The Denial of Mental Illness is Alive and Well

Thomas Szasz, the father of the anti-psychiatry movement, has died, but his legacy lives on

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Actresses Kirstie Alley and Kelly Preston lead protestors in a march against the American Psychiatric Association (APA) on May 19, 2003 in San Francisco.

Earlier this week, I had dinner with a recently retired lawyer who has spent the past 40-odd years working to protect the rights of people with mental illness. She shared with me an anecdote that, she said, had set the course of her entire career:

One day in the summer of 1970, she was working at a St. Louis legal clinic on her law school break, when a 17-year-old girl walked in with her boyfriend. The boyfriend was black. The girl was white — and pregnant. The couple wanted to stay together and raise their baby. The girls’ parents were hell-bent on splitting them apart — and on making sure that they wouldn’t have a mixed-race grandchild. And so, they were having the teenager committed to a mental hospital where they could force her to have an abortion. “There was nothing we could do,” the lawyer told me. “There were no laws we could use to protect her.”

(MORE: What Counts As Crazy?)

This kind of awful story, in which coercive psychiatric “treatment” was used to punish a wayward teenager, wasn’t so rare when Dr. Thomas Szasz, a professor of psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, who died last weekend at the age of 92, began to publish books that accused colleagues in his profession of committing crimes against humanity. Psychiatry, Szasz said in books like The Myth of Mental Illness and Ideology and Insanity, was a “pseudomedical form of control.”

“There can be no such thing as mental illness,” he even declared.

In so doing, the Hungarian-born Szasz became the founding father of the American Antipsychiatry Movement, and a hero to many who deplored psychiatry’s often-abusive mid-twentieth century practices. (Among his admirers: the Church of Scientology, with whom Szasz founded the anti-psychiatry Citizens Commission on Human Rights in 1969.) His work inspired the highly influential patients’ rights movement to put an end to the most egregious practices once common in state mental hospitals and remake the entire legal framework around involuntary psychiatric treatment. But he also left behind a legacy of denial of the seriousness of mental illness that has done more damage than good.

(MOREThe Latest Trend: Blaming Brain Science)

David Lees / Corbis

In 1992, Szasz was sued by the widow of another psychiatrist who killed himself while in treatment with Szasz, after Szasz advised him to stop taking the medication he’d been prescribed for bipolar disorder. (The Syracuse Post-Standard later reported that the lawsuit had been settled for an undisclosed sum in April 1994, shortly before it was to be tried in state Supreme Court.)

And in the decades since that event, the Szasz school of thought — which maintains that the extreme distress we see in people labeled mentally ill is nothing more than a form of social protest against unbearable situations—has had an insidious and wide-ranging effect. It has left us with a cultural tendency to both question and romanticize some forms of mental illness — such as depression and ADHD — as higher, more “authentic” states of being. This trick of mind, which denies the reality of suffering and impairment, has kept countless people from seeking help, including innumerable parents who fear that taking their child to a psychiatrist will inevitably lead to his or her being “put in a box” or denatured with drugs.

In addition, the anti-treatment movement Szasz intellectually inspired facilitated the release of tens of thousands of seriously ill mental patients who, when they relapsed, had nowhere to go and no one to help them, and often ended up in prison or living life on the streets. Many mental health advocates today are struggling against the less well-considered aspects of the patients rights movement: working to support families who can’t secure care for their loved ones unless they are dangerously violent or suicidal.

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The profession of psychiatry has changed enormously since the time that Szasz began writing, mostly in good ways. Some stigma has abated; the sense of shame that once kept most people from ever speaking of seeing a “shrink” has greatly lessened. But casting doubt on the lived reality of mental illness continues. It’s a newer form of stigma that presents itself as intellectual sophistication. It permeates journalism, in particular, and speaks itself every time we write stories that parse “true” depression (the suicidal kind) from the whiny, self-indulgent, unjustifiably overmedicated, “mild” kind. It comes up every time we trivialize ADHD as a pseudo-affliction of “wiggly boys” or ambitious high school students who want to drug themselves up to get better grades.

