The “Anti-Psychiatry Movement,” CCHR and Other Advocates Against Psychiatric Pseudoscience, Coercion and Abuse

In my opinion, the ‘mental health’—in the sense of spiritual wellbeing—of Americans cannot be improved by slogans, drugs, community mental health centers, or even with billions of dollars expended on a ‘war on mental illness.’...The best, indeed the only, hope for remedying the problem of ‘mental illness’ lies in weakening—not in strengthening—the power of Institutional Psychiatry.” – Dr. Thomas Szasz

Why is it that psychiatry is the only sector in the medical system that generates movements to oppose its oppressive powers and damaging treatments?  Why is it that psychiatrists are still not seen as “real doctors” by medical students?  As psychiatrists try to dismiss its opponents, the work of Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) as a watchdog and others is more vital than ever.

By Jan Eastgate
President CCHR International
February 1, 2021

Former American Psychiatric Association (APA) president, psychiatrist Jeffrey Lieberman told Congress in 2015 that “psychiatry has the dubious distinction of being the only medical specialty with a movement dedicated to its eradication.” He claimed that psychiatry was being stigmatized, “actively perpetuated by a virulent Anti-Psychiatry Movement.”[1] In doing so, he implies something perverse, rather than what it is—a wake-up call that something is seriously wrong with psychiatry, which has always needed an external force to stem its corrupt powers and abuse of both medicine and patients. In fact, stigma means “a mark of shame or discredit” and psychiatry has over 220 years of exemplifying this.

Medical students perceive psychiatry as lacking a solid, authoritative scientific foundation. A World Psychiatric Association survey found medical students also see psychiatrists as “peculiar, fuzzy, confused thinkers who are complex and difficult to understand,” psychiatric treatment is also often depicted as “ineffective and punitive electroshock” and “forced confinement.”[2]  And a UK psychiatric association dean reports, “Lots of other doctors don’t think we’re ‘real doctors.’”[3]

As such, it’s true that a unique aspect of psychiatry, unlike any other branch of medicine, is that psychiatrists and other mental health professionals are outspoken against it and ex-patient organizations oppose its practices. Independent of CCHR, groups such as the Network Against Psychiatric Assault, the Mental Patients Liberation Project, Committee for Truth in Psychiatry and Mind Freedom, have assembled since the early 1970s to protest coercive psychiatric treatments and intervention.[4]

But the so-called “anti-psychiatry movement” was actually started by psychiatrists in the 50s and 60s. Then in March 1969, CCHR was formed and has been an effective movement working with patients, healthcare professionals, attorneys and human rights activists to accomplish more than 180 laws worldwide that provide protections for patients.

A more recent movement is called “critical psychiatry,” which started in the UK and now operates globally. Critical psychiatry is not “anti-psychiatry,” it says but offers “constructive criticism” about psychiatry and includes many psychiatrists as members.[5]

Regardless of each movement’s separateness and diverse views, Lieberman appears to lump all critics into one category.

One doctor responding to Lieberman’s rants called his views “self-promotional and condescending” and questioned whether there should be a psychiatric diagnosis for “someone who is self-serving, can’t accept criticism, and believes critics are prejudiced bigots?”[6]

Lieberman, who has financial ties to numerous pharmaceutical companies that can profit from increasing numbers of people being labelled as “mentally ill” and corresponding psychiatric drug sales, fails to address that a pivotal problem with psychiatry is that it is not based on science, doesn’t treat “medical disease,” but uses medical “treatments” to control behavior.

Philip Hickey, Ph.D., a retired psychologist, is one of many professionals that have stated as fact that “psychiatry is not, and never has been, a scientific endeavor.” He points out: “The general ‘rule’ adopted by psychiatry…is that one can criticize psychiatry all one likes, provided the criticism has absolutely no effect.”[7]

Criticism that has been waged against psychiatry, even within its own industry, for decades.

