- Whether psychiatry should be seen as a medical discipline. Where there is agreement is that psychiatry is different from medicine. The disagreement arises because of how much is made of that difference. Some want to go as far as saying that psychiatry should be non-medical. Others emphasise that medicine covers both physical and mental aspects. The reality is that many patients do complain of physical symptoms which have psychosocial origins and any view on this issue has to take note of psychosomatic medicine.
- Whether the Mental Health Act should be abolished. Where there is agreement is that critical psychiatry emphasises the rights of people with mental health problems. This emphasis leads some to argue for abolishing all forced treatment and others to accept that detention can be justified by the loss of mental capacity in mental illness. All would accept that psychiatric abuse is not justified and coercion needs to be minimised.
- Whether it is suitable to see mental disorder as illness and disease. Where there is agreement is that all identify there is a problem with seeing mental disorder as brain disease. But the questions are: should it be seen as illness; and is psychiatric diagnosis valid? Some conclude that mental disorder is not illness and alternatives are required to psychiatric diagnosis and others accept that psychological dysfunction can be understood as illness and that diagnostic concepts should be understood for what they are. Diagnoses should not be reified, and seen as ‘things’. Instead they are merely idealised, hypothetical constructs and if they have any value should be understood as such.
In summary, the essential critical psychiatry position of challenging the claim that mental disorders have been established to be brain diseases can lead to some differing perspectives within critical psychiatry. As I have said several times, critical psychiatry is a 'broad church', but it does coalesce round the view that the biomedical hypothesis that functional mental illness is due to brain disease is based on faith, desire and wish fulfilment rather than logic (eg. see previous post).
(with thanks to Kermit Cole for making the video)