Mental Illness is a Myth part II – Throwback

mental illness is a myth

Today’s Throwback is a Continuation from yesterday and both were originally published August 2014:

In 1961, Dr Thomas Szasz made a name for himself in the psychological field via an essay he wrote titled, “The Myth of Mental Illness.” During the course of his lifetime he wrote 35 more books on psychiatry and what he perceived as its abuses. Yesterday I posted quotes from “The Myth of Mental Illness,”

Recently I watched some interviews with Dr. Szasz on YouTube. The longest one I posted below. There was nothing vague about his beliefs. He made it very clear that he believed mental illness is a myth. In January, 2009 Harriet Hall posted on the website “Science-Based Medicine,” her interpretation of Szasz’s beliefs, which I feel mirror his comments in the videos. Those beliefs are:

He rejects the whole concept of mental illness and considers it a plot to interfere with people’s human rights.

Psychiatric diagnoses are not valid because they are based on symptoms rather than on objective tests.

Mental illness is a myth: unusual behavior does not constitute a disease.

Psychiatric diagnoses are an arbitrary construct of society to facilitate control of individuals whose behavior does not conform.

Involuntary commitment is never justified even for the protection of the patient: patients always have the right to refuse treatment even if that means they will die.

Hall continues by stating,

It’s rejecting reality to think that mental illness doesn’t exist. Something is clearly wrong with an individual who is too depressed to get out of bed or eat, who is afraid to leave the house, or who believes he is Jesus Christ. These symptoms interfere with life and are usually distressing to the patient.

Patients who clearly have mental illness can be appropriately diagnosed and treated. Admittedly, a lot of not-so-clear cases end up with diagnoses and treatments they should not have. But that’s not a problem with psychiatry per se, but with the misapplication of psychiatry.

In 1969 Szasz tarnished his image in the psychiatric community by cofounding the non-profit Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR). His co-founder? The Church of Scientology. Despite its name, the Commissions only focus is discrediting the psychiatric community. According to the CCHR website, they are “a nonprofit mental health watchdog, responsible for helping to enact more than 150 laws protecting individuals from abusive or coercive practices.” That doesn’t sound that radical, however, their Quick Facts page sings Szasz’s song- that psychiatric disorders are not medical diseases, there is no genetic proof of mental illnesses, and that all psychiatric medications are dangerous. In 2005 the CCHR opened the Psychiatry An Industry of Death Museum in Hollywood, California. Not a very subtle name. No mistaking where they stand on the issue.

Szasz later distanced himself from the Church of Scientology and insisted he was never a member. However, he continued his shared beliefs of the CCHR.

In an interview with Randall C. Wyatt of, Szasz was outspoken about what he perceived as the abuses of psychiatric medications.

Prescription drug laws are a footnote to drug prohibition. Prescription laws should be repealed. All drug laws should be repealed. Then, people could decide for themselves what helps them best to relieve their existential ails, assuming they want to do it with a drug: opium or marijuana or cigarettes or Haldol or Valium. After all, the only arbiter of what ails a person “mentally” and what makes him feel or function better, as he defines better, is the patient. We don’t have any laboratory tests for neuroses and psychoses.

Why do I spend time and energy discussing the beliefs of a man who died two years ago? Because his legacy lives on. The CCHR, with backing of the Church of Scientology, is a monetary power-house dispensing half-truths and outright lies. There are still psychiatrists who espouse Szasz’s views, and far too many in the general public who use his beliefs to validate their fears and disdain of psychiatry.

In a 1992 profile in The Syracuse Post-Standard, Szasz said,

I am probably the only psychiatrist in the world whose hands are clean,” Szasz told the newspaper. I have never committed anyone. I have never given electric shock. I have never, ever, given drugs to a mental patient.

