“Psychiatry as a Cultural System”


On his Critical Psychiatry blog, Duncan Double responds to Gary Sidley’s post on MIA about radical change in our mental health systems.  “I do understand his frustration and I think we may need to understand better why there is such reluctance for psychiatry to change,” Double writes. “To do this, it may be helpful to look at the work of Clifford Geertz . . .  [who] saw religion as a cultural system.”

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  1. Resistant to change? That is simple. Those in power do not want to lose power. The victims of psychiatry die on an average 25 years sooner , so they can’t fight. The increasing percentage of the population judged mentally ill is some kind of magic that more magic pills will solve.
    1955 ………………………… 3.38 per 1,000.

    1987…………………………… 13.75 per 1,000

    2003…………………………… 19.69 per 1,000

    Only when the Government money paying for the magic pills is stopped, can/will the system change.

    Won’t you help the mentally ill with medication?

  2. Psychiatry, being a branch of medical science, in theory, is all about the biological. Suggest a non-medical approach, and you’ve just put the entire profession in jeopardy. Of course they don’t want radical change if it’s going to put them out of work. This is why mainstream psychiatrists, when the bio is questioned, say bio-psycho-social, and that getting rid of the bio is extreme. That’s their profession that they’re talking about. When you’re a “soul” doctor, more or less, finding the “soul” can be a real stickler. “Healing” the “soul”, well, since we’re just talking, there you go, it’s as good as done. On the one hand, you’ve got harmful drugs pretending to be “medicine”, and on the other, you’ve got talk pretending to be “therapy”. Either way, you’ve got the clergy of the Church of “Major Mental Illness” pretending to be medical doctors.

  3. The comparison of Psychiatric theory to religion, based on Geertz’s definition, is the best explanation of the culture that promotes psychiatric dogma I have come across. Perhaps, “religion” and “worldview” could be exchanged, but use of “worldview” could underscore the tenacity of the deeply held theoretic underpinnings of the psychiatric tradition. Well done!