Be wary of bad information that can fuel mental health stigma

Lies Truth Buttons Showing Untrue Or Correct
Don’t perpetuate stereotypes of mental illness!

Sometimes readers send me some great links to stories or articles or YouTube clips that have something to do with mental health, recovery, or some other topic that I’ve addressed here on the blog. It’s great, and I like passing on that good information, or tweeting it out to the people who follow me on Twitter, etc. Sharing good information and stories is one of the best parts about having the tools and media of the internet available to us. But unfortunately these tools can also be used to spread myths and bad information about mental illness that perpetuates negative stereotypes and stigmatizes those suffering from mental illness. Recently someone sent me a link to an infographic that made me want to bang my head against a wall. The piece attempts to link antidepressant use to violence.The headline is “Ultraviolence and the Pills.”  It’s just about as misinformed and maligning towards mental illness as you might imagine from that title.

Here’s a link to the page using DoNotLink, a service that allows you to visit the page to see what’s there without giving the page the sort of SEO boost that would further raise the profile:

Sci-fi author/conspiracy theorist/ Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Sci-fi author/conspiracy theorist/ Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

I think most people will look at their information and roll their eyes over how ridiculous it is on it’s face and maybe, like me, you’ll literally laugh out loud at their leaps in logic in trying to make everything add up. I was looking for some of the sources of their information and wasn’t surprised to find among the sources the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a front organization for the cult of Scientology. Scientology has been one of the most odorous propagandists of misinformation about psychiatry and psychiatric drugs. For more background on their disgusting campaigns of misinformation see this Atlantic article from 2012.

Now look, I understand that certain medications don’t work for everyone and that finding a doctor who will work closely with you on medication management isn’t easy. I’m also not a cheerleader for the pharmaceutical industry, and there’s no doubt that their responsibilities to shareholders and bottom lines may occasionally come into conflict with the best interest of those suffering from a mental health concern. But there are drugs and medications that do work and can relieve the suffering of many people. To indict an entire category of medication/treatment over the twisted words and selective information cherry picked by a cult is just wrong. Whether the author of the page or the person who emailed me the article did so knowingly or out of ignorance of what CCHR is, they could potentially be hurting a lot of people.

Spreading the myth that antidepressants make someone violent perpetuates one of the worst stigmas facing people with a mental health issue. It also could make someone suffering avoid taking medication which could be incredibly helpful to them. If you come across information that seems out of place or data that, forgive me, doesn’t add up, check to see where it’s coming from. If it’s CCHR that means the author of the piece is, perhaps unwittingly, fronting for these people.

The cult of Scientology and CCHR, far from having the best interests of those with mental health issues in mind, are doing an awful lot to damage and discredit legitimate treatment options. Let’s not allow them to get away with it.

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