TREATMENT ADVOCACY CENTER RESEARCH AND TORREY'S STATEMENTS ABOUT VIOLENCE
D.J. Jaffe and E. Fuller Torrey and other members of TAC (Treatment Advocacy Center) will make up data, lie, and do everything possible to further their dangerous agenda of force and coercion. They ignore the facts as they and other NAMI fanatics pursue their cause to strip away basic human rights. They manipulate the public with op-ed articles that indulge in worst-case-scenario fear mongering. It just doesn't make sense to create public policy based on rare extreme incidents yet that is exactly what these zealots clammor to support. The inability of NAMI fanatics, TAC, E. Fuller Torrey, D.J. Jaffe and others to make a human connection with troubled people and to help those people through their difficulties, leads these folks to think that all people should be forced or coerced into "treatment." People who receive public mental illness "treatment" are dying at an average age of 52 and that age is falling. In general, people in this country live to age 78 and that age is rising. Torrey, Jaffe and their ilk would force more people into the early death sentence that is "treatment" today. Instead, they should be helping people find ways to cope that are really helpful without killing them. It's astonishing that they continue to support modern-day eugenics and the early death of millions.
It's been over fifteen years since E. Fuller Torrey attacked Jay Mahler and the entire consumer/survivor movement. (Psychiatric Services, Feb. 1997, (click here for article) Torrey publicly (in that article) admits that he makes up data in his head to support his positions. He says, "As he spoke, I calculated the number of people with severe psychiatric disorders who are no longer alive..." In other words, he figured some number up in his mind; he made it up. His credibility and hence, TAC's credibility must therefore be, at best, suspect. Any claims made by them must be considered mere fabrication until proven otherwise. Interestingly, Torrey and others have since used and quoted that "made-up" number so many times, in journal articles and elsewhere that it's now being quoted all over the place as "fact." This is an example of how if you make up a lie and repeat it often enough, you can come to believe it yourself and get others to believe it also.
WORST CASE SCENARIO FEAR MONGERING
D.J. Jaffe, a co-founder and Board Member of TAC, sensationalizes horrible news op ed pieces by giving attackers names like 'Dragon' and 'Second Avenue Slasher'. He uses a page out of his strategy as an advertising executive (No, he's not an "expert" on mental illness) to push Kendra's Law in 2000 when he said, "From a marketing perspective, it may be necessary to capitalize on the fear of violence to get the law passed." (click here for an article on the facts regarding Kendra's Law and force)
D.J. Jaffe is most infamous for his "Turn over the furniture" tip where he suggests that family members "lie" by turning over the furniture so that police will assume the person they want to involuntarily commit is dangerous. (click here for a "web archive" version of the article) Jaffe wrote, "...some families have learned to 'turn over the furniture' before calling the police. Many police require individuals with neurobiological disorders to be imminently dangerous before treating the person against their will. If the police see furniture disturbed they will usually conclude that the person is imminently dangerous."
(Here's an article from Stigma.net for more on TAC, Torrey, Jaffe and NAMI's use of Fear Tactics.)
E. Fuller Torrey, MD has crossed the United States, appearing in print and on television, purposely distorting facts and wrongfully portraying persons with mental illnesses as violent predators. His actions, and those of the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) which he heads, are causing serious harm to tens of millions of persons labeled with mental illnesses. Deliberately inciting the American public into fear (and ignorance), including employers, landlords, neighbors, community leaders, and legislators, TAC is making it increasingly difficult for persons labeled with mental illnesses to live as they want to - happily and peacefully in their communities. The Treatment Advocacy Center's Torrey-led crusade to forcibly treat and medicate consumers is not just increasing, but causing, stigma and discrimination. In order to push their involuntary commitment agenda, TAC is sensationalizing rare and tragic incidents and then lying about the prevalence and frequency of these tragedies.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE LIE
A few years ago, to thunderous applause and standing ovations by NAMI audiences across the nation, Dr. Torrey began inserting in his speeches the message that persons with mental illnesses are, in fact, more violent than persons without mental illnesses. Having this unquestioning approval and devotion fueling his mission, Torrey began taking this message to the American public and founded (with the approval and assistance of several NAMI board members and staff) the Treatment Advocacy Center in a quest to relax the criteria needed to forcibly medicate a person against his/her will. The message evolved from a simple "they're more violent" to "persons with mental illnesses commit 5% of the nation's homicides a year" to "persons with untreated schizophrenia and manic-depressive illness commit 1000 homicides a year." (TAC's Fact Sheets) This distortion led to Torrey's conclusion that these untreated individuals, less than 1% of the total U.S. population, commit between 4 and 5 % of the nation's homicides annually. (TAC'S Home Page) This is a sensational and truly frightening fact - if it were true. Torrey credits the 1994 Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, "Murder in Families," as the source for his statistics. But what the DOJ found is far, far different from Torrey's statements.
THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE REPORT
The DOJ's report does indeed state that 4.3% of the nation's homicides are committed by persons with mental illnesses. The report does NOT define persons with mental illnesses as "persons with untreated schizophrenia or manic-depressive illness." This DOJ study used the standard DOJ definition - "History of mental illness. Yes should be coded if family members or friends state that the defendant has a history of mental illness, if psychiatric reports indicate mental illness, hospitalizations for mental illnesses have occurred, or the defendant has tried to kill him/herself."
According to Ronald Manderschied, Ph.D., chief of CMHS's Survey and Analysis Branch (and quoted as an authority on NAMI's website), 24.1% of the nation's population has a diagnosable mental disorder in any one-year period, with the lifetime prevalence rate being as high as 48%. (30% and 50% according to Kessler, et al., 1994) Thus, conservatively, at least 25% of the nation's population fits the DOJ's definition of persons with a history mental illness, which includes the "lifetime prevalence" as well as any defendant able to find a psychiatrist to testify that he/she was "insane" at the time of the murder, even in cases where this claim was refuted by the prosecution's psychiatrists and rejected by the judge or jury. Yet Dr. Torrey, a researcher himself, changes this to 1% with no qualification. Certainly the distorted figures grab more headlines, create more fear, and help further TAC's agenda more than the truth would - that the 25% of the population with mental illnesses commit 4.3% of the nation's homicides. But is this distortion what NAMI wants to be connected with?
Now, if questioned about these serious discrepancies between his statements and the DOJ report he cites as the source, I imagine that Torrey will tell you that even though the report used a broad definition of mental illness, that doesn't preclude *his* "fact" that these homicides were committed by a small subset of that larger group. If you don't care about having real facts to substantiate these claims, you might be satisfied with that explanation. EXCEPT - on the Treatment Advocacy Center's website, in compiling information about violent "episodes," they utilize a definition of mental illness *that is every bit as broad as the definition used by the DOJ.*
TREATMENT ADVOCACY CENTER RESEARCH
For about a year, TAC was searching, researching archives, newspapers, and even newsletters, for incidents of violent acts committed by persons with mental illnesses that they could exploit. TAC even recruited NAMI members across the country to send them any articles they could find about such violent acts. TAC's website boasted a database of 644 violent "episodes" (as of 6/27/99). Clearly, TAC's research should have supported Torrey's claims. Yet, despite this tremendous effort (and the sensational "over 600" number), it did't.
There were 460 homicides reported in the database. At least forty of these were duplicated. (I say at least, because many of the articles were vague and contained insufficient data to cross-reference the articles.) Another twenty-three were homicides which, according to the articles quoted, were not committed by persons with real or alleged mental illnesses. For example, the person had mental retardation, it was the victim not the defendant who had a mental illness, etc. That leaves 397 - far from the "1000 homicides a year" particularly since the data collected goes back as far as 1973.
In fact, in the year that the news articles were most accessible, there should have been about 500 homicides, using Torrey's "facts." Yet TAC could only find 16: 2 had stopped treatment/medication, 5 were in treatment (2 involuntarily), 4 had no prior history of mental illness, and 5 articles did not contain any information about treatment history. Diagnoses included 4 schizophrenia, 1 dual bipolar/SA, 1 schizoaffective, 2 depression, and the remaining 8 were a child "with auditory hallucinations," "paranoid delusions," "mental defense or defect," "being evaluated," "not criminally responsible," and three non-specific "mental illness." Certainly not facts that would support the involuntary in- or out- patient commitment of that 1% - the *two+ million* Americans with "untreated schizophrenia and manic-depressive illness" that TAC claims needs legally forced drugging.
