Over at Neurotopia, Scicurious has been doing some terrific writing about depression. Mental illness is a topic I've written about many times, so I was inspired to look into the vault and see what kind of goodies I had back there. Well, since I truly loathe people who dole out dangerous medical lies, I figured it was time to dust off this little bit on Scientology and mental illness, rework them a bit, and share them with you again.
Depression, in the medical sense, is not a mood...it is a severe
disorder originating in the brain, and affecting the entire body. Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44,
but can begin at almost any age. Depression affects health in many
non-obvious ways. People with depression have a higher risk of suicide,
but the disease may also lead them to take poor care of their health.
Depressed patients may forget or chose not to take medications, see
doctors, and eat well.
There are plenty of online resources for depression, especially at the NIMH,
so I won't go into details of diagnosis and treatment. What I find
disturbing is that there is a small but significant movement that
denies that mental illness is "real", whatever that means. There seem
to be many flavors of this denial.
Bringing the stupid
Perhaps most influential of the denialists are the Scientologists, who have
utterly insane unusual beliefs about mental illness. For those of you who don't yet know, mental illness, according to Scientology, is caused by "the reactive mind and its engrams."
That is, unconscious, unpleasant memories, that must be purged via the
expensive system of "auditing". Sounds a little like traditional
Freudian psychology, right? Um...not so fast.
What is the great theory behind this? Neuroscience? Well, no. It has
been discussed so thoroughly elsewhere, so I won't belabor it, but
Scientology's beliefs are based on the idea that extraterrestrial
tortured souls possess us and cause mental illness. Really. Just google "Xenu".
Of course, this process is not only good for mental illness:
I had asthma, and it was actually pretty traumatic.
I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't breathe at all. Then
I learned about Dianetics and I read the book. My friend and
I did it on each other and it wasn't too long before I realized I
wasn't having any attacks. It was GONE. It's now been fifteen years and
I haven't even wheezed. It's a miracle.
Woo! A testimonial!
So, if you buy their books, follow their program, you can be, well,
pretty much perfect. I'm sure everyone is lining up at the Church of
Scientology to be cured of their maladies, mental and physical, right?
Umm..well, no. Why not? It turns out that Scientologists are persecuted world-wide, by governments and the "psychiatric community".
But in a bizarre turnabout, these poor, persecuted (and asploded) souls will sue you. Really.
Scientology has a long history of suing people for revealing their
"secrets" and mocking them.
Those sneaky Scientologists!
OK, so Scientology seems like an easy target, and with all the publicity you'd think their views on mental illness would have been laughed off the planet (on a DC-8?) for good. But those Scientologists are crazy, not stupid, so they created a front organization.
It's called the "Citizens Commission on Human Rights". It's motto is "investigating and exposing psychiatric human rights abuse". Who is this "commission" and what is their beef?
A good place to start is on their info page. Hardly a paragraph goes by without a falsehood or logical fallacy.
First of all, I'll skip the cute SciFi-ish adds on the margins of
the page with headlines like "Psychiatry: Industry of Death." Hyperbole
of that degree should be, well, discouraged.
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is a
non-profit, public benefit organization dedicated to investigating and
exposing psychiatric violations of human rights. It also ensures that
criminal acts within the psychiatric industry are reported to the
proper authorities and acted upon.
It starts out as a simple statement of fact (non-profit, etc.),
then, makes a subjective statement about their purpose which suffers
from the logical fallacy of "begging the question":
it assumes that there exists significant psychiatric abuses and crimes.
Nowhere on their site can I find actual evidence of widespread crimes
by psychiatrists, nor do they link to any specific "report[s] to...proper
authorities". This paragraph may be a lie, or it may be making truthful
claims, but failing to support them.
CCHR was founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology
and the internationally acclaimed author, Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor
Emeritus of Psychiatry at the State University of New York, Syracuse.
The Church of Scientology, as we've seen, is a bizarre cult that believes human
suffering originates in "engrams" implanted on Earth by an evil
galactic overlord named Xenu, so that pretty much eliminates any
credibility this organization might have. Then they use the inevitable "appeal to authority".
Dr. Szasz is known not for his positive contributions to the field of
psychiatry, but for his incoherent rants that fail to propose a viable
alternative to current practice.
The entire premise of the organization is bizarre, and it is a poorly masked front for the morally indefensible anti-mental health activities of the Church of Scientology. Most of us have seen the bizarre behavior of Scientology's most public adherents, and I can't help wondering if this whole mental illness denial is a convenient position for these meshuggeners to take. I'll leave further speculation to you.
According to Operation Clambake, it's not a bad idea to say the following: All
quotations of copyrighted material herein fall within Fair Use
guidelines. Note: The Scientology organization is commonly referred to
as the Church of Scientology. The reader should be aware that, in
reality, global Scientology is a complex international legal structure
of multiple corporations, some of which are nonprofit and some of which
terms "Scientology" and "Dianetics" are trademarks and service marks
owned by Religious Technology Center (RTC), Los Angeles, California,
USA. For a detailed explanation of Scientology's copyrights,
trademarks, and other legal issues involving the names and symbols used
by the organizations collectively known as "Scientology" and
"Dianetics," see the Trademark Section of the Official Scientology Web Site.