Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Psychiatry and the ultimate security threat

Four years ago, I wrote that,"The ultimate security threat is a catastrophic failure of confidence in authority." Now and then my own warning comes back to haunt me.

Today's Chicago Tribune contains an editorial under the headline, "Vaccine ignorance: Deadly and contagious" by Laurie Garrett and Maxine Builder. The authors point out how public misinformation can cause paranoia and derail rational programs when conspiracy theories go viral and the public proves unable to weigh facts accurately.

Think of psychiatry's long and well-financed misinformation about "chemical imbalances in the brain" needing medical cures, for diagnoses of mental illness.

Today's Wall Street Journal featured another opinion piece, "The Last Anti-Fat Crusaders" by Nina Teichols. It turns out that 35 years of official American nutrition advice favoring low-fat diets was simply bad. The balance of science shows that what almost all the authorities were telling us to do has been more likely to make us obese and diabetic.

Think of psychiatry's "treatments" with drugs causing more long-term disability, dramatically reduced life expectancy, suicide and random violence.

When authority has proven untrustworthy and the world seems out of control, individuals, families and small groups of people look for their own solutions and fend for themselves. Surprising movements rise as if from nowhere, wielding utterly unpredicted power. Safe and comfortable centers no longer hold; anarchy is loosed; a blood-dimmed tide flows.

I believe, as did Thomas Szasz, that psychiatry has had the single most destructive influence on human culture since the Middle Ages. It's basic tenets are falsehoods. A human being absolutely is not merely a brain, and his/her thoughts, emotions, beliefs, dreams and goals are not reducible to neurotransmitters and receptors, or circuitry.

Yet psychiatric misinformation has derailed time-tested religious authority, substituting clinicians for spiritual leaders, biochemistry for ethics and genetics for philosophy. It has steadily reduced centuries of jurisprudence in criminal responsibility to cheap evaluations of DSM criteria. It has even wasted the prestige, utility and honor of medical practitioners and scientists, so the public now sees them as little more than another untouchable class of dubious experts with an agenda for profit and power.

There is no more deadly and contagious ignorance than public belief that psychiatry helps people. The last crusaders for medicalization of all human travail, for coercion of all humanity into psychiatric slavery, are way overdue for their reconciliation with reality.

That, or the rough beast comes slouching.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sherman is coming and he will burn your city!

Allen Frances is pushing his latest article in Psychology Today all over Twitter now. He calls for an end to civil war among the various advocates for the mentally ill. Very reasonable, very appealing...

I give Dr. Frances some credit for his admissions over the past few years, that psychiatric "diagnosis" as exemplified in APA's DSM is highly problematic at best; and that the medical profession has overprescribed psychiatric drugs almost to the point of criminality. When the chairman of the DSM-IV task force concedes these things, people have to listen, and it has a positive effect.

But Frances is wrong on one central point. He's actually so wrong that his broad appeal and visibility in the mental health world may do more harm than good. Coercion is the only public policy issue in mental health.

Allen Frances says coercion is a "paper tiger" because most of the Twentieth Century snake pit state institutions closed, and half a million mental patients were released for treatment in the community. This is akin to arguing in 1850, that since the African slave trade had been legally prohibited, abolitionists would only shed blood needlessly for a cause already won.

Frances says mental patients have a harder time getting into a hospital than getting out. This is akin to assurances in 1850, that Negroes were much better off under the Southern system of servitude, that they did not want and could never thrive in freedom.

I have worked directly with such "patients" as those with whom Dr. Frances presumes to sympathize, for thirteen years. They are not happy in their slavery.

If psychiatric "treatment" is generally valuable to those who receive it, if the "severely mentally ill" really want to be "treated", then laws which force people into "hospitals" and laws which allow "doctors" to force needles and inject hated, debilitating drugs into the bodies of desperately resisting human beings should be completely unnecessary.

The fact that Allen Frances believes such torture is justified makes his whole argument a dark joke. If he wants to help the mentally ill and society, let him renounce involuntary psychiatry. Let him push publicly for repeal of commitment laws and the insanity defense. Let him become an honest abolitionist or continue to protect his investment in psychiatric slavery, but there is no middle ground.

Dr. Frances, do not cheapen the name or the memory of Thomas Szasz! Let civil war among the various self-proclaimed advocates for the mentally ill continue, as Abraham Lincoln said, "...until every drop of blood drawn with the lash is repaid by another drawn with the sword."