His hands were clean? I don’t think so. The same year Szasz made that statement he was sued for malpractice by the widow of a man Szasz was treating. The man committed suicide six months after Szasz instructed him to stop taking lithium. The suit was settled two years later for an undisclosed sum. We’ll never know how many people were negatively affected by Szasz’s beliefs, but I would suspect that his hands were very dirty.

5 comments on Mental Illness is a Myth part II – Throwback

  1. Ohhh, wait…he had ties to Scientology? Oh, this all makes soooo much sense now. L. Ron Hubbard and his “religion” has a huge bias against the field of psychology. No wonder. Never mind, this guy was a shill and a puppet for Scientology, and he’s totally discredited in my eyes. Now, we need to work to undo any damage he may have caused. Thanks a lot for setting back the struggle to make mental illness less stigmatized, Dr. Idiot.

    1. When I took a tour of The Psychiatry Museum of Death I couldn’t believe what I saw. I’m sure there’s more than a few lives lost because of Scientology and their stance against psychiatry. Germany declined their petition as a religion and therefore they are treated as a company and pay taxes. Unfortunately the UK and the US accepts them as a religion. They are a dangerous bunch.

  2. Psychiatric treatment is not an easy fix, like a band-aid. And just like pain doctors, psychiatrists rely too much on drugs and only drugs. I’ve seen my share of psychiatrists and wasn’t impressed with any of them. But for me, they were just the gatekeeper I had to pay to have access to certain pain-relieving drugs. I don’t need to pay someone to analyze me — in some way, I analyze myself every day. And my services are free.

    However, the brain is the most complex organ known to humans. More complex than computers. Researchers say that every brain has different connections, making our brains as unique as our DNA. It just makes sense that when you’re talking about billions of connections, some of them will be missed connections.

    Just like with medical science, the science of mental health has been generalized in order for us to learn more about it. But just like how every person who breaks a bone may experience different levels of pain, every person who experiences emotional trauma will suffer from different effects.

    I’m sitting here thinking about the foot that I broke months ago and how it still hurts on occasion. It’s not like doctors can do anything about that pain, unless there’s something they can fix, which is extremely doubtful. Doctors can’t really fix the brain. Seems to me that anyone with a mental health condition who gets better is fixing themselves. Choosing the right doctors and treatments. Learning and listening.

    I suppose psychiatrists could study human behavior for their whole lives and still not understand all of it. And I suppose it’s hard for some people to understand that talk therapy is a scientific treatment. Talk therapy is not like a band-aid or an antibiotic, but that’s because the human body is more than just flesh and bone. The brain is so amazing that a lot of people can’t even grasp the concept of something so amazing. It’s beyond comprehension. Beyond imagining. And it’s about control. People like to think that we’re in control of our bodies and brains, not the other way around. Our choices are our own.

    I have a stark memory of being 19 years old and in the last 4 hours of a 36-hour labor. I had gone through 4 different nursing shifts and all the nurses had been really nice. But not my last nurse. I was crying and yelling because of the pain and the nurse’s response was: “Women have babies every day. Stop your whining.”

    Sorry I wrote a book. 🙂

    1. However, the brain is the most complex organ known to humans. More complex than computers. Researchers say that every brain has different connections, making our brains as unique as our DNA. It just makes sense that when you’re talking about billions of connections, some of them will be missed connections.”

      Thank you! I’ve been saying this for years. No organ matches the complexities of the brain. Neither does any machine. We know not every car that comes off the assembly line is in perfect working order; We know not every computer boots up properly; Why is it so difficult to understand that not every brain is going to generate perfectly?

      And you didn’t write a book. I appreciate your comments, long or short. 🙂

  3. Oh B.
    I’m glad this guy has passed on.
    We don’t need murderers like him in this world. Yes, I consider what he did (telling the man to stop taking lithium) to be murder.
    Sorry to be so glum.
    It’s a rough seas @ Chez Captain.
    Hopefully tomorrow will be smooth sailing for us both, my dear friend.


    Grumpy Captain

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