Lieberman Calls Whitaker “A Menace to Society”


On Canada’s popular national CBC radio program The Sunday Edition, psychiatrist Jeffrey Lieberman today described Robert Whitaker as “a menace to society.” Lieberman is the Chairman of Psychiatry at Columbia University, a former head of the American Psychiatric Association and author of the new book Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry. Whitaker is the publisher of this website, whose 2010 book Anatomy of an Epidemic focused on what science is showing about the long-term effects of psychiatric medications.

During the interview, CBC host Michael Enright asked Lieberman if he was familiar with Whitaker. “Unfortunately I am,” answered Lieberman. Enright then played a clip of Whitaker discussing medication withdrawal problems and research showing that long-term outcomes for people taking psychiatric medications were on average worse than for people who never received any treatments.

Asked for his reaction to Whitaker, Lieberman said, “I have nothing against him personally.” Lieberman then added, “What he says is preposterous. He’s a menace to society because he’s basically fomenting misinformation and misunderstanding about mental illness and the nature of treatment.”

Lieberman then compared taking antidepressants to taking insulin for diabetes.

“Whitaker, he ostensibly considers himself to have been a journalist,” added Lieberman. “God help the publication that employed him.” (Whitaker’s CV is publicly available.)

Enright then asked, “What about his contention that the unmedicated patients did better than the medicated patients?” After a pause, Lieberman responded, “I’d say that’s absolutely wrong. If you do a controlled study with various illnesses, whether it’s schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and you do a randomized study, assign one group to receive whatever the state of the art is in psychiatry including medication, and you assign the other to some innocuous, non-medical type of supportive therapy or whatever, and you follow the people for a period of time, the outcomes will be extraordinarily superior in the treated group… There’s no doubt about it.”

Lieberman did not point to any of the actual studies of long-term outcomes that have been done, and it’s unclear if he was using the conditional future tense as a way of acknowledging that the evidence to support his assertion does not currently exist. It’s also not clear how much time Lieberman meant when he said that treated patients would fare better for “a period of time.”

The Sunday Edition (CBC Radio, April 26, 2015) (Interview with Jeffrey Lieberman begins at 40 minutes, and discussion about Robert Whitaker begins at 51:30.)

See also:

A Challenge to Dr. Lieberman — Robert Whitaker Responds (Mad in America, April 26, 2015)


  1. excellent article. thank you. scary that ISPS (the organization that first connected me with robert whitaker, back in 2005) wanted lieberman to be a keynoter at their big NYC conference last month…”to dialogue with him.” like that was ever going to happen… regardless, he dropped out before the conference. scary guy…but not coincidental that he rose to power in his field of choice, psychiatry.

    • I almost didn’t go to the IPSP conference because he was orginally scheduled to speak on the opening plenary panel so I wrote off the entire conference. Someone persuaded me to go anyway and to my delight, he wasn’t present at the conference. Does anyone know if he cancelled or withdrew and if so, why?

        • Ha, that’s funny that you mentioned ISPS meeting, because I was going to comment to Robert Whitaker, not to feel bad that Lieberman hasn’t been in touch with him because he didn’t show up for ISPS either!
          However, I would like to state that Lieberman was never invited to give a keynote address at ISPS. He was asked to be part of a panel during a plenary session with people with quite different viewpoints about psychiatric treatment. Given his interactions with Whitaker and Tanya Luhrmann, I don’t see that he is someone interested in dialoguing about psychiatry, so its for the best that he backed out for reasons he never specified. Its safe to assume that he wanted to be on a panel with people who would challenge him… or even return their phone calls!

  2. It’s funny how these are the guys who are supposed to figure out what is an isn’t delusion.

    At this point, not even trying to engage in any kind of debate in regards to psychiatry shows only delusion or corruption.

    Maybe he isn’t lying though, maybe in his mind the current mental health paradigm is simply too big to fail and so if you’re asking difficult questions, you really are a menace.

  3. I think this is wonderful, because Lieberman sounds like a fool.

    A short while back, the New York Times ran an article that was mildly critical pf psychiatry, and Lieberman actually demanded that the Times give him space for rebuttal. Of course, they refused, and Lieberman threw a virtual tantrum. But here, he has made a personal attack on someone, and a chance for rebuttal makes a lot of sense. Since it appears that the moderator of the program was openminded enough to give exposure to Bob’s ideas, a request for a rebuttal is likely to be successful, I would think.

    Lieberman’s book appears to be ghostwritten. Too bad for him he can’t carry around his ghostwriter with him to keep him from putting his foot in his mouth once again.

  4. “Lieberman then compared taking antidepressants to taking insulin for diabetes.”
    I still cringe whenever I hear this analogy.
    This specious, pithy piece of disinformation helped victimize so many people into starting, maintaining, and prolonging the use of these toxic drugs!

