Iatrogenic Damage As Treatment

Despite attempts to dismiss and discredit his contribution, psychiatrist RD Laing’s position in the pantheon of twentieth century thinkers is relatively secure. I was reading recently where somebody claimed R.D. Laing’s reputation needed rehabilitating. I don’t think this is so. The spirit of R.D. Laing is always there lingering in the background. He can’t go away, establishment or anti-establishment. He is present, cultural icon or counter-cultural guru. The same cannot be said of some of his associates, for example, David Cooper. I’ve seen his Wikipedia page grow less informative over the course of time. David Cooper’s reputation, if anyone had the interest or inclination, could probably use some serious rehabilitating.

Every time I mention so called anti-psychiatry I have misgivings. I feel I am going to be misunderstood. I am not so called pro-psychiatry in the slightest. The problem is biological medical model psychiatry. This school of psychiatry dominates the entire profession. Biological psychiatry is responsible for an epidemic of iatrogenic damage done to people in the mental health system. Biological psychiatry is behind an increased mortality rate among that population. Biological psychiatry is intimately tied to, and in bed with, the pharmaceutical industry. We need a dramatic paradigm shift away from this chemical quick fix approach to social and personal problems to an approach that realizes drugs aren’t solutions, problems aren’t illnesses, and drugs are a part of the problem. We have created a prescription drug culture today that is killing people.

If 95 % of psychiatrists are bad, and I believe that crediting the profession with 5 % good doctors is probably an over estimation, then there is not a whole lot of good to be said about that profession. We would not be in any worst state if the profession of psychiatry were eliminated altogether. People would actually be more likely to improve, given psychiatry’s cozy relationship to the drug industry, without the profession altogether rather than with it. The fact of the matter is that people labeled ‘schizophrenic’ recover, and do a lot better, more frequently where they have never been introduced to the pharmaceutical products used to treat the condition than where they are given drugs. The drugs are impediments to recovery, and worse, they are damaging in themselves. There have, in fact, been instances where the point of no return has been crossed.

This domination of biological psychiatry has meant tragedy on a worldwide scale. This tragedy is the result of confusing intended “help” with actual harm. Real assistance has human features, and it doesn’t come in liquid and capsule forms. Conceive throw away people, and throw away people end up thrown away. One way to throw them away is to contain them in places where they will only receive custodial care. Another way is to make the custodian a chemical substance. So long as so few people are doing anything about it, this tragedy can only continue to grow. Many people think they are actually doing something good when they are harming other people. This harming of people is not a good thing, and it is a point that must be made again and again. Loving people are not hurting people. Right now it is essential to change directions, we need more concern and less harm shown to those whom we so often scapegoat.

R.D. Laing and David Cooper were trail blazers. They were experimenters in a field that permitted very few experiments. These experiments pointed the way to a better approach to the problem than compounding it. Without their experiments, the later more successful experiment of Loren Mosher, the Soteria Project, might never have gotten off the ground. Some of us are hopeful that more encouraging signs are in the wind. I am aghast at all the people, given psychiatric labels, with physical injuries that came of the treatment they received for those labels. No injury of the body is the solution to an injury in the mind. No amount of fantasizing otherwise is going to make thought organic. Poison, on the other hand, will give the wounded thought an injured body, just as a cessation of poison may, but not always, return the body to health. I understand that some people are receiving money for tending the wounds of mind and body. I think a career of healing people vastly preferable to a career of keeping people in ill health. What we need today is more of the former and less of the latter.

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2 Responses

  1. Any look at the history of psychiatry, even the most triumphalist historiography, would make you think that the term ‘anti-psychiatry’ would have positive connotations for most people. Not so in our society.

    I have hitherto distanced myself from this weapon in the verbal armamentarium of the oppressors, but the more disillusioned I have become about the possibility of reform and proper change in this canker in the moral decay of our society, sorry, I mean the Mental Health Nazi Party, sorry, I mean, psychiatry (got there in the end), the more I have felt ready to disabuse myself of the belief that there is anything wrong with opposing the very existence of this most destructive force in our society.

    As Szasz said, psychiatry and coercion are like conjoined twins; to destroy one you’ll have to destroy the other.

    Psychiatry is the practice of social, psychic psychic control and engineering rationalized on medical grounds. I am opposed to that, and if that makes me anti-psychiatry, then fine, I truly think that is the most morally sound posture one can adopt on this issue.

  2. Here, here! You’re singing to the choir, cledwyn, and I like the message.

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