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 Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas