Those of us who critique psychiatry were recently treated to an interesting phenomenon—the publicly available part of the January 2015 issue of Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, which contains multiple articles devoted to the question of psychiatry’s “poor image” — how to understand it, how to assess it, what to do about it. The release of this issue is hardly the first occasion where articles have appeared in which psychiatrists have speculated on outsiders’ negative image of the profession. Indeed, more and more, we are seeing such articles together with other evidence that the professionals are concerned (e.g., Bhugra and Moran, 2014; and Oxtoby, 2008). What makes this issue special is that there is a sizable number of commentators; moreover, they include such leading figures as Gaebel, current President of the European Psychiatric Association, Wasserman, former President of the European Psychiatric Association, and Bhugra, President of the World Psychiatric Association. Could it be that the upper echelons of psychiatry, whether they admit or not, are becoming alarmed? Regardless, these psychiatric reflections are themselves a source of data—hence this article.
This article probes the collection in question for themes, positions, and framing. Questions explored include: What positions are being taken? How valid are they? Insofar as constructions are never “innocent” but invariably have a function, what functions are being served? What do these articles tell us about psychiatrists? About the state of psychiatry? How successful are the proffered solutions likely to be in resuscitating the “image of psychiatry”? And what should we be wary of here?
The Special Issue in a Nutshell
The majority of the special issue is tightly focused on the image question. At the centre of the issue is a piece/study by Stuart et al. (2015). Counting the study and the two editorials, there are 10 pieces focused on this question in all.
The Stuart et al. article is in essence the write-up of a study conducted on non-psychiatric medical faculty’s opinions of psychiatry. 1057 faculty members were sampled. The major findings? The majority hold a very negative view of psychiatry, of psychiatrists, and as well as of their “patients.” Ninety per cent thought that psychiatrists were poor role models. One in five thought that psychiatrists have too much power over “their patients.” Many questioned the efficacy of the treatments. Additionally, many saw psychiatrists as having poor medical skills and deemed psychiatrists to be illogical. Correspondingly, “the majority felt that students in their medical school were not interested in pursuing a psychiatric specialization” (p. 24), with over a third opining that “their colleagues generally do not speak well of psychiatry.” (p. 24). By way of commentary, the authors of the study note that there is no clear way to distinguish how much of the poor image may be attributed to being part of a “stigmatized group” and how much is attributable to accurate perception. Correspondingly, they link these perceptions to the low number of medical students choosing psychiatry as their specialty.
In the related pieces, authors comment not only on this article but more generally on psychiatry’s image — overall, whether it is indeed bad or not, and insofar as there is a problem, who is at fault and what to do about it.
The Most Important Question Never Emerges
Before I proceed further, I would point out that there is a conspicuous void in this collection. While all authors in their own different ways address what might be done to improve psychiatry’s image, significantly, not a single psychiatrist thinks to ask what by humanistic standards would appear to be the compulsory question: Insofar as any of the bad image is deserved, exactly how are the “patients” being ill served and what is owed them? With one exception only — and we will shortly see why he is an exception — nor does anyone seem to take in that in all likelihood, in dialoguing with each other, they are talking to the wrong people. The point is, insofar as this poor image is in any way merited and in any way relates to practice — and it is arguably arrogant just to assume otherwise — it is not so much their colleagues with whom they most need to be in dialogue, but the people whose situations they appear to badly misunderstand. What relates to this, and is similarly worrisome, “patients” are discussed only insofar as psychiatrists speculate that part of the image problem arises from “stigma” against the “patients” being transferred to the psychiatrists. Nor is improving care per se a major theme. All of which suggest that advancing the profession is taking precedence over the welfare of the people “served.”
What the Focal Piece and the Introductions Set Up
There is somewhat more objectivity in the focal piece by Stuart et al. and in the two editorials than in most of the related psychiatric pieces. This notwithstanding, each constructs the inquiry and the issue in such a way that prejudice on the part of others appears as potentially the single most important factor in accounting for the poor image — and as such, they are hardly neutral. What is apropos here, the study itself was conceptualized in the context of trying to address “stigma” against psychiatrists — hardly a legitimate way to theorize critiques of a profession whose views are hegemonic and which is endowed with huge resources and massive power (not that I am ruling out the possibility of non-psychiatric doctors being unfair to psychiatrists). More particularly, it was “conducted as part of the scientific activities of the World Psychiatric Association’s Stigma and Mental Health Scientific Section.” (Stuart et al., p. 21)
The bias inherent in this framing is reinforced by including in this study about negatives attitudes toward psychiatrists an investigation into negative attitudes toward “psychiatric patients.” Holding the two together in this way constructs the attitudes toward these very different constituencies as “of a piece.” The function served is that psychiatry appears as a victim, with all negative evaluations of it set up to be seen as examples of “stigma.”
