ISEPP Launches New Blog – “Fact Checking Psychiatry”
by Chuck Ruby, Ph.D.
ISEPP is launching a new blog entitled "Fact Checking Psychiatry." It is an attempt to change psychiatry and the allied mental health professions from within. Through the blog, ISEPP mental health practitioners and academics will share their criticism of the medical model of human distress and how that model can be misleading, a waste of time, and potentially dangerous. As much as is possible, we will focus essays on current events relative to ISEPP's mission.
The intent is to attract professionals from within the mental health industry and to encourage them to consider asking the hard questions about the foundation of their professions. We hope those professionals, as well as the many people who are at the receiving end of these dubious psychiatric services, follow this blog and submit comments in order to start an ongoing and serious discussion.
Perhaps the most important ISEPP criticism of the medical model is the very foundation of the construct of "mental illness" and "mental health." We see them as oxymoronic - if something is mental, it can't be about literal illness or health; if something is about literal illness or health, it must be physical.
The only way around this would be to invite the medical establishment - psychiatry and its allied professions - to rule over the experiences of emotions and thoughts and how we act in this world. This would, in effect, drastically alter the definition of "illness" to include any experience or behavior that is considered a problem. This would be a very dangerous idea since those mental health professionals have no expertise in determining the appropriate ways of living life.
Moral judgments are the only ways to identify those "illnesses," since there is no pathophysiological basis to detect. So, mental health professionals would be in the business of determining appropriate levels of emotional distress, problematic thoughts, and wayward conduct and of enforcing so-called proper ways. Who among us wants this?
This is exactly what happened centuries ago when the Church was given that role on a society-wide basis, and we all know how that turned out. We also know how that approach turned out in totalitarian governments during more recent times when the mental/moral/medical profession identified politically inconvenient people and targeted them for "treatment" to make them more easily handled by those in power. To the extent that the mental health industry has incorporated more and more human dilemmas and struggles into diagnostic categories, this very thing seems to be where we're now headed in the 21st century. ISEPP wants to change that.
The many, many problems that get lumped into the rubric of "mental illness" are serious and they can have devastating effects on people, both those directly suffering and those who suffer as witnesses. But, absent any evidence that the suffering is due to pathophysiology - something wrong in body functioning - those problems are hardly medical matters.
Instead, they are personal, spiritual, economic, political, interpersonal, and existential struggles. There are many methods to help people with those struggles outside a medical model, and those methods do not harm, they operate with full informed consent, and they respect the principles of self-determination.
Chuck Ruby, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice and the Executive Director of the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry (ISEPP). He is the author of Smoke and Mirrors: How You Are Being Fooled About Mental Illness – An Insider’s Warning to Consumers. Dr. Ruby earned his doctorate at Florida State University in 1995. He is a 20-year U.S. Air Force veteran.