Thomas Szasz, Psychiatrist Who Disputed Existence of Mental Illness, Dies at 92

Picture: NIH (PD)

John Mariani reports for syracuse.com:

Dr. Thomas S. Szasz, a psychiatrist who questioned the existence of mental illness and fought against the forced treatment of patients, died Saturday at his home in Manlius. He was 92 and died from complications from a fall and a spinal compression fracture, his family said.

In “The Myth of Mental Illness,” published in 1961, Szasz argued that behaviors that colleagues attributed to diseases of the brain actually described “problems in living.” He called treating people against their will “a crime against humanity” in a 1992 profile in The Post-Standard.

“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.”

The approach Szasz rebelled against treated people as patients whose behavior somehow failed to meet the expectations of government or some other authority, said Dr. Rebecca King, a protege of Szasz who practices child and adolescent psychiatry in Syracuse and teaches at Upstate Medical University.

He believed people should seek a psychiatrist’s help after they themselves recognized a problem, and that the psychiatrist should help them talk through the issue and provide advice, when asked, King said.

Szasz did not spark a revolution in psychiatry, but inspired practitioners to look at the moral and legal propriety of some practices, in particular cases, said Dr. Robert W. Daly, a professor of psychiatry, and of bio-ethics and humanities at Upstate Medical University who studied under Szasz.

“Many of the specific things he sought to bring about have not changed. We have civil commitment laws and so on,” Daly said. “But the discussion of the use of coercion and forced treatment and all that, I think he had a real impact on the discussion of those matters within the profession and within the law itself. He helped sensitize everybody to what in fact they were doing.”

Born in Hungary, Szasz (pronounced ZOZ) emigrated to the United States in 1938 and graduated at the top of his class from the University of Cincinnati medical school in 1944. He became a professor of psychiatry in 1956 at what is now Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

Szasz became the school’s most popular professor, attracting residents who specifically wanted to study with him, according to a history of the psychiatry department published in the university’s Alumni Journal in 2006.

“The Myth of Mental Illness,” one of 35 books and hundreds of articles written by Szasz, gained him an international reputation.

Later writings generated a political backlash from Albany in the early 1960s that almost cost him his job, caused a rift with his boss and split the faculty, the Alumni Journal said.

In another controversial move, Szasz and the Church of Scientology founded the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a group critical of psychiatry. He later distanced himself from the church.

Szasz’s critics disputed his position on mental illness, contending that science had found genetic or chemical bases for some mental disorders. HIs backers, and some detractors, credited him with standing against the misuse of psychiatry.

His daughter, Dr. Margot Szasz Peters, said her father would talk about his work with her when she was in high school. The talks provided “great life and professional lessons,” Peters, a dermatologist, said in an email to The Post-Standard.

“Most of all, he was a role model of kindness and honestly,” she said, “I was always struck that even those who disagreed with his views looked to him with respect, admiration and affection.”

Szasz retired from Upstate in 1990.

He was sued for malpractice two years later by the widow of a man Szasz was treating, claiming the man committed suicide six months after Szasz instructed him to stop taking lithium. The suit was settled two years later for an undisclosed sum.

Read more here.

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  • DeepCough

    I know the late professor emeritus of Psychiatry Thomas Szasz was affiliated with the Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), which is a front group for the Church of Scientology, and this religious group has a theological bias against all of Psychiatry: it cannot be denied that this affiliation puts him in the light of quackery like R.D. Laing was placed in for his antipsychiatry views and methods of liberation psychology. But like Laing, Szasz saw something wrong with what he himself had studied, and that is the mark of a true scientist: someone who is willing to admit that the science of the day is faulty due its reliance on convention and influences of cultural taboo. And Szasz thoroughly abhorred the administration of Psychiatry by the State, which effectively prosecutes anyone with such a condition as a criminal. I encourage everyone to at least take a look at his landmark essay “The Myth of Mental Illness” and question the conventional wisdom of what makes someone “psychotic” based purely on superficial observation alone.

    “The Myth of Mental Illness” by Thomas Szasz, Ph. D
    http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Szasz/myth.htm

    The website of Thomas Szasz
    http://www.szasz.com

    • Maunch

      DeepCough you are one cool guy. I mean that. Wow, you really think clear about this issue. 

    • Calypso_1

      Believe it or not, I’m quite a fan of Szasz and started out deeply entrenched in the anti-psychiatry camp.  Obviously, at least how I’ve presented my views here for the most part, that has changed.  But one of the things that I do when I find myself opposed to something is to embed within in it. 
      I like learning that way.  It also makes me very naughty.
       

