Robert Whitaker: ‘Psychiatry Through the Lens of Institutional Corruption’ on Mad in America [reblog]

Robert Whitaker: ‘Psychiatry Through the Lens of Institutional Corruption‘ on Mad in America, 7 May 2015:


psych under influence“When you write a book, you usually do so in response to a prompt of some type, and in the process of researching and writing the book, you will come to see your subject in a new way. Psychiatry Under the Influence, a book I co-wrote with Lisa Cosgrove, provided that learning experience, and this is what I now know, with a much greater certainty than before: Our citizenry must develop a clear and cogent response to a medical specialty that, over the past 35 years, has displayed an “institutional corruption” that has done great injury to our society. In fact, I think this is one of the great political challenges of our times.

The specific “prompt” for this book can be traced back to a phone call. In 2011, Lisa Cosgrove, who is a professor at UMASS Boston, was finishing up a year as a fellow in a research lab at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University that had been set up to study “institutional corruption.” She called and asked if I would be interested in jointly applying with her for a fellowship at the Safra lab in the coming year. The thought was that we would investigate the American Psychiatric Association through this lens of institutional corruption (a subject I admittedly knew nothing about), and write a monograph as our fellowship project. However, midway during the fellowship year, we settled on a larger book-length project. We would investigate the “institution” of psychiatry, and we conceptualized that institution as being comprised of the American Psychiatric Association and academic psychiatry. We thought that our book, in addition to investigating the institution of psychiatry, might also serve to illustrate how the framework of institutional corruption provides a way to see the corruption in a clear light, and illuminate possible solutions.”


“In our study of the “institution of psychiatry,” we focused on psychiatry’s behavior since 1980, the year that the American Psychiatric Association published the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). This was the moment that the APA adopted a “disease” model for diagnosing and treating psychiatric disorders, and it is easy to identify two “economies of influence” that have been present ever since. …”

That is the nature of the harm done: our society has organized itself around a “corrupt” narrative.”

Sinclair Lewis: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

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