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Mental Health Awareness Month: Watchdog Blasts Ongoing Psychiatric Racism

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Rev. Fred Shaw, NY Exhibit Opening
CCHR and its Task Force Against Racism, headed by NAACP chapter president, Rev. Fred Shaw, lash out against coercive psychiatric practices that African Americans are subjected to.

LOS ANGELES - s4story -- The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) International and its Task Force Against Racism and Modern-Day Eugenics warns that psychiatric racism is still rife in mental health systems, despite an American Psychiatric Association (APA) apology in 2021 for psychiatry's "role in perpetrating structural racism" and a "history of actions…that hurt Black, Indigenous, and People of Color" (BIPOC). APA admitted that psychiatrists had subjected persons of African American descent and indigenous people to "abusive treatment, experimentation, victimization in the name of 'scientific evidence,' along with racialized theories that attempted to confirm their [mental/intellectual] deficit status."[1]

Rev. Fred Shaw, president of the Inglewood-South Bay chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and co-founder of the CCHR Task Force, criticized the APA's choice of hosting its annual meeting in New York during Mental Health Awareness Month. He highlighted the organization's failure to condemn ongoing coercive psychiatric practices against people of color. Citing compelling studies, he shed light on the distressing reality that African Americans are disproportionately forced into treatment or hospitalization compared to whites.[2]

Shaw spoke at the opening in New York of an exhibit, "Psychiatry: An Industry of Death" detailing the history of harm and human rights abuses in the mental health field. He spoke about the damage people experience from psychiatric drugs and ECT, stressing the need to be fully informed of their risks. "A trap wouldn't be a trap if you could see it coming," he said. "People need to know the truth about the risks of psychiatric drugs, electroshock, and psychiatric racism."

Marion "Tiny" Frampton, a former gang member in The Black Spades and now founder of TBS New Directions, a youth mentoring program offering alternatives to youth gang involvement, addressed the exhibit opening, stating: "I'm a former gang member in the '70s. Most of my comrades were placed in mental institutions and were given all kinds of drugs and were even given shock therapy (ECT)."

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The Task Force, comprised of over 100 independent representatives of groups and businesses, including attorneys and educators in the African American community, has an educational website detailing psychiatry's history of stigmatizing minorities—from labeling runaway slaves and civil rights protesters as mentally ill and sterilizing people of color to segregating children in special education classes and in the foster-child-welfare system today, where they are drugged.[3]

Shaw emphasizes the need to ban electroshock and eliminate coercive psychiatric practices in alignment with the World Health Organization and United Nations recommendations to end involuntary detainment and forced treatment in psychiatric hospitals and the community. He points to the deaths of two African American boys, 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick in 2020, and 7-year-old Ja'Ceon Terry in 2022, who were restrained in psychiatric facilities in Michigan and Kentucky. In both cases, coroners ruled their deaths as homicide. Three nursing staff involved in restraining Cornelius were subsequently charged, pleading no contest, and were sentenced to probation, not jail.[4]

African Americans have been over-represented in restraint-related deaths.[5] New York's Kendra's Law enforces coercive practices through an Assertive Community Treatment program, described as "one of the most coercive and intrusive psychiatric programs coordinated by New York State," according to Lauren Tenney, Ph.D.[6] "In addition to involuntary outpatient commitment being an assault on and targeting people who are living in or near poverty, the statistics demonstrate racial disparities—gross over-representation of people who are African American—in the application of involuntary outpatient commitment." Further, "The fact that the United States of America has a long and deeply disturbing history of enacting systems of slavery begs the question of the legitimacy of court-ordered psychiatry."

The WHO/UN Guideline emphasizes that "The use of any coercive measure in all mental health services is prohibited. This includes medical and non-medical interventions without free and informed consent; the use of isolation rooms and chemical and physical restraints," including in the community.[7]

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The "Report on forced psychiatry and psychiatric abuse against African Americans," jointly prepared by eight disability rights groups, condemns the violence inflicted on African Americans by public mental health systems. "Forced medication in particular is an act of disability-based violence that can amount to ill-treatment or torture, as is also the suffering inflicted by indefinite detention in the mental health system." Additionally, "The mental health system as a system of social control is intricately linked to racism…. The United States should prohibit mental health commitment and forced treatment, so as to end the social control function that has been given to the mental health system, which has a discriminatory impact on people of color."[8]

Shaw's Task Force members agree and are working towards the elimination of coercive mental health practices and a ban on ECT.

About CCHR: CCHR was founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and the late Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry, State University of New York Upstate Medical University. It has helped achieve over 190 laws that protect patients from abuse in the mental health system.

Sources:

[1] www.cchrint.org/2021/01/26/american-psychiatric-associations-apology-for-harming-african-americans-rejected/; www.medscape.com/viewarticle/944352?src=wnl_edit_tpal&uac=345404PY&impID=3143084&faf=1#vp_1; www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-apology-for-its-support-of-structural-racism

[2] theappeal.org/nyc-mayor-eric-adams-involuntary-commitment/

[3] www.cchrtaskforce.org/

[4] www.cchrtaskforce.org/post/task-force-launched-to-combat-institutional-racism-in-psychiatric-industry; www.cchrint.org/2023/10/04/racism-task-force-warns-coercive-psychiatric-practices/

[5] www.equipforequality.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/National-Review-of-Restraint-Related-Deaths-of-Adults-and-Children-with-Disabilities-The-Lethal-Consequences-of-Restraint.pdf

[6] www.madinamerica.com/2019/07/kendras-law-racist-classist-involuntary/ citing "New York State Assisted Outpatient Treatment Program Evaluation," Duke University, 30 June 2009

[7] World Health Organization, OHCHR, "Guidance on Mental Health, Human Rights and Legislation," 9 Oct. 2023, iris.who.int/bitstream/handle/10665/373126/9789240080737-eng.pdf?sequence=1, p. 73

[8] www.cchrint.org/2022/07/11/end-coercive-psychiatric-practices-against-african-americans/; psychrights.org/countries/UN/140714RMHL_MOMS_CERDreportUS.pdf

Contact
Amber Rauscher
***@cchr.org


Source: Citizens Commission on Human Rights

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