      • DeepCough

        “It also makes me very naughty.”

        TMI, dude, TMI.

        • Calypso_1

          oh come on…there was very little information contained in that statement.  What could you have been thinking about?

      • Dr. Monroe Cavenaugh

        Can you prove to us that you are not mentally ill?

        • Calypso_1

          Never said I wasn’t.

  • Jenny Armstrong

    Szasz was a genius and a gadfly. A total libertarian. His unfortunate alliance with a Scientology front  group was because they were both against psychiatry—but not for the same reasons. The Scientologists view psychiatry as a competitor for lost souls (much as doctors viewed midwives as competitors and lobbied to have them prohibited.) Szasz correctly viewed psychiatry as a totalitarian menace. He was also among the first to dispute the so-called science behind “bi-polar” and “mental illness”, which, judging by the vehemence of people, even on this site, is obviously a religious faith issue. Or, as in the case of frequent posters to this site, like , Calypso_1, who make money directly or indirectly from the deception, one of greed and vested interest.

    • DeepCough

      Calypso ain’t bad, the guy’s just a tad hierophantic, that’s all.

      • Calypso_1

        ; )
        Theatre sir.
        You should see my bombastic hat.
         

    • Calypso_1

      If you knew more of the role I play, in the work I do, perhaps you’d be less comfortable in speaking about supposed participation in religion or faith, or presuming upon what manner I might engage in the lives of others.
      If you paid attention to other aspects of my frequent postings you might also observe other tendencies that are decidedly outside the establishment of the totalitarian menace you decry.  As to greed, the only such hunger I feel is for knowledge and the perpetual exsanguination of ignorance from the human experience.  And most of all, I assure you; you have no idea as how my interests are vested.
       

      • Jenny Armstrong

        Ominous pronouncements, Calypso. Sounds like the usual obscurantism  and flim-flam we have come to expect from you on this issue.

        • Calypso_1

          Is there something less obscure, or more specific you’d like to talk about? 

          • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

            As I was watching this “discussion” unfold, it occurred to me that Szasz was a paid professional in the field of Psychiatry.

            Despite the outward appearances he cultivated, there is no doubt that on some level he supported and furthered Psychiatry, by his association with it.

            If nothing else, his very involvement in the field lent it a type of legitimacy (albeit borrowed) based on the esteem in which he was held by others.

            Clearly, Szasz himself deserves our utter condemnation for his role in the abuses and excesses of Psychiatry. No heed need be given to his individual opinions, efforts, or accomplishments.

            His mere participation is the only criteria we require to condemn him.

          • Calypso_1

            I would love to see this unfold.  I would like to know what they think I do.

          • Denver

            The Black Ledger of Forced Observation. Concerned relatives and a former boss of yours want you to get all the help you need.

          • Calypso_1

            Jesus is that you?!

          • Andrew

            Why were they concerned?

          • Andrew

            Why were they concerned?

          • Doug

            Why would your ex-boss be interested? Are bosses bad?

          • Steve

            Why did your boss fire you? Do you want to talk about it?

    • mannyfurious

      We could go into long, labyrinthian arguments about this topic that most people either wouldn’t understand, choose not to understand or deny for any number of reasons. But, all that really needs to be known is that the vast majority of “mental illness” is not treated by neurologists. If these were actual, physical diseases in the manner of Alzheimer’s or Tourette’s, the neurologist would treat these afflictions, instead of psychiatrists. But they don’t. That’s literally all you need to know. To this point, no causal relationship has been found between physical processes in the brain and so-called mental illness, despite how the research is manipulated and spun.

      I’m actually a mental health professional. Szasz is one of my heroes. I always felt uncomfortable about his extreme libertarian leanings as well as his connection with the Scientologists, but the country just lost one of it’s great voices. It’s too bad big pharma and others with a stake in making a fortune off of mental illness were so successful in isolating and marginalizing that voice.

      • Calypso_1

        “To this point, no causal relationship has been found between physical processes in the brain and so-called mental illness, despite how the research is manipulated and spun.”

