Madness, Heresy, and the Rumor of Angels by Seth Farber
This book is dedicated to those psychiatric survivors who have refused to accept their ‘psychiatric diagnoses’—and have thereby affirmed our common humanity.
This book presents the tragic tale of seven persons who sought psychiatric help, and found psychiatric harm. Why did this happen? Whose fault was it? Seth Farber blames psychiatry. I agree. However, although I consider psychiatry’s guilt for misinforming people and mangling their lives self-evident, I also hold the victims partly responsible for their fate. Why? Because 1 believe it is every person’s responsibility to inform himself, to the best of his ability, about the world he lives in. “A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it,” warned James Madison, “is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
Madison’s remarks about political self-government apply with even greater force to personal self-government, especially in a modern society in which the manipulation of information is of paramount importance. The less a person knows about the workings of the social institutions of his society, the more he must trust those who wield power in it; and the more he trusts those who wield such power, the more vulnerable he makes himself to becoming their victim.
No one who has read or seen Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—or similar stories about psychiatry, going back to Chekhov’s classic Ward No. 6—can claim to be ignorant of the dangers mad-doctors pose to every man, woman, and child in America. How can this be? Psychiatrists are physicians, and physicians are supposed to help people. That is true. But it does not follow that the result is necessarily helpful for the so-called patient—as he, the patient, would define what constitutes help.
I began by making a doubly unfashionable assertion, which I would now like to amplify. I suggested that both the psychiatric victimizer and his victim must share the blame—though not necessarily in equal proportion—for the injury the former inevitably inflicts on the latter. However, the men and women whose story Farber tells—and a few others who, sadly, represent a small minority—are also responsible for saving themselves in the end. Unlike the typical victim of psychiatric despotism who comes to love his oppressor and to believe in the oppressor’s goodness, these seven had the courage and good sense to learn from their experience, escape from psychiatric slavery, and shed their illusions about the benevolence of jailers and poisoners who masquerade as doctors.
The institution of psychiatry—epitomized by the practice of incarcerating persons innocent of crimes in buildings deceptively called ‘hospitals’—has always been dangerous to the welfare of its inmates. It had never been the purpose of psychiatry to help the inmates rendered powerless by psychiatric imprisonment. Psychiatry’s aim has always been, and still is, to help a relatively more powerful person—primarily the denominated patient s parent, spouse, or other relative—by disqualifying his less powerful kin whose behavior troubles him as ‘troubled’, which is to say mad, and by incarcerating the victim defined as a ‘patient’ in a madhouse.
While this has always been true, it seems to me that Americans today are more misinformed and more gullible about the true nature of psychiatry than people anywhere have ever been. Accordingly, it is imperative that men, women, and children learn to protect themselves from the dangers of psychiatry. As adolescents must learn not to swim on beaches where the undertow is powerful, lest they be unable to make it back to shore, and not to climb mountains during a thunderstorm, lest they be struck by lightning, they must also learn, when their lives are stormy, to avoid psychiatrists and stay away from mental hospitals, as the only buildings in America they can enter, but not leave, voluntarily…
Farber’s book is a useful counterpoise to the mental health industry’s massive campaign of disinformation, essential for maintaining the practice of psychiatric cannibalism. For every patient psychiatrists claim to have helped, Farber can show us one who claims he has been harmed. Against every glamor story about the therapeutic powers of neuroleptic drugs, electric shocks, and incarceration in insane asylums told by psychiatrists, Farber can pit a horror story about the noxious powers of psychiatrists exercised by means of their deceptive vocabulary and pseudomedical interventions. In short, Farber’s book depicts what he and I—and perhaps a silent minority of Americans —regard as the psychiatric professions’s most distinguishing feature, namely, the deliberate, systematic dehumanization of man, in the name of mental health.
Federal law now requires that drugs—for example, alcohol and cigarettes—carry a warning label, cautioning the buyer about the risks he assumes if he uses the product. It is not a new idea. After all, Dante had depicted the entrance to Hell as emblazoned with the warning: “All hope abandon, ye who enter here!” Not until the same warning is prominently displayed over the office door of every mental health professional who has not forsworn therapeutic coercion, and over the entrance to every mental hospital, will persons who contemplate seeking psychiatric help be in a position to give informed consent to their social stigmatization and spiritual self-destruction.
Part I: Lunatics, Lovers, and Poets
1. Ellen’s Story
2. Kristin’s Story
3. Cheryl’s Story
4. Ruby’s Story
5. Barbara’s Story
6. Angela’s Story
7. David’s Story
8. Beating the System
Part II: Heretics, Apostates, and Infidels
9. Critics of the Concept of Mental Illness
10. Rejecting ‘Mental Illness’: An Interview with James Mancuso
11. Psychiatry and Social Control: An Interview with Ron Leifer
12. Getting Off Psychiatric Drugs: An Interview with Ron Leifer
Part III: In Revolt Against the System
13. To Break the Silence: George Ebert Speaks
14. From Victim to Revolutionary: An Interview with Leonard Frank
Appendix 1: Required Reading for Revolt-ers
Appendix 2: Why Deinstitutionalization Failed
Appendix 3: The Network Against Coercive Psychiatry
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