Other ways in which bias enters in? In the first editorial, the author states unequivocally (albeit without proof) that with the advent of molecular biology, the image of psychiatry is improving. Correspondingly, on a personal note, he writes, “This author represents the generation of young academics, with a background in psychiatric genetics. From my perspective, the view of our profession among medical students and doctors has improved significantly since I completed medical school.” (Tesli, 2015, p. 1) And the second editorial actually announces a victory right in the title—“Psychiatry Generating Comparative Respect,” thereby prompting us to view the forthcoming articles in a way favourable to psychiatry (see Munk-Jorgensen and Christiansen, 2015, p. 2-3).
The path is thereby set for evasion on the part of the other psychiatrists in this collection to appear as honest inquiry and for anything unfavourable to appear outdated.
In this section, I am limiting myself to the pieces penned by the medical doctors (the vast majority of whom are psychiatrists). Most of these responses can be divided into several categories, and all entail some level of evasion. Emergent themes or claims in this regard include: 1) The evidence that psychiatry has a bad image is either not credible or is limited and as such, claims based on it are misleading; 2) Insofar as psychiatry and psychiatrists have a bad image, it is not primarily psychiatry’s fault but the fault of others; 3) The bad image is not exactly anyone’s fault—it goes with the territory; 4) While psychiatry is partially to blame, it is only one or two things psychiatry is doing wrong—none of which are substantive.
The “this is not credible or misleading” line of reasoning is evident to varying degrees in most of the commentators. The most cogent of these is Hartley (2015, pp. 10-11). He points out that the survey itself was conducted in a biased manner, for colleagues were asked to respond only to negative statements about psychiatry—a totally valid point. This notwithstanding, the critique is not as cogent as it first appears for it ignores how dramatic the negativity was, also that there were other biases in the construction that pull in the opposite direction. It likewise ignores the fact that the low enrollment in the psychiatric specialty in an abundance of medical schools itself serves as confirmation. That said, more obviously evasive are other variations on the theme. Note, in this regard some, including Hartley, object that studies in Australia have had different results, thereby erroneously making it look as if outreach was limited, whereas in point of fact 15 different countries were surveyed.
Likewise suggested is an “old-young” divide. The argument here (e.g., Kristiansen et al., 2015) is that being younger and so more keenly aware of how advanced psychiatry now is, medical students have a very positive image of it. It is only medical faculty that do not, and as the old are replaced by the young, the problem will disappear. What is wrong with this construction is that while psychiatry may well enjoy greater popularity among medical students in Australia and Denmark (there is a positive piece by medical students from Denmark in this collection), there is little indication of this other places; correspondingly, were young medical students really excited by psychiatry generally, the percentage of them signing up to study psychiatry would not be so low (for more representative figures, see, for example, Read 2015).
More pronounced and more blatantly evasive is the response/claim, “While psychiatry has a bad image, others are to blame for this.” Herein we see the disingenuous claim of stigma discussed earlier. In this regard, Gaebel et al. (2015, p. 5 ff.) call their article “Overcoming Stigmatizing Attitudes toward Psychiatrists and Psychiatry.” Correspondingly, they dismiss the critiques by the medical colleagues in question, offhandedly, with words like “bad mouthing” and “psychiatry-bashing.” All of this, note, without evidence or even a thought to what evidence in support of such a contention might entail. Ironically, what surprises most of us who are aware of psychiatry’s baselessness, is not how critical other doctors are of psychiatrists but how silent they are about the fraudulence of the medical claims—at least as a big a dynamic as the putative unfairness.
The evasion evident here is in turn reinforced by linking the so-called “stigma against psychiatrists” to the stigma against “mental patients.” Now indeed it may well be, as these authors claim, that stigma against “mental patients” can impact negatively on people’s perceptions of psychiatrists. Nonetheless, trying to get around the problem like this begs the question. That is, it totally bypasses the central question of whether or not the critiques are accurate. Also it is hard to imagine how “transferred stigma” could translate into such critiques as “psychiatrists exercise too much power over their patients.” Since when do people operating out of “prejudice” against a population want less control—as opposed to more—exercised over said population? Correspondingly, this construction functions to create a false solidarity between psychiatrists and “patients” when psychiatry itself is one of the principle causes of stigma against “mental patients.”