        If you want to make that claim you need to go down the list of ‘mental illnesses’ and support it  I don’t know what journals you read in your mental health profession to keep up with the ‘spin’ but there is numerous genetic, physiological and anatomical data to back up the nature of the pathology.  Even to take some of the big ones, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, any person doing research in this field will admit we are in the infancy of understanding the underlying pathology but there ARE clear indications that they exist.  And most of the limitations in exploring these areas have more to do with current levels of technology and the cost involved in using research level tests in a clinical setting. 
        As to neurologists treating them…that’s a sad argument and shows a poor understanding of that specialty, how it is trained and its subfields.  There is a whole field of neuropsychiatry that is expanding all the time.  And in the hospitalist group I’m in there is a lot of coordination between the two.  Of course as you should know there is no definitive diagnosis for Alzheimer’s either except autopsy….it’s all based on symptoms.  Same with Creutzfeldt–Jakob, yet no one seems to be running around saying these don’t exist.
        I won’t disagree with you if you’d like to argue about the nature of the beast as far as the pharmaceutical industry, but this is an issue with the capitalist model in general and not with the science.  Even to the degree that the industry may be able to selectively sponsor some research to benefit their profit models this in no way eliminates all the science done in these realms.
         
         
         

        • Denver

          What obscene casuistry. You are a grade-A charlatan. Slyly juggling words and definitions to fit your point of view and bank balance. Because no one would be as dedicated to this canard if they were not making money from it. And in reply to DeepCough about what a fine fellow Calypso is, that may be, but given the choice between entering your name in a black ledger and paying rent and grocery money you better believe which choice he would make. We can sort out the details after he’s eaten.

          • Calypso_1

            Do I get to eat part of me too?

          • Denver

            Judging by the amount of cognitive dissidence that is your daily lot, I’d say you are quite accomplished at eating yourself alive. lol

          • Calypso_1

            I’m most certainly a cognitive dissident.Self-sustainability is something we should all strive for. 

          • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

            Now you’re just showing off.

            You’ve talked the retarded kid into eating a mudpie. It’s time to let him get back on the shortbus and go home.

          • Calypso_1

            But he’s trying so hard…
             
            Man, I got my ass beat so hard once for getting my little sister to eat sand.  (We were playing like it was the Sacrament of the Eucharist)

            Anyway, why do they always try to pull the ‘cognitive dissonance thing out first?  It’s as bad as ‘Strawman’ or ‘ad hominem’. 

            You’re right though.  It’s bedtime, I’ve got a long day tomorrow working on that Final Solution thing.  Fluoride isn’t working as fast as we hoped.
             

          • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

            “But he’s trying so hard…”

            And that’s the tragedy.

            G’night.

          • Denver

            It doesn’t seem that your psyche can handle a lighting bolt of reason. More of your sophistry: cognitive dissidence means the unhappy condition of holding two opposing viewpoints at the same time, usually for selfish reasons. The diarrhea you spew out on a daily basis about “mental illness” to unwary dupes doesn’t wash with the disinfo crowd. A cognitive dissident, on the other hand is someone who opposes the dominant cognitive paradigm. In this case you are very far from cognitive dissident. You make your livelihood by obscuring facts and sending people on snark hunts. The logic is subtle but sinister: if the broken wrecks you treat in your “hospitalist” groups derive pleasure and confidence, or even eschew suicide because you tell them with confidence that the Sun goes around the earth, what harm could there be in it? After all, as Mel Brooks said in High Anxiety, you make a “good living” and they are cheery. It’s the boat rockers that keep you up at night. Better get out that Black Ledger you tried to deride.

          • Calypso_1

            ….and Nurse Diesel said, “Those who are tardy do not get a fruit cup.”

        • mannyfurious

          “Even to take some of the big ones, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, any person doing research in this field will admit we are in the infancy of understanding the underlying pathology but there ARE clear indications that they exist.”

          There are always inclinations. Some people are inclined to be fast runners. That doesn’t mean they have a “disease.” The problem with “mental illness” as it is currently treated/defined is that we’re treating behaviors. And what is “normal” or “abnormal” behavior is constantly changing. A true disease is always a disease. The definition of cancer doesn’t change because society changes. 50 years ago, Homosexuality was considered a Mental Illness and included in the DSM. Who’s to say that many of the so-called “mental illnesses” being treated today will be considered so 50 years from now? Hell, even sociopathy is becoming much more acceptable in many nooks and crannies of this country. Who’s to say that 50 years from now we don’t all live in a tea-party state, where Ayn Rand is considered a founding mother and we memorize The Virtue of Selfishness in all our schools? As someone who’s read Szasz, I’m surprised you don’t understand this basic argument of his.

          “Of course as you should know there is no definitive diagnosis for Alzheimer’s either except autopsy….it’s all based on symptoms.”