This pernicious form of stigma has become second nature for many right-minded people eager to prove their independence from the machinations of the hand-over-fist-money-making drug companies. Yet it’s a form of social protest that, long removed from its valid historical roots, has become simplistic and sometimes even harmful.

It’s time to give Szasz his place in history. And then to move on.

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54 comments
JasmineK
JasmineK

The author is shockingly ill informed. Dr Szasz did not deny the existence of psychological suffering, he simply disputed the legitimacy of the medical model of psychological illnesses. and relocated the responsibility to get well with the individual  . His remarkably acute insight into the trappings of the psychiatric system that has become so deeply embedded within our legal system and everyday life, rings true for those who have been exploited by the Mental Healthcare system. Not only did he reject the label 'anti-psychiatry', he  expressed upon numerous occasions that his beliefs are his own and that he ' simply did not believe in the concept of  mental illness, the same way that an atheist does not believe in God. An advocate for individual freedom and fierce critic of involuntary psychiatric treatment, he was a courageous and truly inspiring individual. Although he has since passed, the values he embodied, those of free thinking and individual freedom are timeless. 

Shimie
Shimie like.author.displayName 1 Like

Judith Warner is one of the most ill informed writers about Psychiatry I have ever read... If she thinks psychiatry is new and improved she is getting that information in written material from the world of psychiatry... backed by the enormously wealthy pharmaceutical industry. BJC one hospital in St. Louis... (STL that she refers to in the above article) has been zapping so many people with ECT so frequently that it is known as "Jiffy Jolt" in the psychiatric community. The Civil Probate courts are still participating in bogus involuntary commitments and the information is kept quiet and sealed by the HIPAA laws. It is all going on behind closed doors... don't let anyone convince you ECT is anymore safe that before... it causes brain damage, memory loss and I have personally seen people reduced to a childlike state... Psychiatrist with power issues are having a field day unchecked... Warner is either cruel and purposely misinforming the public or is so badly educated on this issue she should not be allowed to write on this subject without further educating herself in real time.

nicmart
nicmart

The author is ill-informed. Szasz expressly rejected "anti-psychiatry," much less any involvement with such a movement. In fact, he even wrote a book called "Antipsychiatry: Quackery Squared." But why would Judith Warner bother to inform herself about a subject she addresses?

Are Szasz's views obsolete? According to the lead editor of DSM-IV, diagnostic "bible" of psychiatry, “there is no definition of a mental disorder. It’s bulls--t. I mean, you just can’t define it.” Frances also says, "I agree completely with [philosopher Jeffrey] Schaler and Szasz that mental disorders are not diseases and that treating them as such can sometimes have noxious legal consequences."

Dr. Szasz may be dead, but his views are more vital than ever.

snoflinga
snoflinga

I have bipolar 1 with psychotic episodes, one of the most serious and severe forms of mental illness.

Yet I come from a loving, happy, financially stable family. I was cared for, never abused, had friends, did well in school. I'm currently happily married, financially stbale, in a home I love, doing things I enjoy. I have no substance abuse problems (and never have, I am lucky;) and am physically healthy.

Soooo.... what, Mr. Szasz? What "unbearable situation" exactly is it that I'm 'protesting' so hard against? Maybe you can tell me because I sure as heck can't figure out why I'm suffering from this.

SmrtyPnts
SmrtyPnts

"..the anti-treatment movement Szasz intellectually inspired facilitated the release of tens of thousands of seriously ill mental patients who, when they relapsed, had nowhere to go and no one to help them, and often ended up in prison or living life on the streets."

I would not say this is an inaccurate claim...but it is incomplete. It fails to acknowledge the role that funding of mental healthcare has played; particularly here in the United States. 

nicmart
nicmart

@SmrtyPnts 

"This whole deinstitutionalization process was just as involuntary as the institutionalization process. First the patients were placed in the institutions against their will. Then they were kept there for a long time, and generally they became desocialized. They had no way of making a living, and their families didn't want them; they had no particular place to live. Instead of being allowed to stay in the hospital, which the majority of them probably considered their home, they were forcibly evicted and placed in other institutions run by the state but which are no longer called hospitals. So this is a huge deception." -- Thomas Szasz

http://tinyurl.com/clrk4fw

ronpies
ronpies

 One reader asserts that "Szasz did not deny the reality of

'mental illness'...he simply pointed out that it was not

a biological disease but caused by psychosocial events."

