Gary Sidley: Alternatives to Bio-Medical Psychiatry as Ways of Responding to Human Suffering


Dr. Gary Sidley worked within NHS mental health services for 33 years in a variety of nursing, psychological and managerial roles. In the 1980s he was employed as a psychiatric nurse at a large asylum in Manchester, commencing his clinical psychology training in 1987. Subsequently, he worked as a clinical psychologist in community mental health services, inpatient units and GP practices, as well as with Senior Management positions. Gary is now a freelance writer and trainer with an interest in promoting alternatives to bio-medical psychiatry as ways of responding to human suffering.

In 2015, Gary published the Book Takes from the Madhouse, in which he clearly lays out the scientific evidence against current psychiatric practices, going on to illustrate key points with beautifully written, poignant, at times deeply shocking stories from his years of experience. His stories leave us in no doubt that medically lead practices impact negatively on those in the care of mental health services.

I was keen to ask Gary about his own experiences of working within the psychiatric system and what the future holds for mental healthcare.

In this episode we discuss:

  • How Gary started working in mental health services in 1980 after his Biochemistry degree
  • Gary’s time spent as a Psychiatric nurse, before going on to train as a Clinical Psychologist
  • How Gary has also spent time in Team Leader and Senior Management roles
  • That Gary’s experience of supporting people with their mental health made him extremely uncomfortable with Psychiatry and the way it approached patient care
  • How Gary, in his book Tales from the Madhouse, calls for a paradigm shift in the way we respond to emotional distress and suffering
  • Some anecdotes from Gary’s long and distinguished career that illustrate the mixed messages and limiting beliefs that are often given to patients of the Psychiatric system
  • The tension between a biological medication centred approach and a more person centred, compassionate approach to supporting people with their mental health
  • The reasons that Gary wrote his book, Tales from the Madhouse
  • That response to the book has been excellent and Gary hasn’t had too much by way of criticism
  • That informed choice is such an important principle where psychoactive medications are concerned
  • The reality behind antidepressant efficacy, mode of action and withdrawal effects
  • That we need revolution not evolution and changes at multiple levels to enable good mental health
  • how we should move away from an illness model and towards promoting wellbeing
  • That we need to review the Mental Health Act as it amounts to legalised discrimination

Papers discussed in this episode

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors versus placebo in patients with major depressive disorder. A systematic review with meta-analysis and Trial Sequential Analysis

Relevant links

Tales from the Madhouse: An insider critique of psychiatric services