          There’s a difference between “symptoms” and “behaviors.” In mental health treatment, we call behaviors symptoms, but it’s a mistake in language.

          “As to neurologists treating them…that’s a sad argument and shows a poor understanding of that specialty, how it is trained and its subfields.”

          To some extant, sure. I am ignorant of this topic. But I do know enough that if there were actual physical processes in the brain that were directly causing certain behaviors, that almost certainly means that the nervous system plays a role.

          “Even to the degree that the industry may be able to selectively sponsor some research to benefit their profit models this in no way eliminates all the science done in these realms.”

          The science is real, but it’s constantly mis-interpreted. There are correlations between certain chemical processes in the brain and certain behaviors. But a causal relationship hasn’t been established. Modern chemical treatments of depression, for example, are the equivalent of giving a starving person a pill that stops the brain from sending out a chemical signal that it’s hungry instead of just giving that person a sandwich.

          • Calypso_1

            Definitions of cancer most certainly have expanded and changed.  Diabetes changes.  Heart disease changes.  Diseases used to be regulated by the ‘humors’.  The more we know the more change or definitions – that is the nature of science.  We are not afraid to contradict or modify previous understanding when new evidence brings changes of thinking.  A thousand years from now scientific understanding will be so radically different in many areas as to make our current perspectives laughable. 
            It is only natural that the study of brain/mind disorders lag behind that of other medical fields.  We are dealing with the most complex structure in the known universe. 
             
            If you specifically want to look at how society affects the definitions of health and disease I would suggest looking into Medical Anthropology, as this discipline has devoted considerable effort to understanding this both in diverse ethnographies and western culture. 
             
            As to symptoms:  More properly these are subjective information reported by the patient.  I used the term in generalized understanding.  Behaviors are observable signs and most certainly a diagnostic indicator.  Many aliments throughout the body have the ability to manifest as behavior changes.  To believe that by using the word ‘behavior’ you are setting aside actions of an individual that are solely guided by their volition is dangerous territory.  Behavior can radically be altered when the organism in not in homeostasis.
            If you’d like an example of a very physical neurological reaction that is not behavior based take a look at alterations in saccadic eye movement http://www.sbri.fr/files/publications/karoumi%2098%20psychiatry%20res.pdf
             (And a side note to this – no psych professional in their right mind is trying to pathologize someone’s behavior that is well adapted and functioning in a manner that works for them.  It is only when things ‘breaks’ or the individual seeks to remedy something the find less than adequate that these models should even come into play.)
             
            Yes the nervous system plays a role.  There is extensive research on this available.  You could start with looking at the degradation of white matter tracts in the limbic-cortical emotion regulating networks of depressed patients. 
             
            I don’t really want to get into the idea that a causal relationship has not been established between brain processes and behavior.  When you’ve got someone’s brain open for surgery a little applied current (which causes a chemical reaction) causes repeatable behaviors; certainly not the entire complexity of the behavior spectrum, but definable elements.  This argument will basically come down, in the end, to the nature of consciousness itself – which is a WONDERFUL thought experiment, worthy of exploration : )  It is not however something you can use to dismiss know aspects of biochemical processes within the brain and observed alterations in behavior.  There are many drugs you can take that will thoroughly alter your behavior. 
             
            I do understand Szasz.  You know Szasz never said that the things we call mental illness don’t exist.  He said they were Myth.  He understood and did not define Myth as something that is unreal but rather a construct of collective thoughts regarding things that exist but that society cannot face.   Szasz was a product of his time, so was Freud, so was Paracelsus and I don’t think it wise to choose any ideologue or to raise a particular individual in history above the collective work of scientific discover that tends not to favor anyone’s opinion for long. 

          • mannyfurious

            “Definitions of cancer most certainly have expanded and changed.”

            Oh my gosh. Yes, they’ve changed, as we learn more and as we learn there are different kinds of cancer. But 50 years from now cancer will still be considered a disease. You can’t definitively say that for any of the mental illnesses.

            “Many aliments throughout the body have the ability to manifest as behavior changes.”

            Yes, but causation has been established in such cases. Tourette’s being a perfect example. Again, so many years ago it was identified in the DSM as a “mental illness.” As we learned that actual physical processes in the brain directly caused the behavior (through interacting with the nervous system), that affliction was redefined to a neurological condition and has been treated as such.

            “To believe that by using the word ‘behavior’ you are setting aside actions of an individual that are solely guided by their volition is dangerous territory. Behavior can radically be altered when the organism in not in homeostasis.”

