Psychiatrists Wake Up to Criticisms of Their Industry and the Demands for Patients to be Protected from Psychiatric Abuse

Psychiatry is corruptible. Psychiatry causes tremendous harm. It needs an independent watchdog such as CCHR and ex-patient groups because the profession has failed to effectively police itself. – CCHR International

2022 started with a professional admission that scrutiny of psychiatry is necessary and dismissed only at its own peril. CCHR says its exposure of corruption and abuses in the mental health industry spurs much-needed debate about traumatized, disenchanted, and devastated” patients.

By CCHR International
The Mental Health Industry Watchdog
January 10, 2022
Updated: April 21, 2022

Dr. Awais Aftab, psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University, wrote an article published in Psychiatric Times (6 January 2022) advising psychiatrists to stop being so defensive about criticism of psychiatry. Indeed, he questions whether psychiatry needs criticism in order to improve.[1] Aftab was candid: “Critiques of psychiatry are necessary and important, and will continue to be so, and psychiatry can only dismiss them at its own peril.”[2]

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights International, a 52-year mental health industry watchdog, said the criticisms are warranted and more psychiatrists and their membership associations should take heed. CCHR’s exposure of abuses in the industry is vital to ensure patient protections. It has taken groups like CCHR and former patient groups agitating for change to see any semblance of human rights making its way into the mental health industry.

A United Nations Special Rapporteur report reinforces this: “The main task of CCHR has been to achieve reform in the field of mental health and the preservation of the rights of individuals under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCHR has been responsible for many great reforms.” Laws throughout the world, “which would otherwise have inhibited even more the rights of patients or would have given psychiatry the power to commit minority groups and individuals against their will, have been defeated by the actions of CCHR.”[3]

That was in 1986 and is even more relevant today with nearly 200 laws now enacted. The World Psychiatric Association conceded in October 2020 that practices that constitute psychiatric coercion, include, “treatment without consent (or ‘compulsory treatment’), any form of treatment including the use of psychotropic medication; seclusion, locking or confining a person to a space or room alone; restraint actions aimed at controlling a person’s physical movement, including prolonged or unsafe holding by other person(s), the use of any physical devices (‘mechanical restraint’, chaining etc.) and the use of psychotropic drugs for the primary purpose of controlling movement (‘chemical restraint’).”[4] All violations CCHR has exposed for more than five decades.

Aftab notes: “There are understandable reasons psychiatry is scrutinized way more than other medical specialties. It, for instance, exercises social control over the lives of individuals under its care to a degree exercised by no other specialty; it is subject to more value disagreements,” while “the state of scientific development is still comparatively rudimentary.” For these and other reasons, he added, it can be assured that “psychiatry will be under the spotlight.” As such, “This additional scrutiny intersects with disorder within psychiatry’s own house, giving critics plenty of flammable material to work with.”[5]

There are too many “unhappy customers” when it comes to psychiatry, he said, who have been left “traumatized, disenchanted, even devastated by their experiences. There has been tendency within the profession to not take such individuals seriously, at least not without being forced to do so.”[6]

Aftab was also commenting on an earlier December 2021 article in Psychiatric Times by psychiatrist Daniel Morehead, M.D. titled, “It’s Time for Us to Stop Waffling About Psychiatry” wherein Morehead complained that “commonplace criticisms generate an image of psychiatry that is both wildly distorted and profoundly destructive.”

Yet his peer group, WPA, speaks sooth about such criticisms. It seems, then, to depend upon who the messenger is whether it is accepted.

Rather than look at his profession’s predatory and harmful history, Morehead ignores the fact that such criticism—despite the sources—is based on legitimate reasons and that psychiatry, itself, has ruined its own reputation and self-appointed honor. He appears aghast that even within his own ranks, there is dissention—one which CCHR explains in its official report, Why Psychiatry Sees itself as a Dying Industry. 

Morehead further complained that: 

  • A Harvard historian’s book describes the history of psychiatry as a “series of failures.” The book received praise from inside and outside psychiatry, garnering attention in major periodicals such as The Atlantic and The New Yorker.[7]
  • A best-seller book makes a case that psychiatry is utterly corrupt, and that psychiatric diagnosis and treatment cannot be trusted. A quick internet search shows more than a dozen other recent books making the same argument.
  • Prominent psychiatrists assert that the profession should give up the idea that mental illness includes biological dysfunction, and either redefine mental illness or give up trying to define it altogether.
  • Numerous psychiatrists and commentators declare the field of psychiatry to be “in crisis,” and discuss psychiatry’s particular vulnerability to “institutional corruption.”
  • An opinion piece in the world’s most important medical journal, New England Journal of Medicine stated that “something has gone wrong” in psychiatry, including the assertions that vast overprescribing and “trial and error ‘medication management’” have taken over the field.
  • Psychiatrists are labeled pill-pushers and biological reductionists in psychiatric newspapers, general medical journals, and popular periodicals.[8]

In other words, Morehead, wake up and smell the roses. Listen to your critics and change things.

Aftab disagreed with Morehead’s characterization that the critiques of psychiatry are destructive and harmful.[9] He encouraged more debate and specified additional concerns to include:

  • Critiques of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), its limitation, and its misapplications
  • Links between psychiatric professionals and pharmaceutical industries
  • Medicalization of everyday distress and the risks of psychotropic “medicines”
  • Psychiatric coercion
  • Evidence from harmed patients, individuals with experience, and the consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement.

In addition, Aftab wrote: “Psychiatry has been vulnerable to diagnostic fads. The profession has allowed itself to be exploited by pharmaceutical companies.”

Indeed, “many psychiatrists in positions of power and influence have often made grandiose claims—and at times have displayed stunning arrogance.” [10]

Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on health, Dainius Pūras, M.D., in a recent interview with Aftab was “critical about the effects of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes on societal mental health and well-being.” According to Dr. Pūras, “…the problem of accountability in global mental health and psychiatry remains very serious.” Further: “The most worrying feature of psychiatry is that the leadership, under influence of hard-liners, tends to label those experts who blow the whistle and critically address the status quo as anti-psychiatrists… if influential psychiatrists continue to repeat that values are not a priority in mental healthcare, we should not be surprised that global mental health and global psychiatry is facing a crisis, which to a large extent is a moral crisis, or a crisis of values.”[11]

However, Morehead, argues: “These sorts of criticisms of our field are, in fact, commonplace—so much so that they rarely generate much protest or sense of outrage among psychiatrists and other medical professionals.”

Aftab cites John Sadler, M.D., writing in Values and Psychiatric Diagnosis who stated: “Psychiatry, by the nature of its subject matter, is destined to be esteemed and loathed, scrutinized and dismissed, overlooked and debated. Psychiatry accepts many of the messy truths that almost everyone else would like to ignore or deny.”[12]

Both Morehead and Aftab apparently believe that too much truth about psychiatry’s ineffectiveness and abuse should be construed as egregious and misplaced. When it does, it falls into a gray area dubbed “anti-psychiatry.” CCHR’s co-founder, the late eminent Dr. Thomas Szasz, a professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, and others are cited as part of this group. But Aftab—like Dr. Pūras—admits that “many psychiatrists have been too trigger-happy with allegations of ‘anti-psychiatry’ and have lumped all sorts of critics under the same banner.”

Jeffrey Lieberman, a former American Psychiatric Association president, exemplifies this. [13] In his rush to blame others for psychiatry’s poor reputation, he lay all criticism at the feet of the “anti-psychiatry movement,” obfuscating the fact that the so-called movement was actually started by psychiatrists. The term “anti-psychiatry” was coined in the 1950s by South African-born psychiatrist David Cooper, who expounded the idea in his book Psychiatry and Anti-psychiatry in 1967.[14]

In the early 1950s there were deep divisions between biological and psychoanalytic psychiatrists, according to a 2006 article entitled, “Evolution of the Antipsychiatry Movement into Mental Health Consumerism.” It reported: “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.”[15]

“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….”[16]

But Morehead conceives the movement’s criticisms as “one-sided and destructive depictions of psychiatry” which “need to come to an end,” rather than legitimate psychiatric abuses. But his comments at times seem to display self-defeatism with such comments as: “the holy grail of central pathophysiology has not been located” to prove mental disorders are the same as physical illnesses; “just because we do not know everything about the biology of mental illness does not mean that we don’t know anything about the biology of mental illness.”

Morehead continues that psychiatry is facing an “intellectual culture that has habituated the public to think of psychiatry as flawed, failed, corrupted, and lost. The stereotypical picture of our field focuses relentlessly on the influence of drug companies, the weaknesses of the DSM-5, and the dangers of overprescribing.”

All true. He doesn’t discuss the high propensity of criminality that is also within psychiatry’s ranks. For example, in 2021, the Supreme Court of Spain upheld the decision of a lower court which sentenced psychiatrist Antonio Asin Cabrera to seven years in prison and 20,000 euros ($22,570) in restitution for sexually abusing a patient for nine years, under the guise of “therapy.” The victim had had been prescribed a cornucopia of psychiatric drugs that, according to the Court, directly affected her decision-making capacity.[17] Cabrera is one of thousands of psychiatrists and psychologists CCHR has documented to have sexually abused their patients.

Another Spanish psychiatrist, Emilio González Fernández, who was also convicted of patient sexual abuse, was expelled by the country’s medical association in 2021. The board of directors of the Official College of Doctors of A Coruña unanimously approved the expulsion, noting the psychiatrist’s prominence, including his being the clinical head of the psychiatric sanatorium of Conxo, in Santiago; founder of founded the Psychosocial Centre of Ferrol, as well as being part of the first democratic corporation of Compostela after the municipal elections of 1979. González was denounced by a patient and brought to light ten other almost identical cases that also wanted to take him to court. The women were to testify as victim-witnesses in the trial that was to be held in June but before the date of the hearing arrived, the psychiatrist reached an agreement with the prosecution whereby he admitted the facts and accepted a sentence of one year and nine months in prison and the payment of a compensation of 6,000 euros (U.S. 6813) to the victim.[18]

It is ironic that it was in Madrid in 1996 that the WPA formalized its “Madrid Declaration on Ethical Standards for Psychiatric Practice” which says that under no circumstance “should a psychiatrist get involved with a patient in any form of sexual behavior, irrespective of whether this behavior is initiated by the patient or the therapist.”[19]

