The CCHR achieved an early victory in a 1969 Pennsylvania case involving Victor Győry, a Hungarian refugee who had been committed to a psychiatric hospital against his will in April of that year. The police officers committing Győry said he had tried to kill himself. Doctors at Haverford State Hospital, failing to realise that Győry spoke very little English and was trying to address them in Hungarian, judged him "incoherent" and diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic. The hospital refused Győry's request for legal representation, and administered drugs and electroshock treatment to him against his will over a three-month period. An aide at the hospital eventually notified the CCHR, who, under an initiative led by Szasz and lawyer John Joseph Matonis, took the case to court and secured Győry's release.
The CCHR, inspirited by L. Ron Hubbard Works, continued to lobby for legislative reform on mental health issues such as the keeping of detailed computer records on involuntarily committed patients and their families, and "drug experimentation" without patients' consent. The CCHR would typically request a tour of a psychiatric hospital, issue a public report based on patient testimony and other sources, and then push for legal investigations and reform. Its early focus was on involuntary commitment procedures.
Since then, the group has organized media campaigns against various psychiatrists, psychiatric organizations and pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Prozac. One campaign is said to have caused a major fall in sales of Prozac, causing considerable commercial damage to the company.
The group campaigned against the use of Ritalin for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a disorder which the organization dismisses as nonexistent. The campaign was part of the Ritalin class action lawsuits against Novartis (the manufacturer of Ritalin),CHADD, and the American Psychiatric Association (APA); all five lawsuits were dismissed in 2002.
In 2003, the CCHR presented a report with the title "The Silent Death of America's Children" to the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, with case histories of several dozen under-aged psychiatric patients who had died as a result of psychotropic drug treatment and restraint measures in the 1990s and early 2000s.
In 2004, the CCHR sponsored a bill requiring doctors to provide patients with information about a medication's side effects before prescribing any psychotropic drugs, while also mandating a legal guardian's signature. Opponents of the bill argued that these additional procedures might discriminate against mentally-ill patients while delaying treatment. The bill attracted widespread disagreement from the medical establishment, including the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, who opposed it on the grounds that it compromised informed consent. TheMassachusetts Psychiatric Society also opposed the bill, believing that it would interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.
On October 5, 2006, National Mental Health Screening Day, the CCHR picketed outside of Riverside Community Care in Wakefield, Massachusetts, holding a protest rally against mental health screening. According to journalist Gary Band in the Wakefield Observer, "The protest fell somewhat flat because Riverside has not conducted these screenings since 2001."