An undercover reporter was urged to hand over cash on the spot to take up a Scientology course and was told psychiatrists or counselling do not work to combat mental health issues such as depression.
“You’re likely depressed, irresponsible and unstable as a person” – This was the analysis given by a staff member in the Church of Scientology in Dublin after an Independent.ie reporter took a ‘personality test’ this week.
The reporter, who is not experiencing any mental health issues, took the test at the new Scientology centre in Firhouse.
She was asked “how much money do you have on you?” and was told to enrol in a course that would help her “overcome ups and downs” for €75.
With only the ‘personality test’ as evidence of the reporter’s perceived well-being, members of the religion brought the reporter into a private room to urge her to do the course and “do it now”, telling her “things will get worse and worse” if she didn’t.
The new Scientology centre in Firhouse opened in October. A number of protests – organised by ex-members of the religion and south Dublin locals – have taken place in recent weeks due to concerns about its establishment.
Scientology is a religion based on the seeking of “self-knowledge” and “spiritual fulfilment”.
However, it has been surrounded in controversy as ex-members of the religion have made allegations of mistreatment and predatory financial practices, which have been strenuously denied by the church.
Concerns have also been raised that the personality tests could be used to potentially manipulate vulnerable people suffering from mental health problems.
The President of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland urged anyone concerned about their mental health to get advice from a health source “they trust”.
Dr John Hillery told Independent.ie: “We would recommend that people get information regarding their health from sources they can trust, such as their GP.
“The evidence is there that psychiatry works and the treatments are based on years of training and research. We don’t comment on individual organisations and psychiatrists wouldn’t make such statements [saying certain forms of therapy don’t work] about anyone or any organisation.”
The personality test consisted of 200 questions and the results were calculated by a scientologist in the centre. The entire process took over an hour.
The Church of Scientology has just 87 members in Ireland, according to the 2016 census.
Inside the new south Dublin centre, people can take a personality test which scientologists claim will help a person discover their “true potential”.
Based on the results, the reporter was advised that she is more than likely depressed, is unstable, irresponsible and quite a nervous person.
There are a choice of three columns on the answer sheet and the participant is asked to give a plus (+), middle (m) or minus (-) sign. The plus means mostly ‘yes or decidedly so’, middle means ‘uncertain’ and minus means ‘mostly or decidedly no’.
Some of the questions in the Oxford Capacity Analysis Test included; “Do you intend two or less children in your family even though your health and income will permit more?”; “Is the idea of death or even reminders of death abhorrent to you?” and “Are you in favor of color bar and class distinction?”
The female scientologist advised the reporter to sign up for a ‘Personal Values and Integrity Course’ for €75 to improve her well-being.
The course purports to teach people the “secret” of efficiency and how to turn “bad control” to good.
It takes seven days to complete, with the person attending the centre for two-three hours every day.
In the audio below, the reporter was told that if she didn’t enrol for the course and “make changes now”, her sadness would get “worse and worse”.
After completing the test, the reporter was brought into a room and a female scientologist gave the following advice:
Scientologist: What do you think would happen if you carry on without doing anything about it [the feelings of sadness]… What do you think?
Reporter: I dunno… depression maybe?
Scientologist: Yeah, so if you don’t do anything it won’t be better, it will just get worse and worse. Do you know what I mean?
Reporter: Do you mean suicide?
Scientologist: I wouldn’t say that, but if someone is that sad, it is not just going to jump up by itself. You need to work on it. This is how it is in life. Nothing stays the same, but if you do something about it you can change it, or just leave it as it is and slowly, slowly, slowly get more sad; less light, more darkness.
Reporter: Can I have a think about it [signing up]?
Scientologist: You should do it now because if you think about it, it is not going to happen.
Reporter: It is more the money side, I’m only working as a waitress now so I have to think about it financially.
Scientologist: How much money do you have on you because you can start making payments now?
Reporter: I don’t have cash.
Scientologist: You can pay by card.
Reporter: I don’t have my card on me either.
Scientologist: Ok. Do you understand how important it is to change it, and that will be the key for you – to change it?
Reporter: I only live over the road, so I can come back.
Scientologist: When will you be back… Are you working today… Are you walking?
Another female scientologist told the reporter that scientology is the best way to improve yourself and advised that psychiatrists and other forms of counselling don’t work.
The four scientologists the reporter met all had European accents and were likely aged in their early 30s.
“Depressed is a strong word, sometimes it really is the person is very depressed or simply you’re just not as happy as you used to be… Right now seems a very low point. Is that true… You have any particular things happen?” one female staff member said.
“In a nutshell people in the past have tried psychology, psychiatrists and self-improvement books and so on but none of it has been fruitful in terms of results… You don’t want to waste a lot of money because some of these things are really expensive. People come from all walks of life because we have practical solutions so the actual solutions that you can apply to your own life right now.”
Some residents and politicians have raised concerns about the Scientology centre after it opened a “Winter Wonderland” event in December, featuring fairground rides and children’s activities.
“It’s kind of scary now, why would you put a Winter Wonderland there. I don’t like the idea that you put something fun into something that is meant to be a cult,” one local said.
However, some residents said the centre “didn’t bother” them and said it was nice to have a free event for kids in the area.
“I don’t really have any views on it, the building itself is very impressive and the Winter Wonderland looks lovely,” another local said.
A number of protests have taken place outside the 1,200-seat facility since it opened in October.
The facility was previously used by the Victory Outreach Centre as a Christian church before the Church of Scientology bought it for a reported €6m.
While scientology doesn’t have a big following in Ireland, its founder L Ron Hubbard lived in Dublin’s Merrion Square for a short time in the 1950s.
Hubbard was an author best known for his science fiction and fantasy stories.