Yet the practice continues to be rife. At least 10% of psychiatrists admit to sexually abusing their patients. In 2019, Melbourne, Australia psychiatrist, Prabakar Rajan Thomas was sentenced to two years in jail for sexually assaulting a female patient.[20] That same year in Connecticut, U.S. psychiatrist, Paul Fox was sentenced to seven years in jail for the sexual assault of an 18-year-old female patient.[21]

The WPA also condemns psychiatric coercion because it carries “the risk of harmful consequences, including trauma” and that an individual subject to “physical coercion is susceptible to harms that include physical pain, injury and death.”[22]

U.S. psychiatrist H. Steven Moffic wrote an article about “The Worst Psychiatrist in History” published in Psychiatric Times in 2016, in which he nominated examples of really bad psychiatrists, including those who participated in the hospitalization of political dissidents in the Soviet Union and more recently, China; Aubrey Levin, known as “Dr. Shock,” who tortured gay soldiers in South Africa during apartheid and sexually abused patients after he fled to Canada; and “psychiatrists who cooperated the Nazis in the murder of psychiatric patients and others during World War II.” But the “winner” for the worst psychiatrist at that time was Serbian psychiatrist, Radovan Karadzic, accused of killing of thousands of Muslim men and boys as part of a so-called ethnic cleansing campaign in wartime Sarajevo.[23]

In 2016, Karadzic was convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by a United Nations war crimes tribunal and sentenced to 40 years in prison.[24]

CCHR has reported on all of the above psychiatrists for decades.  When CCHR France investigated Karazdik in the 1990s and provided evidence to the War Crimes Tribunal and European authorities, it was commended by the Council of Europe, which signed a Resolution that recognized psychiatrists as the architects of the ethnic cleansing campaign. The Resolution encouraged and Council members to “study the material that has been put together and researched by the French chapter of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights….” [25]

Robert Kaplan from the Graduate School of Medicine, Wollongong University, Australia, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, confirmed what CCHR’s research had found. He went further to say that Karadzik used his psychiatric training “to plan terror tactics for ethnic cleansing” and “as a genocidal murderer, Karadzik is an extreme but not uncommon example of clinicide—the phenomenon of doctors who kill.”[26]

What is clear is that anyone other than the courts, media or psychiatrists themselves report on psychiatric atrocities, psychiatrists like Morehead and/or their membership associations will dismiss the allegations as dishonoring the profession or being “anti-psychiatry.”

Psychiatry is corruptible. Psychiatry causes tremendous harm which is why it needs an independent watchdog such as CCHR and ex-patient groups because the profession has failed to effectively police itself. In June 2021, the W.H.O also was clear that coercive psychiatric practices are still “pervasive.” WHO points to a series of UN guidelines and Human Rights Council resolutions that have called on countries to tackle the “unlawful or arbitrary institutionalization, overmedication and treatment practices [seen in the field of mental health] that fail to respect… autonomy, will and preferences.” People who are subjected to coercive practices report feelings of dehumanization, disempowerment and being disrespected, WHO further stated. [27]

 And as Aftab states: “In my opinion, psychiatry cannot wriggle its way out of this dilemma by rhetorical appeals, tone-policing of criticisms, and becoming self-assigned arbiter of what sort of critiques are allowed from inside or outside the profession.”

“By blocking and dismissing criticisms aimed at psychiatric institutions (for instance, criticisms from the United Nations and the World Health Organization), it may very well be standing in the way of those who are actually trying to change it. With respect, psychiatry as a profession should join the effort or get out of the way.”[28]

CCHR’s comments and criticisms stem from either patients traumatized and stigmatized by psychiatric labeling and treatment, patient families or quoting extensively from psychiatrist or other mental health professional studies and reports. It agrees with Dr. Aftab: if psychiatrists cannot face their own criticism, their patients’ allegations of abuse and media or law enforcement reports of coercion, corruption and failures, they should get out of the way—permanently.

Morehead Waffles Back

As an update, on January 18, 2022, Morehead responded to Aftab’s article, “It’s Time for Us to Stop Being So Defensive about Psychiatry,” imploring, instead, that “It’s Time for Us to Realize We Are All on the Same Side.”

Morehead asserts that his intentions with his first article, “It’s Time for Us to Stop Waffling About Psychiatry,” were misconstrued. But in fact, his second article is more of a waffle than the first. He  commented that he was delighted that Aftab “cared enough about my article to refute it.”[29] However, CCHR’s refutation of it—citing psychiatrists’ own commentary and studies—would no doubt be dismissed, even though we may be quoting the same sources.

In his defense, Morehead made the following arguments:

  • [M]y article [“It’s Time for Psychiatrists to Stop Waffling About Psychiatry”] was in no sense an attack on the critics of psychiatry… The article was addressed solely to psychiatrists…It called on psychiatrists to energetically address distorted impressions and assertions about our field whenever and wherever they arise.” 
  • “….I was not calling on critics to pipe down—rather, I was calling on psychiatrists to speak up. I was not attempting to squelch critics; I was attempting to get psychiatrists to join the debate. I was not hoping that the public would stop hearing about problems with psychiatry; I was hoping that the public would start consistently hearing about the medical legitimacy of psychiatry.” 

