Editor’s Note: Over the next several months, Mad in America is publishing a serialized version of Peter Gøtzsche’s book, Mental Health Survival Kit and Withdrawal from Psychiatric Drugs. In this blog, he begins a discussion about how young psychiatrists can stand up to the system. Each Monday, a new section of the book is published, and all chapters are archived here.
I wrote this book for patients and their relatives to help them avoid becoming trapped by psychiatry and becoming snowed under by psychiatric drugs, thereby wasting years of their lives, or, in the worst case, dying. But what about psychiatry as a medical specialty; can it be saved from itself?
It cannot. Many books, including this one, have documented that the psychiatric leaders have given up rational thinking for the benefits they acquire themselves from supporting a totally sick system. The only hope we have is if the people protest so vigorously that it becomes an unstoppable revolution.
Given the pervasive indoctrination this is unlikely to happen. There will always be too many patients who think psychiatric drugs have been good for them and who will side with the psychiatric guild, and this force, coupled with the obscene wealth and power the drug industry has accumulated by selling useless pills to us, is so great that our politicians, even if they have realised how bad it all is, don’t dare act accordingly. The system is locked, as if it had been forced into a straitjacket.
It is also very convenient for politicians that there is a profession that deals with the most disturbing elements in our societies and exerts tight social control over them, much tighter than the criminal system allows, sometimes with indefinite sentences, in a closed system where the screams of the victims are not heard, like in the Soviet Gulag system or in the Nazi concentration camps, where the deaths caused by those who held the power were called natural deaths, and where the appeal system was a total sham. What is the difference to psychiatry, that also calls its killings “natural deaths,” where the appeal system is a total sham, where the law is being systematically violated, and where independent researchers end up getting fired after a show trial if they try to find out why people died?
But we have another source of hope than the people: the young psychiatrists in training whose brains have not yet been deadlocked into all the false beliefs. Some of them had become so desperate that they contacted me, even though I didn’t know them beforehand, to discuss their intense frustrations about a system that so clearly makes matters worse for its patients.
One of them, 46-year-old chief physician Klaus Munkholm from the psychiatric department at my own hospital, had realised, after reading books by Robert Whitaker and myself, that what he had believed in for so many years was plain wrong. He wrote to me in July 2017 and explained that he was concerned that biological psychiatry had not been helpful for understanding bipolar disorder, which was his main research interest. He had the same concerns about other psychiatric disorders and wanted to do meaningful research.
I am very quick at judging people and immediately arranged a meeting that went very well. We started a fruitful research collaboration, but it had repercussions for Klaus. One month after our first meeting, he had—both in an email and at a meeting—already been discouraged from collaborating with my research group, and he had been warned that it would have consequences for his career.
I responded: “Can you see the similarity to religious fanatism? This is precisely how Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, and all the others react. This is unheard of in an academic context but tells us a lot about where psychiatry is.”
Klaus didn’t budge, and from December 2017, I employed him one day a week, to the great chagrin of his boss, professor Lars Kessing.
Klaus was a treasure. Bright and kind, a great asset for all the psychiatric projects I had started. It didn’t take long before I told him that I wanted to employ him full-time. He finally abandoned psychiatry and became full-time employed, a year after he first contacted me. Some of psychiatry’s silverbacks, who had previously held him in high regard, now treated him like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientology treat defectors.
The same month, another chief psychiatrist, Kristian Sloth, also unknown to me, asked to have a meeting, and he drew my attention to an announcement from Psychiatry in the Capital Region that depression pills could prevent dementia. They of course cannot do this; research has shown that it is more likely that they cause dementia (see Chapter 2).
Kristian also noted that he had reduced drug expenses by 35% in just one year since he started working at the department. He told me about a patient who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, received a high dose of Leponex (clozapine), became psychotic, got even more Leponex, and ended up in a maximum-security ward. When they stopped Leponex, all her psychotic symptoms disappeared.
Kristian has opened a section in his department that he calls “force-free department” where his patients are guaranteed that no force will be applied to them.
Another psychiatrist quit her job at a department where chief physician Lars Søndergård had overdosed the patients so monstrously, and against the guidelines, that he was no longer allowed to work as a psychiatrist because of his dangerousness.1 She went to another hospital, but in the meantime, Søndergaard had been allowed to practice again, under close supervision, and he showed up at the hospital where she now was.
Søndergaard continued to overdose his patients monstrously. His boss, Michael Schmidt, didn’t supervise him, and it was pure luck that all his patients survived the huge overdoses, often with several neuroleptics simultaneously. The nurses and his psychiatrist colleagues were very concerned about what they saw and contacted Schmidt about it, but nothing happened.
Schmidt replied that, “Many of the patients we meet today in the emergency department are very outgoing and extremely difficult to treat within the current guidelines. It will always be so that the individual physician/ specialist can deviate from guidelines and instructions based on his own experience and the patient’s condition.”2
As the culture at the department was one of fear and intimidation, the nurses decided to involve their union.
Søndergaard’s malpractice included suspending correct treatment instituted by another doctor of alcoholic delirium, which is a very dangerous condition, and prescribing two neuroleptics, which markedly increase the risk of convulsions, sudden cardiac arrhythmias, and death.3 One patient received methadone, which can cause lethal arrhythmias, which is why the National Board of Health recommends against concomitant treatment with neuroleptics, but this patient was prescribed three neuroleptics simultaneously, and was dismissed the same day.3
Schmidt’s reply was extremely arrogant.4 He could not recognize any of the horrible examples of overdosing the journalist sent to him.
