Citizens Commission on Human Rights International’s comprehensive museum on the history of psychiatry at its headquarters in Los Angeles continues to service healthcare students that tour the museum as part their curriculum. The self-guided tour includes 14 mini documentaries featuring interviews with more than 150 health care professionals, attorneys, professors, and human rights advocates. Through these interviews and rare historical and contemporary footage, the riveting documentary and museum artifacts are a definitive resource on historical and current psychiatric theories and practices for students and others. For those not living in Los Angeles, there is a virtual tour of the museum online that includes all the films.
Since the museum opened, hundreds of thousands of people have toured, including healthcare, nursing and psychology students from over a dozen schools and colleges for which the museum tour is part of their curriculum. It is a major resource for not only students but also everyone from filmmakers and writers to families who want to learn more about the risks of psychiatric treatments.
One director of nursing commented: “Both the students and instructors had an amazing, eye-opening time and they all raved about the experience at the museum. I appreciate your collaboration….”
Called “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death,” the museum answers questions about why there is so much controversy surrounding psychiatry and why thousands of treatment deaths substantiate the museum’s title.
A 2018 study of hospital inpatient suicides reported during 2014-2015, determined almost 74% occurred during psychiatric treatment. In a country where 1 in 5 Americans take psychotropic drugs, the combined overdose deaths from benzodiazepines and antidepressants were 17,887 in 2020. A Government Accountability Office report also “identified thousands of allegations of abuse, some of which resulted in death” at residential psychiatric-behavioral programs across the country.
CCHR’s work exposing abuses in for-profit psychiatric facilities and the “troubled teen” behavioral industry has identified scores of wrongful deaths in children. Seclusion rooms or restraints are used in children as young as 6. An investigation by the US Senate Committee on Finance found that at least 86 children died between 2005 and 2014 while in the custody of one of the largest for-profit foster care companies providing behavioral treatment.
Attorney Geoffrey Fieger referred to another for-profit psychiatric hospital chain as developing a “culture of fear and abuse.” This followed what Fieger called the “execution” of a 16-year-old African American teen for “the crime of throwing a sandwich” on the canteen floor in the facility. Seven staff members pinned the boy down in a restraint, “deprived him of oxygen and his brain suffered irreversible damage.” His “scream of ‘I can’t breathe’ was not enough to get the staff members to stop the excessive restraint,” said Fieger and he died two days later.
In another behavioral facility, a 14-year-old boy suffered “multiple traumas to his head causing concussions, lacerations that required stitches, hematomas [blood clots] and other injuries.” “It is disgusting when our most vulnerable children are placed in these facilities and then treated like animals,” attorney Tommy James said.
The “troubled teen” industry is big business. It receives “an estimated $23 billion dollars of annual public funds to purportedly treat the behavioral and psychological needs of vulnerable youth,” according to an article published by the American Bar Association. For all age groups in 2020, $280.5 billion was spent on treatment and services for behavioral/mental disorders. Yet conditions and outcomes are only worsening, CCHR says.
CCHR cites a professor psychiatry who recently wrote in Psychiatric Times that critics of psychiatry include “patients and family members, journalists, members of the academy, sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) directors, and even DSM [Diagnostic & Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders] task force chairs themselves have come down heavily against it on both general and specific grounds.”
The museum and documentaries exemplify why CCHR has committed 53-years to cleaning up the field of mental health. The watchdog has documented abuses that when exposed have led to nearly 200 legislative protections enacted worldwide. A United Nations Special Rapporteur described the necessity of these laws because without them, psychiatric practices would have “inhibited even more the rights of patients or would have given psychiatry the power to commit minority groups and individuals against their will.” The museum provides further evidence of this necessity.
CCHR was co-founded in 1969 by the late professor of psychiatry, Thomas Szasz who proudly stated: “I have never [involuntarily] committed anyone. I have never given electric shock. I have never, ever, given drugs to a mental patient.” It is a legacy that the mental health system today sorely needs to learn from and the museum documents why, if lives are to be saved.
The museum is free and is located at 6616 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90028. It is open Mon-Sat, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tours can be booked by calling the Museum Manager at (800) 869-2247 or (323) 467-4242.
 www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/collaborative-care-and-psychiatry/202108/is-the-right-time-stop-psychiatric-medication; nida.nih.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
 “Five Facts About the Troubled Teen Industry,” American Bar Association, 22 Oct. 2021, www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/committees/childrens-rights/practice/2021/5-facts-about-the-troubled-teen-industry/
 “The Kids Are Not Alright: How Private Equity Profits Off of Behavioral Health Services for Vulnerable and At-Risk Youth,” Private Equity Stakeholder Project, 17 Feb. 2022, pestakeholder.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/PESP_Youth_BH_Report_2022.pdf
 “Death of black teenager in US juvenile facility sparks outrage,” Gidi Point, 9 July 2020, www.gidipoint.com/death-of-black-teenager-in-us-juvenile-facility-sparks-outrage/
 www.cchrint.org/2021/01/18/new-year-starts-with-continuing-child-abuse-and-deaths-in-for-profit-psychiatric-facilities/, citing: Chelsea Retherford, “Lawsuit claims abuse at Courtland Sequel youth facility,” The Moulton Advertiser, 7 Jan 2021, www.moultonadvertiser.com/news/article_8affb2d2-5035-11eb-a4d8-f3037059f4ae.html
 Op. cit., American Bar Association, 22 Oct. 2021
 “Increasing Access to Behavioral Health Care Advances Value for Patients, Providers and Communities,” Trendwatch, American Hospitals Association, May 2019, p. 4, www.aha.org/system/files/media/file/2019/05/aha-trendwatch-behavioral-health-2019.pdf
 Philip Hickey, “Responding to Dr. Moorhead’s Second Attack on Anti-Psychiatry,” Behaviorism and Mental Health, 14 Apr. 2022, www.behaviorismandmentalhealth.com/2022/04/14/responding-to-dr-moreheads-second-attack-on-anti-psychiatry/
 Erica Daes, Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Commission, 1986
 www.cchrint.org/2020/09/01/cchr-honors-co-founder-thomas-szaszs-legacy-against-coercive-psychiatry/ citing: articles.latimes.com/print/2012/sep/17/local/la-me-thomas-szasz-20120917-1
Citizens Commission on Human Rights International
Citizens Commission on Human Rights International
6616 Sunset Boulevard