A brief overview by
Families for the Ethical Psychiatric Treatment of Patients and Prisoners
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Treatment
Advocacy Center (TAC) are two of the most dominant advocacy
organizations within the U.S. in the field of mental health. As such,
they play an important part in shaping public perception and debate over
issues such as government policies toward mental health care, insurance
coverage for treatment, psychiatric treatment modalities, legal initiatives,
pharmaceutical corporations’ public image, and the ethical use of coercion
for treatment.
These are not entirely new issues. About a century ago, the Eugenics
Movement arose in the U.S., England, and Germany advocating a radical
approach to the treatment of persons deemed to be “mentally defective.”
Starting with a discussion of the proper way to develop public policy
towards this sub-group of the population, a movement was cultivated that
ultimately led to the sterilization and elimination of hundreds of thousands
of these individuals.
In this paper, we briefly examine the historical connections between these
two social movements and note their similarities. Then we pose a theory:
That NAMI and TAC are part of a modern-day expression of the Eugenics
Movement and represent a significant step toward the development of
fascism in the U.S.
We will start by outlining a brief history of NAMI and TAC.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (originally the National Alliance
for the Mentally Ill) traces its beginnings to 1979, when a group of families
with loved ones in the mental health system came together to form a nation-
wide non-profit organization. Although not openly recognized then, the
funding for that effort for NAMI came mainly through the pharmaceutical
industry. At the time, under the Community Support Programs of the
federal government, families were being organized to contend with a new
development: patients were being released en mass from mental hospitals
in a process called de-institutionalization. A number of factors led up to the
move to remove most patients from public mental health hospitals. A major
factor was new drugs coming on the market being hailed as the next modern
advance in the treatment of mental illness. These neuroleptic (brain seizing)
drugs held out the promise that persons with severe mental problems could
be controlled outside of institutional settings.
Starting with Thorazine (Chlorpromazine) in the early 1950’s, huge
marketing campaigns were launched by the drug companies to sell this
new treatment modality notion to psychiatrists, asylum keepers, and state
politicians. The idea that drugs could now be used to maintain mental
patients in community settings, both cutting costs and reputedly helping
to reduce violence, held great allure for state governments struggling with
aging mental hospitals. Psychiatrists, who had been limited to warehousing
their patients without any effective cures, were helped to realize this would
be a boon for them as well. The promise of being able to prescribe drugs
like other doctors also fed their professional aspirations.
The marketing campaigns carried out by the drug companies were bolstered
by the film industry, which produced, among others, a sensationalized movie
at the time, titled “The Snake Pit”, for which Olivia DeHaviland received
an Academy Award. The film depicted the horrors of mental hospitals
in graphic detail. Advocacy groups were encouraged to form and were
given the same pitch. NAMI was chosen by the drug companies to be their
standard-bearer in this shift to the new paradigm among ‘consumers’ of
mental health services and their families. After all, families would have
to be brought on board with this new idea, as the effort to support these
psychiatric patients was now being shifted to them.
For almost two decades, NAMI concealed its financial dependence on the
pharmaceutical industry. During that time, aided by the millions of dollars
given to them by the drug companies, NAMI spread all over the country,
establishing chapters in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto
Rico, with more than 1200 local affiliates operating at the community level.
Controlled by a national board of directors who initiated all campaigns, the
organization quickly developed a strategy of lobbying federal agencies and
the White House for money to pay for the drugs it was recommending for
In 1999, however, an investigative story published in Mother Jones
magazine broke the news that the drug companies were manipulating
NAMI successfully to help set national mental health policies in a way that
focused on drugs as the primary therapeutic method of treatment. NAMI
steadfastly denied this charge, but refused to open their books to public
scrutiny. A decade passed in which suspicion grew about the nature of
NAMI’s sources of income. Then, in 2009, Senator Charles Grassley of
Iowa conducted an investigation into the funding of NAMI, and ordered
NAMI to provide previously hidden records of their financial support. The
Senate Investigative Committee subsequently reported that NAMI was
getting about 75% of its funds directly from the pharmaceutical industry.
Thus we have the story of NAMI: Essentially a drug company front
group, masquerading as a family support group in order to build public
support for the mass consumption of the products of the pharmaceutical
Now let’s look at TAC.
