“Dr. Death” isn’t so unusual in the psychiatric industry – exhibit documents the pseudoscience and sordid history of psychiatry.
“That’s almost more than I can stomach, but at least I know the truth now,” said one visitor exiting “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death,” an international touring exhibit which opened Sunday for a week-long stay in Atlanta.
Hosted by Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Georgia, the museum-style displays document a side of psychiatry’s past that is rarely seen. Historical and contemporary footage, including interviews with over 150 experts and survivors, covers the brutal psychiatric treatments of the past and trace its history through the labels and drugs used today. Georgia State Senator Donzella James, officiating the ribbon cutting, told attendees, “Don’t take my word for it. I’m here today to help open up this [exhibit] so that you can come and see for yourself, and know what psychiatry is doing.”
Deb MacKay, regional coordinator for CCHR, said that plans for the exhibit were already in place when Atlantans received news about the indictment of psychiatrist Narendra Nagareddy, nicknamed “Dr. Death” after thirty-six of his patients died while he was prescribing them controlled substances. "Dr. Death is just a footnote in a long history of medical abuse,” said MacKay, “That’s ‘business as usual’ for many in this profession.” MacKay was standing near an exhibit vignette titled Psychiatric Criminality which notes “psychiatrists and psychologists have an inordinately high number of criminal convictions as compared to other sectors of the health care profession.”
The exhibit brings facts and figures on such topics as “using ‘science’ to promote racism” and “labeling and over-drugging children.” A section is devoted to electroshock, explaining concerns that led to a demonstration in downtown Atlanta last weekend, where hundreds of participants representing CCHR, the Nation of Islam, the NAACP and Concerned Black Clergy protested the American Psychiatric Association’s Annual Meeting and denounced the APA’s request to the FDA to allow electroshock on children and teens who are “treatment resistant,” meaning drugs didn’t work.
With eight million children in the U.S. already on psychotropic drugs and a growing awareness of the harm and inefficacy of these drugs, protesters feared the label “treatment resistant” would be applied to thousands of children to justify giving them electroshock.
At a press conference following the march, one survivor of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) said he received “30 rounds of electroshock” in one year at age 21. He described how he had no memory of his high school years and broke into tears while recounting “sitting there, and my father having to teach me how to tie my shoes again.”
“This is unconscionable to even consider doing this to a child,” said Dr. Linda Lagemann, a clinical psychologist who retired after 23 years in practice. “Someone’s getting rich and someone’s getting hurt. This really must be stopped.”
Georgia may soon join a growing list of states to enact protections against ECT for minors. Senator James is championing the effort and recently called for legislation to ban its use on children. She said Georgia’s provisions to protect children and others from ECT were grossly insufficient and cited a World Health Organization recommendation to governments that: “There are no indications for the use of ECT on minors, and hence this should be prohibited through legislation.”
At the exhibit, Georgians can show their support for Senator James’ legislation by signing a petition for the ban of ECT on children.
The exhibit is free and runs through Sunday, May 29, 11 am to 7 pm daily at Piedmont Park Greystone, 400 Park Dr NE. It has toured more than 441 major cities in the U.S. and around the world and has educated over 800,000 people on the history and contemporary practices of psychiatry.
CCHR is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious mental health watchdog. Initially established by the Church of Scientology and renowned psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Szasz in 1969. CCHR’s mission is to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections. CCHR has helped to enact more than 150 laws protecting individuals from abusive or coercive mental health practices.