The primary purpose of the construction of course is to absolve psychiatry by transferring blame onto others. The various people blamed throughout this collection include: other medical teaching faculty; funders (who allegedly are not providing sufficient resources to make psychiatry attractive to enter (see, for example Bhugra, 2015), and, finally, the media. Note in this last regard Bhugra’s curious reference to the “antipsychiatry media coverage.” This of course is ironic given the enormous complicity of the press in furthering psychiatry (see Whitaker, 2002). Moreover, as those of us who organize against psychiatry but receive negligible coverage are well aware, if there is antipsychiatry press out there, it is keeping itself well hidden. Which brings us to the next claim.
Mostly the people who take the position that the bad image comes with the territory are nonetheless likewise suggesting that stigma is an issue (see, for example Bhugra, 2015). There is one author that does not and he is the one psychiatrist in this collection who appears to be thinking—and indeed, he can be credited with having a point. In this regard, Kapezinski and Passos (2015) distinguish between what they call “wet minds” (the science of the brain) and “dry minds” (our mental processes) and they state that psychiatry runs into trouble when it tries to simply ascribe “the issues of the mind to brain tissue.” (p.7) This is undoubtedly true and important. Where the authors err is not not going far enough. They recommend that psychiatrists focus their work on scientific explanations and leave it to others to develop explanatory models for human behavior. The question remains: What about the issue of power? And insofar as there is any science here that has both validity and relevance, would it not be better handled by credible scientists like neurologists?
Finally comes the very common contention that while psychiatry is wonderful and amazingly successful (and all the psychiatrists more or less concur on this point), it is in fact doing but one or two things wrong, none of which are substantial, albeit they facilitate the “stigma”. Generally, the deficits identified relate to not having a game plan for fighting back and not properly communicating (e.g., what we are being asked to believe is that despite the enormity of the funds spent on promulgating its message—see in this regard Whitaker, 2002—psychiatry is failing to communicate how very scientific and advanced it is—hence the “misperceptions.” An example of this position being Wasserman’s piece, which largely assumes this is the case then proceeds to offer suggestions). Given the decades of disaster and the enormity of the evidence that psychiatry’s basic tenets will not hold (see, for example, Whitaker, 2002 and Burstow, 2015), herein lies the ultimate evasion. Correspondingly, it is blatantly clear what purpose is served by such a construction. It is at once an evasion and an argument for pumping ever more resources into what is in essence medical model propaganda. That said, while there is a more general acknowledgement that psychiatrists need to learn how to communicate better — valid though that may be — that acknowledgment in no way touches the heart of the matter. As such, it is but another obfuscation.
The Lone Voice in the Wildness
The lone voice in the wilderness is critic John Read (2015). Read acknowledges the poor image, validating it with reference to statistics and narratives, and he lays the blame for the poor image squarely at the door of psychiatry. He identifies the underlying problem as a “rigid adherence to a narrow biogenetic ideology combined with arrogant dismissal of those with broader perspectives.” (p. 11) One need go no further than the various apologias in this issue to see what he is talking about — a source of confirmation in its own right. While I do not contend that no psychiatrist could have written this, I would add, it is hardly coincidental that what likewise distinguishes Read is that he is not a medical doctor, never mind a psychiatrist. Solutions which Read advocates include: Psychiatrists should start listening to their patients. They should not automatically head all “mental health” teams. And they should restrict themselves to providing scientific information and, in the process, limiting themselves to what is “evidence-based.”
Read is a breath of fresh air, and much of what he recommends has validity. Who could argue against listening more to others—in particular, to the people whom one is hypothetically attempting to serve? And yes, something is very wrong with the assumption that psychiatrists should head all “mental health” teams. That said, there are a few questions that I would invite readers to ponder when looking at Read’s other solutions: Why do we need psychiatrists on these teams at all? Could not scientific data, insofar as relevant, be better provided by figures like neurologists? Why are we assuming that teams of professionals should be in charge of others’ emotional well being? Why should we be placing this degree of trust in evidence-based research? Was not the fetishization of evidence-based research part of what landed us in this current predicament (for a hard hitting critique of evidence-research, see Burstow, 2015; see also forthcoming articles). And finally, while Read is suggesting ways to “save psychiatry from itself”—is there in fact any cogent reason to save it?
