As my readers know, I am a great fan of Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, President of the APA. In his capacity as president, Dr. Lieberman writes a regular bulletin in Psychiatric News. These literary and intellectual gems have been a wonderful source of inspiration to me in my efforts to draw attention to psychiatry’s flaws, and I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that in many respects, Dr. Lieberman has been one of our greatest allies.
Month after month in his writings, Dr. Lieberman has provided convincing evidence of my oft-made assertion that psychiatry is intellectually and morally bankrupt, and is devoid of even the semblance of honest self-appraisal or self-criticism. So it is not without a sense of nostalgia and sadness that I must announce that Dr. Lieberman has written his last President’s Message. It was published on April 24 and is called Thank You for the Opportunity.
The opening line says it all:
“The reward of a thing well done is having done it.—Ralph Waldo Emerson”
which reminds me of Little Jack Horner in the Mother Goose nursery rhyme.
“Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner,
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said, ‘What a good boy am I!'”
Most people, on passing a baton of office, lace their outgoing remarks with a generous measure of humility and self-effacement. But not Dr. Lieberman. He, like psychiatry generally, is unfamiliar with the benefits of critical self-appraisal.
“As I entered the final month of my APA presidency, someone asked me how I would like this past year to be remembered. I responded that I wanted this time to be seen as ‘the year that APA got its mojo going.’ This was the year that we confronted the need for change and didn’t shrink from the challenge. Instead, we addressed and embraced it with energy, creativity, and action, in ways that advanced psychiatry scientifically, socially, and politically and enabled it to better help patients and fulfill its mission.”
Psychiatry does indeed have a great need for change. It needs to address the spuriousness of its concepts, the disempowering nature of its so-called diagnoses, and the destructive quality of its treatments. And contrary to Dr. Lieberman’s confident assertion, psychiatry did indeed shrink from that challenge. Instead, they launched a massive PR and lobbying campaign to sell their concepts to the public, and to encourage politicians to embed psychiatry’s dehumanizing principles even more deeply into the legal and political fabric.
And what are we to make of Dr. Lieberman’s claim that under his leadership the APA got its mojo going? I wasn’t entirely familiar with the word “mojo,” so I looked it up. Merriam Webster gives: “magic spell, hex, or charm; broadly: magical powers.” Random House Webster’s: “act or practice of casting magic or voodoo spells.”
This is a little difficult to reconcile with the notion that in the past year the APA advanced psychiatry scientifically. But it is entirely compatible with the fact that the so-called science on which psychiatry has relied for decades is being increasingly exposed as a fraudulent sham, even by Thomas Insel, MD, the Director of NIMH.
Dr. Lieberman continues:
“The year began with the official launch of DSM-5. After experiencing a tumultuous gestation and overcoming numerous challenges, the fifth edition of APA’s diagnostic manual has proved a great success as reflected by favorable reviews, impressive sales, and gratifying clinical feedback.”
The most fundamental principle of psychiatric logic is that falsehoods become truth if they are repeated vigorously and frequently.
The DSM-5 did not overcome numerous challenges. Instead, in characteristic psychiatric style, it ignored, and continues to ignore, the numerous challenges and criticisms that it incurred. DSM-5’s major achievement, in fact, was that it opened the eyes of millions of people to psychiatry’s persistently expansive agenda, to the spuriousness of its so-called diagnoses, and to its continuing corrupt relationship with pharma. My informal estimation is that at the present time unfavorable reviews of DSM-5 outnumber favorable reviews by about ten to one. For an outstanding critique of DSM-5, take a look at The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a Major Form of Dehumanization in the Modern World, by Eileen Gambril, to which, incidentally, organized psychiatry has made no response.
Dr. Lieberman points out that under his leadership the APA convened a Health Care Reform Advisory Committee:
“This group has worked hand in glove with APA staff to influence legislation and protect the interests of our profession and patients in various ways, including in the Affordable Care Act, the final rule of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, reversal of the unfavorable action by CMS to restrict the choice of psychotropic medications in Medicare Part D, and the pending bills introduced by Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Roy Blunt (Excellence in Mental Health Act) and Rep. Tim Murphy (Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act).”
APA’s lobbying with regards to the ACA and the parity legislation has focused largely on their efforts to ensure that psychiatrists and psychiatric care are afforded the same status as real doctors and real medical treatments. Their Medicare Part D lobbying was to ensure a steady supply of antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs to elderly and disabled people. Their involvement in the so-called Excellence in Mental Health Act was aimed at increasing access to Medicaid funding for mental health services. The notorious Tim Murphy bill was designed to make it easier for people to be committed to mental hospitals and to community “treatment.”
