As my readers know, I am a great fan of former APA President Jeffrey Lieberman, MD. His regular articles on Psychiatric News were always helpful to the anti-psychiatry cause, and he will be greatly missed.
But his successor, Paul Summergrad, MD, has recently posted his first presidential message, APA Poised to Take Advantage of Unique Time in History, and it is already clear that not much has changed. Cheerleading and unabashed self-congratulations are still the order of the day.
Dr. Summergrad gets right to the point.
“We are in a unique period in the history of psychiatry. The recognition and understanding that psychiatric illnesses are the most common disabling and preeminent disorders of young people is now widespread.”
He doesn’t, however, mention that the reason psychiatric “illnesses” are so common in young people is that psychiatry has spuriously medicalized every conceivable problem of childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. What used to be considered disobedience, misbehavior, temper tantrums, shyness, social awkwardness,etc., have all been transformed into disabling “illnesses” by psychiatric decree.
“As we recognize the frequency of these disorders, we also recognize their burden—in human suffering, in wasted lives, in the ravages of the wildfires that race across developing brains, leaving young people stunted and besieged. There is also the cost, both psychological and financial, in years of life lost to disability from both mental and medical illness and in lives languishing in the throes of the judicial and criminal justice systems, instead of a compassionate and caring medical system.”
” . . . ravages of the wildfires that race across developing brains…”! Wow! I’m tempted to ask for pictures of this, but psychiatry’s ever-busy department of animated brain images might take me seriously.
” . . . years of life lost to disability…” But he makes no mention of the fact that it was psychiatry who invented the false and self-serving message that depression is a chronic illness for which a person needs to take pills for life. Nor does he point out that taking antidepressants makes the depression worse in the long term. Nor does he mention psychiatry’s false and disempowering message that “schizophrenia” is a degenerative brain illness whose victims should be actively discouraged from gainful employment of any sort, and who also must take neurotoxic drugs for life.
And there are a great many people who didn’t find psychiatry’s medical system compassionate or caring.
“For 170 years, we have been in a position of trust as fiduciaries for our science and profession. We must continue to live up to that trust.”
Sounds good. But he makes no mention of the extent to which psychiatry abused and continues to abuse its public trust through its corrupt and self-serving links to pharma. There’s no mention of the ghost-written articles and text books; the fraudulent research; the APA sponsored CME programs that were nothing more than pharma commercials; the Key Opinion Leaders who went on the road as paid pharma salesmen; etc…
“The very real scientific opportunities before us are unprecedented in human history. We have never before had the capacity to image the brain, to see the impact of genetic abnormalities on neurodevelopment, or begin to understand the complex ways our brains shape our perceptions of the world and in turn are shaped by them.”
Great neurological breakthroughs are just around the corner! Sounds familiar.
“Across this country every day, psychiatrists take excellent care of patients in hospitals, offices, and yes, under bridges and in prisons.”
Under bridges? I don’t think many psychiatrists are working under bridges.
” . . . as we talk about mental health, we need to find simple and direct language to communicate with ourselves, our patients, and the public. We should take advantage of the increased public interest in mental health and partner with allies in the media to amplify our message.”
” . . . partner with allies in the media to amplify our message.” Dr. Summergrad clearly intends to continue to use the media to polish psychiatry’s tarnished image. I wonder how long it will take journalists to realize that they are being duped.
Dr. Summergrad encourages his members “…to put aside internecine battles, especially those driven by ideology, and go where the science takes us.” But in his articles he reinforces all the psychiatric dogma and ideology that drive and underpin psychiatry’s side of the debate. He routinely refers to psychiatry’s subject matter as “illnesses” and he talks about searching for the causes of these “illnesses” in the brain. He stresses the fact that psychiatry is a medical specialty, whose members are “physician experts” on mental health, and whose clients are “patients.”
He affords no acknowledgement to the fact that alternative conceptual frameworks have been systematically marginalized and suppressed by psychiatry for decades. His call to follow the science rings hollow against the backdrop of a psychiatry whose primary tenet is the unproven assumption that all significant problems of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving are brain illnesses, best ameliorated by drugs and other somatic interventions.
The science has been pointing the way for decades. But psychiatry has adamantly refused to follow. But we don’t have to wonder or speculate as to what Dr. Summergrad means by putting “internecine battles” aside. He has already told us:
“[Psychiatrists need to help] . . . others understand what we know so well as physicians—that these illnesses are real, disabling, and strongly associated with medical comorbidity, but also amenable to care, treatment, and the power of contemporary science.”
I think it’s fairly clear that Dr. Summergrad’s recipe for ending the internecine battles is for those of us on this side of the issue to abandon our errors and allow the physician experts to help us understand what they know so well. And why do they know this so well? Because they are physicians! “Trust me, I’m a doctor!” Real physicians abandoned this line of “reasoning” in the fifties and sixties, but in psychiatry, credential arrogance is still thriving as a substitute for logic and science.
. . .
Dr. Summergrad’s article is pure, self-aggrandizing cheerleading and spin – devoid of serious content. He describes the APA as ” . . . this great organization . . . “, and psychiatric activity as ” . . . our . . . selfless efforts . . .”. He writes of ” . . . the strength of [the APA’s] intellectual and human capital…”, and he urges his fellow APA members to embrace their role ” . . . as international leaders in psychiatry . . . ”
I suggest that a client presenting himself to a psychiatrist expressing this kind of self-congratulatory rhetoric would quickly acquire the label “grandiose”, especially if his actual endeavors were characterized by the kind of spurious concepts, destructive practices and venality that pervade psychiatry. Organized psychiatry does not engage in much critical self-scrutiny.
Dr. Summergrad’s article contains most of the standard text-bites that we’ve come to expect from psychiatry’s leadership. These include:
- Psychiatrists treat real illnesses.
- These illnesses are the most prevalent, most disabling, and most costly of all illnesses.
- The great breakthroughs with regards to brain pathology and targeted treatments are just around the corner.
- Most of the victims of these illnesses go undiagnosed and untreated.
- Many of them end up in jail and prison.
- Victims of these illnesses are stigmatized and discriminated against.
- Psychiatrists are real doctors – really!
- Psychiatrists are selfless, and are dedicated to the care of their patients.
- Psychiatry is scientific.
- Psychiatry needs to be integrated with primary care.
- Psychiatric illnesses are treatable.
- Psychiatrists are also victims of stigma.
- This stigma is entirely undeserved.
- If people understood us, they would agree with us. We need to get our message out.
Dr. Summergrad concludes:
“Our patients, their families, and our profession need our counsel, guidance, and selfless efforts, so that when we look back, we can all be proud of our work and accomplishments. I am honored to take on this responsibility—to serve and to work for the benefit of our patients, our profession, and our communities—and to work with you to achieve these ends.”
The claim of “selfless efforts” rings a little hollow when attributed to a profession whose average income is $200,000 (Salary.com), and against the background of ignominy highlighted in Dollars for Docs and various exposés . But I’m probably just being petty. I’m sure that Dr. Biederman and all the other psychiatrists who benefitted from pharma’s generous largesse earned every penny.
I look forward to more enlightening messages from Dr. Summergrad.
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Dr. Hickey’s post first appeared on his 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.