Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Speak out against psychiatry

I like to think of critical psychiatry as a broad church. For example, the last Critical Psychiatry Network conference I organised in Norwich in 2009 was called 'Promoting the critical mental health movement'. As I wrote in the blurb:-
The critical mental health movement is comprised of various perspectives developing a critique of the current psychiatric system. These range from reform to revolution. Although there may be debate about how much can be achieved within psychiatry, the movement is held together by recognition of the need for fundamental change.
Speak Out Against Psychiatry is organising an event at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London on 27 July. This is a group of people who have either used, or have been in close contact with people who have used, psychiatric services. A lot of the people they have spoken to have had a very negative experience of psychiatry, and many feel they have not been treated like human beings - that they are labeled as “ill” and given drugs rather than being listened to and offered support. The experiences are particularly painful for people who have been detained under the Mental Health Act. When detained in hospital, people can be forced to take medication, and often feel that anything they say is dismissed as a symptom of their “illness” rather than their genuine fears and frustrations of being imprisoned in what can be a terrifying environment.

Speak Out Against Psychiatry wants to give these people the chance to come together and speak about their experiences, and are going to be doing this outside the Royal College of Psychiatrists on the 27th of July between 4pm and 6pm. They also want to give people the opportunity to discuss alternative, humane ways of helping people in distress.

I have always said that the root problem in modern psychiatry is the belief that mental illness is a brain disorder. My personal view is that psychiatry can be practised without the justification of postulating brain pathology as the basis for mental illness. This position should not be misunderstood as implying that mind and brain are separate. Perhaps a way to express what I am saying is that mental disorders must show through the brain but not always in the brain.

I think it is important that there is a forum for debate both within critical psychiatry and between critical and mainstream psychiatry. I have suggested setting up an International Critical Mental Health Movement (see previous blog entry).

Although the manifesto of Speak Out may be more radical than I would express myself, I do think it is important that psychiatry engages in this debate. In this sense, mental health services would be truly centred on users of services. The views of critical psychiatry are not marginal to the present situation in modern mental health services.