As a psychiatrist who has studied Dr. Szasz's writing for over 30 years,

I believe this claim represents a profoundly mistaken interpretation of

Szasz's views; indeed, ironically, I suspect that if he were still with us,

Szasz himself would protest such a deeply misguided impression of his work!

I am not aware of any statements in Szasz's principle writing over the past

50 years in which he acknowledged the "reality" of mental illness. If any reader

is aware of such a statement, I would be grateful for the reference. On the

contrary, for Szasz, speaking of the "cause" of "mental illness" was tantamount

to speaking of the "cause" of the Easter bunny, or of unicorns. For Szasz, there

simply is no entity in the real world called "mental illness", the cause of which

needs to be postulated--whether biological or not! If you read the preface to the

50th edition of the "Myth of Mental Illness" [go to: http://www.cato.org/pubs/books...

szasz-myth_of_mental_illness.pdf], you will see that Szasz asserts, "it is intuitively

obvious that there is no such thing as a disease of the mind". This is essentially the

same claim he made 50 years ago when he stated, "My aim in this essay is to raise the

question 'Is there such a thing as mental illness?' and to argue that there is not."

(article in The American Psychologist, 1960). It is not a matter of "biology" vs.

psychosocial "causes", for Szasz, but--as he sees it--a matter of logic and language;

i.e.,what he (mistakenly, I believe) calls an "analytic" argument that is impervious to

any empirical falsification. For an extended critique of this argument, please see

http://alien.dowling.edu/~cper..., by Thommi, Pies amp;

Ghaemi.

Dr. Szasz certainly made some positive contributions to society--for example, by

raising serious questions about involuntary commitment, the rights of competent

individuals to end their own lives, and other issues that forced all of us to

re-examine our theories and assumptions. But at no time, to my knowledge, did

Szasz acknowledge the "reality" of what is called "mental illness". He did

admit that certain people "labeled" as "mentally ill" may indeed be "suffering", but

this was not based on any real contact or face-to-face work with such individuals. This

was perhaps the greatest shame of all. For those of us who have spent our lives trying

to help individuals with severe psychosis and mood disorders, there is simply no

question that these are very "real" instances of very real disease.

Ronald Pies MD

Professor of Psychiatry, Lecturer on Bioethics and Humanities, SUNY Upstate Medical

University, Syracuse; Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Tufts USM, Boston

Susan Inman
Susan Inman

Many thanks to Judith Warner for this very insightful and informative article.People in the midst of a psychotic episode usually have a neurobiologically based inability to understand that they are ill. Misguided beliefs about human rights have led to many people being left to flounder in untreated psychosis. I examine the legacy of Szasz from this perspective in my article:  http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2012...

nicmart
nicmart

@Susan Inman 

There is still not a single physiologic test that validates any psychiatric diagnosis. The claim of neurobiological evidence is bunk. Actual diseases are located in cells of actual bodies, they are not found in metaphors such as "the mind."

Prefersitcold
Prefersitcold

Look, medicine has come a long way in all its forms. Are you just going to condemn the branch of psychiatry because of all the barbaric treatments of the past? Most of medicine in the past was barbaric. But people learn to do it better. I believe the medical terms for it are efficacy advance, exnovation, and practice advance. 

I believe further innovations in the branch are slow to come because the stigma hangs over the affected like no other.  

bulbous1
bulbous1 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Yes but psychiatry is still barbaric.

gillaw
gillaw like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

It is truly unfortunate that your writers, even those with "Credentials" don't really understand what Szasz was all about.  These mindless automotons see life , the world, and

success in terms of tangible stutuses like "the smiling family" the "high income" and the

power over those one can dominate.  Yes, they really don't see what it's all about and that

there can be much more to life!!  Szasz saw this and he saw it in freedom, liberty, choice,

and autonomy.  He saw it in the uniqueness of each human being and his ability to be whatever he really was.  To those who can't see this, there really is no use in speaking

Derrick Kardos
Derrick Kardos like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

psychiatry is a sham.