            I don’t even know where to begin on this. This is a whole paper in and of itself. Let’s just say that, 1: It’s also dangerous to determine that one’s own volition has no or very little effect on an individual’s behavior, for all sorts of moral and ethical reasons. Now, if you want to believe this is true, that’s well within your right, but then you also have to come to terms with the idea that punishment is superfluous and no one would be held accountable for their actions (a bit overstated, I know, but there’s not much room to make subtle, nuanced points right now.)

            “no psych professional in their right mind is trying to pathologize someone’s behavior that is well adapted and functioning in a manner that works for them.”

            Highly debatable for any number of reasons. Again, who’s to say what works for whom? Maybe becoming “Borderline” is a fairly effective way of coping for the borderline personality, and is more of a problem for the people surrounding this personality. Also, mental illness is the ONLY illness whereupon one can be forced to receive treatment. I know this well, because I used to work primarily with offenders who were required by law to see a mental health professional. For many of these people, their behavior was more a problem for others than a problem for themselves.

            “When you’ve got someone’s brain open for surgery a little applied current (which causes a chemical reaction) causes repeatable behaviors;”

            Again, I’m sure a scientist can poke a certain part of the brain and make someone hungry. That’s a repeatable behavior. But that’s not the cause of “hunger.” Not eating is the cause of hunger. The processes occurring in the brain that communicate feelings of hunger are correlational and are the result of not eating. The question isn’t “What’s going on in the brain to cause this?” The question is “What’s going on outside of the brain that causes the brain to send these messages?”I’m not sure why this is so difficult for people to understand.

            “There are many drugs you can take that will thoroughly alter your behavior.”

            Totally redundant. Again, it’s not beyond the realm of reason to believe that a scientist can stimulate a part of my brain and make me sleepy. But sleepiness does not exist simply because of processes in my brain. The processes in my brain that make me sleepy exist because it’s important that I get sleep. Perhaps this is a subtle distinction, but it’s integral and highly understandable.

            “You know Szasz never said that the things we call mental illness don’t exist. He said they were Myth. He understood and did not define Myth as something that is unreal but rather a construct of collective thoughts regarding things that exist but that society cannot face.”

            Yes, this is true. He referred to them as “problems in living.” This is my take on it as well. Certainly, without a doubt, there are individuals out there who exhibit behaviors that we would refer to as “Depressed” or “Borderline” or “Histrionic” or “Schizophrenic” or “Obsessive Compulsive.” Those behaviors do exist. But they are not diseases and they should not be treated as such.

            “Szasz was a product of his time, so was Freud, so was Paracelsus and I don’t think it wise to choose any ideologue or to raise a particular individual in history above the collective work of scientific discovery that tends not to favor anyone’s opinion for long.”

            Ok? Picking and choosing examples is poor argument. Darwin was a product of his time, as was Martin Luther King Jr, as was John Brown, as was Buddha, as was Plate, as was Einstein. That doesn’t mean you accept everything they say, but it also doesn’t mean you dismiss everything either… especially when it’s hardly been proven that science has proven them wrong. Szasz only died a few days ago. He was more than aware of most of the science still coming out on the subject. There are plenty of interviews of him countering not the science, but how the science is interpreted.

          • Calypso_1

            : )  we are covering a lot of ground here.  fertile ground for many future conversations.  I’ll save your responses in the thread and see if we can’t thresh out some of these ideas as time goes by instead of creating some monster of a rambling diatribe here. 
            I’ve got some impending big projects to take care of so I’ll be mostly absent for a while but I look forward to later communication on these issues.  I appreciate the feedback. 

          • mannyfurious

            Yeah, I warned about labyrinthine arguments. I’d be interested in helping you out with whatever. What exactly are you looking to do. (In case it hasn’t been obvious, I’ve also been on the internet on a very inconsistent basis, as I transition into a new position at work. But I’m up for whatever. Even when we disagree, I enjoy your posts.)

          • mannyfurious

            Yeah, I warned about labyrinthine arguments. I’d be interested in helping you out with whatever. What exactly are you looking to do. (In case it hasn’t been obvious, I’ve also been on the internet on a very inconsistent basis, as I transition into a new position at work. But I’m up for whatever. Even when we disagree, I enjoy your posts.)

