A traveling exhibit sponsored primarily by the Church of Scientology is aiming to show that psychiatry is responsible for worldwide suffering.
"Psychiatry: An Industry of Death" debuted Monday at the Marquette Centre on Fountain Street just north of Broadway in Cape Girardeau across from Marquette Tower. The traveling exhibit will be open today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and return Saturday through Wednesday.
In between, organizers will move the show, now on a national tour, to the rotunda in the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City.
The exhibit is interactive and contains graphic films suggesting that psychiatry has been used to enslave blacks, that modern psychiatry was invented by Nazis to help create a master race and that today's practitioners have drugged U.S. teens into zombies.
"People have not been made aware of the problems of abuse and poor care going on in the mental health industry," said Jeff Griffin, executive director for the Citizen Commission on Human Rights. "We want people to recognize that there is a need to clean up and reform the industry."
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights, founded by the Church of Scientology but now an independent organization, charges that 10 million children take prescription drugs and 2.3 million children abuse them.
"When you take the symptoms that they're talking about and you look at them one by one, you find you're dealing with a normal child. And they want to put them in a chemical straitjacket," Griffin said.
Judging by the reaction of one local family who walked through the exhibit, it had its intended impact.
"I think it's terrible. I think there is a lot of good information in there and I learned a lot," said Lashanda Twiggs, 26, of Cape Girardeau. "Putting kids on medications and then they end up killing themselves or others. It's just awful."
Twiggs brought her 2-year-old son, Davontez Wiseman, along and said the exhibit made her even more skeptical of any medication for the toddler.
"I wouldn't let him take any medicine. I don't care how hyperactive they say he is," she said.
But Griffin does not believe his organization is using scare tactics.
"It's the truth regardless of how brutal or how startling it might be," he said.
First unveiled in 2005, the exhibit can trace its roots back to the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer who founded the Church of Scientology. Local organizers say there is no direct connection between the exhibit and the church.
"This is strictly CCHR. We're not proselytizers or anything like that," said Pat Barteau, one of two professed Scientologists from St. Louis who was at the exhibit Tuesday to answer questions.
Organizers had pamphlets on hand for those interested in becoming a members of CCHR and forms to report any instances of psychiatric abuse.
Calls for comment placed to three local psychiatrists and the Eastern Missouri Psychiatric Society were not returned.