Sunday, March 20, 2011

Political nature of psychiatry

Interesting seminar last week, which I attended, organised by Tony Stadlen, invited Vladimir Bukovsky, the anti-communist, to talk about his experiences of being detained in psychiatric hospital in the Soviet Union. Luckily for him, he was never given psychiatric medication and there was a dispute amongst psychiatrists about his diagnosis.

His case nonetheless highlights, which Bukovsky himself did, the political nature of psychiatric diagnosis and its potential for misuse. In Soviet psychiatry, the particular problem was the development of diagnoses such as sluggish or creeping schizophrenia and paranoid development of the personality, and the Soviets withdrew from the World Psychiatric Association for a while because of criticisms of their political abuse of psychiatry. People who do not fit into society are at risk of being regarded as mentally ill and such a mechanism can be exploited by the state.


Peter Jones said...

Please have a look at this link.

Anonymous said...

While not minimizing the abuse of psychiatry in this way in the former Soviet Union it should also be noted that only a small minority of psychiatric patients there were institutionalized on political grounds (around 15% IIRC), and only at one particularly large hospital allegedly (Serbsky in Moscow).

Marian said...

IMO, labeling a person's emotions, thoughts, and reactions symptoms of an illness always is political.

Oliver said...

Also valuable I think would be a specific description of how behaviors and/or symptoms can be politicized in the Western context—it's always easier to point out flaws in someone else's system, but how about, for example, cultural pressure(s) to product and consume constantly, in order to support an economy which overemphasizes materialist goals (and underemphasizes more humanistic ones)?