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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us