The Treatment Advocacy Center began as an arm of NAMI, founded in
1998 by Psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, who was an active advisor and
financial contributor to NAMI. TAC is funded entirely by the Stanley
Medical Research Institute (SMRI), of which Torrey is the Executive
Director. SMRI is a non-profit founded by the Theodore Stanley, who made
his money in direct marketing. After reading a book published by Torrey,
Mr. Stanley contacted him and agreed to provide funding for TAC. Both
TAC and SMRI are non-profit corporations. It is essential to look at SMRI
in order to understand TAC.
SMRI claims to fund more than half of all research done in the U.S. on
schizophrenia, and has a collection of more than 600 human brains,
the largest collection in the world. But, in a serious breach of medical
ethics, it turns out that many of these brains were stolen from cadavers
without the knowledge of the families of the deceased. Various lawsuits
brought by families of the dead victims have been on file in several judicial
districts for the past decade. SMRI has settled almost all of them out of
court without admitting guilt.
In addition, SMRI has joined with Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(MIT) and Harvard University Medical School to become part of the
Broad Institute, an organization formed to study hereditary aspects of brain
disorders and pharmaceutical methods of treating them. The Broad Institute
(BI) is funded primarily by Eli Broad, a former accountant who became
rich in the tract home building industry (KB Homes) and the insurance
industry (Sun America). He eventually sold his businesses to AIG, the huge
insurance company bailed out by the federal government during the 2009
financial crisis. AIG has long-standing ties to the intelligence community
through the CIA. Mr. Broad has a fortune estimated at $6 billion.
Thus we see that TAC is funded entirely by a wealthy individual, Theodore
Stanley, who, in partnership with an even wealthier individual, Eli
Broad, spends enormous amounts of money funding medical research
and advocating for psychiatric treatment. Because the funding of TAC
is through a private donor, TAC can claim complete independence from
the drug companies, and recently even came out and castigated NAMI
openly for accepting drug company financial support. But this tactic
appears to be strictly a smoke screen designed to conceal the still-existing
ties between NAMI and TAC, as represented, for instance, by interlocking
boards of directors. The synergy between the two organizations can also
be seen when we look at their programs and ask the question: Exactly
what kind of treatment is TAC advocating, and how does it dovetail with
NAMI’s program?
As the founder of TAC and Executive Director of SMRI, E. Fuller Torrey
is the very public face of TAC. He claims that taking neuroleptic drugs
reduces the risk of violence, homelessness, and incarceration. Based upon
this premise, TAC has been the leader in pushing for “Assisted Outpatient
Treatment” (AOT) programs. The AOT programs are legalized forcible
drugging programs in which persons with a diagnosed mental disorder who
meet certain criteria can be forcibly drugged by mental health authorities,
even though they are outpatients living in the community. AOT laws have
been passed in 44 states, including Kendra’s Law in New York and Laura’s
Law in California. As is evident by the names of these laws, in order to
build public support for their passage, TAC organizes publicity campaigns
calling for forced drugging whenever a sensational violent crime occurs and
the perpetrator has a history of mental problems.
Fuller and the TAC leadership justify this tactic by claiming that the
ends justify the means. According to them, although sensationalizing
these crimes may be emotionally wrenching for the families involved, the
resulting laws forcing drugs on mental patients is well worth the pain via
the payoff in reputed “public safety.” While NAMI officially supports
forced drugging, it takes no active role in sensationalizing crimes to push
for legislation making it legally mandatory, at least openly. Together, then,
TAC and NAMI work hand-in-hand to sensationalize the problems of people
suffering from mental problems in order to then forcibly drug them into
submission, all the while proclaiming compassion and concern for their
In summary, we can see that TAC can be thought of as the operational arm
of NAMI in terms of pushing for legalization of forced drugging. Since
TAC’s method of sensationalizing crimes committed by persons who have
a mental health diagnosis in order to achieve the goal of forced drugging
may be offensive to families who are advocating for their loved ones, it is
important for NAMI to distance itself from this tactic.
Hence it is necessary to create and maintain the fiction that NAMI and
TAC are completely separate organizations. This ‘separation’ is made
possible by the financial support of TAC by wealthy persons who support
the idea that social control of persons with mental problems is necessary and
attainable through mind-altering drugs. NAMI, on the other hand, receives
its support directly for the drug companies. These two organizations,
through the wealth of the drug companies and private individuals, have
become the public face of mental health advocacy, and thus serve to contain
and direct the dialogue regarding mental health care policy.
