Thursday, May 16, 2013
Will skeptics approach biopsychiatry skeptically?
I’ve been writing critically about biopsychiatry for a few years now. In that time, I’ve encountered a total of one prominent skeptic who was willing to do the same (as far as I know, following a backlash he hasn’t posted on the subject for two years). In that time, my posts on the subject on atheist-skeptic sites, regardless of context or tone, have been greeted by a barrage of ad hominems (directed at the authors I’m citing or at me) and anecdotes, factually unsupported assertions, and a resolute refusal to investigate the matter further.
I continue to be perplexed by this. This month, the head of the National Institute of Mental Health and the chair of the APA’s DSM-5 task force have publicly stated that psychiatric diagnoses lack scientific validity (I’m sure they now wish they could have given it a better spin, but it’s out there for all to see). The extant scientific evidence of the past several decades does not support the specific “diagnoses” or the genetic-biological model of psychiatry, as has now been recognized in a position statement by UK clinical psychologists. Belief in the validity of the diagnoses and model doesn’t stem from scientific knowledge, but from a gargantuan, wildly effective, and well documented marketing campaign that has lasted several decades.
If this were just about standing against pseudoscience or manipulation or about being right, or even about more abstract humanistic concerns, I wouldn’t have persistently written about it for the past few years in the face of the onslaught. But it isn’t. The acceptance of this false model has given psychiatry and drug companies unprecedented political power, and people – adults and children – are being coercively and forcibly drugged on a massive scale. In addition to the billions being funneled to pharmaceutical corporations, there have been catastrophic effects on people’s lives. It’s a political nightmare and a human rights disaster.
I’m disappointed that my efforts related to this for the past three years seem to have been almost entirely unsuccessful. The fact that the responses look the same as they did back in 2010 gives me some hope, though. The problem seems at root to be that skeptics aren’t, for some reason, investigating the matter. So all I’ll do right now is provide another list of sources, and urge people in the most heartfelt terms to read and engage with them fairly:
• The new article by Brett Deacon - “The Biomedical Model of Mental Disorder: A Critical Analysis of its Tenets, Consequences, and Effects on Psychotherapy Research”- whose full text is available via my link here (especially the conclusion, Tables 1 and 2, and the references).
• The books listed here.
• Joanna Moncrieff’s book, or at least her talk about it.
• The articles by Marcia Angell in the New York Review of Books linked to at the post above, but I’ll provide the links once again: