Monday, April 12, 2021

Defining Anti-Psychiatry

Home Forums Organizing for Social Change Defining Anti-Psychiatry

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 450 total)
  • Author
  • #56270
    Frank Blankenship

    I started a thread under the topic Organizing Anti-Psychiatry heading but it got highjacked by people wanting to theorize about what Anti-Psychiatry is or isn’t. I’m starting a new thread specific to the topic of Defining Anti-Psychiatry. Defining Anti-Psychiatry first off isn’t Organizing Anti-Psychiatry. If you want to theorize, here is the place to do so. If you want to act, see Anti-Psychiatry Organizing. I don’t see any advantage in getting lost in theory so-to-speak. If you want to argue about what Anti-Psychiatry is or isn’t. Now you’ve got a space for doing just that.

    Frank Blankenship

    I haven’t read Quackery Squared yet. I haven’t read it not because I don’t want to do so. I haven’t read it because I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’m sure I will disagree with some of what Dr. Thomas S. Szasz said about R.D. Laing. Of course, R.D. Laing was not E. Fuller Torrey, D. J. Jaffe, fill in the blank…

    Thomas S. Szasz might be considered an Anti-Laingian. I’m not an Anti-Laingian by the way. Szaszian, yes, I see a lot of good things in what he was doing, and in what he had to say, too. Was the initial Anti-Psychiatry Cooperian. Well, if so, there is absolutely no reason for us to remain there either. It’s 2015, and it would seem, some of us still count ourselves among the living.

    Psychiatric survivors now have a chance to take the ball and run with it. I’d like to think some of us are doing so.



    first of all I apologize for any disruption that my questions may have caused. I in no way meant to derail the discussion on activism. Quite the contrary. I am highly supportive of activism against psychiatry and I would like to be involved. I am not offended by the characterizations of hijacking or the other epithets that were thrown around because it is fundamental to any effective activism to have unity of purpose.

    It appears, however, that the questions I raised included concerns that are shared by many other survivors and that such concerns are worthy of discussion. Thank you for creating a separate thread in which to discuss history, theory and the basis of activism. From my point of view (and it appears that others share this view) such a discussion is a necessary prerequisite to effective and unified action.

    Again, I apologize for any disruption to your activism thread. Such was not my intent. I whole heartedly support any efforts to oppose the evil and coercive forces of psychiatry. Thank you.

    Frank Blankenship

    Thanks, Slaying_the_Dragon.

    I think it would be good to remember that the people we have been speaking of, except where anyone referenced Erving Goffman or particular psychologists, and including Thomas Szasz, were all psychiatrists. Some Szasz theory goes to the core of psychiatry and psychoanalysis. R.D. Laing and others were definitely critical of their profession, and, in fact, their criticisms went beyond their profession. Expecting a truly anti-psychiatry from the lot of them is like expecting world revolution from BP, formerly British Petroleum, or Exxon Oil, the MacDonald restaurant chain, or Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, or any other major multinational corporation. Don’t hold your breathe.

    As I’ve said before, I don’t consider MIA the best place to discuss anti-psychiatry. To use the language of the resistance, there are on this site far too many collaborators. Obviously, seeing where the discussion has been getting stuck in places, it will not work without some kind of effective monitoring. This stands to reason, the psycho-pharmaceutical industrial complex is very organized, and people “influenced” by it are everywhere. Psychiatry has managed a brilliant snow job. While there was much criticism of the profession 40 50 years ago, to criticize psychiatry today, according to the propaganda, is to “stigmatize” people who are thought to be “sick” and in “need” of “treatment”. Alright, there are some things I am not going to try to swallow for fear of choking.

    Anyway, you get what I’m saying. Part of anti-psychiatry organizing, part of ‘talking back’ to psychiatry, is going to involve making that space, and not being afraid to eject and/or censor people who would sabotage any efforts to do so. We have got to be pretty ‘ends over means’ here if we are to expect to accomplish much of anything. Activism can never be a matter of sitting on your ass while the real news takes place elsewhere. We can, and do, make the news, and let’s not be afraid of doing so.


    Thank you Frank,

    where, in your opinion, is the best place to discuss anti-psychiatry?

    Frank Blankenship

    If we had a site that was specifically anti-psychiatry in bent, that would work. There are, in fact, anti-psychiatry sites out there. Not interactive, of course, and we could use an interactive website. I think it would have a narrower focus than the one you see here at MIA which includes so many mental health workers, as well as compliant to one degree or another, mental patient/”consumers”, but that could be a plus. Here, when it isn’t someone reacting to the “anti”, it’s someone who says that if you do this or that you can’t be “anti-psychiatry”, or worse, somebody who sees it as their sworn duty to be disruptive to a differing belief system than his or her own. I’d say, instead, that we don’t need an even smaller grouping of people than we’ve already got. Get any more divisive, and we have got a smaller group of people than we started with. Any organization provides the same sort of a separate structure, but you need a core group first, and we’re a long way from arriving at that sort of thing for the moment. MIA itself can include people with an anti-psychiatry perspective, but as far as being anti-psychiatry, such is not what the website itself, nor the books, for that matter, are about. I’m definitely not against playing a part at the MIA website. I just think that common sense would tell you this is not of necessity a safe place for anti-psychiatry views and perspectives. You want a more exclusive website for that kind of thing whereas this one is, more or less, all inclusive. Most have complaints against the mental health system, or current practice, but only a few of those who consistently use this site could be said to be anti-psychiatry, die hard anti-psychiatry at any rate.


    I apologize for any disruption to your activism thread

    Dragonslayer, I am glad to have you in this forum and wish that more of those on MIA who have been very articulate in their anti-psychiatry positions over the past year would join (Cannotsay, where are you?!). I don’t think you are a provocateur or anything of the sort and can see that your posts in this regard are sincerely motivated. I agree that we need to clearly define what we mean by anti-psychiatry, especially with the confusion engendered by the Laingian/Cooperian (?) school of psychology/psychiatry. This thread is as good a place as any right now in which to do so.

    When I personally use the term I mean exactly that — I am against psychiatry. Period. Psychiatry is based on the contention that there can be such a thing as “mental illness.” Since this is an impossible absurdity from both linguistic and logical standpoints, we can easily recognize that with its major premise so obviously flawed, psychiatry is invalid from the get-go. It cannot and should not be “reformed.”

    One can be anti-psychiatry without wanting to ban it; some believe that when the option of force is eliminated it will wither away in the face of more enlightened ways of understanding and dealing with emotional distress. But a true anti-psychiatry movement would not accept terms like “mental illness,” even with the quotation marks. Nor would it describe supportive, empathetic, compassionate or analytical responses to emotional suffering as “treatments.”

    I may be wrong but I believe that Frank & others aren’t opposed to theory per se, but are tired of abstract debate and speculation in which the motivation is not to obtain clarity but to engage in intellectual one-upmanship and endless verbiage as a substitute for action. The line between the two is somewhat subjective. For example, I find your posts sincere, but seemingly similar ones by another poster I find to be disruptive and diversionary. As mentioned elsewhere however we don’t have to allow ourselves to be diverted.


    Obviously, seeing where the discussion has been getting stuck in places, it will not work without some kind of effective monitoring… Part of anti-psychiatry organizing, part of ‘talking back’ to psychiatry, is going to involve making that space, and not being afraid to eject and/or censor people who would sabotage any efforts to do so.

    Lest there be any doubt, I agree with this as well, wholeheartedly. I still support an anti-psychiatry organizing forum which we can monitor ourselves, and only allow participation by those who fulfill some basic common definitions (yet to be determined) of “anti-psychiatry.” However this is the best we can do at MIA right now. (Note that even now there are provisions for off-topic posts to be removed.)

    I believe that we can still use this forum effectively in a way that goes beyond pure talk. For one, the initial discussion of the anti-psych website mainly involved well-intentioned people with very little experience with the anti-psychiatry movement and has fallen victim to both personal issues and political confusion. Still, a straight-up anti-psychiatry website is something that a lot of people would like to see. Web production is certainly not my personal forte, but if others would pick up this project and run with it it can happen, but it will be a big project and will require lots of input from as diverse an anti-psych group as possible.

    I think it would be premature for me to attempt to list the many functions and features such a site might have, but we should be thinking about it and hope that a group of web-savvy folk will emerge to do the nuts & bolts required to make the site a) democratic and representative and b) easy, safe, useful, attractive and fun.

    Right there still aren’t enough of the numerous anti-psychiatry posters at MIA here to make these discussions as productive as they could be with adequate participation. As unorganized as we currently may be, the consciousness is out there to do something massive. We are beyond the point where we should be satisfied with 2 or 3 person “core groups” being responsible for stuff getting done (as admirable as such efforts may be). I think we could cobble together a 20-40 person “core” group if that’s what you would call it at that point. But we need to reach out more effectively to the people we know are out there right now.

    So are there any skilled web producers (not necessarily “survivors”) who can help get this project off the ground, or at least describe what realistically needs to be done to make it happen?

    • This reply was modified 6 years ago by oldhead.

    I whole heartedly support activism in opposition to psychiatry and the creation of a web site for that purpose. I am also looking for a forum in which to safely discuss the history and theory of psychiatry. In my mind at least, the two go hand in hand. The better we understand the past and the present, the more effectively we can effectuate positive change for the future.

    Frank Blankenship

    When does now end, Oldhead? MIA is simply not the place for an Anti-Psychiatry platform. MIA is not specific to Anti-Psychiatry. People into the Anti-Psychiatry movement can peruse the MIA website, but that is not what MIA is about. You don’t have an Anti-Psychiatry organization here, and you need an Anti-Psychiatry organization. Website, too. Sure, we can have carry on with that discussion here, indefinitely, but, sooner or later, you have to realize we’re dealing with other groups, including psychiatrists, who are organized. Even going after a definition, or using this forum to discuss organizing, is kind of a matter of MIA discretion. If there was ever a decision to exclude all discussion of anything calling itself Anti-Psychiatry, for whatever reason, on the MIA website, the administrators of the website would be entirely within their rights.

    We’re in the minority. We don’t have a large number. The media has been beating us up for ages. Anti-Psychiatry, like Scientology, has become a term to poo-poo, and no wonder. Left, right, and center, you have propaganda. Propaganda says this country is in the midst of a “mental health crisis”. Propaganda that says 1 in every 4 people in the USA has a diagnosable “mental illness”. Propaganda says, therefor, we desperately need more money, more professional staff, and more people in mental health treatment. Propaganda says “mental health care” is about “real sickness”, “real science”, and “real treatment”. Propaganda says if they don’t stay on their “meds” somebody is going to get hurt. Propaganda says drugs save lives. Psychiatry was more “vulnerable”, cute term, than it is today 40 50 years ago. There is big money behind the propaganda. The more people there are diagnosed “mentally ill”, the more money there is in the pharmaceutical industry, and the pharmaceutical industry is an industry that can weather billion dollar lawsuits no sweat.

    Where once you had a mental patients liberation/psychiatric survivor movement, now you have what is referred to as the consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement. I don’t advocate anybody “consuming” abduction, torture, assault, imprisonment, death, and lies. I don’t advocate anyone “consuming” his or her own maltreatment. This is the result of the great government buy out of 1985. When the International Conference for Human Rights and Against Psychiatric Oppression gave way to the Alternatives Conference, it also gave way to government funding. Doing so, it joined the mental health movement because the mental health movement, more aptly perhaps called the “mental illness” movement, is all about getting the taxpayer to foot the bill. If there was not an incentive before, now there is more incentive than ever to play “mentally ill”. Of course, even playing “mentally ill” can’t give “mental illness” a physical “reality”.

