Friday, May 9, 2014

Social workers speaking out

"Where are the social workers?” asked social worker Jack Carney back in 2012,
Where are the NASW [National Association of Social Workers] and its local and state-wide chapters? Over 12,000 individuals mental health professionals have publicly declared their concern at the planned 2013 publication of the DSM-5. They’ve signed the petition launched six months ago by the Society for Humanistic Psychology requesting that the DSM-5 Task Force delay publication of the new DSM and subject it to an independent scientific review. Fifty-one professional organizations have also endorsed the petition. It is extremely puzzling that the National Association of Social Workers and its local affiliates are not to be found among them.
Carney was an organizer of the DSM-5 boycott last year, and describes the campaign and its development into the NO-DSM DIAGNOSIS initiative here. While some of the individual voices critical of biopsychiatry have come from academic and clinical social workers, collectively the field has been relatively quiet compared to psychologists or even psychiatrists themselves. Indeed, the NASW seems to treat the publication of the DSM-5 as simply an educational and procedural matter.

So I was pleased to discover, reading a new piece by Philip Hickey at MIA,* that this January’s issue of Research on Social Work Practice was dedicated to a critical examination of the DSM-5. The article Hickey referred to in his post, Eileen Gambrill’s “The DSM as a Major Form of Dehumanization in the Modern World,” is unfortunately behind a paywall. But you can learn more about the issue and read the editorial by Jeffrey Lacasse, “After DSM-5: A Critical Mental Health Research Agenda for the 21st Century,” here.

While I was familiar with the basics, I learned several new things from Lacasse’s article about specific aspects of the spinning of biopsychiatry and psychiatric drugs in the DSM-5: for example, the field trials aren’t published as a collection within or connected to this edition; the section on “Limitations of the Categorical Approach” has been deleted; and, worst, references to the brain changes and akathesia associated with the use of neuroleptic (“antipsychotic”) drugs, even as the evidence continues to mount, have been purged.

Overall, the editorial provides a solid introduction to some of the major issues for an audience of social workers. I hope the issue is opening many social workers’ eyes to critical and social justice perspectives. As people dealing firsthand with problems of racism, poverty, insecurity, childhood trauma, and sexual violence, social workers are well placed both to recognize the harms of biopsychiatry’s depoliticizing approach and to develop humanistic alternatives.

* A post well worth reading on its own, especially for its discussion of the APA’s PR strategies. My favorite part:
It’s a fundamental fact of life, that spin and self-promotion can only take one so far. After that, we’re judged on our merits.

Psychiatry is not something good that needs some minor corrections. Psychiatry is something fundamentally flawed and rotten that needs to be marginalized, ostracized, and unambiguously condemned. Its concepts are spurious and its “treatments” are destructive and disempowering. At the present time, psychiatry’s fraudulent and destructive nature is being exposed daily on an increasingly wide spectrum of issues. The profession is literally reeling under a relentless barrage of well-deserved and overdue criticism. And psychiatry has nothing to offer in response but endless self-praise and self-justification orchestrated by professional advertisers. Every day psychiatry digs itself deeper into the mire of its own self-serving rhetoric. Even its own members are beginning to rebel.

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