Medical legitimacy that CCHR and many others argue does not exist. The late Dr. Loren Mosher, a psychiatrist and former Chief of Research on Schizophrenia for NIMH, noted that the DSM “is the fabrication upon which psychiatry seeks acceptance by medicine in general. Insiders know it is more a political than scientific document.” Dr. Colin Ross, a psychiatrist and author, said: “The way things get into the DSM is not based on blood test or brain scan or physical findings. It’s based on descriptions of behavior. And that’s what the whole psychiatry system is.” [30] According to a World Psychiatric Association Task Force report, medical students perceive psychiatry as lacking a solid, authoritative scientific foundation. This attitude is partly based on uncertainty concerning the nosology [branch of medicine that deals with classification of diseases] and diagnosis of mental illnesses, which is mentioned among the reasons for medical students not entering psychiatry.[31]

Morehead believes such views to be “grossly distorted in favor of anti-psychiatry and against psychiatry.” But they are not. As Morehead concedes, “As documented in my article, it is not difficult to find a host of critical and negative articles and books both within and outside of psychiatry….” He discerns they fall into two groups: “One group wants to improve medical psychiatry, while the other wishes to abolish it.” [Emphasis added] 

Morehead continues:

  • “I myself agree with most of the common criticisms of psychiatry, including the pervasive influence of drug companies in shaping our research and practice, the problematic use of the DSM, the underappreciated risks of some of our biological treatments, and the tendency to pathologize and anesthetize normal human suffering.”
  • “The fault lies with myself and other psychiatrists who have been quiet and interested observers in the debate rather than vocal advocates for our field….” He sees that in doing so, the public gets a one-sided, distorted view about psychiatry as “quacks and charlatans.”

However, it is a merited, not distorted view, especially from the many thousands of patients who want real care, which doesn’t harm and isn’t forced upon them—as is their right when seeking legitimate medical treatment. If Morehead argues that psychiatry has “medical legitimacy,” then act like doctors: undertake thorough medical examinations to first rule out legitimate physical illness that may be manifesting in so-called invented “psychiatric” symptoms; abolish all forced and coercive psychiatric practices; stop committing consumer fraud and violating informed consent rights with false claims that patients’ emotional problems are the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain or a neurobiological dysfunction. Face up to it, it’s a lie.

If anything drives patients away from psychiatry’s “treatment,” it is not the critics informing them of what psychiatrists fail to tell them, but psychiatry itself. It is the decades of psychiatric failures, the faulty premise of their existence, and, to reiterate the aforementioned Dr. Pūras, the disastrous effects of psychiatry’s “totalitarian and authoritarian regimes on societal mental health and well-being.”

CCHR agrees with Morehead that this issue is a life and death situation. We disagree that it is because of the way the culture regards mental health but rather what psychiatry has done to damage mental health and to create mental ill-health. Then demand government faith and billions of dollars to invest in it. To quote Morehead, perhaps not in the context that he means it: “…I am grateful to these critics of psychiatry, and thank them for their work. They care, and they should care. They see problems in our system, and then want to address those problems. They say that this is a matter of life and death, and they are right.”

Yes, we are right. Yes, we do care. And until psychiatry’s abuse and coercion stops, groups such as CCHR, will continue to report—as this website does—the ongoing in-fighting debate and bickering within the ranks of psychiatry that simply cannot face the facts.

A Rational View Enters the Fray

Philip Hickey, Ph.D., entered the fray on January 27, 2022, with an article, “Why is Psychiatry So Defensive about Criticism.”[32]

In this he addressed Dr. Aftab’s January 6 article and dissected quotes from Aftab’s paper, interspersed with his own observations and opinions.

Aftab: “Dr. Morehead and I agree about a lot of things: the fundamental legitimacy of psychiatry as a branch of medicine; the essential role psychiatry has to play in the treatment of mental health problems; that a defense of psychiatry is warranted against egregious and misplaced criticisms; and that the value of psychiatry must be conveyed to legislators, insurers, and the general public.”

Hickey: “Dr. Aftab’s contentions in this quote are essentially unproven – and probably unprovable – platitudes. He is apparently expressing some of his own core beliefs on these matters.

“For instance, he asserts ‘the fundamental legitimacy of psychiatry as a branch of medicine.’ If by this statement he means that the various psychiatry schools have been granted the appropriate state charters and have passed the various inspections for quality of teaching, etc., then of course, he’s correct. But that’s not what critics have in mind when they challenge psychiatry on this particular issue. What’s at stake here is not the successful completion of various bureaucratic expectations, but rather whether the subject matter of psychiatry is sufficiently tangible, coherent and valid to constitute a reliably definable and teachable body of thought, and whether this body of thought has been demonstrated effective in the amelioration of real illnesses….”

“What’s particularly interesting here is that Dr. Aftab apparently can’t even imagine a world without psychiatry (‘the essential role that psychiatry has to play’), and seems entirely unmoved by the fact that many of psychiatry’s critics can.”

“So we are left with his notion that ‘the value of psychiatry must be conveyed to legislators, insurers, and the general public’ which of course, begs the question why?  If psychiatry had genuine value, wouldn’t these individuals be aware of this, and wouldn’t targeting them in the manner mentioned be a waste of time?  On the other hand, if legislators, insurers, and the general public are not persuaded on the value of psychiatry, doesn’t this suggest that psychiatry has some deep-rooted problems?  After all, there are no other medical professions (and with regards to psychiatry, I use the term loosely) about which legislators, insurers, and the general public entertain these kinds of misgivings, at least not to the best of my knowledge.”

