This is a very interesting speech given by Dr. Jeffery Schaler, psychologist and professor at American University. Schaler compares the diagnosis of a mental illness to nothing more than a political weapon used by the powerful to control the thoughts and behaviours of the less powerful. Some of the goods from this video:
“What’s the difference between the DSM and a scientific book of disease? Every disorder in the DSM is invented; every disease listed in a pathology textbook is discovered. Real disease is found in a cadaver at autopsy, mental illness is not. Mental illness refers to something that a person does. Real disease refers to something that a person has.
Consider this yet another way. It takes one person to have a real disease. It takes two people to have a mental illness. If you’re alone on an island, you could develop a real disease like cancer or heart disease, but you cannot develop a mental illness such as hyperactivity or schizophrenia. This is because mental illness is always diagnosed on the basis of some sort of social conflict. When people do something that others find objectionable, they can be diagnosed as mentally ill. If the person doing the diagnosing is more powerful than the person diagnosed, then there is trouble.
In this sense, the diagnosis of mental illness is always a weapon. Not so when it comes to diagnosing real disease. Think of how when people get angry at one another they inevitably resort to some sort of diagnosis. They say ‘you’re crazy, you’re mentally ill, you’re paranoid!’ Can you imagine someone getting upset with somebody and saying ‘You have diabetes, you have Parkinson’s disease!’ Social conflict has nothing to do with developing a real disease. You don’t develop diabetes because someone doesn’t like the way you think, speak, or behave. You have to have someone else present to judge that your behaviour is morally good or morally bad in order to have a mental illness. So diagnosis is a weapon, a tool people use against one another, especially when there is some kind of power conflict present.
And what of treatment? Treatment for mental illness is punishment. Look at our criminal justice system. When someone commits a crime, and a psychiatrist is in the courtroom, a defendant may go to a mental institution instead of a prison. Can you imagine a judge saying ‘I sentence you to treatment for your cancer’? I submit to you that psychiatric treatment is worse than prison. For in prison, they don’t judge how long a person should be deprived of liberty on the basis of what they think about themselves and the world. In a mental institution, of course, this is the case. If you don’t think about yourself and the world correctly, you’ll be punished longer.”
~ “The only true political virtue is obedience to authority, and the only true political sin is independence. Independence renders authority useless, and that is what infuriates it so.” – Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus at the State University of New York Health Science Center, Adjunct Scholar at the Cato Institute and a Lifetime Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association