Diagnose Not Lest Ye Be Diagnosed

There are few people more in need of mental health treatment today than mental health professionals, unless perhaps we think about treating the relatives of people with “mental illness” labels. Yes, the very people who lock people up should be locked up on account of their proclivity to lock people up. We should give it a “disease” label and treatment. Fair is only fair as foul is awfully foul. It’s just plain un-American.

My reason for going there? I’m seeing all these well intentioned people interested in doing something about “mental health issues”, and that something amounts to, in effect, throwing a flammable liquid on the fire in an effort to put it out. We have an epidemic of “mental illness” labeling in this country, and the method we’ve come up with for dealing with it is by doing everything within our powers to increase the amount of labeling going on.

Our schools, deathly afraid of producing psycho-killers, are training teachers to screen their classes for any indication of “mental illness”.  Isolating and treating the labeled student is supposed to be a violence prevention measure. If the kid is just a little weird and not violent in the slightest. It doesn’t matter. The weird student must bear a psychiatric label, and be scrutinized for his or her potential to do harm, however speculative.

It was rumored when I was a kid that we’d driven a teacher to distraction, or insane, for lack of a better term. No more. Now schools have got the conduct problem licked as conduct is no longer a grade on a report card. Bad conduct, misbehaving, is now, according to our pediatric psychiatrists, a bona fide “mental health disorder”. Given this circumstance, class clown is no longer bound for the circus, but rather for the loony bin. That’s right, clowning is a certifiable “disease”.

I had this friend with the “borderline” label who was going on to me about how important it is to take “mental disorders” seriously. I fell automatically into disagreement with this person. I think taking “mental disorder” seriously is the most direct way to developing a more “serious mental disorder” that I can imagine. Maintaining a sense of humor is the best medicine for this sort of thing. Whatever sort of “disorder” you might have developed, as long as you take it lightly, it can’t be serious.

Of course, if you don’t take your “mental disorder” seriously you are in danger of being nabbed for conduct disorder. Everybody has a “mental disorder”, even if the “mental disorder” a person has hasn’t been invented yet. Some of us just haven’t been caught. Were your “mental disorder” actually an order, that wouldn’t be so bad, unless, of course, it involved orders from the planet Xylon. Disorders from Xylon, that’s okay.

My point? Well, judging from the news, everyday of the week, we are locking up the wrong people. The people least responsible for greenhouse warming, mass extinction, corporate imperialism, poverty and international conflict are often the people who we have selected to endure our psychiatric institutions as patient-prisoners.  I’d like to point out that this is more an instance of ruining the world rather than it is  of saving it. Have we made a mistake? Yes, I think so, and many mistakes at that.

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The Three Babbles of Mind Brain Research

Back in 1973, the late Dr. Thomas S. Szasz published a slim volume of aphorisms and sayings under the title The Second Sin. The title of this book referred a parable found in the Old Testament. This parable dealt with the sin of clear and decisive language, back at a time when only one language ruled the world, for which God punished man through the tower of Babel with a confusion of languages. This confusion of languages, according to Dr. Szasz, has become a means the authorities use to deceive and manipulate a gullible public. Among the authorities, of which Dr. Szasz was acutely concerned, were the mental health authorities.

I’d say that the use of babble has evolved much since the publication of The Second Sin. A metaphoric second tower of Babel, you could say, is expanding skyward. Recently I’ve come to identify three primary forms of babble used by the psychiatric profession’s hacks to achieve it’s ends, and to facilitate social control. These three languages, three jargons, three pig-Latins, if you will, are psycho-babble,  bio-babble, and the newest arrival on the block, neuro-babble. Given these three specialist technological languages, I think it can be safe to say that nonsense has a great future in the realm of psychiatry.

Perhaps you’ve heard about psychobabble, a popular book was published under that title a few decades back. Wikipedia defines psychobabble “as “(a portmanteau of” “psychology” or “psychoanalysis” and “babblle”) is a form of speech or writing that uses psychological jargon, buzzwords, and esoteric language to create an impression of truth or plausibility. The term implies that the speaker or writer lacks the experience and understanding necessary for the proper use of psychological terms. Additionally, it may imply that the content of speech deviates markedly from common sense and good judgement.”