Aftab: “Psychiatry is a profession with a rich intellectual history…”

Hickey: “…‘treatments’ used in psychiatry’s ‘rich intellectual history’ include: fever therapy, including malaria therapy; insulin coma therapy; the tranquilizing chair; the Utica crib [restraint bed]; lobotomy; deep sleep therapy; rotational therapy; hydrotherapy, including ice baths; mesmerism; chemically induced seizures; high voltage electric shocks to the brain, etc.”

Aftab: “… that exemplifies some of the best of what medicine has to offer.”

Hickey: “To which I can only shake my head and wonder where in the world Dr. Aftab has been spending his time.

“Is Dr. Aftab not aware that unlike real medical specialists, who painstakingly, and through years of study, discover their illnesses in nature, psychiatry dispenses with this tiresome formality, and simply makes them up to fit the fashions of the hour? All that’s needed is a vote of the APA’s DSM committee, as if nature has the slightest interest in majority rule. And besides, I know of no psychiatric breakthrough that can hold a candle to smallpox vaccination, the discovery of penicillin, or the successful transplantation of a kidney or liver.”

Aftab: “There are understandable reasons psychiatry is scrutinized way more than other medical specialties…. It [psychiatry]…exercises social control over the lives of individuals under its care to a degree exercised by no other specialty;”

Hickey: “This is indeed true. Hearings for civil commitments to mental hospitals are largely rubber-stamp formalities, sometimes held within the ‘hospital’ itself.  ‘Patients’ are assigned a lawyer whom they typically meet for just a few minutes before the hearing…in many jurisdictions, once committed, they can’t revoke their voluntary agreement. They can only be released when and if the hospital authorities declare them fit to be released. As a legal process, it is a farce. But what’s particularly important here is that psychiatry was never forced to assume this role. Rather, they willingly embraced it and considered it an integral part of the management of the asylums, and of psychiatric ‘treatment.’”

Aftab: “…it [psychiatry] has a tumultuous historical legacy;”

Hickey: “I would say that psychiatry’s historical legacy has not been particularly tumultuous. I would describe it as cruel, unusual, and designed to break people’s spirits. The old asylums were little more than torture chambers in which the welfare of the ‘patients’ was often subordinated to the ambitions, whims and prejudices of their keepers.”

Aftab: “These and other factors ensure that psychiatry will be under the spotlight…This additional scrutiny intersects with disorder within psychiatry’s own house, giving critics plenty of flammable material to work with…There are also too many ‘unhappy customers’ when it comes to psychiatry, so to speak: recipients of psychiatric care who have been left traumatized, disenchanted, even devastated by their experiences.”

Hickey: “This is nice imagery, of course, but when reduced to plain prose, it simply means that there are problems within psychiatric practice which provide critics with ample opportunity and legitimate incentive to criticize. If there is ‘disorder’ in a medical profession, then it is right and proper that this should be identified and corrected. But Dr. Aftab’s imagery subtly shifts the blame for this to the critics, who are portrayed as mischievous searchers for ‘flammable material to work with.’

‘It is a fairly common experience in society that individuals who don’t clean up their own acts will, sooner or later, have someone come along and clean them up for them. And this is exactly what’s happening to psychiatry. For decades they have wallowed in spurious science and corruption, and have blatantly lied to their customers concerning the nature of their problems, and the efficacy of the treatments. There were, and still are, occasional dissenters, but the majority of psychiatrists went along with the illness ruse, the routine 15-minute med-checks, and the pill-for-every-ill that collectively came to constitute established psychiatric practice. And now the anti-psychiatry movement is calling them out, demanding proofs of efficacy, exposing conflicts of interest, exposing the ill effects of psychiatry’s treatments, etc. These are things that need to be said, and need to be said repeatedly and convincingly, yet Dr. Aftab likens us to arsonists looking for easy targets.”

“…The fact is that psychiatry needs to be held accountable for the unhappy customers who have been traumatized, disenchanted, and devastated by their experiences. And if psychiatry’s leaders aren’t willing or prepared to hold the culprits accountable, can anyone blame the anti-psychiatry movement for stepping into this breach? It is also worth asking what exactly psychiatrists are doing that leaves ‘too many’ of their customers traumatized, disenchanted, and devastated by their experiences?”

“There are indeed ‘understandable reasons psychiatry is scrutinized way more than other medical specialties.’  These reasons are: because they systematically lie to their customers concerning the source and causes of their woes; they administer dangerous drugs and shocks without explaining the potential for damage and even death; they routinely induce a sense of dependency, powerlessness, and unworthiness in their customers; and then tend to not take these individuals seriously unless and until they are forced to do so.”

Aftab: “Psychiatry has been vulnerable to diagnostic fads. The profession has allowed itself to be exploited by pharmaceutical companies…While acknowledging the state of psychiatric science should lead to an attitude of humility, many psychiatrists in positions of power and influence have often made grandiose claims—and at times have displayed stunning arrogance.”

