Young people with mental health issues were allegedly subjected to a “hostile” demonstration by “extreme” Scientology-linked protesters.
Youth delegates attending a mental health conference described how they were “upset and traumatised” by up to 60 shouting protesters.
The group were from the East Grinstead-based Citizens’ Commission onHumanRights, which has ties with the Church of Scientology.
The anti-psychiatry group who believe children are being over-medicated picketed the International Association of Youth Mental Health Conference 2013 outside Brighton Dome on Tuesday afternoon.
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In a letter to The Argus, a delegation of 17 to 26-year-olds from Norwich with mental health service experiences described being confronted.
It said: “Their ignorance and refusal to engage in debate or discussionwas shocking.When we tried to explain our opinions, some protesters literally put their fingers in their ears and refused to listen.
“The protesters denied our experiences and attempted to intimidate us. They asked intrusive questions such as ‘I’m looking at your scars, are they self-inflicted?’ and ‘What’s your diagnosis?’ “Their actions contributed to the very stigma that we are trying to challenge.”
Dr Rick Fraser, consultant psychiatrist at Sussex Partnership Trust, said: “It’s a real shame that young people who have come to the conference have left upset and traumatised.
“It was extremely ill-judged to protest at the doorwaywhere one in five delegates were young people with experience of mental health problems.”
Professor Patrick McGorry, co-convenor of the conference, said: “This small yet hostile demonstration by Scientologists was seriously off-beam given our focus on youth engagement and holistic care of mental ill health in young people.”
Brian Daniels, of the Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights, said: “There were a lot of people from the conference who came out to speak to us. I don’t want to deny they felt intimidated. If that’swhat they feel then OK.
“Several young people spoke at length of their own experiences within the mental health system. CCHR’s work involves listening to the concerns of service users on a daily basis, so we were interested in their testimonies. There were also mental health professionals attending who expressed agreement with the message that ‘childhood is not a mental disorder’ and were interested to understand more.”