Psycho-babble has it’s antithetical complement in bio-babble, or nonsense, in lieu of credible convincing evidence,  asserting the primary role of biology in the development of psychiatric disorders. The bio-psychiatrists seem to think that if we continually make the same assertions, over and over again, regarding the primacy of biology over other factors involved in the development of psychiatric disorders, that this effort will give those assertions the ring of authenticity. Science and logic, on the other hand, insist that we must dig a little deeper, and be a little more fastidious in our investigations.. Bio-psychiatry has been supremely effective in having this bias taint much of it’s research attempts with shoddy methodology.

More recently, we have seen the arrival of neuro-babble. Neuro-babble is a sort of hybridized bio-babble with a blur of epiphenomenon thrown into the mix. As the dawn of the second decade of the brain fades into artificial sunlight, neuro is here to stay. Neuro is the new fad, trendy prefix, and buzzword.  Everything is neuro these days. I tried to count the number of neuro-words I’d encountered not long ago, but as would be expected, I lost count eventually. Neuro-babble would resolve the Cartesian mind body duality by declaring mind body. Neuro-scientists, mostly neuro-psychiatrists, are intent on making the “substance” of mind, the substance of body, or brain. Getting that thought under a microscope lens though has proven more elusive than I care to elaborate on.

Mental Health Treatment Is Not Violence Prevention

According to an article in Politico, Sandy Hook spurs states’ mental health push, some states have acted following President Barrack Obama’s call for renewed national focus on mental health.

At least 37 states have increased spending on mental health in the year since Adam Lanza shot dead 20 children, six school employees and his mother in Newtown, Conn. It’s not just about money, either. States are experimenting with new — and sometimes controversial — ways to raise awareness about psychological distress, to make treatment more accessible for children and adults and to keep firearms away from those struggling with mental illness.


Let’s see.

a. Raise awareness about psychological distress…Is that like advertising “mental illness” and its “treatment”?

b. Make treatment more accessible for children and adults…Are we selling mental health services here, and Expanding Those Services (i.e. increasing the numbers of people labeled “mentally ill” and, thereby, as it is put, “served”) of which it is comprised?

c. Keep firearms away from those struggling with mental illness…We have three entities that we have to contend with here.

                    i. people

                    ii. firearms

                    iii. “mental illness”

Although without a known physical presence, theory has it that the third entity, “mental illness”, exists, and that it leads, in turn, when in combination with people and firearms to massive acts of violence against humanity. Problem is, what do we mean by this term, “mental illness”, and when fully one forth of the residents of the United States are thought to have it, does it really have any valid meaning whatsoever?

Schools are screening students, teachers and school employees are being educated on recognizing the signs of “mental illness”, and seminars are being held. I just have a conceptual problem with turning schools into mental health police departments busting more people, and here when we say people we’re talking CHILDREN, for alleged “mental illness”, on the presumption that doing so has anything to do with the rate of violence in this nation.

The most contentious measures are laws passed in more than a dozen states that require some reporting of mental health status as part of background checks for firearms purchases.


Among these ‘contentious measures’ aimed at violating the second amendments rights of citizens who have experienced the mental health system, names have been added to a national criminal database of people deprived of those rights, additionally violating privacy rights and, in New York state, mental health workers are encouraged to report people in therapy in the mental health system, thought potentially dangerous, to the police. Meanwhile, if one scans the news, police officers are shooting unarmed civilians, often thought “mentally ill”, every day of the week, for behaviors perceived as threatening. Were these police officers demented? Not an issue. The person dispatched has to be the one deranged.

“If someone, anyone who interacted with Adam Lanza could have said, ‘There’s something very wrong here’ and gotten him the help he needed …” [Andrewe] Sperling [NAMI’s director of legislative affairs] said.