In many of the 397 articles, whether or not the accused had a prior history of mental illness or whether or not the person was in or out of treatment was never stated. It was, however, stated in 234 of the articles. This was a first episode/there was no prior history in 103 (44%) of those cases; 101 (43%) of the defendants were in treatment at the time with several having voluntarily sought treatment and been refused within a few hours or days of the crime. One of TAC's reported cases, according to "expert testimony at his trial, was undergoing an adverse response to Zoloft" at the time of the murder. Several of those in treatment were under an outpatient commitment and some were under inpatient commitment at the time they committed the murders. In only 33 (14%) of those 234 reported cases was it alleged that the person was not in treatment or had stopped treatment/taking medication - 33 over a 25 year span - a far cry from the 25 thousand homicides that would have, according to Torrey's "facts," been committed during that time period by persons with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder who were not in treatment.
Of course, even the 33 becomes much lower if only schizophrenia and bipolar are counted.
Thus, 77% of TAC's reported homicides that include treatment data were committed by persons receiving treatment, while 23% were committed by diagnosed persons who were not receiving treatment. While this would certainly appear to be an excellent argument *against* TAC's goals, nonetheless, these are the facts uncovered by TAC's research and quite publicly displayed on their website. Though I think I would be safe in assuming that they did not expect anyone to look beyond the smoke and mirror show of "over 600" acts of violence. Just as they don't expect NAMI members or the general public to question the 1%, the 1000 homicides, or the distortions of the MacArthur Foundation study and the Bellevue report, etc. promulgated by Dr. Torrey and TAC.
While collecting this data, what did TAC use as a definition of mental illness? It could not have been very selective. Unlike Torrey's public statements limiting violence to untreated schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the defendants in TAC's cited articles are diagnosed with just about anything, even so-called disorders which aren't even listed in the DSM-IV. Less than half of the 397 had diagnoses of schizophrenia (140) or bipolar disorder (17). For many the diagnosis was unknown or not reported. Others were recognized mental illnesses such as depression, PTSD, panic disorder, and OCD. Many were diagnoses given by the defendants' attorneys, e.g. "attorney claims the defendant may have a mental illness," "attorney stated he might claim insanity," and "attorney has requested a psychiatric evaluation." In other cases, "mental illnesses" included "emotional problems," "personality disorders which cause her to over-react to stressful situations," "unconfirmed reports of mental problems," "a pattern of racial paranoia," "a brief psychotic episode brought on by his withdrawal from marijuana use," and "abusing furniture cleaner and detergent in the days before the murder."
In other words, many of the homicides reported by TAC were committed by defendants who had disorders which Torrey has previously referred to as undeserving of publicly supported treatment, disorders which should not be covered by parity in insurance, and disorders which are not deserving of research money. Disorders that, according to TAC's facts, cause persons to murder, should not be treated or researched.
The above facts should make it clear that the Torrey-led TAC is not crusading to save America from violence or even to save persons with mental illnesses from themselves. TAC is preying on the fear and vulnerability of the public who are seeking a solution to the violence in America. The public wants a simple solution that distances themselves as far as possible from any responsibility. Locking up or forcibly medicating the "violent mentally ill" (sic), at least as TAC presents it, is just such a simple solution. Of course, as TAC's research proves, it won't work. But then, it was never meant to work. The promise of reducing violence is no more than a ruse to create a sufficiently panicked environment to push through legislation aimed to serve another, often unspoken purpose. When asked, some NAMI supporters of involuntary commitment, and even some of TAC's staff and board, will tell you the truth. They really don't care about the homeless or about violence in America or even about the lives of most persons diagnosed with mental illnesses and most certainly not about the quality of those lives. They have a very narrow focus - to be able to commit their "loved one" whenever they feel it's needed, or desired, or convenient. They yearn to control the uncontrollable - the behavior/illnesses of those they claim to love. Their lives, and in their perception the lives of beloved family members, are spinning out of control due to insidious illnesses. No matter how injurious, de-humanizing, traumatizing, or even life-threatening the action might be, regaining control is more important. Sadly, this quest is not winnable - not through force.
By using force, everyone eventually loses - even the unsuspecting public supporting the use of force. The statistics are clear - forced commitment of persons with mental illnesses will not decrease the violence. Blaming "the mentally ill" (sic) for violence is the same type of ostrich mentality that pictures child molesters as strangers in black trench coats when the reality is that children are ten times more likely to be sexually abused by someone known and trusted by the family, most frequently a relative. Similarly, a person is most likely to be murdered by someone they know (80%) and by someone who does not have a mental illness (95.7%). In both cases, the public's denial and desire to believe the myth of the deranged stranger obstructs real and viable solutions to the actual problems.
Torrey and TAC are playing key roles in perpetuating those myths.