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ABILITY's Chet Cooper interviews actress Marisol Nichols and Bruce Wiseman. They are both members of the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) which is an advocacy group that has taken up this controversial issue.
I was one of those kids in class who was bored with the teaching. I didn't understand a lot. I missed some things early on. So, eventually, I started just not going. I needed some kind of creative outlet and I couldn't find one. So, I just left. So, I got labeled (through the school counselor) as having a behavior disorder because I didn't want to sit in class all day. Eventually, I was sent to a school for kids with cognitive disabilities. So, instead of being tutored or having one-on-one instruction, kids my age who were a little rebellious or didn't agree with everything were being bussed to schools where the education level was way too low. Nowadays, I would have just been given drugs and turned into a zombie."
Chet Cooper: What attracted you to CCHR?
Marisol Nichols: I got involved with it because I have my own history of being mislabeled as someone with a behavior disorder. I didn't like that. I was told I had this problem and that problem and this problemwhen none of it was true. I'm just an actor and I didn't know it. I was creative.
CC: A different drummer.
MN: Exactly. That's all. When I heard about CCHR, I was surprised to find that there's an organization that knows about this stuff. The main thing I was interested in was the fact that there are children even under the age of five being labeled with a mental disorder such as ADHD or ADD or chemical imbalanceyet with no blood work, no lab test, nothing. Students are merely observed and then put on these really powerful mind-altering drugs with side effects like violence, suicide, this, that, the other. And they're putting five-year-old kids on this? That does not seem right. My brother was put on a drug like that. I don't understand why children aren't being taught to read. If a kid doesn't know the alphabet, damn right he's going to get fidgety in class. He's going to have trouble paying attention if he doesn't even know how to read. They took phonics out of the school. That's how I learned to read. You know you sound out the word, you look it up in the dictionary to find out what the word means, and you put it together. And different letters of the alphabet make different sounds and that's how you know how it works. I don't understand why that isn't being used anymore. The kids are saying, Oh, I have a disorder because the teacher said I do. I don't pay attention in class and I chew my pencil and my mind wanders." I mean, some of the characteristics of those being diagnosed are
CC: ...I'm sorry. (staring out the window) Can you repeat that? (smile)
MN: Right! You have a disorder! (laughs) That's some of the criteriamind
wanders, fidgets in class, interrupts teacher. Anybody could be put under
that. And then to be told they have a chemical imbalance? I mean, where's
the lab test? Do they ever go to a doctor and get a physical examination
for their chemical imbalance? No. It's a checklist that the teacher
looks at. That makes no sense to me. That, to me, is totally wrong. Some
parents are being told that if they don't put their child on it,
their child is going to be taken away. That is wrong! There was a law
that was passed in 1975 for disabled children in the schools. There was
money given to help educate children who were blind, deaf, speech impediment,
hearing impaired, etc. In the 90s, it included mental disabilities, such
as ADHD. All this money is now being funneled towards that. It is no longer
about disabled children that actually need the attention. It is more about
having these kids getting their drugs every three hours.
CC: Tell me about your experience of being labeled with a behavioral disorder.
MN: I was one of those kids in class who was bored with the teaching. I didn't understand a lot. I missed some things early on. So, eventually, I started just not going. I needed some kind of creative outlet and I couldn't find one. So, I just left. So, I got labeled (through the school counselor) as having a behavior disorder because I didn't want to sit in class all day. Eventually, I was sent to a school for kids with cognitive disabilities. So, instead of being tutored or having one-on-one instruction, kids my age who were a little rebellious or didn't agree with everything were being bussed to schools where the education level was way too low. I was identified with all these labels. I didn't know I was aggressive. I didn't know I had low self-esteem. These are labels I carried around with me for ten years. I thought that that was me. What I really needed was some kind of tutor or somebody to explain to me why I can't figure out Algebra. I figured I was just dumb.
CC: How did you find your way out of that label?