The Solutions Proffered by the Psychiatrists: A Further Reflection
The solutions offered by the psychiatrists, not surprisingly, match their positions as articulated above. Insofar as more or less everyone agrees that stigma against psychiatry is involved (again an all-too-convenient confabulation), anti-stigma campaigns are advocated, with one of the authors, Gaebel, additionally inviting his colleagues to address what he sees as the problem of “self stigma” (more commonly known as pangs of conscience). People are urged to come up with road maps. To facilitate the “needed communication.” Correspondingly, the use of professional bodies is recommended as well as individual training in communications skills, with authors such as Wasserman (2015, p. 13), for example, writing, “To promote the destigmatization of psychiatry and change the negative attitudes toward psychiatrists, a road map of action is needed alongside professional training in communication skills.” And beyond that, there is encouragement and general agreement to proceed further and further along the road of biological psychiatry, for it is here where psychiatry’s credibility allegedly lies. In others words, a continuation and intensification of the status quo.
That these “solutions” will hardly get rid of psychiatry’s fundamental deficits is clear. How can you get rid of shortcomings by putting all your energy into attempting to persuade everyone that they don’t exist? How can you deal with the problem of a faulty paradigm by further entrenching oneself in that paradigm? But, of course, addressing actual deficits is not the point of the exercise. Now whether or not increased efforts in the direction identified will help psychiatry improve its image—demonstrably, the overriding goal—is hard to say. This is exactly how psychiatry improved its image in the 70s, though, when its credibility was at an all-time low (for details, see Burstow, 2015). And alas, it worked—and so there is always the possibility that it will work again. That is the “bad news.” The “good news”? At this point in time there is an unprecedented amount of evidence that the claims are untenable – even fraudulent. Moreover, more and more people are aware of that — and as such, there is an excellent chance that it will backfire.
In ending, I would draw attention to our need as critics and activists to be ready to address what appears to be in the “offing,” — a renewed propaganda push by psychiatry, whatever form that propaganda takes: Whether it be “explaining” alleged medical advances or laying claim to being uniquely holistic, whether it calls its model “biological” or “biopsychosocial,” whether it is presented as just providing “information” or as an “anti-stigma” campaign. I would also alert readers to attempts to lure survivors and their allies into taking a common stand against stigma (now being discussed almost as if it were shared). What is significant in this regard, besides that the very concept of stigma against psychiatry is a non sequitur, psychiatry’s constructions themselves are arguably the number one cause of the “stigma” faced by survivors. Also, while like everything else psychiatry may at times be the object of unfair evaluations, overwhelmingly it is given a high credibility that it in no way deserves. Correspondingly, given that psychiatrists stand in a relationship of oppressor to survivors, however it may appear or be made to appear, ultimately neither structurally nor practically do psychiatric survivors have common cause with psychiatrists.
(For this and other related articles, see
Bhugra, D. (2015). To be or not to be a psychiatrist-what is the question? Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131, 4-5.
Bhugra, D. and Moran, P. (2014). The alienation of the alienist: Psychiatry on the ropes? Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 107, 224-227.
Burstow, B. (2015). Psychiatry and the Business of Madness: An ethical and epistemological accounting. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gaebel, W. et al. (2015). Overcoming stigmatizing attitudes toward psychiatrists and psychiatry. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131, 5-6.
Hartley, L. P. (2015). The past is a foreign country: They do things differently there. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131, 10-11.
Kapezinski and Passos (2015). Wet Minds, dry minds, and the future of psychiatry as a science. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131, 8-9.
Kristiansen et al. (2015). Future perspectives on psychiatry. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131, 8-9.
Munk-Jorgensen, P. and Christiansen, B. (2015). Psychiatry generating comparative respect. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131, 2-3.
Oxtoby, K (2008). Psychiatry in crisis. BMJ Careers (http://careers.bmj.com/careers/advice/view-article.html?id=3050).
Read, J. (2015). Saving psychiatry from itself. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131, 11-12.
Stuart, H. et al. (2015). Images of psychiatry and psychiatrists. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131, 21-28.
Tesli, M. (2015). Acta Scandinavica—this issue. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131, 1.
Wasserman, D. (2015). Some thoughts on how to improve the image of psychiatry. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131, 13-14.
Whitaker, R. (2002). Mad in America. New York: Perseus Books.
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.
Wonderful article Bonnie.
It seems that this group of authors have leaned the psychology of excuse giving very well. Externalise the cause of the problem, etc etc. Quite the reverse of the way they view their patients and their mythical mental illness.