Hickey: “…Dr. Aftab asserts that psychiatry ‘has allowed itself to be exploited by pharmaceutical companies.’  So, we have these highly educated physicians (10 years of university training) being ‘exploited’ by …what?  Well-dressed sales reps who bring free samples?  Pharma ads?  Slick presentations?  Payments for pushing drug presentations to colleagues?  And these highly educated physicians actually fall for this tawdry schmoozing.  Poor lambs!  Were they just born naïve, or is there some nepenthe [potion that induces forgetfulness] doled out to psychiatry trainees that causes them to forget the basics of science, and to mindlessly swallow the self-congratulatory pablum that passes for professional education in psychiatry schools?

Psychiatrists have not allowed themselves to be exploited by pharma; rather they have actively and willingly embraced a hand-in-glove relationship with pharma for their own ends.  This has been happening at the academic and practice levels for decades.  To characterize this as exploitation is to miss the point.” [Emphasis added]

Aftab: “…but discoveries and breakthroughs cannot be rushed or forced.”

Hickey: Yet that is precisely what psychiatry has been doing with the chemical imbalance theory, that claims that depression is not caused by adverse events or abiding adverse circumstances, but rather by neurochemical imbalances.  This spurious notion has been promoted by psychiatry for several decades, has been reinforced by the cause neutrality statements in successive DSM editions, and has induced millions of people worldwide, who would not otherwise have done so, to take psychiatric drugs to which many of them are now addicted.”

“So, Dr. Aftab tells us ‘There is rampant hostility, misinformation, misguided arguments, etc., exemplified well by Scientology, Szasz, and other actors.” [Note: The Church of Scientology and the renowned professor of psychiatry, Dr. Thomas Szasz] It seems to me that the various flaws in psychiatric theory and practice, that Dr. Aftab himself has conceded, justify a generous measure of hostility, rampant or otherwise. As to whether Scientology, Thomas Szasz, and other actors also promote ‘misinformation, misguided arguments, etc.’ depends on one’s perspective. I would respond that anyone who asserts the ‘fundamental legitimacy of psychiatry as a branch of medicine’ and promotes the notion that psychiatry is ‘a profession with a rich intellectual history,’ while at the same time and in the same paper, acknowledges that many psychiatrists in positions of power and influence ‘have often made grandiose claims – and at times have displayed stunning arrogance,’ and that ‘recipients of psychiatric care have often been left traumatized, disenchanted, even devastated by their experience’ is not being entirely consistent. Dr. Aftab correctly describes a truly dreadful state of affairs, but berates certain selected members of the anti-psychiatry movement on the grounds that their hostility to psychiatry is ‘rampant’ and that in Dr. Aftab’s opinion their assertions constitute ‘misinformation’ and ‘misguided arguments.’

“Perhaps if he were to set out precisely which arguments of Scientology, Thomas Szasz, and the unspecified ‘other actors.’ constitute misinformation, we could form our own judgments as to who is misguided or misinformed. Or is Dr. Aftab suggesting that we should just leave these thorny questions for him to decide, and pass on to the rest of us the results of his superior knowledge and wisdom?

“Note, incidentally, that Dr. Aftab uses the phrase ‘allegations of ‘antipsychiatry’’ as if being anti-psychiatry were some sort of a crime, and that only critiques approved by Dr. Aftab have genuine validity. Is this an instance of the ‘stunning arrogance’ that he earlier attributed to ‘many psychiatrists in positions of power and influence’?”

“…I contend that based on the quasi law-enforcement role that psychiatry has willingly embraced and continues to willingly embrace, and on the harm done to their customers in these and other contexts, a high level of scrutiny, and indeed condemnation, is not only inevitable, but warranted.”

Hickey points out, nevertheless, that at least Aftab’s article “calls out many of psychiatry’s contradictions and errors, and the primary question in my mind is why he doesn’t switch specialties to something more valid and helpful, and leave the inane rantings of psychiatry to its inane ranters, of whom there is no shortage.”

CCHR agrees.

More Debunking of Psychiatry’s Medical Sham

On April 14, 2022, Hickey further responded to another Morehead article titled: The DSM: Diagnostic Manual or Diabolical Manipulation? Subtitle: “Nobody likes the DSM. Hickey noted “This is Episode 2 of his defense of psychiatry.”[33]

Wrote Morehead, “It is hard to overstate the torrents of criticism that have rained down upon the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This poor, beleaguered document has been repeatedly and energetically attacked from all sides on a routine basis. It is not only the usual critics of psychiatry who have excoriated its approach—patients and family members, journalists, members of the academy, sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) directors, and even DSM task force chairs themselves have come down heavily against it on both general and specific grounds.”

Further, “Every major periodical in this country has featured articles critical of the DSM, from to Science. The flow of critical books and articles continues to this very day. And with the release of the DSM-5-TR, the floggings will doubtless continue. The DSM has been, and remains, the centerpiece of contemporary critiques of psychiatry.”

To which Hickey commented, “But even then, the statement is not accurate.  The central target is the bogus medicalization of matters that are not actually illnesses.  The DSM is simply one facet of this hoax.”

“Dr. Morehead continues by outlining the criticisms to which the DSM has been subjected.  These include: the lack of biological pathology in the various DSM items; the fact that the diagnostic criteria are simply made up by committees to enhance psychiatrists’ earnings and power; successive revisions of the DSM have widened the diagnostic net considerably, enabling psychiatrists to bill their patients and third-party payers for an increasingly wider range of “treatments”; the DSM approach is not medical but social; the diagnoses are based on consensus rather than lab measures; DSM’s diagnoses are arbitrary agreements among self-appointed experts and are not medical entities.”