  • Denver

    It was Calypso_1′s brilliant insight to bring back phlogiston as a scientific concept since so many thoughtful, wonderful people have written books about it, many of whom have had to struggle with horrible self-doubt, which should be enough for the scientific community and  modern society to take stock. Cal has even written one himself  about the subject, which is available wherever Hallmark cards are sold.

    • Calypso_1

      You must be confusing me with Calypso_4.  But you really should see my Lifetime special: Xenogenesis and the Transmigration of Souls. 

  • http://skadhitheraverner.wordpress.com/ Skadhi_the_Raverner

    The more I read about psychology, and the neurodiversity that gets mislabelled as ‘illness’, the more I’m convinced that psychiatric practice is not science (one acronym – DSM). Everyone knows rebellious people are more likely to be diagnosed with a ‘disorder’ than docile people. its a sham.

    • Calypso_1

      There are some interesting facets with the DSM as a clinical guide that the lay public has access to that you don’t see with other specialties.  People aren’t spending too much time with the Manual of Gastroenterology: Diagnosis & Therapy.  But they probably have no doubt that it’s science (if you only knew how many disorders were treated based on symptoms alone, no tests…because we simply don’t know). 
      It’s normal that in dealing with the mind that everybody feels they have a stake in the game – and they do.  It’s a branch of medicine that has ethical, philosophical and for some spiritual questions at a level others don’t even get close to. 

      But for you to take something like the DSM and write it off out of hand as unscientific…I wonder if you’ve ever bothered to read the 4-Vol source books that spell out the debates, rationales and research references in around 3000 pages of text.  And if you were to try to get into the actual research it would be 10’s of thousands of pages. 

      You’ve sited one disorder, which would be a very long thread indeed to discuss. The history of that diagnosis does have political elements but not so much in trying to control the people being diagnosed (and before anyone wants to jump on that I can discuss the control as well).  It has far more to do with people pushing their own careers and personal theories.  And as someone with a background in Anthropology you should be very familiar with that dynamic as well as a history of being accused as an unscientific discipline.
       
      And as far as curtailing peoples rights without the courts.  In the primary facility that I work in we have a court room for hearings.  If someone is in a position where their rights might in anyway be violated, the judge comes to us.  The patient is represented by an attorney and patient advocate.  Any measures that might be taken to limit freedoms are temporary and reviewed frequently.  Human rights are of paramount concern.  Do you really think a hospital wants to get sued? 

      • Bob L (15 years experience)

        I am the head psychiatric social worker of a hospital psyche unit in a major metropolitan area. I also must voice my concern with the outrageous comments posted by Denver. I deal with mentally ill individuals like him all the time. The most practical and efficacious treatment, once we have been authorized to help, is a brief to intermediate period of deprivation, followed by counseling. I’m also glad Calypso mentioned that courts and hospitals work together to make sure  bi-polar and mentally ill patients we do work with are given enough time for their treatments to take hold. After all, we are not villains and mental health treatment is about improving life-quality not just for the individual in question but the entire community.

        • Calypso_1

          I don’t know if you are regular visitor here or not, but this is a community that I am quite familiar with and I’d like to use it to illustrate an example of one the  elements of thought that I try to buffer with my own colleagues.
           First of all, as you said “once we have been authorized to help” and in this case with this individual we most certainly have not.  “Mentally ill individuals like him..” This is not an individual, to our knowledge, who has received a diagnosis and indeed would be unethical for us to consider him as such because he is not a patient.
          As to outrageous comments:  this site is and hopefully will always be a place where opinions and thoughts of a more extreme nature can be expressed.  One of the long running topics has been psych vs anti-psych.  There are numerous sub elements to this.  But of most concern here are the very legitimate ones that both a totally rational person may have and the more ones of a more treacherous nature that can begin to occur when inflected with paranoia.  As many of the issues on this site deal with conspiracy, government control and oppression it natural both draws and evokes elements of paranoia.
           Psychiatry has in the past been used for oppression.  Is it used for that today?  Undoubtedly it is – but to what degree should be open to legitimate, objective review of the process and parsing of the elements that may be involved in any abusive practices.  In my own experience and study the vast majority of all abuses can fit into either simple human failings as exhibited anywhere or in the systemic abuse of capital and power as extended through many different disciplines, not just psychiatry. 
          But for those afflicted with any degree of paranoia or have well developed views of their own consciousness, the idea of people messing with your head is bound to draw extreme responses.  That is why these are some of the most elusive and difficult situations to handle.
           