I saw a panel discussion recently with one of our prominent psychiatrists who tip toed skillfully around the elephant dung, and suggested that psychiatric treatments had been shown to be highly effective (quoting one Lancet article), but that they were having trouble with resources (money) and getting people into ‘treatment’. I gather from this that the push will be for more swill for the trough, and more effective methods of forcing people into the meat grinder through legislative powers.
If it is the stigma associated with their patients causing the problem, I volunteer to stay well away from them to assist.
Thank you for the analysis of these articles.
“If it’s not working you need more of it” – this is their insane (or criminal – you have to be either dumb or evil or both -I believe it’s called “willfully ignorant”) agenda.
I do solemnly swear to do my utmost to propagate the “stigma” against psychiatry as they rightly deserve it.
A worthy oath.
To summarise – the answer to the critics of psychiatry is not to engage in meaningful debate but rather a call to well funded PR campaigns. Psychiatry has learnt much from it’s arch allie – Big Pharma.
Indeed, it has, John.
Much thanks, boans, including for the very apt witticism, “If it is the stigma associated with their patients causing the problem, I volunteer to stay well away from them to assist.”
Thank you for this great article and for highlighting the very important question, Why do we at all need psychiatry in its medical shape as if human life was reduced to biology and not including social, political, relational and philosophical issues. It is indeed as the comments illustrate, when psychiatry is investigated and questioned ( which is far to seldom) it often ends up as described in your post. And those of us who argue for a system beyond psychiatry are questioned instead, and seen as rebels, non scientific, not seriouse and with a lack of knowledge.
I couldn’t agree more
Thanks again Bonnie for exposing how psychiatry’s PR machine overrides any critical and meaningful discussion/debate on its ‘science status’ and ‘practices’.
It is in this vein that I agree with Carina on the exclusion of societal, political and ‘philosophical’ – epistemological- issues.
Remember the fundamental debates about the ‘ontological’ status of psychiatry’s neuro-biological claims over much of the 20th century, with figures as Heidegger, Sartre, other philosophers, even theological thinkers, challenging the mechanistic reductionism inherent in the scientific make up of psychiatry’s claims.
With the 1990s decade of the brain and the leadership in science given to all neuronal, firmly rooted in the most simplistic positivism, the enculturated intellectual realm for serious debate seems to have been pushed out as ‘not scientific’. Circulous vitiosus indeed, or rat race, if one prefers.
As this do-ability reductionism serves and supplies the machinations in power, not only in psychiatry, even the relevancy of ‘philosophical’ frameworks for human distress and mental experience seems lost, resulting in an Orwellian state-of-the-art in psychiatry’s ‘bio’-technical manoeuvres and manipulations. Which brings me back to the PR approach that seems to dominate and guide international psychiatric associations ‘selfie’-campaigns.
Picking up any of the authors who demonstrated biology-environment inter-relatedness since early 20th century (Uexkull being famous), one does not even need sociology, practical and mental enactments of human part-taking in cultural, political and moral worlds, to clearly expose psychiatry’s neuro-reductionism as wrong.
In my view, we urgently need all of the here-mentioned to reframe socio-psycho-mental – embodied, affective and intelligent – human experience; we need all of these ‘ingredients’ (factors) to support people in severe distress and fearful confusion, to collectively and politically provide ‘capabilities’ for people to lead socially-co-dependent as well as socially contributing, thus meaningful, lives.
Not surprisingly these necessary ingredients of socialized human experience – be it in every day life or severe distress – are absent from the mechanisms and machinations of psychiatry’s neuro(cognitive) ‘evidence’ and ‘treatment’ schemata, which have left humanity behind and excluded personhood since the 1990s or longer. My consequence is to claim that 1990s onward (brain) psychiatry is invalid as autonomous science-discipline and harmful in its deduced practices.
Well put, Ute. And for sure, it is important to return to people like the existential philosophers re what the nature of human existence is and how we come to know and to act.
Excellent article Bonnie. I’m not sure that self-stigma is about pangs of conscience; I think a lot of psychiatrists subconsciously sense that they are not trusted or admired, but they do not care to explore why. And why would they? Their career paths are better served in the current world by ignoring the well-being of patients and serving other interests. But they can’t admit that, even to themselves, so they remain trapped a hairball of logical and moral inconsistencies.