In the early 1990s, Dr. Walter Fisher, Assistant Superintendent of the Elgin State Hospital in Illinois and author of Power, Greed, and Stupidity in the Mental Health Racket, said, “The field of mental health is highly subjective, capricious, and dominated by whims, mythologies, and public relations. In many ways it is a pop culture with endless fads but with no real substance.”[8]

Lieberman’s responded with a diatribe against Tanya Lurhmann, Ph.D., a Stanford anthropologist, when she wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times mildly critical of psychiatry. The essence of Lieberman’s rebuttal was that an anthropologist had no business expressing any criticism of psychiatry, and he extended his denunciation to the editors of the New York Times according to Hickey.[9]

Hickey added: “Psychiatry as a profession is intellectually and morally bankrupt and has consistently demonstrated a marked aversion to anything remotely akin to critical self-scrutiny,” a good reason for the need for an anti-psychiatry movement. “Indeed, psychiatry’s general response to any kind of criticism is to re-assert its core tenets with renewed determination, as if an increase in zeal could somehow compensate for a lack of logic and evidence.”[10]

Case in point, Lieberman’s address to Congress in 2015. He neglected to inform federal legislators that criticism of psychiatry stems not from its opponents but from its own failure to address the reasons for such criticism, starting with, as Hickey wrote, “The fundamental basis of psychiatry—that it treats real illnesses—is still just an unproven assumption despite a staggering expenditure of money, effort, and cognitive acrobatics to try to prove otherwise. But the real illness fiction is crucial to psychiatry’s credibility. Once this fiction is exposed, it becomes obvious that they are simply providing mind-altering fixes in the same manner as the street-corner vendors: ‘something to help you feel better.’”[11]

In essence, he points out:

  • “Psychiatry’s definition of a mental disorder/mental illness embraces virtually every significant problem of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving, and psychiatry has been using this definition to formally medicalize problems that are not medical in nature for the past four or five decades.
  • “Psychiatry routinely presents these labels as the causes of the specific problems, when in fact they are merely labels with no explanatory significance.
  • “Psychiatry has routinely deceived, and continues to deceive, their clients, the public, the media, and government agencies, that these vaguely defined problems are in fact illnesses with known neural pathology.”[12]

“So, we anti-psychiatry writers,” Hickey continues, “have been challenging, not only the fact that psychiatry is based on pseudo-science and unproven assumptions, but have also criticized psychiatry on ‘moralistic’ and ‘ideological’ ground.” Rationally, he adds, “we expect practicing psychiatrists to keep the corrupting influence of pharma at arm’s length, which they don’t.  We expect psychiatric research to be untainted by pharma influence, which it isn’t. And, of course, on ideology, we expect psychiatry to place client welfare above considerations of remuneration and self-aggrandizement. We also expect psychiatrists to provide full information to clients concerning the adverse effects of the ‘treatments’ provided.”

Further, “I know of nothing that suggests that anti-psychiatry is opposed to or outside of mainstream medicine. It is psychiatry that we oppose, and one of our primary criticisms is that it is not a legitimate branch of medicine because most of the problems it purports to ‘treat’ are not bona-fide [physical] illnesses.”

This is a stance that CCHR has had since its inception; it isn’t anti-medicine as psychiatrists propagandize, but it is against the pseudoscience inherent in psychiatry—and psychiatrists as “medical pretenders.” It works with medical doctors and it advocates for proper medical care to its readers. See:

Scores of studies and surveys of medical students show what we’re all concerned about: the lack of science to psychiatry as a specialty, such as:

  • “Psychiatry carries the burden of being known as the specialty chosen by those who didn’t want to be real physicians.”[13]
  • As covered above, Rob Howard, dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK said, “Lots of other doctors don’t think we’re ‘real doctors.’”[14]
  • The World Psychiatric Association reported that medical students believe psychiatry’s diagnostic system reinforces “the image of psychiatry as not being ‘real medicine.’”[15]
  • An article in the “Psychiatric Bulletin” says that “many novels seem to give good reasons to explain our fear of psychiatry. Beyond rape and murder, fictions also portray psychiatrists as medical torturers. Lobotomy and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) are shown as devices of control and punishment….”[16]

That same bulletin reminds psychiatrists of how society perceived them—as “torturers, criminals, sexual predators, charlatans and money-grabbing madmen.”

Even the United Nations has condemned coercive psychiatry (enforced treatment) as “torture.” No doubt, Lieberman would likely dismiss this as “anti-psychiatry.”

