I have been guilty of ignoring abnormal psychology as a policy issue for a long time. Out of sight out of mind. One meets extremely engaged people in one's daily life – both work and social, so one assumes that this issue either doesn't exist or is too small.
Not quite. The issue may well be "small" (relative to overall health issues) but it deserves a critical policy examination, particularly after I've understood Thomas Szasz's demonstration of the grave harm to human LIBERTY by psychiatrists.
There are two issues "medical" involved:
a) Whether chemicals should be shoved into people's mouth for so-called "mental" disorders. Szasz believes that is the main debate, and since there is NO underlying illness or "chemical imbalance" involved (or at least none that has been conclusively demonstrated), the very idea of having drugs to restrain behaviour is unscientific.
b) Whether the level of "officially" recommended drugs is being exceeded by psychiatrists.
On the former issue ("a") I've not yet formed a firm view, although I'd tend to side with Szasz unless significant PROOF is offered about the existence of a physical chemical imbalance and the "efficacy" of psychiatric drugs. There also needs to be proof that these drugs don't create severe violent reactions that cause far greater harm than anything the drug was intended to "improve".
On the second issue ("b"), there is now plenty of evidence about the significant over-prescription even of approved drugs.
There is the third and more fundamental issue, of course: to what extent should psychiatrists be permitted to dull human senses (and thus free will and liberty). I think this is perhaps the most important issue of all, but that's not the topic of this blog post.
Proof from New Zealand
Maria Bradshaw lost her only child to SSRI antidepressant induced suicide in 2008. She turned her personal tragedy into a crusade to help other parents on the dangers of antidepressant drugs and is founder of CASPER – Community Action on Suicide Prevention Education and Research.
Proof from Australia
Australia's largest youth mental health service prescribed medication to a majority of depressed 15 to 25-year-olds before they had received adequate counselling, despite international guidelines advising against the practice.
An audit of Orygen Youth Health medical records found 75 per cent of those diagnosed with depression were given the drugs too early.
Clinical guidelines recommend that in most cases antidepressants should only be given to young people after they fail to respond to four to six sessions of psychotherapy, which usually takes about six weeks. However, the audit, carried out by Orygen's own researchers, found on average patients received the drugs after just 27 days.
It also showed that fewer than half were followed up to see whether their symptoms had improved or to check for side effects, which can include an increased risk of suicide.
''Our results show monitoring was undertaken far less frequently than recommended and was not done in a systematic or precise way,'' the study, published last month in the journal BMC Health Services Research, stated.
Inspired by Szasz's talks that I heard last night on youtube, I decided to listen to him some more today. I'll get to his work later (which will require me to first finish the huge number of books I've been constantly purchasing and downloading), but his next talk that I listened to – a short while ago – is even more dramatic in impact and clarity than the one I shared with you last night.
I must admit that I've not been challenged by anyone so deeply as I've been by Thomas Szasz's ideas.
Interestingly, in my current draft version of DOF I've landed on a position that is fairly close to Szasz's views about individual responsibility. In particular, I dislike the idea of people escaping responsibility for criminal acts on grounds of mental illness.
But on the other hand, I suffer from some of the indoctrination of the "standard" psychology literature. For instance, I have a fairly extensive background in abnormal psychology, which I studied for my IAS exam. Thus I read more than 30 post-graduate books written in the 1960s and 1970s. True, I also know that psychology has changed dramatically (but haven't kept pace with the change – except to read Seligman and the like).
Whatever the change has been, it has clearly not been enough. We still have monstrous psychologists who, today, intend to "test" the "mental health" of three year old schoolchildren for potential psychological "disorders". What monstrosity! Delusion.
Listening to Szasz has also made me more opposed than ever before to the idea of doctors being empowered to "prescribe" "medicines". Powerful unions of doctors and psychiatrists have created a sweet gravy train for themselves even as they provide TOTALLY UNACCOUNTABLE "services" to the "masses" like us. The very idea of someone being empowered to "legalise" a drug is now on the line, in my mind.
Disclosure of the effects of a drug, yes. But then we must be free to decide whether we want it, and whether we will pay for it. Legalisation (and therefore handing over control to some "professionals") is a dangerous power game. Pure politics. "Legalisation" is the obverse of making it ILLEGAL for you and I to get the medicine without handing over our hard earned money to unaccountable "doctors".
In brief, I've rarely come across a clearer-headed person in my life than Thomas Szasz. Enjoy this talk, below. I will, time permitting, have much more to say about his ideas and work.
More on Szasz: here.
Recent talks at a conference: here and below: