Raj Persaud: A dangerous war on psychiatry

The public's fear of psychiatric drugs has itself become a serious public health problem

Share
Related Topics

The Association, which represents more than 36,000 physicians specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, challenged Cruise's assertion that psychiatry lacks scientific merit. "Rigorous, published, peer-reviewed research clearly demonstrates that treatment [of mental illness] works," they asserted.

Cruise's comments come as no surprise to many psychiatrists, not because much of his recent behaviour has been found so strange by the press, but more because it is widely reported he is a follower of the Church of Scientology, which is virulently against psychiatry. Stephen Kent, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Alberta in Canada, points out in a recent paper in the academic journal 'Religion' that the "war" against psychiatry was integral to the mission of the founder of Scientology, Ron Hubbard, since his first book, Dianetics, in 1950, and continues to this day. Hubbard indicated as far back as the 1960s that one of the key enemies of Scientology was the profession of psychiatry. This small but internationally connected group, Hubbard claimed, according to Professor Kent, was behind the "lies and slander" that both the press and government agencies received about Scientology.

But Hubbard went further, Kent points out, and argued that psychiatry was not just a threat to Scientology but was a vehicle to undermine and destroy the West through purveying techniques like electric shocks and brain operations. Hubbard believed that psychiatrists had sought to obtain power by becoming the contemporary "confessors" and counsellors of not just the ordinary person but also the politically powerful.

Kent's paper, entitled 'The globalization of Scientology: Influence, Control and Opposition in Transnational Markets' shows that psychiatrists took on the classic characteristics of evil in a cartoon printed in the first International Edition of Scientology's publication, Freedom, where a front-page drawing depicted eight psychiatrists as horned, goateed, tailed, and cloven-hoofed devils injecting "patients" with drugs, and performing electric shock and lobotomies. Since psychiatry is Scientology's alleged cosmic enemy, his followers want to see the profession destroyed, and its functions in society replaced by Scientology.

Kent demonstrates the specific social action group designed to eliminate psychiatry through political and press lobbying is the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, whose efforts are co-ordinated worldwide under Scientology's Office of Special Affairs International. Its efforts to portray psychiatry in a negative light has led CCHR to support the rights of patients, occasionally uncovering instances of questionable, if not calamitous, psychiatric care. In 1981, for example, Scientologists received national attention in Canada for exposure of the demonstrably detrimental effects of institutionalisation upon a psychiatric patient, Henry Kowalski, who was confined with the criminally insane while receiving unpleasant drug treatments and electric shocks.

While patients have occasionally benefited from the Church of Scientology publicising examples of poor psychiatric care, this doesn't mean that the general thrust of Scientology's case against psychiatry stands up. They appear to be reflexively against medication and other scientifically supported treatments which often are needed and are indeed life-saving.

Some psychiatric patients in the US and Canada recently became so convinced about the alleged dangers of psychiatric treatments, as a result of Scientology's campaigns, that they stopped taking their medication. US psychiatrists have concluded that the public's fear of psychiatric drugs has itself become a potentially serious public health problem, as people begin to avoid and fear treatment.

The most irresponsible aspect of Cruise's comments, as well as the approach of Scientology, is not so much their criticism of psychiatry as their failure to provide a valid alternative response to major mental illnesses. What are the treatments they advocate? Do they run centres for the clinically depressed where they take legal responsibility for their care? And do they publish data proving the effectiveness of their methods?

Cruise should outline what treatments he would recommend and show us the evidence that they work. Otherwise, he is just launching a War of the Worlds in his provocative comments. This may make good film publicity, but it does no service to the mentally ill.

The writer is Gresham professor for public understanding of psychiatry

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Consultants - IT - Trainee / Experienced

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40-50K first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Primary teachers needed for supply in Huntingdon

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers need...

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

KS2 Teacher Plymouth

£21500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: genius of Apple, fools and commercial enterprises, and the Queen

John Rentoul
Tory whips were anxiously ringing round the “usual suspects” following Douglas Carswell's defection to Ukip  

i Editor's Letter: Douglas Carswell's defection

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone