How Awais Aftab and Institutional Psychiatry Sidestep the Challenges Put to Them


From the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry (ISEPP): “An interesting exchange has taken place between psychiatrist and Psychiatric Times author Awais Aftab, M.D. and journalist Robert Whitaker of Mad in America (MIA). The initial trigger was MIA’s March 27th review of a JAMA Psychiatry article that reported how psychiatry has failed to publicize data about treatment success rates over time.

. . . MIA was spot-on in challenging why psychiatry hasn’t established these success rates like other medical specialties have. Psychiatry is not exactly a new specialty, having existed for over two centuries, and since its foundation, it has steadily increased its impact and control over millions of lives with chemical, electrical, and surgical treatments for illnesses that it has a very hard time defining or even finding.

. . . Aftab again replied to Whitaker on April 9th. But this time, his comments redirected away from the issue of psychiatry’s lack of success rate trend data and, instead, he [seemed] to go to lengths to belittle Whitaker and MIA.

He first described Whitaker’s thoughtful and comprehensive reply of April 6th as ‘long-winded’ and a ‘double down in the defense of’ the original MIA review. He further suggested it would have been better if, instead of replying to Aftab’s March 28th blog, Whitaker just remained quiet, distanced MIA from the review, or reacted with contrition. This is a familiar reaction by mainstream psychiatry; they seem to only respect criticism that doesn’t seriously attack its foundations.

After this initial disparaging salvo, Aftab then launched into a false equivalency, claiming that both the institution of psychiatry and MIA are guilty of the sin of misleading the public. He pushed even further and resorted to the political red herring ploy of attacking the accuser, saying whatever the institution of psychiatry is guilty of, it doesn’t ‘absolve MIA of its sins and shortcomings.’ This turning of the tables and pointing the finger back at Whitaker and MIA avoids the challenge of the March 27th review, which was about psychiatry’s empirical shortcomings of its widely claimed treatment successes over time. Challenge sidestepped.

Aftab further tries to marginalize Whitaker, condescendingly declaring that he ‘held some rather naïve ideas about psychiatry in the 1990s through no fault of his own.’ Aftab is making the incredulous claim that Whitaker, an award-winning investigative journalist and part of a Pulitzer Prize finalist team, who has covered medicine and science for over 30 years, just doesn’t understand the complexities of psychiatric research. This is another ploy by mainstream psychiatry – when serious criticism comes, just discount it as naïveté. Aftab tops it all off by casting Whitaker and MIA aside with the charge of having ‘anti-epistemology’ blinders.”

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  1. It is good to see another response to, Have it both ways, Awais. I read his response to Whittiker and wanted to respond but you have to subscribe before you can comment.

    In his article states he will not respond with statistics in his article as that would take a lot of work but unless he is prepared to do that he has no argument worth listening to.

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    • “….but unless he is prepared to do that [respond with statistics] he has no argument worth listening to.”

      You’re damn right. But I wouldn’t trust any data from people who have no problem massaging their “data”.

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  2. Psychiatry is “….a presumed medical specialty that has no reputable theory about the alleged internal dysfunction that causes mental illness, that has no biomarkers with which to diagnose those illnesses, yet that has a long history of coercing people to act, think, and feel in accordance with an ill-defined and ever-changing set of moral standards.”

    Psychiatry is nothing more than a medicalized game of Blind Man’s Bluff. And it’s guilty of Willful Blindness until it changes.

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