The presumption here is that Adam Lanza would have thought he needed some kind of help getting on with his affairs rather than that these particular members of society feel they need some kind of help keeping people like Adam Lanza from doing serious harm to large numbers of the American public. I would say that somebody is speaking out of both sides of his mouth, that is, practicing deception. Why deception? People intuitively know better than to expect beefing up the mental health system, on however small a scale, to have a real effective on violence.

Mental health treatment outcomes in this country are, in many cases, dismally bad. Putting more money into ineffective programs are not going to improve those bad outcomes. Although stress is put on the importance of early detection, when it comes to treatment results, once a “mental illness” label has been applied those results are going to worse than they would have been where the person, child or adult, was never labeled in the first place.

A few comments on the recent commitment to dialogue on mental health as a violence prevention measure.

1. I think America does have a problem.

2. I think there are many questions as to whether the national solution won’t actually make matters worse

We need a more tolerant loving country. We need to raise children to grow up to be good people. Blaming the problem on people with “mental illness” is a red herring. People in the mental health system are simply not more inherently violent than people outside of that system and, if anything, studies show them to be less violent. They do face a lot of discrimination and prejudice though. Witness this matter of them, as a block, being blamed for massive acts of violence in this country. This is ignoring the fact that they are us. We’ve got an arrogant gun toting populace, and to get back to the habitable nation we once knew, we are going to have to expend more of the love we lavish on guns, and other material possessions, on people, and people beyond the confines of one’s own immediate nuclear family, however threatened we may feel we may be by this beyond.

R. D. Laing and the Politics of Liberation

I am not a Laingian psychotherapist. The spirit of the Pasha of Kingsley Hall can guide other disciples on a lifetime regimen of therapy to its wispy heart’s content, not me. I don’t see losing one’s way as a lifetime endeavor I would wish to pursue. I’m not an apologist for R.D. Laing excesses. Leave that to those of his associates who have survived him and their associates.

I have no aversion to being called Szaszian. Thomas S. Szasz was, from beginning to end, against psychiatric oppression. Dr. Szasz, in fact, supported the abolition of coercive psychiatric practices. R.D. Laing’s position on the same subject was much more circumspect, except where specifically stated, and then rarely. I think it important for doctors to take sides as advocates on this matter, and Dr. Laing, when he wasn’t practicing non-coercive psychiatry, seems to have, wrongly in my view, taken the other side.

I don’t want to bash Dr. Laing entirely. Credit must be given where credit is due. He did much good. He humanized the face of madness, he discerned that there was often a hidden reason to it, and he put it in a social–mainly familial–context. He also inspired the initial Philadelphia Association experiments that have in turn spawned whole generations of successors, most impressively the Soteria Project, still with us today.

When the BBC would discredit R.D. Laing, that is one thing, when Thomas S. Szasz would do so, that’s another. The BBC just wants to finish the reactionary establishment job of making this Maverick psychiatrist mud that his heart attack on a tennis court along the French Riviera started. Thomas Szasz, on the other hand, wanted to show that this Maverick psychiatrist was actually not so much a Maverick psychiatrist after all, and certainly not the Maverick psychiatrist he was taken for.

Perhaps, as has been indicated, R.D. Laing’s position hardened over the years. Dissident psychologist Seth Farber in his recently published book, The Spiritual Gift of Madness, makes a great deal out of Laing’s The Politics of Experience. Laing himself, near the end of his life, in a series of interviews with Bob Mullan, published as Mad To Be Normal, refers to this same book, The Politics of Experience, as a mistake. R.D. Laing, also in Mad To Be Normal, speaks about how disturbed the people he dealt with were, something he might not have done way back when The Politics of Experience was published quite so explicitly.

The thing I’m trying to stress here is that you don’t equalize the field merely by donning informal attire. At Kingsley Hall, behind the illusion that there was no illusion, all residents weren’t on an equal footing. They played at being on an equal plane, but without the assent of the psychiatrist residents, there was no equality. When R.D. Laing in his memoir, Wisdom, Madness, and Folly, rationalized forced institutional psychiatry as necessary, he turned poser and hypocrite. There is something hypocritical, after all, in reattaching the chains Sunday that you had removed on Monday.