Look at what happens to “heretics” like David Healy (see his excellent blog series on the persecution of heretics at Davidhealy.org). Being an independent thinker who believes in patient autonomy, careful listening, and avoiding psychoactive drugs where possible, the mainstream is not going to welcome you. I recently listened to a lecture by another heretic, Australian child psychiatrist Jon Jureidini (On the Edge: Over Diagnosis and Over Treatment). He believes that in young, marginalized people, delinquency is positive – a sign of hope – and that those who end treatment in a protest phase do the best. He believes that psychiatry ought to subject itself to criticism, that ordinary language is more valuable than psych speak, and that personal autonomy is desirable. But the sad truth is, psychiatrists have to choose between acting with integrity and being welcomed by the mainstream. This is not a happy choice.
How did we as a society allow such a dysfunctional system to develop? The situation is so bad that even as we suffer from distorted values, increasing alienation, and lack of connectedness, we demand more of the “services”, like mainstream psychiatry, that make things worse.
Yes, indeed, we did let it happen; and it up to us stop it.
Blaming others, making excuses, refusing to accept responsibility…
Are these people adults or children?
I think they suffer form a personality disorder (I let you guess which one) and a profound lack of insight. Recommend a court ordered treatment in a form of compensation for victims, actual public service (they could do some street cleaning) and in some cases involuntary commitment to a closed ward called prison.
B: Yes, these people make money hand over fist. I also suggest Developing a program to recover the loot. A couple of psychiatrist past, I noticed a copy of Conde Nast in the psychiatrist’s office. On top of every thing else, they are part of the broader entitled class- 1 percent in this country.
Psychiatrists’ apparent focus on image and spin seems reasonably consistent with their approach to “diagnosis” and “treatment” in that it brooks no real reflection on either their own or their patients’ minds and/or actions, but instead places blame on others and actively seeks ways to avoid any true issues.
They clearly lack the insight necessary for meaningful change!
Here’s hoping the world in 2015, with its improved information-sharing and communications, doesn’t fall for a repeat of the spin that allowed the “profession” to survive and thrive in the second half of the twentieth century.
For sure, Kim. And indeed, we can already seen signs that the information-sharing is beginning to defeat psychiatry. My prediction is that 2015 will go down in particular will down in history as one of the turn-around years, where psychiatry’s fortunes begin to plummet. We just all need here to keep up the good work and to do it with the confidence of people who know that they are riding a momentum.
Funny, now it’s over a year later. One comparison I like to make with psychiatry, is to call it “21st Century phrenology with drugs instead of bumps on the head.” But let’s stay with phrenology for a minute. Phrenology arose in the late 1800’s, bloomed, flourished, then withered, died, and disappeared by the mid-20th Century. Hopefully, “biopsychiatry” will undergo a similar, “100-year” cycle, and quickly fade into irrelevance. Something like that. Get what I mean, what I’m getting at here? Recently, with Insell leaving NIMH, and going to google, I’m afraid psychiatry will double down on the bio-neuro-science, in a desperate attempt to salvage credibility. At the expense of the survivors, as usual….
I have become very fascinated lately with the various complaints of the psychiatric profession that people just don’t understand the great contribution they are making to society. It is amusing, sort of, to see that they appear to be very worried that those who oppose them are making such progress.
If only it were true! As Bonnie points out, our work as antipsychiatry activists is almost invisible in the media, and the general public is hardly aware our movement exists. And criticism of psychiatry in the media, to the tiny extent it exists, NEVER is seen to come from psychiatry’s victims. One would think that all psychiatric “patients” are crazed killers wandering the streets talking to themselves…all thirty million of us in the United States who have been inmates of psychiatric institutions.
How can we take advantage of this newfound anxiety and paranoia among psychiatrists (besides suggesting that they try some of their own drugs)? One useful and easy thing we can do, I think, is not run away from the label “antipsychiatry.” Bonnie sets a good example here. I think the more we adopt that name for our movement, the more the public will see our point of view as legitimate.
It is our job to raise this question: given the great damage psychiatry has done and continues to do to millions of people, and ultimately to our entire society, how could anyone who paying attention be anything other than antipsychiatry?
Agreed, Ted, and indeed, I invite people who otherwise have not used it, to consider using the term “antipscyhiatry”. While of course, it is important for people to figure out what they believe and what they are comfortable with, and I very much respect that, I do believe that this is key to changing the equation. It is announcing loud and clear that psychiatry as a solution does not work and indeed cannot work, and coaxing people to grapple with what they otherwise might not.
