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Stop "60 Minutes" Bias on Virginia Tech Tragedy

The CBS news magazine "60 Minutes" has often run stories from the point of view of the mental health industry without adequately covering the other side of the story. They're doing it again about the issue of access to guns by people who have been labeled "mentally defective."

Judi ChamberlinOn 29 April 2007, "60 Minutes" ran a show called Armed and Dangerous about how people who have experienced mental health commitment ought to be added to a federal list to prevent their access to guns.

Below, MindFreedom board member Judi Chamberlin (pictured at right) sends a message to "60 Minutes." At the bottom is the message that David Oaks sent on behalf of MindFreedom. You are encouraged to do the same in your own words.

For info by CBS about their show "Armed and Dangerous" click here.

To go to the "comments" page on  CBS web site about this show click here.


Letter from Judi Chamberlin to 60 Minutes


Dear 60 Minutes,

Joseph Goebbels said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

There is a big lie in the mental health/violence debate, and it was the lead-in to Steve Kroft's story on April 29th. I challenge Mr. Kroft or anyone else to come up with any factual backing for the claim that "1,000 murders a year are committed by people with mental illness." Please see the report on this claim by FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting):

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1064

When you start out a story with a totally unsubstantiated "fact," everything that follows is suspect. The FAIR report referred to above also cites a three-year study funded by the MacArthur Foundation which found "no significant difference between the prevalence of violence by patients without symptoms of substance abuse and the prevalence of violence by others living in the same neighborhoods who were also without symptoms of substance abuse," yet Mr. Kroft's report was designed to create the impression that violence by people with mental illness diagnoses is common and predictable.

Your story has done great harm to millions of Americans who have been diagnosed with mental illness, many of whom were involuntarily committed to mental hospitals, who struggle daily with stigma and discrimination. I am one of those people.

While the false "fact" of 1,000 murders a year is repeated over and over in the media, the real fact--that recovery from mental illness is real and common, almost never reaches the public. I urge you to do a story that will truly break new ground--a story about people who have recovered or are in recovery from mental illness, and who are living successful and exemplary lives.

Sincerely,

Judi Chamberlin, Director of Education and Training National Empowerment Center www.power2u.org


Letter from David Oaks, director of MindFreedom, posted on CBS Comments Web Page


After 31 years working for human rights of people in the mental health system, I am dismayed about the media bias about mental health issues and the Virginia Tech tragedy.

In the 60 Minutes show "Armed and Dangerous":

  1. Why not talk to any mental health consumer or psychiatric survivor organization about their point of view?
  2. Why not discuss what happens in an "involuntary commitment."
  3. Typically a poor and powerless individual sees a court-appointed attorney for just a few minutes, not long before the hearing
  4. What is it like in the USA when "lists" are made of citizens and rights taken away? Let's hear from Japanese Americans about the hysteria that swept the USA only a generation ago.
  5. How about going deeper? America itself is "sick" with violence. Humanity is "sick" with violence toward one another and our planet. Let's apply far better gun laws to *all* Americans, equally.
  6. Why do so many journalists lose skepticism when it comes to the mental health system? Why not question the ability of psychiatrists to predict dangerousness? Why not cover what it is like for people to be forcibly drugged for decades with high-dosage psychiatric drugs that are now known to structural brain damage.


Four years ago we watched CBS and other huge media march toward Iraq and non-existent weapons of mass destruction.  Corporate media domination is part of the sickness in the soul of America

Sincerely, David Oaks, Director, MindFreedom International
www.mindfreedom.org


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Lauren Tenney, psychiatric survivor activist from New York State

First involuntarily institutionalized, at 15, Lauren Tenney is a survivor of psychiatry. She has been involved with the user and survivor movement since 1992. Her goal is to help stop forced psychiatric procedures, detainment, and confinement, human rights violations, psychiatric abuse and torture. Of particular concern are the elimination of forced electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) on people of all ages, but particularly children and senior citizens, forced drugging, restraints, seclusion, behavioral interventions, and coercion of any kind. Lauren, a Mad-Activist/ Artist/ Author/ Academic/ Adjunct Professor is coordinating The Opal Project, an outcome of participatory action research she coordinated for field research in the PhD program in Environmental Psychology at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her dissertation topic is: "The Institutionalized "Community." She became involved with WE THE PEOPLE when the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights and MindFreedom International needed someone on the ground in Brooklyn, New York to coordinate a response where Esmin Green was murdered-by-neglect. She now lives in Albany, NY with her service dog-in-training and cat. For more info: www.TheOpalProject.org and www.etrash.tv
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