Historically there are parallels. Take the much lauded casting off of chains at the beginning of the movement for moral management in mental health treatment. Restraints may have been removed in some cases, but these restraints were being removed from people who were quite literally prisoners. If any problems ensued, they could be quelled simply by throwing the prisoner into solitary confinement. The moral management movement created an asylum building boom, and thus raised the rate of people being held captive by the state for alleged “mental illness” substantially.

Given that R.D. Laing, by his own admission, considered psychiatric hospitals necessary, I wouldn’t rank him up there with the great liberators, and if he was not a liberator, he was a collaborator with the psychiatric plantation system. Perhaps there were two faces to him as far as R.D. Laing was concerned; if so, I guess you can choose the face that most pleases you. I much prefer honesty and integrity myself. It is, quite frankly, less deceitful.

Drug Company Toady Charles Nemeroff Cons British

For shyster shrinks, these must be glorious days indeed. Lying drug company lacky, Charles Nemeroff, after getting booted off Emory University campus for lying about the extent of funds he received from prescription drug cartels, gets hired by the University of Miami, and now is being honored (for his dishonor?) in Great Britain. Conflict of interest, literally corruption, has never had it so good before.

The headline in The Independent, Honoured in Britain, the US psychiatrist who took $1.2m from drug companies, doesn’t quite tell the whole story. It wasn’t that he took well over a million dollars from drug companies. There is a law in the USA requiring US doctors in academia to reveal the amount of money they received from prescription drug companies, and scofflaw Dr. Charles Nemeroff lied about this matter to the tune of 1 million smackers and 2 hundred k.

The good news is that, at least, this decision has generated controversy, and there are people in England who challenge it.

The decision by the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College, in central London, Europe’s largest psychiatric research organization, to invite Professor Charles Nemeroff, an expert in the treatment of depression, has split the psychiatric profession and been attacked by members of the institute itself. Professor Nemeroff, a leading authority on the biological causes of mental illness, is one of the highest profile doctors to have been exposed for concealing large payments from pharmaceutical companies.

His credentials…

He was forced to resign his post at Emory University, Atlanta, in 2008 after an investigation revealed that he had failed to report more than $1.2m of payments from GlaxoSmithKline, despite having signed an undertaking to limit payments to $10,000 a year.

This firing resulted in a subsequent appointment to the University of Miami and a research grant on top of it. What’s it to the University of Miami so long as drug companies are being sued and not institutions of higher education? The crook they took is now being honored as a conquering hero.

In what other field would lawbreaking be considered an advantageous career move? Drug companies are receiving the highest civil suit penalties in history for off-label prescription practices and here, one their pigeons, is being honored for his deceit.

Not everybody is happy with this decision. Some people object to this advancement of the criminal element.

Now a group of UK psychiatrists have written to the Institute of Psychiatry protesting against its decision to invite Professor Nemeroff to give the “inaugural annual lecture for the new Centre for Affective Disorders”, which is due to take place at the institute next Monday.

Knuckle rapping is one thing, promotions, that’s another. This leaves the question open as to which psychiatrist will be the next to turn criminal activities into a strategic career move.

Thomas Stephen Szasz, 1920 – 2012

“I am probably the only psychiatrist in the world whose hands are clean,” Szasz told the newspaper. “I have never committed anyone. I have never given electric shock. I have never, ever, given drugs to a mental patient.”

~Update: Thomas Szasz, Manlius psychiatrist who disputed existence of mental illness, dies at 92, John Mariani, Wednesday, September 12, 2012, The Post-Standard, Saracuse, New York.

Saturday Morning I saw the close of the historic 30th Anniversary Nation Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA) conference in Cincinnati. The grand finale of this event was a rousing and invigorating talk by Bruce Levine lambasting corruption in psychiatry, and in his own profession of psychology. He was, in fact, calling for the abolition of the profession of psychiatry on the grounds of the extent to which it was contaminated by that corruption.

