Thomas Szasz, born in 1920 and still alive and active, is a legend who should be known far more widely than he is. He runs the Thomas Szasz Cybercentre for Liberty and Responsibility.
His 1961 book The Myth of Mental Illness (see an essay by Szasz on this topic here) is considered an all-time classic by many. Unfortunately, I had either not heard about him in the past or had neglected his work. I first paid attention to his work only a few years ago, when I read Jim Powell's Triumph of Liberty.
Not to be under-done, lest anyone fail to understand what he stands for, he wrote the aggressively titled Psychiatry: The Science of Lies as recently as in 2008. Over 90 now, he has now acquired a well deserved reputation not just as an eminent psychologist but as a man of liberty.
Powell writes: "His writings inspired the movement to restore civil liberties of patients".
Szasz sharply distinguishes between (a) disease (b) behaviour and (c) crime. Disease is a medical condition that can be observed and measured objectively, and scientifically tested. It is a PHYSICAL condition. Behaviour is NOT a disease, and just because someone (e.g. a child) behaves in a particular way does not mean that such person has a disease. Finally, crime is a subset of behaviour – that harms others in a manner deemed to be criminal.
Psychiatry has been used as an instrument of the state to coerce those who have NOT committed any crime. Locking up innocent people in "mental asylums" was the norm till Szasz began his work. Szasz argued that the state could NOT imprison someone who had not committed any crime, but merely behaved differently – or even strangely.
There is nothing like a lecture by an excellent professor to teach us useful insights. As usual, a quick search of Youtube led to outstanding lectures/ snippets by Szasz. The first of these, below, is a 1 1/2 hour lecture (with questions) given in 1994. Every minute of it is worth paying attention to.
This second one, below is a short summary of his ideas about how children are being poisoned by "psychiatrists":
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