Torture, not Treatment

Re-defining torture as “therapy” was part of psychiatry’s trick to be accepted into medicine—from 19th Century bloodletting, cold water immersion and forced spinning whilst strapped to a chair through to the twentieth century insulin shock therapy, electro-convulsive therapy, psychosurgery, “deep sleep treatment” (a combination of electroshock and drugs), and psychopharmacology.[17]

But in 2013, the Report of Juan E. Méndez, then UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, said, “there can be no therapeutic justification for the use of solitary confinement and prolonged restraint of persons with disabilities in psychiatric institutions; both prolonged seclusion and restraint constitute torture and ill-treatment.” Solitary confinement on persons with mental disabilities, he said, is “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”[18]

Furthermore, “Deprivation of liberty on grounds of mental illness is unjustified…factors such as fear and anxiety produced by indefinite detention, the infliction of forced medication or electroshock, the use of restraints and seclusion, the segregation from family and community, should be taken into account.”

Méndez also called for “an absolute ban on all forced and non-consensual medical interventions” such as “electroshock and mind-altering drugs….”[19]

A July 2018 UN Human Rights Council report on “Mental health and human rights” also called on governments to recognize that forced psychiatric treatment, including ECT, “as practices constituting torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment….”[20] Yet Lieberman claims electroshock is “not the barbaric and damaging treatment of the past.”

But it is. And another reason why a watchdog or opposing “movement” to psychiatry is still necessary.

The Birth of the “Anti-Psychiatry Movement”

The term “anti-psychiatry” was coined in the 1950s by South African-born psychiatrist David Cooper, who worked in Britain and expounded the idea in his book Psychiatry and Anti-psychiatry (1967).[21]

The antecedents of the anti-psychiatry movement are traced to the early 1950s, when deep divisions were developing between biological and psychoanalytic psychiatrists, according to a 2006 article, “Evolution of the Antipsychiatry Movement into Mental Health Consumerism.” It stated: “An outcry was mounting against psychiatry’s practice of compulsory admission of mental patients to state institutions, where they were coerced into taking high doses of neuroleptic drugs and undergoing convulsive and psychosurgical procedures.”[22]

“Anti-psychiatry challenged the very foundations of psychiatry and its role in treating the mentally ill” and held psychiatry to account for abuses of human rights and “for the controlling force it played for society…. The modern use of the term ‘anti-psychiatry’ refers to an international movement which arose during the 1960’s and 70’s….”[23]

Sociologist Nick Crossley commented that critics of psychiatry saw its function as “an agent of social control, its invalidity as a medical specialty and its tendency to harm those it professed to help.”[24]

The Influence of Professor Thomas Szasz

Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus

Separate to this was psychiatrist, Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus at the State University of New York Health Science Center, Adjunct Scholar at the Cato Institute and a Lifetime Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. In his more than 50-year career, Szasz authored more than 35 books exposing the psychiatric profession and its lack of moral and scientific foundation. Leaders in medicine, law, and the social sciences regard his works among the most influential in the 20th and 21st centuries. His work continues to have a profound impact on how we view disease, behavior, liberty, justice and responsibility. According to The Journal of Psychiatry & Law, Szasz “has had more impact on the actual practice of psychiatry in this country than anyone since Freud.”

In his groundbreaking 1961 book, The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct, Szasz challenged psychiatry’s status quo and explained how “mental illness” cannot exist in any real medical sense as a physical illness or disease.  Rather, with the birth of modern psychiatry, bad behaviors became symptoms to be treated by the psychiatrist.[25] These were redefined as “medical.” Still today, psychiatrists erroneously attribute Szasz as being part of the “anti-psychiatry” movement and falsely assert that that he didn’t believe “mental illness” existed, as though people do not suffer emotionally or may need help.

All Szasz did was point out the obvious: “There is no blood or other biological test to ascertain the presence or absence of a mental illness, as there is for most bodily diseases.” Further, “If such a test were developed, then the condition would cease to be a mental illness and would be classified as a symptom of a bodily disease.”[26]  To be treated by physicians or neurologists.