Proudly anti-psychiatry because:
– I’m against human rights abuse, civil rights abuse, torture and corporate corruption of medicine
– I’m a neuroscientist and it turns my stomach to read the bs these people publish as “scientific research” – it does the disservice to science and to society
Thank you, Bonnie, for this interesting assessment of psychiatry’s “apologias.” Personally I believe they should be apologizing, rather than writing articles defending their actions. Especially for things such as the exclusively US only childhood bipolar epidemic, which has resulted in “iatrogenic harm on an almost unfathomable scale.” (Not to mention the millions more adults who, no doubt, also had the ADRs of antidepressants and ADHD drugs misdiagnosed, according to the DSM -IV-TR, as “bipolar”). And I believe it’s shameless that the DSV5 claims this DSM IV misdiagnosis, is now a proper diagnosis, especially since the “bipolar” drugs do not cure adverse reactions to the antidepressants or ADHD drugs.
I appreciate your efforts in helping point out the hypocritical games the psychiatric industry plays. And I agree with boans, if the psychiatrists think their stigmatization of patients is the reason they feel stigmatized, I too, would be more than happy to never deal with any psychiatrist ever again. But maybe, just maybe, if there is a good and just God, He’s giving the psychiatrists a tiny taste of their own medicine, in the hopes some wisdom may be gained by that industry some day.
Right on, Someone Else
“psychiatrists have speculated on outsiders’ negative image of the profession”
Smells like “lack of insight” to me…
They have anosognosia.
Wonderful article, Bonnie. Excellent analysis of the ‘head-in-the-sand’ phenomena and arrogance exhibited by far too many psychiatrists.
Maybe they can get BigPharma to pay for their communication campaign and training?!
I feel sorry not just their patients, but also for the good psychiatrists out there.
Alas, if history proves to be an indicator, Big Pharma will be exactly who steps up and who pays for the anti-stigma campaign–which means added big money behind the propaganda.
It’s interesting to me that even among themselves most psychiatrists can’t be honest and admit that what they’re doing to people is wrong, unethical, immoral and downright only for their own financial gain and ego stroking. You can’t convince me that they don’t know what they’re doing to people is destructive.
One thing that I always remember about psychiatry is that it’s almost singlehandedly responsible for the eugenics movement that swept the world with the beginning of the 20th century. The existentialist philosophers spoke out against the reductionist tendencies of psychiatry and denounced it as a spurious medical specialty. And it was psychiatrists who murdered thousands of people labeled as “mentally ill” in Germany before the rise of Hitler. They developed the gas chambers and the ovens that the Nazis used later.
I am not afraid to call myself antipsychiatry at all. I have no use for this quack branch of medicine.
Interesting piece of history psychiatrists during the National Socialist rule in Germany. Hitler never actually gave any order for people to be sterilised or exterminated, he just cleared the legal protections that allowed it to occur.
Done a little differently nowadays. In my State we have legal protections for the community, but the person charged with ensuring they are observed, doesn’t know what they are (or at least I have a letter from him demonstrating his lack of knowledge of these protections). This allows the use of the mental health system for political purposes, and really should be a major concern for the community.
I wondered what ever happened to those psychiatrists from Germany? Did they get to meet Albert Pierrepoint? Oh, that’s right, nothing. Hey, same as today, no accountability. Some things never change eh?
It’s still happening (using psychiatry for political reasons and I’m talking Germany and not China here):
Similar story recently in Poland (just east of the border). I bet it’s a tip of the mountain.
Mollath site (English version):
After reading the chronology of events, I smell more than a rat. There’s a whole nest of them there.
Take a special sort of stupid not to suspect there might be something in Mr Mollaths claims of criminal behaviour on the part of his ex wife, and other bank employees. Few palms been greased in the courts too by the sounds of it.
Shame Mr Mollath didn’t have an ace up his sleeve to drop on the table at the right moment.
I’d be water boarding the ex wife for info if it were me. I got some friends in Egypt who are good at questioning people if an extra ordinary rendition can be arranged lol.
Actually, forget the Egypt option, the police here have been using cattle prods, hoses to beat the bottom of the feet, buckets over the head before head assaults, and simulated drownings since the 80s.
Sitting scratching the fluff out of my belly button and got to thinking about how it must feel when a psychiatrists role turns from one of ‘healer’ to that of a shill to conceal the criminal conduct of a colleague.
Do they go home and ask for forgiveness? Or is it the case that they now have someone who owes them? Another compromised individual to use to enrich one self.
I guess the forgiveness option is out, because it won’t be given. Not only poisoning the individual against whom they are bearing false witness, but the whole community.
Enable the corrupt, and corrupt the good.