the only medical profession in which diseases are diagnosed only by opinion. there is no way to test a "chemical imbalance" in the brain. there are no numbers which define what the right "balance" is.

no one denies that certain people have mental problems, .

but its clear also that psychiatrists overdiagnose and overprescribe powerful drugs to people , particularly children, based on nothing more than a profit-inspired whim, and thats ought to be considered medical malpractice and a crime considering the damage these drugs can do.

entsol
entsol

As a surviver and overcomer what this person deems mental illness (after 38 years) without medications, because medications would never work (I was the 40% for which they don't); I will claim the expertise of being at the front lines of psychosis. This writer is only an armchair general.

The main thesis of Szasz (The Myth of Mental Illness) was this. There are no physiological markers which identify what are psychological disorders (as opposed to neurological disorders). This is still true (especially once gets past the B.S. propaganda that the psych pros give to public and look at what they say to each other (especially outside the U.S.). Therefore, it is unproven that it is a physiological disease. Consequently, a rational logic determines that the lines between mental disorder and mental order are capricious and arbitrary; hardly a scientific attribute. Until proven otherwise, reason dictates Szasz correct.

This writer merely conducts cheap, incidental shots on the person without confronting the central thesis. She sounds like a shill for the discipline.

She writes:

"The profession of psychiatry has changed enormously since the time that Szasz began writing, mostly in good ways."

The profession has not changed. It is only under legal restraints that prevent its history of barbarism to continue, much like the financial regulatory system which was in place (Glass-Steagall Act - 1933), which kept the bankers under wraps from repeating behaviours that led to the Great Crash of 1929. That is until 1999.

My observation of psychiatric professionals is that there is not an inconsiderable level of lying and bullying. They have amongst the least psychological insight of any set of people I have already known. I found out later that the reason is in their training.

They have no coherent philosophy or theory of mind which can sustain rational scrutiny even amongst fellow neuroscientists. (Therefore, trusting in psychiatry is like trusting in car mechanics who has no understanding of the overall car system and its schematics.) What we know about the brain and the mind is still very rudimentary, despite the PBS Charlie Rose specials; especially when I compare their knowledge to silicon networks and computer systems to which they themselves utilize for comparison (i.e. Fodor's modularity of mind). Despite Benjamin Libet's experiments, there is no proof that physiology precedes psychology. Libet has an extremely flawed and self-serving concept of Free Will. The idea of carrying on a face-paced and brisk political debate on the basis of instant physiological neurochemical reactions to the interlocutor's conversation  is so absurd, it is surprising that no one brings it up.

So called healing is based on shutting down subsystems in the brain, to the best of my observation. This is not unlike an AS/400 or Mainframe in which an errant program is spitting out page ejects on system printers. The first thing the operator does is to shut down the print spooler service. (That is hardly a long term solution.) This idea about saving a person by destroying him has been mentioned within the discipline over the years; especially in the early years. However, the dogmatism and political pressures within the profession do their darnedest to prevent any future outbreaks of gadflies like Szasz

The DSM would give Jon Stewart a year's worth of comedic material if he were so inclined to use. To give example, there is an entry in the DSM IV called Brain Fag or Brain Fog, found only in West Africa. Its main risk factors is the ability to speak English.

I rest my case.

Swiftright Right
Swiftright Right

While I may completely disagree with most everything that Szasz advocated I believe his work went along way towards re-balancing psychology which had largely evolved into a way to put away "undesirables" into treatment centers that were prisons.

Problem is now we have swung to far in the other direction. I have had people walk into the local emergency dept and flat out say " I feel the need to kill myself and or others, I need HELP!" 

What do we do with folks like that? Well if we are lucky we can find them a spot in the local psych unit for at the most 3 days, if we're lucky. More often then not we end up letting them go a few hours later once they have calmed down and simply say "I feel better now" Then we try not to act suprised when they roll up into a school and open fire, kill a family member or jump off a bridge.

Sarah Palin News
Sarah Palin News

Problems with the current mindset:

Psychological symptoms can have medical causes.  Many patients have been given a psychiatric label without a thorough physical examination.

http://www.continuingedcourses... 

