Scientology Group's Anti-Psychiatry Exhibit Comes to Wicker Park

DNA Info, Chicago/April 1, 2013

Wicker Park - Scientology has made an indirect - and temporary - entry into Wicker Park.

About 80 people toured the "Psychiatry: An Industry of Death" traveling exhibit Sunday, its organizers said.

"We didn't think we'd have much of a crowd, competing with Jesus and the Easter bunny," said William Pollack, a volunteer from the "Citizens Commission on Human Rights," a Church of Scientology-related group devoted to "exposing psychiatric human rights violations."

The free pop-up exhibit at 1329 N. Milwaukee Ave. seeks to "expose and investigate psychiatric abuses" according to Pollack, who said he has a suburban chiropractic practice where he often treats patients who have been prescribed antidepressants for physical ailments such as back pain.

The group rented the space at what once was home to Rainbow Clothing, an otherwise vacant storefront that now features graphic images of what the commission calls abuses of psychiatry: restraints, electroshock therapy and solitary confinement.

Celebrities who allegedly had their creativity "destroyed" by psychiatry as well as stories of children who took their own lives while taking antidepressant medicines are prominently displayed on a series of panel displays.

Scientology and the psychiatric field have battled for years.

After actor Tom Cruise, a Scientologist, criticized actress Brooke Shields in 2005 for treating her postpartum depression with the antidepressant drug Paxil, the American Psychiatric Association released a statement saying, "Science has proven that mental illnesses are real medical conditions."

"Medications can be an important and even life-saving part of a comprehensive and individualized treatment plan," the psychiatric association said. "It is unfortunate that in the face of this remarkable scientific and clinical progress, that a small number of individuals and groups persist in questioning its legitimacy."

The commission's exhibit claims that 20 million children are on medication worldwide. One image in the exhibit features black-and-white photos of corpses in an attempt to link the Holocaust to psychiatrists.

"Did you know it wasn't Hitler's idea to kill everybody? It was the psychiatrists," Pollack said as he pointed to a display featuring information on eugenics, Adolf Hitler, and psychiatrists such as Ernst Rudin, co-founder of the German Society of Racial Hygiene.

Usually preferring larger public places such as the Capitol building in Downstate Springfield or Downtown's Thompson Center where there's more foot traffic, the commission brought the exhibit to the Wicker Park neighborhood because "it is an awesome area, it's very eclectic" and "the public here is very artsy," volunteer Rebecca Cusano said.

After the exhibit, Cusano approached attendees to solicit their opinions before giving them a clipboard requesting more personal information.

Cusano also handed out bags to attendees containing two DVDs, one called "Diagnostic & Statistical Manual, Psychiatry's Deadliest Scam."

Bucktown resident Katie Wolf, 22, a graphic designer, said she "stumbled in here on the way to the grocery store."

Wolf described the exhibit as "extremely powerful and graphic" and said her own personal experiences with friends and family have convinced her that there are nonpharmaceutical ways to solve problems.

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