Anti-psychiatry and The Present State


This video illustrates the idea called anti-psychiatry, which was first put forward by David Cooper and popularized by RD Laing, Joseph Berke and Thomas Szasr. Cooper was originally a trained communist revolutionary and was a member of South African Communist Party and was sent to Poland, Russia and China to be trained as professional revolutionary. The proponents of anti-psychiatry movement believe psychiatry as a tool of social control resting on the subjective opinions of an uncaring medical elite.

Their claims as shown in the video was that psychiatry rests on shaky foundations and the diagnosis is based purely on symptoms and behaviours, with heavy diagnostic overlap and poor reliability. They warned on the malign influence of pharma company in distorting science, leading to the production of expensive and harmful ‘new generation’ drugs marketed via aggressive promotion and bribery.

I think the disagreement is purely ideological. The first issue to be cleared is whether psychiatric disorders are basically illness or not. Taking biopsychosocial paradigm as the basis, one has to understand that disease has to be construed not purely based on biological aetiology alone but interactions between genetic and environment which result in the disorder. Invariably, those interactions have significant impact on social and occupational functions or essentially deviation from social norm in one way or another. Further more, there are numerous clinical evidences utilizing novel radioimaging technology which show clearly that mental illnesses have definite morphological changes in the brain.

The second issue lies to the fact that there are some dominant ties between pharmaceutical companies and psychiatric doctors or researchers. Lately, big pharmaceutical companies have review their arrangement between doctors and industry in order to avoid conflict of interest in managing patients preferably using the drug that they promoted. Psychiatrists in Malaysia, as I know them personally, are always been reminded to put their patients interest as the first priority.