It took four months for the Patient Safety Authority to respond. The verdict was harsh.5 Schmidt was placed under strict supervision and Søndergård could no longer work as a psychiatrist. Schmidt had approved a proposal from Søndergård that meant that the patients became hugely overdosed, and he had not been able to interpret a scientific article professionally but concluded the opposite of what the article said about dosage. Schmidt had failed to inform the Authority of the excessive doses even though he had a duty to do so, and although the staff had made him aware of it several times.
Schmidt had even written to the Authority that Søndergård “has a sharp analytical approach” and had “brought the department to a higher professional level,” contrary to the Authority’s opinion, which was that Søndergård in several cases had exposed the patients to serious danger.
Deputy Director Søren Bredkjær, the Psychiatry Management in Region Zealand, immediately issued a press release emphasizing that they still had full confidence in Schmidt and that he had only received a “mild decision.”
The young psychiatrist in training who had reported Schmidt to the Authority after having tried for months to solve the problems by taking them up with him, Schmidt had labelled “an insane cantankerous person” in front of colleagues.5
Eventually she gave up and went to Bredkjær, whom she encouraged to examine the relevant patient files. She showed him a list of the patients who were admitted on a day she was on duty and let him see her personal notes. She asked him to investigate the matter, but nothing happened. Then she saw no other option but to go to the press.
To the journalist, Bredkjær beat about the bush all the time and he didn’t want to apologize to the nurses and doctors who had constantly warned about the problems but had been ignored.
All the young psychiatrists that have come to see me really appreciated working with their patients. I told them they were exactly the type of doctors the patients and psychiatry needed, and that they should not leave psychiatry.
One of them was seriously reprimanded by her boss when she began to slowly withdraw the drugs the patients didn’t need any longer, but which he had started in the outpatient facility.
Another wrote to me: “Can you imagine how it is to share coffee and lunch with these people day in and day out, for weeks, months and years? I am forced to listen to the receptor purists’ mad ramblings until I cannot stand them anymore and ask them for their scientific references for their claims, and that only makes them angry.
“I am forced to listen to those that always want to talk about some psychiatrist that annoys them because he is bad at making correct diagnoses until I ask them how they know that their particular brand of diagnostics is the correct one, which makes them angry.
“Worst of all, I need to listen to the lifestyle-oriented psychiatrists’ talks about their latest apartments, cars and travels, and they get angry with me if I even mention psychiatry. What I have painfully learned about these people is that most of them are completely uninterested in reading the actual articles about the clinical trials we have. Instead, they simply follow their leader.”
As noted in Chapter 2, Danish filmmaker Anahi Testa Pedersen got the diagnosis schizotypy when she became stressed over a difficult divorce. She joked about this diagnosis in her film, and as I had no idea what this odd thing was supposed to be, I looked it up on the Internet and found a test for schizotypal personality disorder.6
It is defined in various ways in different sources, but the test reflects quite well how this thing is described on the Mayo Clinical website,7 and as they say that the symptoms are published by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,6 I went ahead. There were nine questions and you should reply true or false, or yes or no, to each one.
1: “Incorrect interpretations of events, such as a feeling that something which is actually harmless or inoffensive has a direct personal meaning.” This is a very vague question, and many people interpret events incorrectly, particularly psychiatrists, or take them personally.
2: “Odd beliefs or magical thinking that’s inconsistent with cultural norms.” That’s an interesting one. When a young psychiatrist disagrees with the odd “cultural norms” at the department about preventative treatment of schizotypy, is he then abnormal? And what about Søndergård’s monstrous overdoses, which was a “cultural norm,” as his boss accepted it? It seems that the normal people in the staff who protested should be considered abnormal according to question 2.
3: “Unusual perceptions, including illusions.” I have provided evidence in this book and earlier books that most psychiatrists would need to say yes to this question. Just think about the illusion called the chemical imbalance.
4: “Odd thinking and speech patterns.” Surely, most psychiatrists display odd thinking, maintaining the lie about the chemical imbalance and many other lies, and also denying totally what other people see clearly, including their own patients, e.g. that psychiatric drugs do more harm than good.
5: “Suspicious or paranoid thoughts, such as the belief that someone’s out to get you.” If you are detained in a psychiatric department, such a reaction is totally normal and understandable. The staff surely is out to “get you,” namely to treat you forcefully with neuroleptics against your will. When psychiatric leaders use terms about their opponents such as “antipsychiatry” and “conspiracy,” can it then be considered a “yes” to question 5?
6: “Flat emotions, appearing aloof and isolated.” This is what psychiatric drugs do to people, so if they weren’t abnormal to begin with, the psychiatrists will ensure that they become abnormal.
7: “Odd, eccentric or peculiar behaviour or appearance.” As noted in Chapter 2, one definition of madness is doing the same thing again and again expecting a different result, which is what psychiatrists do all the time. I would call that an odd, eccentric and peculiar behaviour.
8: “Lack of close friends or confidants other than relatives.” This is what psychiatric drugs do to people, particularly neuroleptics; they isolate people and can make zombies out of them.
9: “Excessive social anxiety that doesn’t diminish with familiarity.” If you are detained in a psychiatric department, such a reaction is totally normal and understandable.
There is an amusing spelling error on the website.6 It says: “Our test will clearly and accurately calculate your points and will give impotent suggestion.” I agree that the test is impotent. It is useless and bogus. Many, perhaps even most, psychiatrists would test positive. Perhaps they should try a preventative neuroleptic for their schizotypy?
What is less amusing is that the test provides circular evidence for the patients who, even if they are normal, might test positive when they have been treated inhumanely by psychiatrists, including being forcefully treated with neuroleptics.
To read the footnotes for this chapter and others, click here.
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.