- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2005

While it’s generally best not to get medical information from either Hollywood celebrities or the mainstream media, the recent debate between Tom Cruise and Brooke Shields illuminates two important First Amendment issues: freedom of religion and freedom of the press. For these two actors hew to two very different philosophical and religious views of human nature and the mainstream press has decided to support one view over the other.

While Mr. Cruise believes problems in living are not caused by “mental illnesses” cured by psychiatric drugs, Miss Shields believes the opposite. Unfortunately for Mr. Cruise, Miss Shields’ views have in effect become America’s state religion, which is widely supported by the mainstream media.

On NBC’s “Today” show, Mr. Cruise said he had carefully studied the history of psychiatry, that it is a pseudoscience, that children are being put on psychiatric drugs against their will, without their parents knowing the side-effects, that Ritalin is a drug available on the street, that there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance, and that psychiatric drugs do not cure anything but merely mask the real problems.

All his statements went against the dominant ideology, as espoused by “Today” host Matt Lauer. To get his points across, Mr. Cruise had to interrupt Mr. Lauer, who kept framing the questions within the framework of psychiatry.

After his expression of a heretical view, the mental health movement’s high priests promptly went into action. The American Psychiatric Association and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, both heavily funded by drug companies, assured the public Mr. Cruise was wrong and the mentally ill need and benefit from their daily psychiatric drugs.

The New York Times, which routinely publishes opinions favorable to psychiatry, promptly published an op-ed by actress Brooke Shields, who has just published a book blaming her loathing of motherhood on “postpartum depression” and crediting antidepressants with making her a happier mother.

However, neither the APA, nor NAMI, nor Miss Shields offered any credible scientific evidence to support their claims that depressed people have a bona fide chemical imbalance that is cured by antidepressant drugs.

For in fact psychiatrists have yet to conclusively prove any mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance of any kind. They have yet to develop a single physical diagnostic test to prove anyone even has a mental illness. And yet everyday in America people are either forced, coerced or misled to take psychiatric drugs to solve their personal problems.

Many psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, counselors, theologians and philosophers of all stripes have been criticizing the shaky scientific status of psychiatry for decades — long before the Scientologists.

Mr. Cruise came under personal attack from critics who refused to address the issues. Instead of being depressed and taking psychiatric drugs, Mr. Cruise was madly in love without taking any drugs. Worse, he repeatedly expressed his love for Katie Holmes in public. There must be something wrong with him, the media insinuated.

Instead of belonging to a mainstream religion, he belongs to Scientology, which has studied psychiatry extensively. At a time when the Catholic Church has been sending sexually abusive priests to psychiatrists instead of to jail, Scientology may well be the only religion to routinely criticize the use of force and fraud by psychiatrists and the drug companies.

Joining with psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, author of “The Myth of Mental Illness,” Scientology founded the Citizens Commission on Human Rights to help Americans who feel their civil rights have been violated by the mental health movement.

Like Red-baiting of the 1950s, when people were silenced just by calling them communists, the mental health movement has gotten good at Scientology-baiting, and the media have jumped on the bandwagon. Reporters or editors often ask me if I am a Scientologist when I express views critical of psychiatry. Other non-Scientology critics report similar experiences.

While we supposedly live in a country where freedom of religion is a fundamental principle, this freedom has often not been extended to minority religions or to nonbelievers.

In a country where mental health has become the exclusive state religion, backed by mental health laws, police powers, forced incarceration and drugging, it would be nice if the free press supported freedom of religion, instead of stifling it.

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