It must be noted that there are numerous other advocacy organizations
throughout the U.S. that disagree with both the theoretical assumption
of NAMI and TAC (i.e., the biochemical basis of mental disorders), and
the tactic of demonizing persons with mental disorders in order to justify
forcibly drugging them. However, these other groups are not politically
favored. Without the financial means to broadcast their views, influence
politicians and lobby government agencies, their views are seldom heard in
the mainstream media or what passes for ‘public discourse.’
People who receive their news mainly from the corporate media would
never realize there is a great divide in the mental health field. On the
one hand, believing that brain chemistry holds the answer to understanding
mental problems, we find:
• The pharmaceutical corporations;
• The psychiatric profession, as represented by the American
• The judicial system;
• Mainstream media with financial ties to the drug companies;
• The academic establishment (paid off by corporate contributions);
• State bureaucrats in the mental health and prison bureaucracies;
• Advocacy front groups, primarily NAMI and TAC.
On the other side are myriad (mostly) small groups and individuals, many
who consider themselves ‘survivors’ of the current system, who believe
that the biochemical model of brain disorders has no scientific basis.
These individuals and groups believe the biochemical model holds sway in
public discourse only due to the overwhelming financial resources of the
beneficiaries of the existing system. Some of these dissenting groups are:
• The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), funded by
• Dissident psychiatrists, psychologists and academicians and
• Support Coalition International (SCI);
• Alliance for Human Research Protection (AHRP);
• California Network of Mental Health Clients;
• MindFreedom;
• Families for the Ethical Psychiatric Treatment of Patients and
Psychiatric Association, in concert with;
the church of Scientology;
Prisoners (FEPTOPP).
At this point, it is instructive to look at the history of the development of the
mental health care system to put the present circumstances in perspective.
Starting in the 16th
keepers with no attempt at scientific understanding of the inmates (science
was in its infancy). Treatment usually consisted of methods that today
would qualify as torture. As always, the wealthy received considerably
more humane treatment that the poor, who generally went untreated or were
 century, treatment of the insane was provided by asylum
thrown into prisons.
With the coming of the 20th
methods began to attempt to explain what was causing mental problems.
Under this guise there was an attempt to eliminate these problems by
getting rid of the people who had them. This radical movement claimed to
have a scientific basis. It was founded, funded, and advanced by wealthy
individuals who sponsored academic scholars serving as apologists for their
radical social agenda. The Eugenics Movement represents the theoretical
backbone and historically most successful of these trends.
By claiming that mental patients and those who were born disabled
represented genetically inferior people, the Eugenics Movement sought to
sterilize and euthanize persons who suffered from these conditions. Within
a few decades, the social policies resulting from these theories had sterilized
and murdered hundreds of thousands in Europe and the U.S. and provided
the ideological basis for the rise of fascism around the world. The world war
that resulted killed more than 50 million.
What began as a debate over how best to deal with the problems of the
“mentally deficient” ended with mass sterilizations, genocide and world
war. The policies aimed originally at persons with mental problems spread
to other groups and eventually engulfed the entire world in a paroxysm of
violence and destruction.
Today, once again, we see this policy of social control through coercion
gaining momentum – this time through the use of mind-altering drugs. It
should not be forgotten that the drugs also have other physiological effects
that cause great disabilities and result in early death. The drugs have, in
reality, the same effect as the sterilization campaigns waged by the Eugenics
Movement: The target population is unable to reproduce and suffers a
shortened lifespan. The long-term effects of drugging large segments
of the populace with these powerful neuroleptic drugs are unknown, but
almost certainly will result in millions of casualties and deaths. In fact, it is
now estimated that approximately 200,000 deaths per year in the U.S. are
attributable to the effects of prescription drugs, and neuroleptics are now
being prescribed for children as young as 2 years old. Most of these deaths
go unreported, for reasons which can ultimately be tied to the same agents
founding and funding the current wave of neo-eugenics. The wealthy and
powerful, either directly or through the office of powerful corporations, have
 century, new scientific (and pseudo-scientific)
designated powerful drugs as the treatment of choice for mental problems,
despite the effect of these drugs on the health of the patients. This is a
policy of social control through coercion, and we know the historical result
of such policies.
It is up to us to prevent another version of a deadly chapter in world history.
It is time to mount public campaigns exposing the role of NAMI and TAC
as front groups for economic and political forces in our society that are
bent on social control through coercion – not just of persons with mental
problems – but of the entire population. It is crucial for us to understand
that by controlling the reputed ‘opposition’ or ‘consumer’ side of this
public dialogue, these powerful forces seek to channel the course of events

toward our enslavement and demise.

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