    The same people who are selling “mental illness” labels are selling “mental health treatment”, drugs. The mental health, actually “mental illness”, movement is very much into this selling game. They want to sell it to the taxpayer, and they have done so. If there is a saturation point, how far can it be from the present, more or less, 25 % of the population? That’s not the issue really. Anybody with half a brain should be able to figure out that 25 % of the American population doesn’t have a real “illness”. Nobody is selling “mental health”. Why should they? There’s no money in that. “Sick” people are very profitable to the people who are making their living profiting from other peoples’ sufferings and misfortunes. No, Oldhead, if we’re going to fight the mental health movement, we’re going to need a little distance from the mental health movement. We’re going to have an incredible problem doing so in the midst of the mental health movement. Not only would doing so be a contradiction in terms, it would prove, as it has done, self-defeating.


    Frank, you are absolutely correct. However, there is no reason why MIA couldn’t become THE pioneering organization for antipsychiatry, proplerly understood. Delano is clearly antipsychiatry, and Whitaker knows that he should be. Can MIA be turned completely away from the Dark Side of the force? Why or why not?

    Frank Blankenship

    Well, we can expose biological psychiatry as pseudo-science here, but I don’t think that is the same thing as resisting and opposing the encroachments of psychiatry, and with it, the entire psych-treatment complex. Psychiatry right now, with it’s labeling, is creating a rather severe prescription drug problem. This prescription drug problem is exasperating the field, and increasing the numbers of “disabled” peoples, or people said to be suffering from a “disability”.

    MIA can never become a pioneering organization for antipsychiatry. That’s not what MIA is all about. Rather, like Whitaker’s books, while it can be useful to antipsychiatry, it is not antipsychiatry. Taking a stance against psychiatry is very different from seeking friends within the psych-treatment community. There are, mind you, other communities. The mental health/mental illness lifestyle can be bucked. Chronicity, and employment within the psych-treatment complex, are not mandates of nature.


    True. But is Whitaker really completely sold on befriending psychiatry in order to reform it? From what I have read, and from a few brief communications with him, it seems like he is on the side of the truth. What’s to prevent him from taking a solid stance with survivors and with the truth instead of trying to curry favor with the psychotherapeutic industrial complex and the therapeutic state? MIA is his creation, is it not?

    Frank Blankenship

    Let the mental health movement engage in propagandizing to its heart’s content. I have no interest in engaging in propaganda myself. I am also not one to try to change Bob Whitaker’s mind about anything.

    Psychiatry is that discipline, a branch of what purports to be medicine, dedicated to the study and treatment of “mental illness”.
    Antipsychiatry maintains that, as “mental illness” is a metaphor, this science is built around an illusion (i.e. that it is quackery).
    You can’t reform a supposedly scientific discipline based upon entirely false premises.
    As is, perhaps we should be opposing non-consensual psychiatry as a matter of course.
    Non-consensual psychiatry always involves violating people’s rights as human beings and citizens.
    Once psychiatry is consensual, we can worry about attacking the illusory basis of the profession itself.


    I’m not sure what this argument is about, if that’s what it is.

    Certainly MIA could tell us to take a hike, but I have no reason to believe they would do so; I feel that MIA has been pretty cooperative in starting this forum. They haven’t made any discussion off-limits. The fact that MIA is a “mental health” site doesn’t automatically mean that it is impossible to hold anti-psych organizing discussions here, I wouldn’t be here if it did. Also there are plenty of anti-psychiatry folks here, both survivors and others.

    While it’s important for “survivors” to understand that we once had a vibrant, self-determining anti-psych movement, it’s also important for us to come to grips with the fact that the movement was crushed and has been roadkill for over 30 years. We need to analyze why this happened before we end up making the same mistakes over again and end up disillusioning a lot of people.

    I don’t expect MIA to become an anti-psychiatry site, nor is that necessary for us to use it effectively. I also don’t know how we will ever be able to create an independent website without using MIA as a springboard for discussion about what this would entail and what such a site would look like. The alternative would be for a couple people to slap something together, then invite people to participate, then endure years of people complaining that it should have been done differently. I understand the feeling of impatience for something to happen; on the other hand, again, we can’t expect to rebuild something that has been dormant for so long overnight.

    Frank, where should we be having these discussions right now if not at MIA?

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 450 total)
  • The forum ‘Organizing for Social Change’ is closed to new topics and replies.