Pychopharmaceuticals make billions of dollars for the industry.  So new labels are continuously invented to justify their use.  The DSM-IV,  to which these labels are added on a continual basis and from which psychiatric labels are derived is more a political than a scientific document.

http://www.zurinstitute.com/ds... 

Psych drugs have numerous side effects, and some of them are highly addictive. 

http://www.breggin.com/ 

There are safer alternatives that have benefited many people.  

http://www.alternativementalhe... 

crescentfang
crescentfang

Unfortunately there is more money to be made selling drugs to "treat" overactive kids than could ever be made trying to help people with real problems.   I know of people who have suffered from the drugs used to treat them but none who have been helped.

Sean Taylor
Sean Taylor

Mainly on the part of the far right. They are mentally deficient themselves though, so maybe that's why they can't see it.

Kimsbenn
Kimsbenn

I see a movement of thought to deny mental illness by our society because it's used as the reason behind nearly every heinous crime. Shoot up a theater, shoot a president, shoot John Lennon, be a serial killer and we are supposed to feel sympathy because this person would not have acted this way if not for the mental illness. And some disorders are used to gain money and special consideration. A Latino mom sought medical aslym for her son because he would not get the treatment he desperately needed in Mexico. He was ADHD. Schools are filled with kids on ADHD meds. Armed with their 504 plans and IEP's their parents control classrooms to the detriment of teachers and students. I'm ADHD and also my child so I'm not on the outside looking in and not understanding. We WANT to label people, it's a badge of honor or a way to escape the consequences of bad behavior for many people. This casts a shadow of legitimacy over those truly affected by mental illness. This overburdens the care system making access harder. If you want to help start with not trying to label everything as mental illness such as obesity, alcoholism, and drug abuse. They may be caused by a mental illness but they are merely symptoms, which even that is doubtful.

skipdettman
skipdettman like.author.displayName 1 Like

This article exudes the very bias that Dr Szsaz spent a lifetime trying to change. This article is deplorable and outrageous.

skipdettman
skipdettman

As an indivdial well versed in the area od mental illness and working with individual who have a mental illness I believe this article is based more on personal opinion than researched facts.

skipdettman
skipdettman

As an individual who is well versed on the subject of mental illness and the treatment of individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental illness I believe your article lacks in research and is far more opinion than facts. I have always held Time in a high regard but after reading this article my opinion of Time is substantially lower.

Ironically this article incorporates the very bias against the individual with mental illness that Dr. Szsas so vehemently attempted to right.

This article is shameful.

Swiftright Right
Swiftright Right

"

As an individual who is well versed on the subject of mental illness and the treatment of individuals who have been diagnosed"

Some how I doubt that. Oh and being able to google psyc keywords doesn't count.

Nick Stuart
Nick Stuart

Probably one of the most amazing misrepresentations  of the work of Dr Szasz that I have read. Perhaps you should read one of his books if you really want to understand his views. Szasz did not deny the reality of 'mental illness' nor the suffering. He simply pointed out that it was not a biological disease but caused by psychosocial events. There is no scientific evidence to back up this claim of a disease. The cure thus is not in the 'treatment' with tranquillizers but with changing social issues concerned with the self. This blog is a blatent lie about what Szasz wrote about. He was never 'anti-psychiatry' and protested about coercive practices like imprisonment without trial and forced drugging. He also disagreed with de-institutionalisation and always sided with the 'patient'. Please get you facts right and do not spread falsehoods. Thanks.

ronpies
ronpies

Thanks to Ms. Warner for discussing the decidedly mixed legacy of the late Dr. Szasz, who was one of my teachers. For more on this and related topics, I hope readers will take a look at my article in Psychiatric Times, titled, "Mental Illness is No Metaphor." There is a free registration step to complete for non-registered readers.

Ronald Pies MD

JasmineK
JasmineK

@ronpies Is this a discussion or a deliberately misleading and highly subjective piece of irresponsible journalism. 


bulbous1
bulbous1

Yeah, you would say that though, wouldn't you Ronald?

