By Kelly Patricia O’Meara
June 4, 2013
On June 3rd, during the White House National Conference on Mental Health, President Obama announced his administration would be taking a number of steps to expand the nation’s mental health services, saying that America needs to have a conversation to help remove the “stigma and embarrassment” associated with a mental illness diagnosis. A seemingly noble sentiment, if not for the fact that it is psychiatry’s fraudulent diagnosing system—the DSM—that has recently become a true embarrassment for the mental health industry.
With all due respect to the President, in light of the recent national and international criticism lobbed at the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) diagnosing manual, the DSM-5, which includes the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) admission that psychiatric disorders lack scientific validity, the focus of his desired conversation is arguably misinformed and out of sync with the raging controversy surrounding the validity of accurately diagnosing any alleged mental disorder.
Perhaps unbeknownst to the President, for months there has been a rip-roaring, verbal brawl taking place among the great and near-great of mental health, a conversation that smacks at the very core of mental health diagnosing—is psychiatric diagnosing based in science?
This question has been at the center of the storm that recently has sent the APA into a tail spin, leaving the psychiatric association desperately clawing for any semblance of legitimacy. And, remarkably, it is a conversation among doctors representing some of the most respected mental health research facilities in the world and the hoi polloi of psychiatry. What these distinguished doctors have to say about the legitimacy of psychiatric diagnosing is blatantly at odds with the direction of the President’s requested conversation. Unfortunately, no one at the White House appears to be listening.
For example, Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, NIMH, did not mince words when he wrote of psychiatry’s diagnosing manual saying, “the weakness of the manual is its lack of validity.” And like the NIMH, the British Psychological Society was equally damning in its criticism of the diagnosing manual saying it has “limited reliability and questionable validity.” In a nutshell, what both of these distinguished mental health organizations are saying is that the DSM cannot be trusted to accurately diagnose mental illness.
Add to this the extensive criticisms of Dr. Allen Frances and the developing picture of mental health’s diagnosing system is one of utter uselessness and a recipe for diagnosing disaster. Frances, the author of the DSM-IV and the DSM-5’s biggest critic says, “there is no definition of mental disorder. It’s bullshit. I mean you just can’t define it.”
Frances further explains that the publication of the DSM-5 is “the saddest moment in my 45-year career studying, practicing and teaching psychiatry. The Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association has given its final approval to a deeply flawed DSM-5, containing many changes that seem clearly unsafe and scientifically unsound.”
These criticisms are no small matter, as it is the criteria listed in the DSM that decides whether or not a mental disorder is diagnosed. The best and brightest in mental health aren’t sugarcoating what they think of the current diagnosing system. Phrases like “lacks validity,” “limited reliability,” “questionable validity,” “clearly unsafe,” and “scientifically unsound” surely must have inadvertently been withheld from the President.
There can be no other logical reason for the President to support new sweeping mental health information programs, knowing full well that the very basis of those programs—the mental health diagnosis—is steeped in raging controversy.
If the President had been aware of the on-going conversation about the legitimacy of psychiatric diagnosing, it seems reasonable that he would have refrained from saying things like, “first, we’ve got to do a better job recognizing mental health issues in our children…,” “it’s not enough to help more Americans seek treatment — we also have to make sure that the treatment is there when they’re ready to seek it,” and, “only about half of children with mental health problems receive treatment.”
While it would be easy to point out that the above data are based on studies and estimates, not actual known cases, the point, rather, is that all of the statements are born from psychiatry’s diagnosing manual, which has summarily been dismissed.
The President may have been better served had he been made aware of the sentiments of Dr. Frances who summed up well the state of psychiatric diagnosing when he said “perhaps the concern over DSM-5 will generate a serious discussion on how best to correct over-diagnosis, over-medication, and the excessive authority that has been given to psychiatric diagnosis in school decisions, disability determinations, benefit eligibility, and in forensics. Psychiatric diagnosis has become too important for its own good.”
Despite the advice of Frances, that “the best protection against wild-over diagnosis is to ignore DSM-5. It is not official. It is not well done. It is not safe. Don’t buy it. Don’t use it. Don’t teach it,” the President has thrown the full weight of the federal government behind mental health informational programs that are based on this very flawed diagnosing manual.
Ironically, one day after the President came out in support of the new mental health informational programs, Frances, again, chimed in about the on-going criticism surrounding psychiatric diagnosing. “First,” says Frances, “the diagnostic system in psychiatry is broken and can’t be fixed internally by the American Psychiatric Association….” Frances explains, “DSM-5 has fanned the flames of diagnostic inflation with definitions that turn everyday life problems into mental disorder—harming the misidentified ‘patients’ and costing the economy billions of dollars.”
What’s the answer? According to Frances, “only Congressional hearings can begin to cure the deep-seated disorders that plague our mental health non-system.” Frances continues, “psychiatric diagnosis has become too important (in decisions determining workman’s comp, disability, VA benefits, school services, custody, criminal responsibility, preventive detention, and the ability to adopt a child, fly a plane or buy a gun) to be left to one small organization.”
Yes, Dr. Frances, Congressional hearings are needed and the Citizens Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly suggested this route. The definition of mental illness is too important to be left to those whose very livelihood is dependent upon not only creating but also diagnosing those mental disorders.
Should the conversation suggested by the President be restricted to supporting mental health informational initiatives based on a flawed, unsafe diagnosing manual, things may progress as you predict—”soon most of us will have a fake mental disorder (or a few) and we will live in a Brave New World where nearly everyone uses medicine….”
Kelly Patricia O’Meara is an award winning, former investigative reporter for the Washington Times, Insight Magazine, penning dozens of articles exposing the fraud of psychiatric diagnosis and the dangers of the psychiatric drugs – including her ground-breaking 1999 cover story, Guns & Doses, exposing the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of senseless violence. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed book, Psyched Out: How Psychiatry Sells Mental Illness and Pushes Pills that Kill. Prior to working as an investigative journalist, O’Meara spent sixteen years on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer to four Members of Congress. She holds a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Maryland.