Restoring humanity to life

Psychiatry, Medicine, and the Commonweal

Let me introduce myself and my blog.

I am a physician, first and foremost. Ironic though, when I first decided to become a doctor, at age 19, it was “psychiatrist” that I told myself was the goal, not simply physician. And throughout my training I oscillated between medicine and psychiatry. Intrigued by psychosomatic medicine yet hounded by my mentors, “Joe, you have to decide! Medicine or psychiatry.” Little did I realize at the time that this quandary, physical OR psychological, would become the hallmark of psychiatry’s split-personality: mental illness, a disease of the brain; no, mental illness a mental/social problem-of-living construct. And the debate has been belabored for millennia. Throughout this blog I will favor the concept that ALL ILLNESS IS PSYCHOSOMATIC/SOMATOPSYCHIC. There is no mind-body split.
In future blogs I will address what motivates one to become a physician but here just a few ethical reminders associated with the Hippocratic Oath:

(1) Primum Non Nocere (First Not To Harm)

(2) Keep confidential what the patient tells you, and

(3) Never promise more than you can deliver

I made #3 up but it is implied in the oath to honesty. Alright, it was not exactly how Hippocrates said it. In fact, the first do-no-harmer was a Frenchman, Auguste Francois Chomel (1788-1858) in his oral teaching to students. Then as now, I think, the debate centered on natural healing vs. radical intervention.

So, I want to SAVE psychiatry. Really? Psychiatry seems to be thriving without my help. Well over 10,000 psychiatrists attend their yearly conference, the American Psychiatric Association. No, I say “save” because I belong to ISEPP, I have contributed to Mad in America, I support Mind Freedom, and other similar organizations. In all of these and others there are folk who would like to disband psychiatry all together.

“No,” I say, if we rid ourselves of Psychiatry: WHO WILL MIND THE MAD HOUSE? WHO WILL MIND THE PHYSICIANS?

I liken this Anti-Psychiatry movement ushered in by the likes of Tom Szasz and Ronald D. Laing to the Anti-War movement of the 60’sand 70’s. But first I must clarify, Szasz would be livid to be placed in the same category as R D Laing. He saw Laing as an irresponsible “trickster” and miscreant. In fact he wrote a book about it:”Antipsychiatry: Quakery Squared” published in 2009. Szasz makes the case that Laing and others abandoned liberty, responsible science, and ethical social commentary. “Anti psychiatry” was merely a catch phrase for Laing and his followers, Szasz believed, in an attempt to appear like authentic critics of the status quo.

But back to the Vietnam war: We who were against the war were told to “Love It (i.e., the USA) or Leave It!” Most of us knew we were patriots but patriotic to the ideas of liberty, justice, and international peace. We knew the war was a horrible mistake, immoral, foolish, and ultimately self defeating. We opposed the war policy, not our country. We paid a heavy cost for that military adventure: 56,000 Americans dead, over a million Vietnamese dead. Laos suffered the worst per capita dead ever in the history of war! As you probably know given the front page publicity, the suicide rate of veterans is 2-4 times the civilian rate. More soldiers have been dying from suicide than in combat. And most of these suicides are Vietnam vets. Yes, 40 years after the fact of that foolish war, the moral, spiritual and psychological ill effects still haunt us. Some commentators believe, and I agree, that the moral injury of our current 14-year (and counting) middle east war(s) will be worse.

In my next blog rendition I will be asking the question “Are you really anti psychiatry?”—IF THIS IS AN EMERGENCY GO TO YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY WARD. Hmmm.

2 Comments

  • Hey Joe, I'm interested in your notion that all illnesses are psychosomatic and somatopsychic. I'd like to hear your thoughts on how we can use this awareness to improve our healthcare system and the health of people

  • Joe!! Great to hear from you pal. I already learned a few things. You have so much to offer everyone. I'll be a regular! RC

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