Saturday, October 09, 2010

Can there be an open debate about biomedical psychiatry?

Robert Whitaker, in a posting on his Mad in America blog, writes about how he sometimes loses the hope that "our society will ever be able to have a thoughtful, honest discussion about what is truly known about mental disorders, and about the merits of psychiatric medications". I understand the sentiment. However, we do need to remind ourselves that biomedical psychiatry is a cultural system. Like a religion, it expresses a view about the nature of the world that provides what Clifford Geertz called an 'aura of factuality'. This feeling of realness is not easy to upset. People don't want to have their worldview turned upside down.

Whitaker's books The Anatomy of an Epidemic and Mad in America are well worth reading. One of their main themes is the vulnerability created by taking psychotropic medication. Relapse rates when people stop medication are very high. There is also evidence of a loss of benefit emerging with long-term treatment and also on retreatment after discontinuation of treatment. People may actually do better over the long-term if they work through their problems without medication. This is a legitimate scientific hypothesis (eg. Can long-term treatment with antidepressant drugs worsen the course of depression?).

(with thanks to News and Alerts from Mind Freedom International)


Anonymous said...

I think there are signs that academic psychiatrists are moving in the right direction (I'm thinking, e.g., of the recent discussion of Remington and Kapur's "extended dosing" paradigm on the Schizophrenia Research Forum in which a number of prominent researchers acknowledge precisely the 'vulnerability created' by taking antipsychotics)...

As to a dialogue/discussion between psychiatric researchers and other stakeholders (consumers, patients, academics in the humanities)--that is something I don't see happening anytime soon...

Anonymous said...

"As to a dialogue/discussion between psychiatric researchers and other stakeholders (consumers, patients, academics in the humanities)--that is something I don't see happening anytime soon..."

One of the reasons this won't happen anytime soon is because of the dehumanizing and violating language of calling people who have had their brain raped by coercive psychiatry 'consumers', and the inherent denial of the lived experienced of human rights atrocities this language carries with it.

Would you call someone who is shot by police a 'consumer' of bullets?


Yet, you minimize and pooh pooh the violence initiated against survivors of coercive psychiatry, by coercive psychiatry.

You will not get a 'discussion' on the level you seem to expect, by calling the very people who stand to lose their lives, physical health, and freedom, 'stakeholders', as though the cost we pay for the decision of others to have their way with our bodies is equal to that of an 'academic researcher'.

What you will rightly get when you take that tack, is contempt, and uproar.

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