The claim that “’mental illnesses are diagnosable disorders of the brain’ is not based on scientific research; it is a lie, an error….,” he said. “Diseases of the body have causes, such as infectious agents or nutritional deficiencies, and often can be prevented or cured by dealing with these causes. Persons said to have mental diseases, on the other hand, have reasons for their actions that must be understood; they cannot be treated or cured by drugs or other medical interventions, but may be helped by persons who understand their predicament to help themselves overcome the obstacles they face.”[27]

Szasz acknowledged that “the idea that mental illness is not a medical problem runs counter to public opinion and psychiatric dogma, defining psychiatry as a branch of medicine and mental disease as brain disease.” [28]  The fact that such labels and subsequent treatment can be delivered forcibly against a patient’s will, which was abhorrent to Szasz.

Szasz was anti-coercive psychiatry—no different to how the United Nations Committee against Torture today sees enforced, invasive psychiatric treatment. Szasz wrote: “[C]oerced psychiatric relations are like coerced labor relations (“slavery”) or coerced sexual relations (rape), and [I] spent the better part of my professional life criticizing the concept of mental illness, objecting to the practices of involuntary-institutional psychiatry, and advocating the abolition of ‘psychiatric slavery’ and ‘psychiatric rape.’” [29]

It was a message repeated in many of his works and teachings: “For some time now I have maintained that commitment—that is, detention of persons in mental institutions against their will—is a form of imprisonment; that such deprivation of liberty is contrary to the moral principles of embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States; and that it is a crass violation of contemporary concepts of fundamental human rights. The practice of ‘sane’ men incarcerating their ‘insane’ fellow men in ‘mental hospitals’ can be compared to that of a white man enslaving black men. In short, I consider commitment a crime against humanity.”[30]

In fact, Szasz said the “anti-psychiatry” movement of David Cooper and R. D. Laing in 1967, was a “serious blow” to his efforts to “undermine the moral legitimacy of the alliance of psychiatry” with the state. “Instead of advocating the abolition of Institutional Psychiatry, they sought to replace it with their own brand of psychiatry, which they called ‘Anti-Psychiatry.’ By means of this dramatic misnomer, they attracted attention to themselves and deflected attention from what they did, which included coercions and excuses based on psychiatric authority and power.”

French writer “Voltaire’s famous aphorism, ‘God protect me from my friends, I’ll take care of my enemies,’ proved to apply perfectly to what happened next: although my critique of the alliance of psychiatry and the state antedates by two decades the reinvention and popularization of the term ‘antipsychiatry,’ I was smeared as an anti-psychiatrist and my critics wasted no time identifying and dismissing me as a ‘leading anti-psychiatrist.’” [31]

Further, “Not surprisingly, the more aggressively I reminded psychiatrists that individuals incarcerated in mental hospitals are deprived of liberty, the more zealously they insisted that ‘mental illnesses are like other illnesses’ and that psychiatric institutions are bona fide medical hospitals. The psychiatric establishment’s defense of coercions and excuses thus reinforced…[the] importance of the distinction between coerced and consensual psychiatry.”

“Critics of psychiatry, journalists, and the public alike regularly fail to distinguish between counseling voluntary clients and coercing-and-excusing captives of the psychiatric system,” Szasz added.

“My great, unforgivable sin in The Myth of Mental Illness was calling public attention to the linguistic pretensions of psychiatry and its preemptive rhetoric. Who can be against ‘helping suffering patients’ or ‘treating treatable diseases’? Who can be for ‘ignoring sick people’ or, worse, ‘refusing patients life-saving treatment’? Rejecting that jargon, I insisted that mental hospitals are like prisons not hospitals, that involuntary mental hospitalization is a type of imprisonment not medical care, and that coercive psychiatrists’ function as judges and jailers not physicians and healers, and suggested that we view and understand ‘mental illnesses’ and psychiatric responses to them as matters of law and rhetoric, not matters of medicine or science.”[32]

APA’s Failed Community Mental Health Program:

Self-serving psychiatrists “blamed” Szasz as well as the “anti-psychiatry” movement for the massive de-institutionalization program—community mental health—that replaced state psychiatric warehouses in the 40s through 60s. This is a lie.