Morehead naturally disagreed with all these truths.

Hickey then systematically debunks all of Moorehead’s arguments to the contrary and stated: “Dr. Morehead has presented himself in this paper as the champion of psychiatry. He’s going to prove that all of us anti-psychiatry people are just plain wrong.”

However, as Hickie continued: “The fact is that psychiatry in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s was truly a laughing stock within the medical community.  Desperate for legitimacy and for a share of the generous third-party payments that real doctors were receiving, they set upon the goal of producing billable diagnoses, gambling everything on the notion that the discovery of validating pathophysiologies was ‘just around the corner.’  Well, as we all now know, these pathophysiologies were never found, despite the widespread chemical imbalance claims to the contrary.  And psychiatry today is as invalid and deceptive as it has ever been.”

After reviewing all of Moorehead’s theories, Hickey could only conclude the following:

  • “In addition to all of this, the great majority of medical interventions (by real doctors) involves ascertaining the biological cause and nature of a pathological condition and administering scientifically validated corrective procedures when such are known and available. By contrast, the great majority of psychiatric interventions involve comparing clients’ or family members’ reports with simplistic unvalidated checklists and then administering pills or electric shocks on a more or less trial-and-error basis until the client or family member reports some amelioration of one or more of the checklist items.”
  • “Numbing depressive feelings with drugs or high-voltage electric shocks to the brain is not a medical treatment.  Rather, it is a quick fix, not much different from what might be obtained from a street corner dealer.  The veneer of psychiatric medicalization has never been confirmed and is no more convincing now than it was seventy years ago.”

As for being able to scientifically diagnose behavior, Hickey argued that all Moorehead’s suppositions only reinforced that psychiatrists “just invent their ‘diagnoses.’  They collated bundles of ‘symptoms’ on the basis of superficial similarities, gave them names, and then had the gall to promote them to the public and the third-party payers and the government as ‘real illnesses just like diabetes.’ But the phrase ‘real illness just like diabetes’ entails the notion that the specific bio-pathology is known, which in the case of psychiatry is nothing more than wishful thinking.”

Yet that wishful thinking and this medical sham has accrued an estimated $384.85 billion in global mental health funds in 2021 and is expected to reach $560.33 billion by 2030.[34]

It is why psychiatry’s critics remain so vitally necessary if the mental health field is ever to be established based on sanity, legitimate science, accountability for results and human rights.

References:

[1] Awais Aftab, MD, “It’s Time for Us to Stop Being So Defensive About Criticisms of Psychiatry: Does psychiatry need criticism in order to improve?” Psychiatric Times, 6 Jan. 2022, https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/its-time-for-us-to-stop-being-so-defensive-about-criticisms-of-psychiatry

[2] Ibid.

[3] Erica-Irene Daes, Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Commission, Principles, Guidelines and Guarantees for the Protection of Persons Detained on Grounds of Mental Ill-Health or Suffering from Mental Disorder, 1986

[4] https://www.cchrint.org/2021/06/07/un-special-rapporteur-dainius-puras-addresses-psychiatrys-global-coercion-crisis/ citing: https://www.wpanet.org/alternatives-to-coercion

[5] Op. cit., Awais Aftab, MD, Psychiatric Times, 6 Jan. 2022

[6] Ibid.

[7] Daniel Morehead, MD, “It’s Time for Us to Stop Waffling About Psychiatry,” Psychiatric Times, Vol 38, Issue 12, 2 Dec. 2021, https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/its-time-for-us-to-stop-waffling-about-psychiatry, Citing: Harrington A. Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness. W.W. Norton & Co; 2019; Greenberg G. Psychiatry’s incurable hubris. The Atlantic. 2019:30-32; Szalai J. Mental illness is all in your brain – or is it? New York Times. April 24, 2019. Accessed September 22, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/24/books/review-mind-fixers-psychiatry-biology-mental-illness-anne-harrington.html

[8] Ibid., Citing: Aftab A. The impoverishment of psychiatric knowledge. Psychiatric Times. March 30, 2020. Accessed September 22, 2021. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/impoverishment-psychiatric-knowledge; Aftab A. Institutional corruption and social justice in psychiatry. Psychiatric Times. 9 Mar. 2020. Accessed 22 Sept, 2021. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/institutional-corruption-and-social-justice-psychiatry

[9] Op. cit., Awais Aftab, MD, Psychiatric Times, 6 Jan. 2022

[10] Ibid.

