Citizens Commission on Human Rights
National Affairs Office
Washington, DC

Because of ingrained racism admitted by American psychiatric and psychological associations, minorities should be alert to abusive mental health treatment.

Good mental health is a vital part of overall health and well-being, which every person should enjoy.  Recently, mental health providers have referred to minority communities as “underserved” for mental health services and have expressed the intention to deliver more mental health treatment to Blacks, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).

But throughout history, minorities have been the victims of racist treatment by mental health practitioners, led by psychiatrists and psychologists who created and promoted pseudo-scientific theories of racial inferiority that were widely used to “justify” the oppression, segregation, population control, experimentation and other human rights abuses of minorities in the U.S.

Finally, 177 years after it was founded, the American Psychiatric Association in January 2021 apologized “for our contributions to the structural racism in our nation,” further admitting that “these appalling past actions, as well as their harmful effects, are ingrained in the structure of psychiatric practice.”

Both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association have admitted systemic racism is ingrained in their practices.

Then in October, the American Psychological Association issued its public apology for the “racism, racial discrimination, and denigration of people of color” committed by psychologists, after compiling what it called “a stunning chronology” of psychology’s history of racism since the organization’s founding in 1892.  

The apology acknowledged the roles of psychology and psychologists “in promoting, perpetuating, and failing to challenge racism, and the harms that have been inflicted on communities of color as a result.”

Neither of these associations have admitted their practitioners’ role in creating the present-day mental health system of psychiatric labeling, drugging and involuntary commitment to psychiatric facilities that has enabled racist treatment of minorities.

“Labeling conduct as sick merely because it differs from our own is nothing more than a discriminatory act disguised as a medical judgment.”
– Thomas Szasz, M.D., psychiatrist, humanitarian, and co-founder of Citizens Commission on Human Rights

Citizens Commission on Human Rights co-founder Thomas Szasz, M.D., recognized by many academics as modern psychiatry’s most authoritative critic, said, “Labeling conduct as sick merely because it differs from our own is nothing more than a discriminatory act disguised as a medical judgment.”

African Americans in particular are disproportionately diagnosed with mental illness and disproportionately committed to psychiatric facilities.  They are overly prescribed antipsychotic drugs.  Black children are disproportionately labeled with ADHD.

To protect the mental health human rights of all people, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights has articulated guiding principles in its Mental Health Declaration of Human Rights.  These human rights include the right to one’s own mind, the right not to be forced to undergo any involuntary psychiatric or psychological treatment, and the right to refuse mental health treatment that a person doesn’t want and to be offered alternative options.

Every man, woman and child is entitled to the fundamental human rights set forth in this Mental Health Declaration of Human Rights, regardless of race, political ideology, religious, cultural or social beliefs.

Psychiatrist and humanitarian Thomas Szasz, M.D., recognized by many academics as modern psychiatry’s most authoritative critic, co-founded Citizens Commission on Human Rights to restore human rights to the field of mental health.

Given the fact that virtually no human or civil rights currently adequately protect citizens from mental health abuses, it is vital that the following rights be recognized and that this declaration be adopted universally.


A. The right to full informed consent, including:

1. The scientific/medical test confirming any alleged diagnoses of psychiatric disorder and the right to refute any psychiatric diagnoses of mental “illness” that cannot be medically confirmed.

2. Full disclosure of all documented risks of any proposed drug or mental “treatment.”

3. The right to be informed of all available medical treatments which do not involve the administration of a psychiatric drug or treatment.

4. The right to refuse psychiatric drugs documented by international drug regulatory agencies to be harmful and potentially lethal.

5. The right to refuse to undergo electroshock or psycho-surgery.

B. No person shall be forced to undergo any psychiatric or psychological treatment against his or her will.

C. No person, man, woman or child, may be denied his or her personal liberty by reason of mental illness, without a fair jury trial by laymen and with proper legal representation.

D. No person shall be admitted to or held in a psychiatric institution, hospital or facility because of their political, religious or cultural or social beliefs and practices.

E. Any patient has:

1. The right to be treated with dignity as a human being.

2. The right to hospital amenities without distinction as to race, color, sex, language, religion, political opinion, social origin or status by right of birth or property.

3. The right to have a thorough, physical and clinical examination by a competent registered general practitioner of one’s choice, to ensure that one’s mental condition is not caused by any undetected and untreated physical illness, injury or defect, and the right to seek a second medical opinion of one’s choice.

4. The right to fully equipped medical facilities and appropriately trained medical staff in hospitals, so that competent physical, clinical examinations can be performed.

5. The right to choose the kind or type of therapy to be employed, and the right to discuss this with a general practitioner, healer or minister of one’s choice.

6. The right to have all the side effects of any offered treatment made clear and understandable to the patient, in written form and in the patient’s native language.

7. The right to accept or refuse treatment but in particular, the right to refuse sterilization, electroshock treatment, insulin shock, lobotomy (or any other psychosurgical brain operation), aversion therapy, narcotherapy, deep sleep therapy and any drugs producing unwanted side effects.

8. The right to make official complaints, without reprisal, to an independent board which is composed of non-psychiatric personnel, lawyers and lay people. Complaints may encompass any torturous, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment received while under psychiatric care.

9. The right to have private counsel with a legal advisor and to take legal action.

10. The right to discharge oneself at any time and to be discharged without restriction, having committed no offense.

11. The right to manage one’s own property and affairs with a legal advisor, if necessary, or if deemed incompetent by a court of law, to have a State appointed executor to manage such until one is adjudicated competent. Such executor is accountable to the patient’s next of kin, or legal advisor or guardian.

12. The right to see and possess one’s hospital records and to take legal action with regard to any false information contained therein which may be damaging to one’s reputation.

13. The right to take criminal action, with the full assistance of law enforcement agents, against any psychiatrist, psychologist or hospital staff for any abuse, false imprisonment, assault from treatment, sexual abuse or rape, or any violation of mental health or other law. And the right to a mental health law that does not indemnify or modify the penalties for criminal, abusive or negligent treatment of patients committed by any psychiatrist, psychologist or hospital staff.

14. The right to sue psychiatrists, their associations and colleges, the institution, or staff for unlawful detention, false reports, or damaging treatment.

15. The right to work or to refuse to work, and the right to receive just compensation on a pay-scale comparable to union or state/national wages for similar work, for any work performed while hospitalized.

16. The right to education or training so as to enable one better to earn a living when discharged, the right of choice over what kind of education or training is received.

17. The right to receive visitors and a minister of one’s own faith.

18. The right to make and receive telephone calls and the right to privacy with regard to all personal correspondence to and from anyone.

19. The right to freely associate or not with any group or person in a psychiatric institution, hospital or facility.

20. The right to a safe environment without having in the environment, persons placed there for criminal reasons.

21. The right to be with others of one’s own age group.

22. The right to wear personal clothing, to have personal effects and to have a secure place in which to keep them.

23. The right to daily physical exercise in the open.

24. The right to a proper diet and nutrition and to three meals a day.

25. The right to hygienic conditions and non-overcrowded facilities, and to sufficient, undisturbed leisure and rest.