In fact, in the pursuit of research and other government funding for psychiatry after WWII, the American Psychiatric Association’s Public Relations man, Robbie Robinson, worked closely with some of the leading journalists to write “snake pit” articles on the horrifying conditions inside state mental hospitals, thereby requiring “community mental health.”[33] Psychiatrists were and continue to be critical of “others,” for a situation that they, themselves, caused.

In fact, Szasz was critical of this program saying it was “simply the psychiatric profession’s latest snake oil: Drugs and deinstitutionalization.  As usual, psychiatrists defined their latest fad as a combination of scientific revolutions and moral reform, and cast it in the rhetoric of treatment and civil liberties.”  They claimed that psychotropic drugs “relieved the symptoms of mental illness and enabled the patients to be discharged from mental hospitals.  Community Mental Health Centers were touted as providing the least restrictive setting for delivering the best available mental health services.  Such were the claims of psychiatrists to justify the policy of forcibly drugging and relocating their hospitalized patients. It sounded grand.  Unfortunately, it was a lie.”[34]

Even the American Psychiatric Association (APA) publication Madness and Government admitted, “…[P]sychiatrists gave the impression to elected officials that cures were the rule, not the exception…inflated expectations went unchallenged…. In short, CMHCs were oversold as curative organizational units.”[35]

All the program did was create homelessness, drug addiction, crime, disturbance to public peace and order, unemployment and intolerance of deviance, according to Dr. Dorine Baudin, who studied the issue.[36] A 1981 New York Times article called the policy “a cruel embarrassment, a reform gone terribly wrong.”[37] It was another psychiatric failure and another need for an independent watchdog for the psychiatric industry.

1969:  The Founding of CCHR

In 1969, Dr. Szasz was asked to co-found the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a mental health industry watchdog established by the Church of Scientology. CCHR’s Mental Health Human Rights Declaration that formed the basis of its work, supported proper medical assessment and treatment and an abolition of the systemic violations of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular Article 1, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and Article 5, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

American journalist Albert Deutsch detailed conditions in U.S. psychiatric institutions in the 1940s: “In some of the wards there were scenes that revealed the horrors of Nazi concentration camps—hundreds of naked mental patients herded into huge, barnlike, filth-infested wards, in all degrees of deterioration, untended and untreated, stripped of any vestige of human decency, many in stages of semi-starvation.”[38]

William Arnold, author of Shadowland, the compelling biography of Frances Farmer, the Hollywood actress destroyed by insulin and electroshock therapy in the 1940s, described how “Psychiatry gained the extraordinary power to arrest, detain, and sentence any citizen to an indefinite confinement without due process. The mere accusation of insanity was all it took for the suspension of every single human right guaranteed under the Constitution.”[39]

Already, lobotomies had been performed on 40,000 people in the U.S. and around 10,000 in Western Europe.[40] Electroshock was being administered without anesthetic and muscle relaxants, breaking bones and snapping spines, killing patients. In 1954, the first antipsychotic, Thorazine, had been approved for the U.S. and was quickly dubbed a “chemical lobotomy” because of its mind-numbing, brain-altering effects.

According to Vera Sharav in an article in the American Journal of Bioethics: “The reality was that the therapies damaged the brain’s frontal lobes, which is the distinguishing feature of the human brain.  The neuroleptic drugs used since the 1950s ‘worked’ by hindering normal brain function: they dimmed psychosis, but produced pathology often worse than the condition for which they have been prescribed—much like physical lobotomy which psychotropic drugs replaced.”[41]

In 1967, a group of U.S. psychiatrists and doctors had met in Puerto Rico, funded by a grant from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to plan psychotropic drugs to be produced by the year 2000.[42]  They noted that the explosion of mind or mood altering drugs had already started with psychiatrists introducing “tranquilizing drugs into the state mental hospitals of our country”[43] and “major efforts were initiated by the pharmaceutical industry.”[44] The end result was a “pill-taking culture with a drug of choice for all ages,” including “‘mind-expanders’ for the youth….”[45] Psychiatrists predicted vast numbers of “chemical substances” for “the control of selective aspects of man’s life….”[46]    They haven’t looked back since and have been able to expand their industry with a proliferation of drugs.

Complementing this was the 1968 American Psychiatric Association’s second edition of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which added a new category of “Behavior Disorders of Childhood and Adolescence.”  Consequently, “millions of children who, in an earlier, less chemically oriented age, would have been merely classified as rambunctious [unruly, uncontrollable] or mischievous were in the pill-popping society of the United States diagnosed as ‘sick’ and treated with a powerful psychoactive [mind-altering] drug.”[47] NIMH estimated that one in every four children admitted to mental hospitals could “anticipate being permanently hospitalized for the next 50 years of their lives.”[48]

Against this backdrop, CCHR was formed to eliminate psychiatric coercion, involuntary commitment laws and barbaric practices, including punitive treatments that harmed in the name of mental health care.  It believes that any and all physical damage by reason of shock or brain surgery should be a criminal offense. It also challenged the “science” behind psychiatry.

Of his association with CCHR, Szasz said, “I got affiliated with an organization long after I was established as a critic of psychiatry called Citizens Commission for Human Rights, because they were then the only organization and they still are the only organization who were active in trying to free mental patients who were incarcerated in mental hospitals with whom there was nothing wrong, who had committed no crimes, who wanted to get out of the hospital. And that to me was a very worthwhile cause; it’s still a very worthwhile cause.”

At CCHR’s 25th Anniversary celebration in 1994, Szasz applauded CCHR’s achievements, stating: “We should all honor CCHR because it is really the only organization that for the first time in human history has organized a politically, socially, internationally significant voice to combat psychiatry. This has never been done in human history before.”

Like Szasz, who pharmaceutical company-entrenched psychiatrists attacked for his common-sense views, so, too, was CCHR, especially its work exposing the dangers of electroshock and psychosurgery in the UK and involuntary commitment in the U.S. In an interview with The Miami Review in 1970, Szasz said: “A major legal attack on commitment practices would at least be effective in raising malpractice premiums for psychiatrists who lock people up.

“Some of the things that I (and some other psychiatrists) regard as the grossest forms of deception and coercion are so firmly recognized today as proper forms of psychiatric practice that they may not offer any immediate grounds for suits for malpractice or tort.” Addressing the voluntary patient being at risk of being hospitalized and hence, labeled as “dangerous to himself or others,” Szasz urged people “to sue and seek punitive damages for the grievous bodily harm that is being daily inflicted on hundreds and thousands of Americans in this way.”[49]

Of psychosurgery, Szasz warned: “We must always keep in mind who is requesting the surgery and who is consenting to it. If it is not the patient, but the patient’s wife or husband, or physician, or a judge or legislator, then psychosurgery is not medical treatment but medical violence—a veritable crime against humanity.”[50]

These were all treatments and practices that CCHR undertook to expose. As Frances Framer said: “Never console yourself into believing that the terror has passed, for it looms as large and as evil today as it did in the despicable era of Bedlam. But I must relate the horrors as I recall them, in the hope that some force for Mankind might be moved to relieve forever the unfortunate creatures who are still imprisoned in the back wards of decaying institutions.”

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights became that and has continued to be that force.

Psychiatric Survivors Network

Another force, independent of CCHR, came in 1973, with the formation of the Mental Patients’ Union whose members could personally testify to the serious human rights violations they endured and oppose psychiatric oppression. Founder member Andrew Roberts described the Union’s genesis: “The idea of a Mental Patients Union was first developed by a small group of mental patients and supporters back in December 1972….The thinking was that, in the same way that workers formed trade unions, mental patients also needed a union to fight for their rights against political oppression and social control.” It called for the abolition of compulsory hospitalization and treatment, including irreversible psychiatric treatments (ECT, brain surgery, specific drugs) among numerous other protections, including treatment that patients believe would help them.[51]

There were other psychiatrists and mental health professionals that were part of the “anti-psychiatry” movement. “Psychiatry was challenged in an exceptional way, and to the present-day, anti-psychiatry remains a lasting influence on those who stand critical against what is one of the most contentious medical specialties,” according to Oliver Josef Dumolo Ralley from the University of Manchester in the UK.[52]

Mind Freedom is another patients’ rights group. Around 1970, it reported, “many psychiatric survivors, dissident mental health professionals and advocates formed a diverse international effort to change the mental health system.”[53] Mind Freedom International was incorporated in 1986. [54]  Originally called Support Coalition International (SCI), in 2005, it changed its name to Mind Freedom International with the incomparable David W. Oaks as its director.[55]

Other groups were Mental Patients Liberation Project (MPLP) co-founded by former patient, Judi Chamberlain, and the 1974-formed Network Against Psychiatric Assault which in 1982 was instrumental in getting a ban on shock treatment on the Berkeley, California ballot, according to attorney Ted Chabasinksi, who worked on this. “We got national media coverage almost nonstop, and I thought we were really making progress, and we were. The shrinks thought so too. Soon after the vote, Leonard [Frank, ECT survivor and activist] showed me a copy of the Psychiatric News, the American Psychiatric Association’s newspaper of record. They were interviewing all candidates for office in the APA, and one of the questions asked was ‘What do you think are the biggest problems of the profession today?’ EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM mentioned ‘the lack of respect the public has for us,’ as the Berkeley vote showed.”[56]

A 2020 Medpage Today article pointed out that many who campaign against psychiatry “are former or active patients that report experiencing harm firsthand. On the one hand, medical side effects are real and patients sometimes feel too uncomfortable to speak up with or feel otherwise unheard by their treating clinicians.”

The patient movement is a powerful voice and an important one.  And to those who claim disingenuously that the “anti-psychiatry” movement doesn’t believe in “mental illness,” this, too, deflects from the truth that people do experience anguish and problems in their life and patient groups have worked to improve the care they get.

Yet Lieberman misleadingly argues that mental illnesses are “brain disorders” and no different to heart disease or other medical conditions. Were that true (and it isn’t), then such patients would be afforded the same rights as medical patients. But they aren’t. “Doctors do not lock up those who neglect to take their heart medications, who keep smoking even with cancer, or are addicted to alcohol. We might bemoan these situations, but we are not ready to deprive such individuals of their liberty, privacy, and bodily integrity despite their ‘poor’ judgment,” as one Psych Central article poignantly points out.[57]

When asked by a reporter how he worked therapeutically with his clients, Szasz responded:

“Somebody would call me and say I have a problem, and I would talk on the phone before making an appointment. What is your problem? And they would tell me whatever it is—they want to get married; they want to get divorced, you know, the usual problems of life. I would say okay, we’ll make an appointment. And I would ask the person, how can I help you? Then we’d have a discussion. It used to be called counseling, I mean what did people go to ministers and rabbis for thousands of years—to talk about their lives.”

And all based on a voluntary agreement between doctor and patient or minister and patient—never forced upon them.

Szasz wrote: “In my opinion, the ‘mental health’—in the sense of spiritual wellbeing—of Americans cannot be improved by slogans, drugs, community mental health centers, or even with billions of dollars expended on a ‘war on mental illness.’…The best, indeed the only, hope for remedying the problem of ‘mental illness’ lies in weakening—not in strengthening—the power of Institutional Psychiatry.”[58]

The work towards this goal continues.


[1] Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, testimony before U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee regarding the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, 16 June 2015,

[2] Norman Sartorius, Wolfgang Gaebel, et al. “WPA guidance on how to combat stigmatization of psychiatry and psychiatrists,” World Psychiatry, Oct. 2010,

[3] Hannah Fearn, “Concern over shrinking numbers of UK recruits to psychiatry,” Times Higher Education, 26 May 2009,


[5] Hugh Middleton and Joanna Moncrieff, “What is critical psychiatry?” Cambridge University Press, 17 Dec. 2018,

[6] Judy Stone, “Anti-Psychiatry Prejudice? A response to Dr. Lieberman,” Scientific American, 24 May 2013,

[7] Philip Hickey, “Is Anti-Psychiatry Harmful?” Mad in America, 13 Jan. 2021,

[8] Walter Fisher, Joseph Mehr, Philip Truckenbrod, Power, Greed, and Stupidity in the Mental Health Racket, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1973), pp. 17-18

[9] Philip Hickey, Ph.D., “Why is There a Movement Against Psychiatry,” Behaviorism and Mental Health, 23 Mar. 2015,

[10] Ibid.