[11] https://www.cchrint.org/2021/06/07/un-special-rapporteur-dainius-puras-addresses-psychiatrys-global-coercion-crisis/ citing: Awais Aftab, MD, “Global Psychiatry’s Crisis of Values: Dainius Pūras, MD,” Psychiatric Times, 3 June 2021, https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/global-psychiatry-crisis-values

[12] Op. cit., Awais Aftab, MD, Psychiatric Times, 6 Jan. 2022

[13] Jeffrey A. Lieberman, “DSM-5: Caught between Mental Illness Stigma and Anti-Psychiatry Prejudice,” Scientific American, 30 May 2013, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/dsm-5-caught-between-mental-illness-stigma-and-anti-psychiatry-prejudice/

[14] “The ‘Anti-Psychiatry Movement,’ CCHR and Other Advocates Against Psychiatric Pseudoscience, Coercion and Abuse,” CCHR International, https://www.cchrint.org/about-us/the-anti-psychiatry-movement/, citing: Oliver Josef Dumolo Ralley, “Anti-psychiatry,” Priory.com, (Priory Lodge Education Ltd.) Nov. 2012, https://www.priory.com/history_of_medicine/Anti-Psychiatry.htm; Oliver Josef Dumolo Ralley, Priory.com; 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, https://mindfreedom.org/campaign/apa-essay-on-movement/

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

[16] Op. cit., Oliver Josef Dumolo Ralley, Priory.com

[17] “Tenerife psychiatrist gets seven years for sexually abusing patient,” Euro Weekly, 3 Dec. 2021, https://www.euroweeklynews.com/2021/12/03/tenerife-psychiatrist-gets-seven-years-for-sexually-abusing-patient/

[18] “Spanish psychiatrist convicted of sexual abuse expelled by medical association,” The European Times, 4 June 2021, https://www.europeantimes.news/2021/06/spanish-psychiatrist-convicted-of-sexual-abuse-expelled-by-medical-association/?fbclid=IwAR3VhJtOjDH12QPSdcSZMECHA9w6smkjwijgkzNKUnWTeQ6ZcVdO523xAss

[19] “Madrid Declaration on Ethical Standards for Psychiatric Practice,” WPA, https://www.wpanet.org/current-madrid-declaration

[20] https://www.cchrint.org/2020/07/13/psychiatric-sexual-assault-other-crimes-cause-harm-in-australia/#_edn51 citing: Benjamin Ansell, “Psychiatrist jailed for assaulting vulnerable, long-term patient,” Channel 9 News, 29 Mar. 2019, https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/sleazy-psychiatrist-gets-14-months-for-sex-assault-on-female-patient-20190329-p518wc.html

[21] https://www.cchrint.org/2019/07/11/connecticut-jails-psychiatrist-paul-fox/ citing: Criminal case file of Paul Fox, Case NO. DBD CR16-0153169-S, Connecticut Superior Court Judicial District of Danbury

[22] https://www.wpanet.org/alternatives-to-coercion

[23] H. Steven Moffic, “The Worst Psychiatrist in History,” Psychiatric Times, 6 Oct. 2016, https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/worst-psychiatrist-history

[24] https://www.cchrint.org/2016/03/25/cchr-praises-conviction-of-radovan-karadzic/ citing: “PHR Welcomes Guilty Verdict Against Radovan Karadzic, Key Figure in Bosnia’s Genocide,” Physicians for Human Rights, 24 Mar. 2016, http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/press-releases/phr-welcomes-guilty-verdict-against-radovan-karadzic-key-figure-in-bosnias-genocide.html.

[25] https://www.cchrint.org/2016/03/25/cchr-praises-conviction-of-radovan-karadzic/#_edn1 citing: “Human suffering and degradation Following Ethnic Cleansing,” Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, doc 8493 rev. 1 Sept. 1999, http://www.assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/X2H-Xref-ViewHTML.asp?FileID=8785&lang=EN

[26] https://www.cchrint.org/2016/03/25/cchr-praises-conviction-of-radovan-karadzic/ citing: Robert Kaplan, MD, “When saving lives morphs into torture and killing,” The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 2014, http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/when-saving-lives-morphs-into-torture-and-killing/2008/07/23/1216492536680.html?page=fullpage

[27] https://www.cchrint.org/2021/06/11/world-health-organization-new-guidelines-are-vital-to-end-coercive-psychiatric-practices-abuse/ citing: “Guidance on Community Mental Health Services: Promoting Person-Centered and Rights-Based Approaches,” World Health Organization, 10 June 2021, pp. 5 & 8, https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240025707 (to download report)

[28] Op. cit., Awais Aftab, MD, Psychiatric Times, 6 Jan. 2022

[29] Daniel Morehead, “It’s Time for Psychiatrists to Stop Waffling About Psychiatry,” Psychiatric Times, 18 Jan. 2022, https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/its-time-for-us-to-realize-we-are-all-on-the-same-side

[30] CCHR International, Why Psychiatry Sees itself as a Dying Industry, published 2021, p. 8, https://www.cchrint.org/pdfs/psych-decline-report.pdf

[31] Ibid., p. 21

[32] Philip Hickey, PhD, “Why Is Psychiatry So Defensive About Criticism?” Behaviorism and Mental Health, 27 Jan. 2022, https://www.behaviorismandmentalhealth.com/2022/01/27/why-is-psychiatry-so-defensive-about-criticism-of-psychiatry/

[33] Philip Hickey,  “Responding to Dr. Moorhead’s Second Attack on Anti-Psychiatry,” Behaviorism and Mental Health, 14 Apr. 2022, https://www.behaviorismandmentalhealth.com/2022/04/14/responding-to-dr-moreheads-second-attack-on-anti-psychiatry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=responding-to-dr-moreheads-second-attack-on-anti-psychiatry&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email

[34] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/mental-health-market-is-estimated-to-reach-us-560-33-bn-by-2030-driven-by-an-increase-in-prevalence-of-mental-disorders-and-rising-geriatric-population-cagr-4-43-astute-analytica-301522577.html