And in fact, there are a few of them who are still alive, or were until just recently. And, as you pointed out, nothing of any real import ever happened to these psychiatrists. A very few were hung by the neck at Nuremburg but many of them got a slap on the wrist and were called bad boys and that was about it. And in fact, many of them espouse the very same ideas that they did in the 30’s and 40’s, they’re just much more quiet about it but they still have faithful followers who believe that all the terrible things done to people in the name of psychiatry and medicine during that time are perfectly correct and should be done today.
Looking at the part that psychiatry plays here in America to placate people into accepting coercion because of their fears about the state of the world, this earlier history bothers me very much. Most psychiatrists are all too glad to be the watchdogs for coercion, especially since it pays very well to be those watchdogs.
In Germany in the 1930’s German psychiatrists stated that it would take the destruction and murder of at least one million people before the German state would be where it should be and deserved to be. They believed that society in general would be more open to all this mass murder if it was carried out during the war, when people’s sensibility about the wrongness of all this would be blunted and dulled due to the slaughter taking place on the battlefields.
But, and here’s the stickler, American psychiatry, along with many foundations set up by the rich, espoused the very same things be done with the mentally ill and the “useless eaters” here in America as the German psychiatrists were doing in Germany. People in psychiatric institutions here in America were forcibly sterilized against their will and the keynote speaker of the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in 1941 stated that the mentally ill should be put to death here in America. Only two people stood up to oppose what he was saying. I believe that psychiatry’s history does nothing to invoke trust in any way as far as I’m concerned. People say that mass murder would never be possible here in this country and yet our government carries out programs against African Americans and they do it with impunity under titles such as “the war against drugs”.
When the African American community began taking their rightful place alongside all other Americans in the late 60’s and early 70’s angry young African American men were arrested in droves and taken to psych “hospitals” where they were given labels of paranoid schizophrenia. I remember the outrage that swept this country when the two young African American men at the Olympics in Mexico City raised their black gloved fists in protest as they stood on the podium and the national anthem played. That was a form of peaceful protest but was met with outrage everywhere. More African Americans fill our jails and prisons than any other race and many of these people find their way into the so-called “mental health” system by this route. And who is overseeing all of this? Drug companies and psychiatry and the law.
Frankly, I have no use for psychiatry at all. The good psychiatrists can go back to doing talk therapy or they can find some other way of making money to support themselves, but I don’t think that we truly need psychiatry or psychiatrists. I am not going to sit around the table, hold hands with them, and sing Kumbaya in hopes that they just might decide to dialog with those of us who have experienced their wonderful treatment and survived it in one way or another.
Thanks Bonnie for this heartening article. It’s no surprise that the only commentator WITH any insight was not a psychiatrist. I think that, with their swelling of patients, psychiatrists are inviting attack. Less and less people are truly outside psychiatry.
Personally I’m waiting for that “mirror crack’d from side to side” moment for this group, one precipitated by their own megalomania.
I do believe that anti-psychiatrists are the only ones walking out of here.
Actually, there were a few different killing eugenics programs with doctors at the centre of all of them in Nazi Germany. While some of the doctors involved were found guilty and ended up in jail after the doctors’ trials ,very few. Interviews with them, correspondingly, reveal that decades later, their views had not changed. For from their perspective, the “individual who they were murdering” was not the patient. It was the volk. And the best was to treat the volk, was to cut off the contaminated parts whether it be what they called “idiots”, Jews, or “schizophrenics”. In this regard, one of the doctors in a book by Lifton wrote”. “I am a doctor, and of course, as a doctor, I would remove a gangrenous appendix. The Jew is the gangrenous appendix on the body of mankind.” A frightening view.
Part of the problem with today’s American psychiatrists’ eugenics claims is that American psychiatrists are trying to drug anyone outside the bell curve. Even well behaved, polite, little boys who surprise school social workers by healing from abuse as a toddler, and end up getting 100% on their state standardized tests by the eigth grade.
Thankfully, I kept my child away from the lunetics who wanted to drug him for being bright. But the American “mental health” workers are not just trying to improve the “volk” by getting rid of the “grangrenous appendix.” Today’s American “mental health” workers are also going after our best and brightest children.
Ironically, for one who questions the validity of the “survival of the fittest” theory, it’s about maintaining the status quo, with the less than brilliant psychiatric practitioners in charge, rather than allowing for the fittest to survive and thrive.
I do think that were are seeing the beginning of a sea change, and yes, the power lust and hubris of the psychiatristsand the clear vision of the antipsychatry folk is pivotal to what will happen.