Susan Inman
Susan Inman

I really appreciated your careful explanation in the August 2012 issue of the CATO journal about  why schizophrenia can be considered an illness. I appreciated being able to hyperlink to your article in my recent article on Szasz's legacy for the online Canadian journal, The Tyee. I can't insert the link here. I wanted to write you to thank you but couldn't locate your email address.

MissSara13
MissSara13

During and after being in a physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive marriage, I was anxious, depressed, and couldn't sleep. Certain things would trigger bad memories and I started having panic attacks. After seeing a psychologist that specialized in cases of domestic abuse, I learned that I had PTSD and moderate depression. With medication and lots of therapy I have, for the most part, overcome my diagnosis. I can't imagine what it would have been like to have someone tell me that what was wrong with me was "nothing more than a form of social protest against unbearable situations." That school of thought causes people to blame themselves, in some cases, even more than they already do. I feel very fortunate that I found caregivers that believed in me and helped me address my illness. In closing, I suppose I should also say that I'm glad there aren't any Scientologist pharmacists (I have yet to hear of one) or we'd have a lot of people being denied their medications.

Batminton Nerub
Batminton Nerub

Partly Hazrat Muhammad (sa) to protest the bitter contempt.

Batminton Nerub
Batminton Nerub

Partly Hazrat Muhammad (sa) to protest the bitter contempt.

Susan Inman
Susan Inman

Many thanks to Judith Warner for this informative article.We also need to remember that Szasz's work is used to fuel the work of psych-survivors who want to deny, as did Szasz, the existence of psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These groups just make life harder for people living with these disorders and the families who assist them. Somehow these groups have usurped the right to speak on behalf of all people with mental illnesses while, paradoxically, often denying the existence of the illnesses themselves. They certainly don't represent the perspectives of my daughter and her friends who don't want to be left in an untreated psychosis in the future. I write about the perspectives of family caregivers: just look on Huffington Post Canada.

Nik Stone
Nik Stone

I have bipolar 1 disorder and believe me I didn't just imagine this kind of torture up so that I could carry a diagnoses that would have people discriminate against me.  And not just your average person but even some doctors have mistreated me simply because on my medical charts they can see that I have this diagnoses. I hate going to see a new doctor because I don't know how they are going to treat me and furthermore they think they have the authority to question my treatment for the bipolar even though that is not their area of expertise.  So before people jump on this band wagon about there is no such thing as mental illness they need to stop and think for a moment who in the world would want such a diagnoses and have to carry the stigma that comes with it?  I sure don't but it is my reality that I deal with on a daily basis's and to ignore that would be disastrous for my own health.  

This man may have meant well and in such cases where parents threw their children in facilities just because they didn't comply to their parents expectations I can see why Thomas would come up with such a conclusion however there is a huge difference between actually suffering with an illness and having angry parents who want to force their way with their children.  Unfortunately this has happened a lot and therefore people who were not ill were labeled wrongly but those of us who really do struggle day to day with a real illness catches crap each way it goes from society ... on one extreme you have people like Thomas  Szasz that goes around denying the pain and suffering thereby ignoring people and leaving them to suffer alone and then on the other hand you have people who don't see you as a human being but as a walking disorder and try to treat you inhumane or as though you are not capable of doing anything so it is a no win situation for an individual who legitimately suffers with a mental illness. 

What is lacking is balance and a bit of common sense in society.  It is obvious from studying history that there has always been a presence of an illness that can affect the brain of an individual but in the old days they called it melancholy and mania. 

Furthermore if a person with diabetes when their blood sugar acts up it can cause them to go through mood swings etc. so what is so different about the human brain if the rest of the organs in the body can malfunction and have chemical imbalances etc. then how is the human brain any different?  In truth it isn't. 

Having a mental illness is a real struggle a deep struggle but that doesn't mean that people like me can't live a productive life.  Even though I have this disorder I am still me, I am still very much human with  normal human emotions, dreams, hopes, goals, etc.  the only difference is my brain has its own hiccups and sometimes its own earthquakes!