           
           

  • Jill P. MSW

    As a mental health professional of five years (social worker), I am appalled to read the nasty troll comments of the individual posting here as “Denver” towards a colleague, Calypso. “Denver” obviously has an “axe to grind” and needs to talk about it, and see a professional that could help him with any number of thought disorders that would cause him to engage in such extremely disrespectful behavior such as shown on this forum. There’s help available if you need it “Denver”.

    • Calypso_1

      I’ve come to expect the flame on these topics.  Denver has every right to adopt an anti-psych stance and live within whatever mental framework that that they find compelling to the degree there is no great infringement on others.  Even in clashing with someone believed to be a representative force of that which they decry it provides an opportunity to whet their metal and hopefully make some transition from such a volatile state to a more practiced and controlled attitude. 
      As to disrespect, this forum is a fine enough place for it, I give it often enough, should be able to receive some. 
       

      • Doug

        I also am a mental health professional who has been shocked and saddened by the vicious, hurtful comments of Denver. I’m sure Calypso and Jill will agree that sometimes force is necessary to help certain patients who have a deep denial of their own mental illness. In this case an evaluation of Denver would be in order.

        • Calypso_1

          I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve simply synced myself with the breathing and movement of an aggressive patient and gradual brought them down through entrainment – when everybody else was ready for show of force.  I’m not afraid of violence and when it’s simply someone testing the boundaries their body knows full well it’s in the presence of somebody with honed predatory instincts.  When it’s somebody that has lost control of themselves entirely, well that’s a medical crisis to the extent the needs to be handled so that harm is unlikely (ie please don’t pull out that femoral cath…clamp-stat!).  Managing psych pts in a med-surg setting is particularly challenging.  I’ve agonized over needing to implement restraints and spent plenty of hours off duty just to stay with unruly pts so the wouldn’t need to be confined. 
           
          There is no need to suggest Denver should be evaluated. In a forum such as this that is exactly the kind of cornering that could enflame the hostility towards medical perspectives.  They may have had a very poor experience with such in the past.  Just about everybody wants to be ‘evaluated’ in one way or another, to know something about themself, to explore and be known.  It doesn’t have to be my way or anybody in particular.  I wasn’t hurt by Denver and I understand and can be vicious myself, so if that is where Denver is at, we can tussle.

  • Ted Heistman

    OK, so let me stretch and crack my knuckles here on this one.

    Mental Illness is socially constructed. Is anyone going to argue that point? Now, some people are dysfunctional and unhappy and they do things that cause harm to themselves and others.

    So there are people who work with people like that. So obviously there is going to be a science around this. Other societies may think these people are possessed by evil spirits, or whatever but either way some people are whacked.

    But beyond the extreme cases, I think there is a lot of wiggle room and I think as Mental Health professionals and related industries, expand the brand and increase market share, they end up doing a lot of things that I believe are unhelpful and outright harmful. Like labeling anyone slightly different, especially children and how they try to disempower them, turn them into victims in order to rope them into the system, which is their bread and butter.

    This is where the outcry comes from and I think its justified.

    • Calypso_1

      Mental illness is socially constructed?  In it’s entirety?
      No matter where you go with this you’re just going to get into the fundamental nature vs nurture question.  There are elements of both.  Both have plenty of evidence and there is constant interplay.  As to a specific example regarding children, let’s take a look at a label: ADHD.  Do you know that a significant number of kids are diagnosed with that and prescribed medication by Pediatricians & Doc n’ the Box’s, never having even seen a ‘Mental Health Professional’.  The same goes with antidepressants.  Now if you want to take a look at the pharm reps that make them think that these are within their scope of practice we are back to a capitalist business model which has infiltrated and dominated the medical community, just as it has every other power structure in our society. I don’t think if you ever had the opportunity to witness a psych session with a child that you would believe that they were being disempowered – quite the opposite in fact.  (That’s not to say there are not many who have had truly bad experiences…which could lead us into another topic entirely.)   

      • Andrew

        There are feminists who argue that not just gender but sex is socially constructed.

        • Calypso_1

          Yeaaahh…not going to open that door. 
           
          Like any thought exercise taking things to the extreme can yield interesting results, challenge assumptions and create new questions.  You never know the nature of boundaries until you push them.  I’m all for that.  My own feelings on dedication to ideologies is that, ideally, it’s a bit monastic; such devotion will yield a purity of divergent viewpoint that could not be acquired without such isolation of thought, even to the degree that enforced separation from other realities is also acquired.   
          However, I like to bring the lessons back into the center so that there is a process of dynamic exchange and not a stagnating core. 
           

