Globalization now extending to ‘mental health’
The trend towards greater coercion
by psychiatry has been gaining momentum over the past few years, with many
jurisdictions in the United States, Canada and elsewhere enacting laws
providing for forced outpatient drugging and the easing of guidelines for
involuntary committal to institutions.
A more recent, and extremely chilling development
in this trend is the apparent involvement of the World Bank in the development
of a global template for ‘mental health service’ delivery.
The body actually developing this ‘template’ is
the International Consortium for Mental Health Policy and Services, an
initiative which is supported by the Global Forum for Health Research,
and the Governments of Australia, United Kingdom and The United States
of America - and partially funded by the World Bank.
The chair of International Consortium for Mental
Health Policy and Services is Harvey Whiteford, the former mental health
specialist at the World Bank. The current mental health specialist at the
World Bank, Florence Baingana, is the vice chair of International Consortium
for Mental Health Policy and Services.
Given the overwhelming influence these global trade
bodies are gaining over public policy through the agreements they secretly
negotiate (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, the General
Agreement on Trade in Services, and the pending Free Trade Area of the
Americas) this is an alarming development that could see the
spread of western-style, coercive psychiatric practices to the furthest
reaches of the world. Cultural annihilation of entire societies, the pathologizing
of all forms of political dissent and a global pandemic of disabling neurological
disorders resulting from the common psychiatric ‘treatments’ are among
the possible outcomes of any such approach.
Agreements of this kind give private corporate interests
tremendous influence over public policy matters, even giving big business
the power to successfully sue governments for attempting to enforce legal
standards such as those protecting the environment or workers’ rights.
It is very easy to envision this kind of influence
spreading to all facets of health care delivery owing to the enormous profit
potential involved, and especially the ‘mental health’ industry due to
the role it already plays in social control.
A potential for hope in this situation lies
in the powerful anti-globalization movement which has evolved over the
past few years, and which has succeeded repeatedly in seriously disrupting
proceedings of these international trade bodies. This was most recently
seen in the extraordinary resistance mounted to the Summit of the Americas
meeting in Quebec City last month.
It is necessary to start bringing psychiatric
survivors together with all facets of the activist community in order to
combat these widespread human rights abuses. The youthful, dynamic movement
against corporate globalization may well prove to be an invaluable ally
in this struggle.
(Note: The World Bank has cancelled a planned conference in Barcelona,
Spain that it had scheduled for June, owing to the ‘threat of demonstrations.’)
technical problems have resulted in a four-month gap between issues.
to this issue I am hoping to put out a special
Pride Week edition in
late June or early July.
Use of forced ECT continues -
but so does the resistance!
A number of recent incidents of forced electroshock
‘treatment’ in the United States highlight just how far the psychiatric
industry is prepared to go in order to force its destructive interventions
upon unwilling individuals.
66-year old Kathleen Garrett* was a patient
in DesPeres Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri in August 2000 when she was
subjected to electroconvulsive ‘therapy’ against her clearly stated wishes.
By the time public attention had been drawn to her situation she had already
been shocked twice, and the hospital was planning a series of ten to twelve
more of these damaging ‘treatments.’
In a campaign launched by Support Coalition International
at the initiative of antishock activist Juli Lawrence, the hospital was
flooded with outraged messages from members of the public. As a result
of this concerted public action, the forced ECT order was recinded and
Kathleen was subsequently discharged from the hospital. (In an apparent
act of sheer petulance, the hospital ‘zapped’ her again immediately before
Two ongoing cases at the Pilgrim State Psychiatric
Hospital in Brentwood, NY (on Long Island) have also been the focus of
a great deal of public and media attention.
Twenty-five year old Adam Szyszko was involuntarily
committed to this institution last year after being diagnosed with ‘schizophrenia.’
The hospital opted to pursue a course of electroshock when it turned out
that Adam was severely allergic to the group of drugs commonly utilized
when this ‘diagnosis’ is made.
In NY State informed consent is required for
ECT, but due to Adam having been declared incompetent to make treatment
decisions for himself, the hospital was in a position to seek consent from
a third party such as a spouse, parent or other family member - or through
a court order. Since Adam’s family was opposed to the treatments, the institution
decided to go the judicial route. After a hearing in November 2000, the
State Supreme Court authorized a course of up to twenty shocks.
The family subsequently obtained a stay of the court
order but not before Adam had already been shocked twice.
Forty-nine year old Paul Henri Thomas had been subjected
to more than sixty forced electroshocks during a two-year incarceration
at Pilgrim. On April 20 this year, the court authorized up to 40 more treatments.
The order was initially postponed until April 25,
and subsequent to that date a full stay of the order was issued. The appeals
for both Adam Szyszko and Paul Henri Thomas will be heard on June 26, 2001
- which is, coincidentally, the United Nations International Day
for the Support of Victims of Torture.
A human rights activist in his native Haiti,
Paul Henri Thomas has been outspoken against this form of legal medical
abuse and the false ‘diagnoses’ which are wielded as justification for
its use - a political position which in itself has resulted in him being
labeled ‘delusional’ and thus supposedly in need of this brain-busting
These cases of forced electroshock have galvanized
public opinion around an issue which has previously drawn little attention.
(many people actually believed that electroshock ‘therapy’ was abolished
years ago!) In addition to the pending appeals of Paul and Adam’s cases,
the New York State Assembly convened an inquiry into the involuntary use
of ECT on May 18. A protest in NYC organized by talk show host Dr. Gary
Null drew more than 430 people on May 21. Members of the NY State Assembly
and administration of Pilgrim State Hospital have been deluged with letters
from psychiatric survivors and human rights advocates from around the world.
* More than 70 per cent of the victims of ECT are women,
with the fastest-growing group being women over the age of sixty-five.
Resources in Toronto
People Against Coercive Treatment
P: 760-2795 F: 368-5984
* * *
Queen Street Patient’s Council
Room 2059, 1001 Queen St. W.
Toronto, Ontario M6J 1H4
P: 535-8501x2018 F: 325-9749
* * *
No Force! Coalition
(c/o Queen Street Patient’s Council)
HUMAN RIGHTS ALERT
319 Dundas St. E. #408
Toronto, Ontario M5A 2A2
Fax: (416) 368-5984
(Contributions may be
edited for space)