Hank Rodgers
Hank Rodgers

He, Szasz, has earned his place in medical history, because he had a definite point; just read some articles on the history of the DSM, now in something like "Version 5". Too, as a medical scientist, he distinguished (or later came to distinguish) concrete, measurable, physical (brain function) problems from psychological diagnoses; challenging only the, admittedly often far-fetched, psychological "illnesses" defined by such as the DSM, many of which he found were simply just, not at all unreasonable, "coping" mechanisms for dealing with aggression by others, and with life, despite sometimes being not ideally "socialized". True, though, that as with California's Lanterman-Petris-Short Act and other legislation that nearly dispensed with mental hospitals and turned people out on the street to be dealt with by all of us, much damage was done in his name. 

TCG
TCG

I think the author looks at the issue just as simplistically and one-sidedly as the person she criticizes. Firstly, I don't think mental and physical illness could be clearly separated from one another. I believe there is a social and emotional components of each illness as well as biological. Protest against social oppression is part of mental distress, which does not mean that the biological/organic component is not present. Human beings are complex and our both mental and physical conditions are shaped by many factors. Seeing just one side of reality ("you either have "mental" illness or you don't) is ignorant and misguided.Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/09/...

TCG
TCG

I think the author looks at the issue just as simplistically and one-sidedly as the person she criticizes. Firstly, I don't think mental and physical illness could be clearly separated from one another. I believe there is a social and emotional components of each illness as well as biological. Protest against social oppression is part of mental distress, which does not mean that the biological/organic component is not present. Human beings are complex and our both mental and physical conditions are shaped by many factors. Seeing just one side of reality ("you either have "mental" illness or you don't) is ignorant and misguided.

Talendria
Talendria

Part of the problem is that the diagnostic criteria for most mental illnesses are so vague that they could apply to almost anyone.  This creates the misperception that mental illnesses aren't serious and the correct perception that they are overdiagnosed.  In my opinion we need to stop segregating psychology from medicine as if a person's thoughts and emotions could be disconnected from their body.  We need to approach health problems in a holistic manner that examines the entire individual, not just isolated components.  Furthermore, we need to ban pharmaceutical advertisements and product samples from doctor's offices.  They hand out drugs like Halloween candy.

JJFeld
JJFeld

Have you read the DSM-IV? There is actually quite specific criteria, and you have to match a certain number of symptoms to be given the diagnosis (i.e. Major Depressive Disorder, you have to match at least 5 out of 9 possible symptoms - all quite specific). I would definitely qualify symptoms such as: depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, and markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day, as symptoms of depression. The 5+ symptoms also have to all be present in the same 2-week period.

I definitely do agree that it needs to be less separated from medicine. As long as insurers can deny you access to counseling and medication and companies can bar you from taking disability leave,  mental illness will sadly continue to be stigmatized.

Shimie
Shimie

@JJFeld I am well aware of the DSM -V and IV and III etc... How aware are you of the process of creating diseases by the A.P.A.??? They literally sit in a room and vote an "illness" into existence based on possible correlating guesswork... nowhere else in "medicine" does this happen. Would you allow someone to medicate you and or operate on your heart because you appear to match some symptoms of heart disease??? Of course you wouldn't... so why would you allow someone to do guess work and experimentation on the most important part of your body and your humanity??? Are you aware that after touting child hood bi-polar for over a decade that it has now been dropped from DSM V. So... a whole generation of children have been "treated" or more accurately, pharmaceutically experimented on for an "illness" that they are now saying, oooops it doesn't exist... our bad. Excuse me, there was a great Frontline program on the over medicating of children... one young child’s parents in the video are encouraged (again and again, by school officials) to medicate their son for ADHD (the "we want him to sit still in his school seat illness") as a result of the drugs, over time he developed brain illnesses from the medication. He is then tagged as bi-polar; this is not uncommon for children who had the ADHD drugs pushed on them. Later he develops Tardive Akathisia & Tardive Dyskinesia which is a direct effect of the medication damaging the central nervous system... not a side effect but a direct affect. See the Frontline video here; they do a good job of remaining rather impartial. However if you are aware of the damage the psyche drugs do over time, you witness it happening and I find what happens to young Mr. Solomon a horror. I personally would have sued the bahooey out of the Dr.'s, School and the Pharmaceutical companies...http://video.pbs.org/video/1316921025/ In recent years, there's been a 4000% increase in the diagnosis in children of bipolar, a mental illness. Really??? Why is that???  Psychiatric medications should be reserved for severe cases where nothing else will assist; they were designed for the schizophrenic persons... Psychiatry needs to stop experimenting, and gain some humanity, normal human emotions are being medicated... personally I love their latest invention  "disruptive mood deregulation disorder" which would basically cause the terrible two's and childhood to become a mental illness and drive up profits for the pharmaceutics industry.

