Alarming Federal Mental Health Commission Potential Conflicts of Interest Could lead to More Children on Mind Altering Drugs

Contact: Lee Riley 02 9560 0036

 The statistics are alarming - nearly 89,000 Australian children under 16 are on ADHD drugs, antidepressants and antipsychotics (4,429 aged between 2-6). These are drugs with often serious side-effects – and the worst – death has been linked to such drugs for 21 children under the age of 19.  Combined with a 645% increased expenditure on psychiatric drugs since 1993, the alarm bells are reverberating across the country as more and more experts and parents become concerned with the rising trend of drugs being used to control the behaviour of children – a trend that simply did not exist 3 decades ago.

Along with professional and public concern over the escalating drugging figures, there is an attendant vocal concern over the conflicts of interest from those who should be scrutinising policies and guidelines involving the welfare of children in Australia, ensuring their protection. Increasing critical commentary and media articles have been exposing the potentially biased conflicts involving committee members. Topping it off for this year was the announcement by the federal Mental Health Minister of the membership of the new federal Mental Health Commission, which includes commissioners with ties to pharmaceutical companies. 

Whilst the commission is charged with providing “independent advice” to the government on the performance of the mental health system, a cursory look over the commissioners reveals the following pharmaceutical links and connections:  

Consumers should be extremely wary of conflicts in this area – no matter how well it is brushed off as ‘everyone has drug company links and it makes no difference to their professionalism’. Drug companies are well aware that they can influence prescribing habits which is why they fund psychiatric research, mental health groups and dinners and trips for psychiatrists.  All conflicts of interest of the new Commission need to be publically declared so that the parents and Australia knows who is truly independent and who is not. It is not possible for anyone with potential conflicts of interest to provide ‘independent advice’ to the government. 

“While there are well meaning people on the Commission, if the Commission is genuinely set to reform mental health in Australia it would do well to start with removing any potential conflicts of interest on its own Commission (and requesting the same is done for all committees who advise the federal government). For once the U.S. has paved the way with a smart law – Australia must pass a law in kind to the US Physician Sunshine Act  which will see all drug makers report all payments and gifts to doctors” says Ms Shelley Wilkins from the Citizens Committee on Human Rights. 

“If conflicts of interest are not removed and a non-toxic, non-addictive medical approach to effective solutions is put in place to help children by the Commission, the cost to our children both financially and potentially damaged or lost lives will continue to escalate while psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry continue to profit.”  

CCHR was co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Professor of Psychiatry Dr Thomas Szasz to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights.





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