Comments by Keith Hoeller, PhD

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  • The Mental Health Movement (MHM) has long been spear-headed by psychiatry, which claims to be a legitimate medical specialty. The major claim of the MHM is that there are two radically different types of people, the mentally healthy and the mentally ill. The corollary to this premise is that the mentally healthy are superior and the mentally ill are inferior and must not be tolerated. (The MHM is a form of biological determinism, whose major historical example is perhaps eugenics.)

    There are two methods to accomplish this goal.

    The first is by propaganda to get people to voluntarily comply with the dictates of psychiatry.

    The second is to get people to comply involuntarily by coercion and/or outright force.

    Robert Whitaker has carefully dismantled the standard Whig history of psychiatry which runs like this: Yes, things were awful in the bad old days when we didn’t realize that the mentally ill suffered from chemical imbalances and unrecognized brain diseases. Just as allopathic doctors resorted to unproven and unscientific methods such as blood letting prior to the germ theory of disease discovered in the late 1800s, psychiatry engaged in all kinds of ignorant treatments until the discovery of the chemical imbalance theory.

    But psychiatry had its own “revolution” in the 1950s, with drugs producing miraculous cures and emptying the state mental hospitals and making it possible for patients to live and succeed in the community.

    In fact, mental hospitals are still deserving of the “snake pit” moniker. But there are more of them now with locked psychiatric wards in hospitals and crisis and suicide hotlines that can be used as a direct conduit into these prisons.

    When Thomas Szasz first started criticizing “The Myth of Mental Illness” in the 1960s, he made a clear distinction between voluntary psychiatric treatment, which he favored, and involuntary treatment, which he criticized. In later years he abandoned the distinction because nearly every psychiatric encounter held out the very real possibility of coercive and/or forced treatment under state and federal laws.

    Even your nice psychotherapist is required by law to break confidence and report you to the authorities if they suspect several types of actual or potential behavior such as “harm to self or others.”

    Whitaker is right to conclude that psychiatric “research, which is their research and voluminous in kind, belies the narrative of progress that psychiatry has told to itself and to the public, and in order to maintain that narrative, it has to keep such research hidden from the public, or to dismiss it as insignificant.”

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