to “prevent” psychosis with anti-psychotic drugs prescribed for adults that list psychosis itself as a side effect.2 Both Prof. McGorry and Prof. Hickie have a history of receiving funding from pharmaceutical companies.

The Age newspaper has itself exposed the brutality of electroshock (ECT) in an article by Aisha Dow titled, “Grandfather forced to undergo ECT before ‘preventable death.’”3 The article covered how Victorian grandfather, Gerard Helliar, was administered over 200 electroshock “treatments.” In 2018, Victorian coroner Mr. White said there was no evidence that the involuntary ECT Mr. Helliar endured could have provided him with any relief, and ECT instead imposed further pain, discomfort, stress and a sense of hopelessness. Mr. Helliar’s life support was turned off after he attempted suicide in a hospital’s acute inpatient mental health unit. He had refused ECT and told his family and doctors that he hated the treatment.

SUMMARY

Internationally CCHR has been applauded by the United Nations, legislatures at state and federal levels around the globe, academics and the public at large for its unflinching dedication in support of those harmed by barbaric and unproven “treatments.” In the face of this you have the audacity to ask if “it can negatively influence people who need help by reducing confidence in medical research and treatment.”

CCHR has exposed and eradicated such inhumane treatments as DST and the drugging of innocent children, actions that medical research and government boards have clearly found to be destructive. You should be ashamed to be promoting those complaining of having been exposed because they engage in a scientifically unproven and profit motivated agenda.

Now that you are a bit more informed on the tragic “results” of barbaric mistreatment of patients, I trust The Age will accurately report on your interview subjects and the programs they advocate.

Sincerely,

Shelley Wilkins
Executive Director

Download sample pamphlets here


  1. Evidence Summary: Identification of young people at risk of developing psychosis, accessed 23 March 2021, p.4
  2. Jill Stark, “McGorry aborts teen drug trial,” Sydney Morning Herald, 21 August 2011.https://www.smh.com.au/healthcare/mcgorry-aborts-teen-drug-trial-20110820-1j3k1.html
  3. Aisha Dow, “Grandfather forced to undergo ECT before ‘preventable death.’” The Age, 19 April 2018. https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/grandfather-forced-to-undergo-ect-before-preventable-death-20180418-p4zacy.html

* Daniel Williams, Drugs Before Diagnosis? TIME, 18 June 2006; Gordon Parker, “Is depression overdiagnosed? Yes,” British Medical Journal, v335 (7615), 18 August 2007; Sue Dunlevy, “US expert slams Patrick McGorry’s psychosis model,” The Australian, 14 June 2011; “Review finds limited evidence for early intervention in psychosis,” The Conversation, 30 June 2011; Jill Stark, “McGorry accused of a conflict of interest,” Sydney Morning Herald, 7 August 2011; “Neurapro-Q Study: Objection to trial on ethical and methodological grounds,” Complaint by 13 international and overseas experts on a Prof. McGorry antipsychotic trial, 20 August 2011; David Brill, “New Antidepressant knocked back again,” Australian Doctor, 30 April 2012; Rachel Worsley, “New book savages Aussie psychiatrists,” Psychiatry update, 2 October 2015; Peter Gotzsche, Deadly Psychiatry and Organised Denial, September 2015; Sue Dunlevy, “Older Australian’s had suicidal thoughts and depression in controversial prevention trial,” Daily Telegraph, 5 September 2017; Jon Sedarati, “Psychiatrist: Mental Health is Broken,” 3 December 2020; Submissions to Australian Government Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health,” Submission Numbers: C6: 41, 139, 263, 286. 435, 379, 388.
* Re: No laboratory findings for schizophrenia, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-IV-TR, American Psychiatric Association, p.305 and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5, p.101; Richard Baker, “Mental health takes industry pills,” The Age, 8 August 2006; Charlotte Glennie, “Prozac prescription pits parent against patient,” The World Today, ABC, 15 September 2009; “NHMRC Program Funding Application for Support Commencing January 2009,” (Emerging Mental Disorders in Young People: Using Clinical Staging for Prediction, Prevention and Early Intervention), p.214; Julie-Anne Davies, “GP jaunts ‘boosted’ drug sales,” The Australian, 10 July 2010; SPHERE website, home page, section on booking training through Pfizer; SPHERE website, GP training Enrolment Form 2003; Lifeblood website, “Medical Education,” 2010; Sue Dunlevy, “US expert slams Patrick McGorry’s psychosis model,” The Australian, 14 June 2011; FOI 231-1011, 4 documents, Department of Health Freedom of Information Disclosure Log 2011-12, entry on Department of Health website dated 23 September 2011; Jill Stark, “Youth mental health team too free with drugs: audit,” The Age, 8 July 2012; Conflicts declaration in Ian Hickie’s, “Is depression over diagnosed? No,” British Medical Journal, 18 August 2007; “National Mental Health Commission Register of Interests,” 6 February 2013; “What Really Goes on at Headspace,” Honi Soit, 12 May 2015; Sue Dunlevy, “Older Australian’s had suicidal thoughts and depression in controversial prevention trial,” Daily Telegraph, 5 September 2017; Beyond Ageing Project, “Participant Information Sheet,” Brain and Mind Research Institute, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, May 2015; Phoebe Loomes, “Headspace App overcharges, stresses out its vulnerable users,” THE BRAG, 5 July 2018; Conflicts of Interest Disclosures contained in Patrick D. McGorry’s, “Is early intervention in the major psychiatric disorders justified? Yes,” British Medical Journal, 4 August 2008 and Patrick D. McGorry’s, “Early intervention in psychosis,” The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, May 2015;  Comments in: “MBS mental health review: more of the same,” MJA Insight, 25 February 2019.