[11] Op. cit., Philip Hickey, “Is Anti-Psychiatry Harmful?” Mad in America

[12] Op. cit., Philip Hickey, Ph.D., “Why is There a Movement Against Psychiatry,” Behaviorism and Mental Health

[13] Torie S. Sepah, MD, “How psychiatrists became lesser physicians,” MedPage Today’s, 28 Feb. 2018,

[14] Op. cit., Hannah Fearn, Times Higher Education

[15] Op. cit., Norman Sartorius, Wolfgang Gaebel, et al., World Psychiatry

[16] “The demonisation of psychiatrists in fiction (and why real psychiatrists might want to do something about it),” The Psychiatric Bulletin, July 9, 2014, doi: 10.1192/pb.bp.113.045633,

[17] Oliver Josef Dumolo Ralley, “Anti-psychiatry,”, (Priory Lodge Education Ltd.) Nov. 2012,

[18] A/HRC/22/53, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez,” United Nations, General Assembly, Human Rights Council, Twenty-second Session,

[19] Ibid.

[20] “Mental health and human rights: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development,” Annual Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General, Human Rights Council, 10-28 Sept. 2018, p. 14, point 46,

[21] Op. cit., Oliver Josef Dumolo Ralley,; David J. Rissmiller, D.O. and Joshua H. Rissmiller, “Evolution of the Antipsychiatry Movement Into Mental Health Consumerism,” Psychiatric Services published by American Psychiatric Association, 1 Jun. 2006,

[22] Ibid., David J. Rissmiller, D.O. and Joshua H. Rissmiller/

[23] Op. cit., Oliver Josef Dumolo Ralley,

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Thomas Szasz, M.D., A Lexicon of Lunacy (Transaction Publishers, 1993)

[27] Thomas Szasz, M.D., “Fifty Years After The Myth of Mental Illness,” Preface for the new edition of The Myth of Mental Illness,

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.


[31] Op. cit., Thomas Szasz, M.D., “Fifty Years After The Myth of Mental Illness”

[32] Ibid.

[33] Robert L. Robinson, “Robbie Robinson—30 Years’ Memories,” Psychiatric News, November 16, 1979

[34] Thomas Szasz, M.D., Cruel Compassion, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1994), p. 160

[35] Steven Foley and Henry Sharfstein, Madness and Government, (American Psychiatric Association Press, Washington, D.C., 1983), p. 100

[36] Dr. Dorine Baudin, “Ethical Aspects of Deinstitutionalisation in Mental Health Care,” Jul. 2001, p. 15

[37] Sharkey, Bedlam, p. 17

[38]  Thomas S. Szasz, M.D., The Manufacture of Madness, (New York [NY]: Harper & Row, 1970), p. 315

[39] William Arnold, Shadowland, (McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1978), p. 180


[41] Vera Hassner Sharav, MLS, “Children in Clinical Research: A Conflict of Moral Values,” The American Journal of Bioethics, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2003,

[42] Wayne O. Evans and Nathan S. Kline, Psychotropic Drugs In The Year 2000 Use by Normal Humans, (Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, 1971), pp. xiii-ix

[43] Ibid., p. xix

[44] Ibid., p. xix

[45] Ibid., p. xx

[46] Ibid., p. xiii

[47] Richard Hughs and Robert, The Tranquilizing of America (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York, 1979), p.  18

[48] Final Report of The Joint Commission on Mental Health of Children, Inc., Fall 1969 “Crisis in Child Mental Health: Challenge for the 1970s,” p.4,

[49] “Trial Lawyers Convention Told Boost Legal Aid for Mentally Ill,” Miami Review, 7 Aug. 1970

[50] “Here come the lobotomies again,” Medical World News, 15 Jan. 1971, p. 43

[51] “The Mental Patients Union, 1973,”, 21 Mar. 2017,

[52] Op. cit., Oliver Josef Dumolo Ralley,




[56] Ted Chabasinski, “The History and Future of Our Psychiatric Survivor Movement,” Mad in America, 18 Aug. 2012,;

[57] “Uncivil Commitment: Mental Illness May Deprive You of Civil Rights,” Psych Central,

[58] Op. cit., Thomas S. Szasz, M.D., The Manufacture of Madness, p. xvii