          • SP333

            “enforced separation from other realities is also acquired.”
            Could you be referring to mandatory observation at a mental health facility? 

          • Calypso_1

            No, your comment demonstrates either a poor reading of my statement or an attempt to divert it to an alternate agenda.

            Since you require clarification; I was strictly speaking of individuals who, of their own choice or nature separate from others into counter cultural elements to such a degree that they are able to produce viewpoints that are based solely on the foundations of their own culture, independent of external definitions.
            The specific phrase you quoted was meant only to demonstrate that such self-imposed separatism may in fact, along with producing unique insight, also cause difficulties in that insight being integrated with bodies of knowledge outside its point of origin.
             
            Do you have a more specific interest in mental health observation that you’d like to discuss?  If so here is an opportunity for you to address them directly instead of projecting your suppositions upon my unrelated thoughts.
             
            Would you prefer that I open up the topic?

          • New

            Can you prove to us that you are or are not mentally ill?

          • Calypso_1

            Yes. But I have no inclination to do so in these circumstances because any such information is private and the evidence would require extensive evaluation of medical records which I feel disinclined to believe you qualified to interpret. 
             
            If your premise is to evoke the notion that it is impossible to define mental illness, or that the definitions as currently exist are erroneous, then you are more than welcome to address yourself along those lines as I have given ample opportunity to do so and have been more than agreeable by expressing an interest in communicating with you. 

            If however, you wish to continue the whimsical reinforcement of your own notions as opposed to mutual exchange, I decline any further interaction and wish you good day.

          • New

            Yes, what? you can prove what?

          • Sammy

            That’s right Calypso, you’ve had enough swatting at gnats. Now it’s time to let your realpolitik shine through, it’s time to call in force to support your views, and you’ve made sure it’s available as one of your job perks. Those eggheads and blabbermouths who pester you will shut of right quick after you’ve summoned the guys who look sharp in their uniforms.

          • Andrew

            No psychological projection there.

          • Calypso_1

            quite a little crew here

          • Calypso_1

            You are fantasizing.  Whether or not it is based on personal experience I don’t know.
            But this is the internet, a message board.
            You are not reaching into my real life.
            You have no knowledge of how my actions are carried out in real life.
            If you have chosen my avatar as a symbol within your own fantasy, you need to recognize that behind it is a real human being who has nothing to do with the circumstance you are imagining.
            No one is using force here to do anything. 
            No one is using force to support a view.  That idea is decidedly against much of what the general consensus reality among this sites community supports, myself included.
            All I am doing is exercising my freedom to no longer participate in this interaction.
            No one will use force on you, no one will take you away.  You can continue to do whatever you are doing.  I just won’t be responding. 
             

          • Andrew

            Don’t lie.  The Whitecoats have been dispatched and should be at his location in a few minutes.

          • Calypso_1

            I prefer the hypnotically induced self-released DMT/Sleep Paralysis/Grey abduction Method.  (We encode the induction steganographicaly in the ads.)

          • New

            Can you prove to us that you are or are not mentally ill?

      • Steve

        I run a bi-polar task force in a city on the Eastern Seaboard for a hospital. Usually, after we get a call from a family member, an ex-boss, or ex-girlfriend about an individual who is in denial of his bi-polar mental illnesss, we make a trip to that individual’s domicile, usually in the small hours of the night or very early morning.(We use a modified truck that used to belong to a hog farmer). This ensures maximum compliance since they are usually too disoriented to understand the full ramifications of our visit.  After we have the individual in our care, it’s usually not difficult to get them to see how they have been in denial about their mental illness, this new insight can be a  boon to the community. After that hurtle is made the individual in question will usually be willing to help pay back his obligations to the community, usually by doing labor, sometimes even heavy labor. This practice can bring growth and a sense of security to many people.  

        • Calypso_1

          Obvious trolls are getting more obvious.  

      • Ted Heistman

         Its obviously socially constructed. Just consider the cultures that don’t have mental illness. And I have a question for Good German, but probably my comments are too buried now. Twice he’s posted articles on mental illness with pictures of the human brain. I am sure you are aware of the mind/brain problem. 

        • Calypso_1

          There are culture bound mental illnesses.  There are cultures where there is little recognition, diagnosis or treatment of mental illness.  Would you site for me some of the mental illness free cultures?

          Talk to Andrew about your question.

  • Rky

    The Real Cure for Schizophrenia.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3diDYhvG4M