on 9 October 2011
The book is a collection of essays, challenging the axioms of modern psychiatry, its inherent prejudices and the egregious misrepresentations of evidence and methodological, analytical and interpretative flaws in the research that supposedly justify its practices. It also proposes a more humane approaches to the treatment of putative 'schizophrenics'.
The first part of the book is an excoriating critique and aetiological explanation of the bigotry modern psychiatry has inherited, detailing the origin of the bio-genetic theories that continue to taint psychiatric doctrinal beliefs and practices, beliefs hypostatised through tendentious psychiatric tomes, and theories that, like most psychiatric theories, have been used to deprive man of the rights antecedent to government and psychiatric interventions, and often to literally and symbolically destroy lives.
It ruminates on the inestimable suffering these theories of genetic inferiority have caused, and also how the instrumental role psychiatry played in the eugenics movement has been neatly and expediently consigned either to oblivion or a mere footnote in the overwhelming majority of journals and textbooks. I would surmise that it is to stop people using it as mirror for the present and an attempt to dissociate itself from the crimes of the past. Ideas have their consequences, and the pathogenicity of some of (if not all) of psychiatry's core concepts is evidenced by history and psychiatry in the mirror of current events. Yet i'm sure they meant well!
Another chapter early on in the book looks at the provenance of the concept of schizophrenia, detailing some of the risibly egocentric and ethnocentric views of two of its pioneers, Eugen Bleuler, the man who coined the term, and Emil Kraepelin. Such people propagated the seeds for the extermination, literal and metaphorical, of many people, elucidating just how history and the fates of many are determined by ideological tyrants, no less the case with men like Bleuler, Freud and Kraepelin, than it is the case with men like Hitler and Stalin, ideological concepts that also, to put it in Dostoyevskian terms, come to possess men like demons.
Particularly interesting is the chapter looking at the studies into the brains of people labelled schizophrenic. It comments with due despair and dudgeon on the eisegetic readings of the research, seeing changes in the structure and functioning that supposedly departs from whatever the norm is as aetiological proof, conveniently forgetting in their desperation for the reification of their own concepts all the other factors that have been shown to be the likely cause, such as neuroleptic drugging and distressful experiences. The chapter also discusses the serious methodological flaws and interpretative biases of the adoption studies and twin studies, revealing yet more egregious science. Despite this, anyone who questions the doctrine of the divine right of psychiatrists to lie and get away with murder, espouses views that fly in the face of scientific findings!
Of course, the centrality of the issue of Big Pharma's cankerous influence on modern psychiatry cannot be emphasised enough. The chapter on the miasma of capitalist greed and sociopathy sweeping through the corridors of modern psychiatric institutions, on the subjugation and abuse of minds and bodies so corporate and psychiatric psychopaths can get rich, ever impervious to the human implications of their actions, is one of the most engrossing. It elaborates on the nexus between Big Pharma and organisations like the NAMI and the NHMA, groups that are ostensibly there to protect the rights of patients, but are in reality conduits for Big Pharma's agenda. It exposes the colonisation of research carried out by universities by the drug companies and the distortion and marginalisation of research that doesn't harmonise with their business interest, and also the complicity of careerist, compromised psychiatrists and doctors.
As with most modern institutions, dissenting voices are suppressed, demonised and filtered out of the system, their names and ideas systematically calumniated, scapegoated for the ills of the establishment. Such things are the signposts telling us we are living in a semi-Orwellian state, where many punitive mechanisms are in place for dealing with those who protest; where inversions of reality and the debauchment of language are utilised by those in whom's hands power is concentrated; and advancement and prosperity are contingent upon the ability to internalise the cognitive, linguistic and physical behaviours pleasing to those who govern. Most nauseating is the description of Big Pharma's role in the invention of psychiatric diagnostic concepts, and its weakening of civil liberties protections in order to maximise profit. Yet people continue to delude themselves that psychiatry is some sort of humanistic enterprise, intellectually and morally impervious to the many millions of lives steamrolled in the name of psychiatric pseudo-progress and unbridled greed.
Another chapter looks at the importance of clients articulation of their experience; their psychological processes and resulting emotions; explanations of the provenance of their experiences; and the right to self-authorship denied by most psychiatrists who superimpose on them their supposedly authoritative definitions. Of course, many people lack the vocabulary to distill thought processes and emotions into speech, but the people interviewed describe their experiences with remarkable clarity and seeming penetration, yet we assume as authoritative the blinkered interpretations of psychiatrists, and the voices of the clients are by virtue of this marginalised, forgetting the simple uncommon sense fact that psychiatrists barely know these people, and that they have no occult insight specifically into the lives of their patients, and generally into the nature of being.
As is made clear, because they deal with these experiences directly, this impels them to learn about their experiences, whereas to my mind, most psychiatrists want to make money and latch onto anything that convinces them of the authenticity and legitimacy of their concepts and 'ministrations' respectively. It's like asking a Nazi who worked in the concentration camps what it was like for their prisoners. They may be able to furnish you with some insights, but the patient can teach so much more of real substance.
In a chapter on the role race, class and gender related prejudice, one gets a sample of some of the seemingly insuperable obstacles that stand in the way of psychiatric progress, of the ideological prejudices that modern psychiatry has inherited. The more psychiatry changes, the more it stays the same! It illustrates the woeful situation of colonised people, such as in New Zealand and Australia, the scapegoating of individuals and their brains for social ills.
These are just a few of the many issues dealt with in this edifying book. It made for interesting reading.