Sometime during the evening of the same day, a giant among giants as far as critics of mainstream psychiatry go, Dr. Thomas Stephen Szasz, passed away.

I flew back to Florida from Ohio on Sunday, September the 9th.

On the afternoon of Monday September 10th, during a teleconference, on a facebook page I ran across a report of Dr. Szasz passing. I immediately made mention of this comment to the people who were taking part in this teleconference. We did a quick Google news search, and decided it was probably nothing more than an internet rumor. There was nothing in Google news to indicate that he had died. Dr. Szasz, although 92 years of age, had just last year presented to an enthusiastic crowd at the International Society for Ethical Psychology & Psychiatry (ISEPP) conference in Los Angeles.

Tuesday I had more than enough reliable reports to conclude that he had expired. First there was an announcement on the ISEPP facebook page, and a link was provided to the article that sparked that announcement.

The New York Times on Wednesday reported on his death with an article that quoted E. Fuller Torrey and Edward Shorter, by no means friends of, nor friendly to, Dr. Szasz and his ideas. Vera Hassner Sharav, president of the Human Alliance For Human Research Protection, uses the occasion to voice his differences in opinion from those expressed by Dr. Szasz rather than emphasizing any places where they might have been in agreement.

Usually when you are remembering a person, you turn to his friends rather than his enemies. Although it is curious that the New York Times should turn to Dr. Szasz’s enemies when remembering him, certainly Dr. Szasz’s legacy neither begins nor ends with the New York Times.

I think it goes without saying that some segments of the mainstream mass media are as corrupt as the psychiatrists they quote. A much more just and balanced appreciation, The Passing of Thomas Szasz, can be found in The New American.

Dr. Szasz’s distinctive voice, and his singular presence, will be sorely missed by many.

Epiphany On The Threshold Of A Better World

We need to say, and in no uncertain terms, “NO to forced mental health treatment!” Forced treatment is always mistreatment. This totalitarian loophole in our democratic system of government should be closed, and closed for good. The problem is not, and never was, forced this therapy or that therapy. The problem is force in and of itself because force involves denying one of the values we hold most basic to the democratic process, namely individual liberty.

There are just so many ways in which people are made un-free through mental health maltreatment. They can be restrained by restraining devices, they can be subjected to solitary confinement, they can be electro-shocked against their wishes, and they can be drugged regardless of their own feelings on the subject, even when out of the so called mental hospital, more literally a psychiatric prison, and in the larger community.

A new law is not going to fix this old problem at all. A new law will merely add to the confusion. There are so many laws, and in few places is this more true than in the mental health system, that are not being enforced now. We certainly don’t need another silly law on the books. What we need is for the old law that allows this over extended exercise in tyranny to be repealed. When force is not the law, as far as mental health treatment is concerned, then force is a violation of the law the way it is everywhere else.

The mental health system in fact serves as the way in which mental health authorities get around the law. People are neglected, abused, violated, and die in these facilities, and the offenders are let off with little more than a knuckle rapping if that. The people confined to these facilities are not schizophrenics or manic depressives, and they didn’t come from another planet. They are human beings the same as you and me. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are lying words in a lying book used to make human beings out to be something other than what they are.

Violence is growing more and more common in contemporary society. Violence is growing more and more common because of the lack of a sense of community, and because of a breakdown in communications. Violence is not growing more common because of an epidemic of “mental illness”. That is the myth. “Mental illnesses” don’t kill people any more than guns kill people. When all is said and done, it is people who kill people, and it is people who should be held accountable.

Tolerance is the answer. Tolerance and an end to these arbitrary and discriminatory laws. Intolerance breeds intolerance. We see the results of this intolerance in the multiple murders that take place on an almost daily basis here and there. These acts of violence weren’t perpetuated by people with “mental illnesses”. They are intolerant acts perpetuated by frustrated individuals reacting to other acts of intolerance. Build a more livable world, for everybody not just for some monied elite, and such acts of violence should subside to the degree that such a world is actually achieved. There is often a reason, you see, to unreason, and it’s not the sort of reason that should be ignored.