Organization campaigns against psychiatry

The Grand Rapids Press/February 25, 2008

Grand Rapids - As a psychiatrist, Dr. JoSharon Mutchler is proud of her profession and says it helps those suffering mental illnesses.

Another Grand Rapids physician, Dr. Ann Auburn, calls it a hoax.

Auburn founded a Michigan chapter of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a group created by the Church of Scientology - to expose what it calls the "pseudoscience" and "scientific fraud" of psychiatry. Auburn concedes many doctors don't share her view of psychiatry.

"Most of the time, I get a few raised eyebrows," she said. "It's so indoctrinated in our training."

"It's continually promoting things that don't work," said Auburn, president of the Kent County Osteopathic Association. "That's why it's a hoax: They're putting people on drugs for things they haven't properly diagnosed."

The group is planning a "Fight for Kids Event" March 29 at the Wealthy Theatre to campaign against "today's widespread practice of drugging of children with heavy, mind-altering, psychiatric drugs," according to a flier.

Mutchler, president of the Western Michigan chapter of the Michigan Psychiatric Society, had not heard about the event, but she has encountered pickets at conventions and once en route to a meeting in Atlanta listened to an anti-psychiatry rant by a cab driver who was a Scientologist.

"I had no idea people thought we did harm," she said. "All I can do is go back to the research we have that shows it's solid science."

Auburn studied nutrition at Michigan State University and incorporates it into her holistic family practice. She doesn't deny people sometimes suffer mental breakdowns, but insists they can be treated with changes in behavior and proper nutrition.

"To call a mental problem a disease, it just doesn't exist," Auburn said. "The problem is once you label a person with that, they're doomed. They're going to get a drug."

But Mutchler said some mental illnesses are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, which can be treated with psychotropic drugs, "much like diabetes when you don't have enough insulin."

Using neuro imaging, doctors are able to see how psychotropic drugs affect various areas of the brain, she said.

Mark Reinstein, president of the Mental Health Association in Michigan, said there is room for debate over whether psychotropic drugs are overprescribed but, for some patients, he insisted, they work.

"I have personally experienced depression," he said. "I was just miserable. I couldn't sleep. I was getting close to being unable to function. It doesn't happen in every case, but the medication worked great for me."

Auburn said she would prefer the connection between the Citizens Commission on Human Rights and the Church of Scientology not be mentioned. The church has drawn attention recently for its stand against psychiatry, particularly by one prominent Scientologist, actor Tom Cruise.

Founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, the church has been controversial because of its unconventional beliefs and its aggressive defense against critics. The commission's literature is stridently critical of psychiatry, calling it "junk science." One pamphlet refers to "the hoax of learning disorders."

Another calls the use of drugs such as Ritalin "strategic child mind control" and claims the screening of children for mental illness has "Nazi roots."

Mutchler shook her head when shown those pamphlets.

"We work very hard to help people," she said, "and I feel sad that they are hearing things that would negate what we're trying to do. I'm concerned for the children who don't get help, the adults who don't get help."

Auburn is a national officer of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights and a member of the Church of Scientology.

"I would have been involved in this group, even if I wasn't a Scientologist," she said.

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