MN: I found acting in junior college. I was still trying to figure out Algebra. (laughs) I tried out for a play and got the lead role. I was scared out of my mind and shocked. As soon as I started doing it, I thought, Oh my God. This is fantastic! This is what I was looking for!" I changed all my classes to theater classes. I found what I was interested in and it just followed suit that was it. It is interesting that I did this in college because in high school I would have never even tried because of the stigma I was carrying around with me. I thought I had some kind of disorder and that there was nothing I could do about it. Fortunately, drugs were not that prevalent. The kids on Ritalin were a little off and it seemed like the drug was making them like that. So, I never wanted to take it.
CC: What does the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights do?
Bruce Wiseman: We are a psychiatric watchdog group. We investigate and expose psychiatric abuse and psychiatric violations of human rights. We work to clean up the field of mental health. We are an international group. We have 133 chapters in 30 countries around the world.
CC: Have you worked with the United Nations?
BW: Yes. We have worked with the UN in South Africa. We helped expose psychiatric slave camps. Under apartheid they were taking black South Africans, claiming that they were mentally ill and putting them in psychiatric hospitals and then turning them into slave labor. Our exposure of that brought the UN down there. We were commended by the UN.
CC: What does CCHR do to help the parents that come to you for support?
BW: There was one family that came to us after they refused to give their son, who was diagnosed with ADD, mind-altering drugs. The family was accused of child abuse for the refusal. Keep in mind that we have 8 million kids taking drugs that are classified as Schedule II narcotics. This is the same classification that opium, morphine and cocaine get. If the parent refuses to give the drug to their child, he or she may have their child taken away from them. The parents are accused of medical neglect, because they refuse to give their child these drugs. These stimulants are very close cousins to cocaine. When the child started taking a prescription, the parents noticed an adverse reaction to the drug. Not a surpriseI think he was eight-years-old. So, the parents started to investigate. They took the child to a doctor and found that he was allergic. When he stopped taking the drug, the symptoms stopped. But, the school district continued to insist that the child was mentally ill and needed to be on drugs. In the end, the parents decided to home school their child.
CC: Did they want to home school or would the school not let him back?
BW: They wanted to home school. Eventually, the school came around and changed its stance. They didn't want the school labeling him. The boy is now a happy, precocious 12-year-old and he's doing great.
CC: How did you get involved with CCHR?
BW: Some friends of mine mentioned it. My wife and I saw first hand what was going on while investigating an adolescent psychiatric hospital in Nevada. There were a number of mothers who were complaining about their teenagers mouthing-off or whatever. The parents think they are going to get help by sending the kids to a psychiatric hospital. What they were doing to these kids in the hospital would make you weep. I mean it was just egregious. They would take a kid that would mouth-off or smart-off and inject him with an anti-psychotic. Anti-psychotics are very debilitating, mind-altering drugs that affect the frontal lobes of the brain. The boy would be tied in hand and feet restraints and they would tickle him until he was hysterical. There were also cases of teenage girls being sexually abused. So, we got with mothers, got depositions, and turned them over to the district attorney's office. That was just the first investigation. I started doing a little more work with CCHR and I found that this was not unusual. If you were a fly on the wall of almost any psychiatric hospital in this country you'd find that kind of thing going on. I got more involved, became a spokesperson and in 1994 I became the national president. There's also an international president. I oversee from a public relations standpoint. I speak before congress and various state legislatures.
MN: I was one of those children that was sent to a psychiatric hospital. My parents were told by my school that it would help.
BW: Marisol's case is not an atypical example.
MN: One of the things I wanted to do at CCHR was to be able to have the opportunity to go and talk to teenagers or parents of teenagers to tell them what I went through. Drugs are not necessarily the answer. Basically, if you are going to label someone with a chemical imbalance and say it is a physical disabilityshow me the lab tests. There needs to be proof that there is an imbalancenot just some teacher looking at you with a checklist. They call it a disease, without proof, and then give them a drugas the only way to handle it. One of the things I want to do is to tell teenagers and parents my story. Nancy Cartwright's [the voice of Bart Simpson] story is interesting. Her son's school told her that he had a mental disability and that he needed to be put on drugs. She said, No," and she took him to an allergist. It turns out that he is allergic to wheat and sugar. She changed his diet and he was totally fine. It was that simple. This kid would have been on a powerful, mind-altering drugProzac, Zoloft, Ritalinall because of allergies. A lot of the behaviors that the drugs are prescribed forobstinacy, argumentativeness, rebelliousnessare sometimes normal teenage stuff and it is wrong to label it as a disease. Also, many side effects from the drugs are the same symptoms that the drugs are prescribed forviolence, suicide. Plus, the drugs are addictive. The parents aren't told this when they are put on drugs. To take a kid off the drugs they have to be weaned off. That's pretty scary for an 8-year-old that maybe just needed a tutor.