Talendria
Talendria

You're right. Vague is probably the wrong word. I should've said byzantine, because despite all the verbiage in the DSM it's still very difficult to get an accurate diagnosis. My son was mistakenly diagnosed with ADD and subsequently suspected of having both non-verbal learning disorder and autism. We saw no less than five specialists trying to get an accurate diagnosis, which in the end turned out to be no diagnosis at all. That was an expensive wild goose chase. My mother, on the other hand, has been bipolar all her life but has never actually been diagnosed. She's currently taking an SSRI for depression, and frankly I don't care what it was prescribed for as long as she keeps taking it. If the diagnostic criteria were clearer and if all medical professionals, particularly primary care physicians, were familiar with the most common mental disorders, people could get the help they need in a timely, cost-effective manner.

SmrtyPnts
SmrtyPnts

I think "subjective" would be a more accurate term

Michele Gilliam
Michele Gilliam

Thanks for this article. I've never hear of this guy before. The abusive electro shock treatments used in mental hospitals were terrible and deserved protest. However, it's equally terrible that people combined it with anti-treatment ideology as well.

http://www.blackwiththeblues.c...

Reva Pearlston
Reva Pearlston

I spent five miserable years living across the hall from a severe and inmitigated paranoid schizophrenic who thought that she was the only arbiter of anything in the whole building (of 133 units).  She thought nothing of terrorizing anyone, and was particularly harsh on anyone whom she saw as being the least bit weak, particularly the disabled and children.  She was finally evicted a few months ago, and basically, everyone in the building want, at least in their heads, singing "Ding dong the witch is dead...".  I never did deny mental illnesses, but even if I had, that experience would have very quickly changed my mind.

Ashley Elizabeth
Ashley Elizabeth

 And this is the exact reason why there is still stigma against mental illness of any type. My experiences with ADHD and autism have shown me that people who have mental deficiencies are deserving of our sympathy, but people in general do not UNDERSTAND them and therefore they react with suspicion and anger.

I know physical and mental handicaps are very different, but we used to treat physically handicapped people as deficient. It wasn't until we, as a society, became more sympathetic to them and gave them reasonable accommodations to overcome their deficiencies that the stigma went away. They insist on being treated the equally now that there is no hindrance to that equality. The way we handle mental handicaps as a society must be different, but the end result can be the same. After all, some of the most unhinged people in the history of the world made the most tremendous contributions.

Shimmana
Shimmana

I lived in London, England when the doors of psychiatric hospitals were opened and patients were wrongly released. It was truly frightening, as we had mentally unbalanced people walking the streets. I personally was slapped in the face by a woman who had been released. Another person had one pull a knife on them as they ranted raved incoherently.

Anyone who denies mental illness exists needs to have their head examined.

bulbous1
bulbous1 like.author.displayName 1 Like

You were slapped by a woman who had recently been released from a mental hospital? Maybe you just have an eminently slappable face. Misbehaviours and incoherent rantings are not evidence of 'mental illness'.

Nick Stuart
Nick Stuart like.author.displayName 1 Like

 It has been shown by research that 'mentally ill' people are actually less violent than 'normals'. But you of course, with your anecdotes, attempt to stigmatize those who suffer. Exactly what Dr. Szasz fought against his whole life. Szasz himself was against expelling such people from institutions just as he was against forceful imprisonment of those who had committed no crime. The fact that you have 16 likes shows the disgraceful side of all people like you. You know nothing of Szasz's work at all yet you feel the need to comment and reveal your ignorance. Shameful.

RobertHill
RobertHill

Randy implied I cant believe that some one able to earn $9152 in 4 weeks on the network. did you look at this (Click on menu Home)