And, as usual, Dr. Lieberman had something to say about stigma:
“Mindful of the continuing stigma associated with mental illness and psychiatric treatment, we retained an outside consultant agency (Porter Novelli) to review APA’s communications capabilities, needs, and opportunities. Based on its report, we are now moving forward with an initiative to enact a sophisticated and proactive communications plan that will be directed both internally to APA members and externally to the media, mental health stakeholder groups, and the general public.”
And that is what it’s all about. Psychiatry remains blind to the fact that it is its own spurious pathologizing of its clients that creates the stigma. It has no interest in genuine reform, but instead is embarked on a tawdry PR campaign to whitewash its transgressions and sell its concepts to the media, stakeholders, and the general public. Dr. Lieberman even acknowledges the APA’s need to sell this bill of goods to its own members!
And apparently nobody at APA headquarters can see how inherently insulting this is. Nobody can see that treating people as marks, whose thoughts and beliefs are to be manipulated by a professional PR company, is no way to treat people. But psychiatry has been treating human beings as non-people for decades.
Porter Novelli, incidentally, is an international PR company founded in 1972, with 90 offices in 60 countries. They’ve worked with a wide range of clients, including private, public and not-for-profits. Their present portfolio page lists: PepsiCo; Hewlett Packard; Center for Disease Control; and Pampers. I suppose that improving the image of disposable diapers would be a good training ground for improving the image of psychiatry!
And, also incidentally, this is not the first time that the APA has enjoyed the services of Porter Novelli. Here’s an interesting quote from Advocacy Strategies for Health and Mental Health Professions: from patients to Policies, by Stuart Lustig, MD MPH (editor). This is from a chapter How to Work with the Media by Aaron Levin, senior staff Writer at the APA’s Psychiatric News:
“In 2005, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) began its “Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives: campaign with two goals in mind: to change the way the public thought about psychiatry and psychiatrists, and to reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses. The campaign was designed and managed by the APA’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs and the public relations firm of Porter Novelli.
The Campaign’s target audience was women aged 30 to 54, who were seen as ‘health gatekeepers for their families and open to seeing a mental health professional.’ The organization used focus groups and surveys to plan the campaign, which linked psychiatry and psychiatrists (all of whom are medical doctors) to overall health.
The APA enlisted five spokespersons: three high ranking officers (all women) of the organization, including the President-Elect; the mother of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; and the (male) Director of the APA’s research division. All had received or were given media training for the campaign.
The APA and Porter Novelli developed media training materials website contents, and media kits with news releases, survey results, and spokesperson biographies. The website drew nearly one million visitors in its first year (May 2005 to May 2006).
Two strategies were used to increase viewership. The APA purchased advertising on the popular search engine sites Google and Yahoo. They also focused mini-campaigns within the main project on college mental health, Hispanic audiences (with Spanish translations of fact sheets and other materials), and Mental Health Awareness Week.
The campaign sent out an audio news release to 600 radio stations and arranged for a satellite media tour, in which spokespersons based in a studio in Washington, DC, can hold interviews with television and radio reporters around the country. The APA estimated that these efforts reached a potential audience of 105 million broadcasts listeners and viewers and four million readers of print or online media.”
Note the themes:
- Have a catchy slogan: “Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives.”
- “Hook” the mothers (aged 30 to 54) as a means towards getting the men and the children.
- Link psychiatry and psychiatrists to overall health.
- Train the spokespersons in how to speak to the media; as opposed, presumably, to just letting them tell the truth.
I don’t know how much the APA paid for that campaign, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that psychiatry’s public image has done nothing but sink in the intervening nine years. It’s a fundamental fact of life, that spin and self-promotion can only take one so far. After that, we’re judged on our merits.
Psychiatry is not something good that needs some minor corrections. Psychiatry is something fundamentally flawed and rotten that needs to be marginalized, ostracized, and unambiguously condemned. Its concepts are spurious and its “treatments” are destructive and disempowering. At the present time, psychiatry’s fraudulent and destructive nature is being exposed daily on an increasingly wide spectrum of issues. The profession is literally reeling under a relentless barrage of well-deserved and overdue criticism. And psychiatry has nothing to offer in response but endless self-praise and self-justification orchestrated by professional advertisers. Every day psychiatry digs itself deeper into the mire of its own self-serving rhetoric. Even its own members are beginning to rebel.
Dr. Lieberman’s reign will indeed be remembered as the year that the APA got its mojo going. But magic tricks and voodoo can’t save a sinking ship. For the past five decades psychiatrists have chosen drug-pushing as their primary professional activity. They spun a web of deceit to create the pretense that this was a medical activity. But it wasn’t; and it isn’t, and it never will be. And today they’re just a bunch of drug pushers that have hired a PR firm to clean up their image.
Farewell, Dr. Lieberman. Thank you for making everything so clear.
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This blog first appeared on Philip Hickey’s website,
Behaviorism and Mental Health
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.