BW: Before the Iron Curtain went down, if a person went into Red Square and said, Communism Stinks," the person would be diagnosed with Vyalo Tekuschaya Shezophrenia. This was a Soviet psychiatric diagnosis. The symptoms of which were rebelliousness, desire to emigrate, negative opinions of communism, etc. The person would be put in a psychiatric institution and put on drugs. As, soon as the patient accepted that they were sick, they were free to go. Now, look at the symptoms of Vyalo Tekuschaya Shezophrenia and compare them to a couple of diagnoses in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that is used in American psychiatry. Oppositional Defiance Disorder is a mental illness. Conduct Disorder is a mental illness. What is Conduct Disorder? The kid doesn't want to take out the garbage. He mouths-off to his parents. He swears. He doesn't want to do his work. Come on. These may be issues of discipline. They may be issues of ethics. They are not mental illnesses. But, you can find psychiatric hospitals across the country where kids are drugged and so forth because they have ADD. This is political. You have millions of kids in this country who fidget in class or whatever and they are given a label. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act which was passed in 1975 was designed for kids with physical disabilitiessight problems, hearing problems, mobility problems. Today, the law has been renamed and 70% of the kids in special education have a learning disorder. What does learning disorder mean? They are learning disabled. Really? What does learning disabled mean? What is the definition? It means the kid isn't reading at their grade level. He's not doing his math up to grade level. So, let's drug him and get him the hell out? No! Teach him to read. Those that have actual disabilities, by all means, are those that the money should be spent on. That was Congress' initial intent. 80% of the kids in special education have some kind of problem with reading. Don't drug them. Teach them to read.
MN: When I was in high school, 14-years-old, the school decided that since I was rebellious that I should be sent to a psychiatric hospital. The school told my parents that they needed to send me. The next thing I know, I'm in an orange jumpsuit in a hospital in Chicago with other kids my age. We had group therapy, one-on-one therapy and family counseling. Every single day they would go through same thing, Why are you here?" Every day I would say the same thing, I am here because I ran away from home. I didn't want to go to school. I yelled at my parents. Please send me home. I will never do it again." I was very sorry for my actions. Put a teenager in jail and they will get very sorry, quickly. Every time they would say, No. You are not working on your problem." And they would go on to some other kid. I was labeled a bad kid" because I kept telling them why I was there. So, I noticed that the other kids were saying, Well, I'm here because my Dad abused me. My parents didn't love me." That sort of thing. After six weeks in the hospital, I saw that kids were rewarded by saying that they were victims of other people's actionsthat it is other people's fault, not yours. I observed that and thought, Oh. That's the way it is." I started thinking that maybe my parents were bad parents. Maybe there are some things that happened to me that I don't know about. So, I started to tell them that my parents didn't love me. I was told that I was finally working on my problem. But, I had it right from the beginning. I was there because I blew off school. I just needed some kind of outlet. Give me a sport, give me theater, give me a book to read. Nowadays, I would have just been given drugs and turned into a zombie.
It is becoming normal to have a mental disorder! You've got to be kidding me! Why would you take a drug that physically alters your brain without a lab test to give proof of the disorder? To demonstrate that someone has diabetes, it takes tests that determine blood sugar levels and other tests. You don't just say, You like sugar a lot. You must be diabetic. Here take this insulin." Are you kidding? That's the direction it is going.
BW: Is it going to reach the point where kids cannot get into school without being on a mind-altering drug? I mean, talk about Brave New World. Step back and take a look at this. It's a little bit scary. They are telling parents that their kids are not allowed in school without drugs. It has become so pervasive. That is why we are focused on this particular issue.
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