  5. And the meta-message here is: It is true because Liebermann said it is so. It irks me incredibly that a journalist lets him get away with that. Easy response: “I hear what you’re saying, but Whitaker has given us several long-term studies to back up his contention – do you have any studies saying the opposite?” And continue to ask for studies if he tries to deflect, finishing with the clear statement, “So am I understanding that you don’t actually have any studies you can cite that say this?”

    That being said, being cursed by Liebermann is proof that Bob is really making an impact and the psychiatrists are running scared.

    “Insulin for diabetes…” What a crock!

    — Steve

  6. I just wanted to say as a physician and as a patient (due to early, severe, prolonged childhood abuse and neglect) and having suffered the wrecking ball of psychiatry… my personal opinion is that psychiatry is the menace to psychiatry. Not once have I been asked about childhood trauma and every time I bring it up, I am told it is unimportant including from a top and well financed researched based medical school. Every time, I shake my head in dismay….But I just cannot seem to get through, even when I bring the ACE study graphs or when I bring information from SAMHSA on the ACE study and I just wonder, why doesn’t psychiatry want to know more that will probably help patients. Why do they always want to give a pill (typically for someone with my childhood history — an antipsychotic or mood stabilizer for PTSD). And why did they rebuke the diagnosis proposed by Bessel van der Kolk and group, Developmental Trauma Disorder which is being verified by the work of the NCTSN?

    • I suppose there isn’t as much profit in trauma, besides which, they’d have to admit they have no tools to actually deal with it. I actually had a psychiatrist (one I even have some respect for) tell me that PTSD isn’t caused by trauma, because if it were, everyone who was traumatized would develop it, so there must be something wrong with the person who develops PTSD beyond being exposed to the trauma. Seems to presuppose that there is a “right way” to respond to being traumatized, and those who “overreact” are somehow wrong or deficient for doing so.

      I also read a recent study (I think on MIA) where they discovered that over 80% of the kids in a psychiatric residential facility (or maybe it was more than one) had trauma histories, but less than 20% had any documentation of this in their files. So 60% of the residents either had reported trauma and it wasn’t considered important enough to write down, or simply weren’t asked, despite their residing in a facility for kids who have major behavioral or emotional issues that are very highly associated with trauma.

      I’d suggest you listen to Van der Kolk and send the psychiatrists packing. There really is nothing they have to offer to trauma victims in the vast majority of cases, even though trauma is present in the vast majority of cases they encounter. They just don’t appear to think it’s important enough to bother with, if only because they can’t sell drugs as easily if working from that frame of reference. But it does seem like they often do the opposite of what would be helpful, doesn’t it? Makes you wonder how invested they are in people actually getting better…

      —- Steve

      • I understand your point. I am convinced (from experience) that few who work in these places are “trying to help” or “make a differnce”….The training varies from state to statem etc. For some (maybe more than some) its an income where accountability is next to none.
        By not taking the child’s (or adult’s) experience into account, it surely sends the message that its ok to be abused and then causes more abuse by “blaming the brain”
        Where is scientific proof of these drugs, and where is the reasoning and ethics
        in this type of treatment?

      • “everyone who was traumatized would develop it, so there must be something wrong with the person who develops PTSD beyond being exposed to the trauma”

        That is exactly the prevalent thinking. Even if we go from broken brain causes that to trauma plus “susceptibility” causes that it’s still essentially the same dehumanizing and abuser-friendly machine. It’s not a rapist, a murderer, an abuser, a corrupt banker who is the problem – it’s the victim who is not resilient enough. Afterall it is “normal” to just suck it up, shut up and keep going, right?

        For psychiatry anyone who is even a little bit more emotional than a highly functioning psychopath is mentally ill. Psychiatry is in the business of protecting bad people and the evil inhuman system.

        • Too true! The distinction between what they think of as “mentally well” and “I just don’t give a crap” is remarkably fine, if there is one at all. It seems the goal is to never be upset about anything that happens, no matter how bad. Very convenient for the promoters of the “status quo!”

          —- Steve

    • I think the pharma psychiatric drug industy is in the publice business of psycologically raping the public. They have conned their way into public schools and before that the judical judical system,,,making hugh profits along the way.
      If someone made a documentary (except substitute a foreign country for USA) , no doubt people would get upset. The unquestioned trust (not to mention funding) that people give to psychiatry is beyond discust.

  7. Based on my observations, I conclude, Psychiatry is more of an art, than anything. Unfortunately some are bad at this healing art, however Whittaker is not one of them. Thank Goodness.

    If you are not getting better, change Psychiatrists. It really can be that simple. God Bless America.

    There’s a common phrase about Mental Health professionals doing more harm than good, because they are not being put back in the silo’s of which they belong and delving out things that actually heal, when you need it.

    As a consumer, I shouldn’t have to work for them. They should have to work for me.

    When did it all go wrong?