Anti-Psychiatry Is Dead. Long Live Anti-Psychiatry!

The anti-psychiatry movement has already been consigned to the history of psychiatry (Tantum 1991) despite the relatively recent first use of the term in the literature (Cooper 1967).

So goes the first paragraph in a piece, entitled What Was Anti-Psychiatry, on the website put up by Donald Duncan for a Critical Psychiatry Network.

The paragraph goes on.

A key understanding of “anti-psychiatry” is that mental illness is a myth (Szasz 1972).

Okay, I suppose, and the paragraph ends with…

The argument is that illness is a physical concept and therefore cannot be applied to psychological disorder without any physical pathology. As soon as it is accepted that mental illness can refer to psychological abnormality then the “anti-psychiatry” argument fails (Farrell 1979).

Remembering that Dr. Duncan is a psychiatrist, not a psychologist, the question becomes, What the bleep is a psychological pathology?

I personally don’t see how harboring ideas about thought disease would not in itself be a pretty abstract matter. Organs get diseased, thoughts get jumbled, but however jumbled thoughts might get, there is not a disease present in the thinking of the person with the jumbled thoughts.

Many of the most prominent psychiatrists in the world disagree with Dr. Duncan about the demise of anti-psychiatry. According to them, disagreeing with the orthodoxy of bio-medical psychiatry IS anti-psychiatry. A heresy some of them might even accuse Dr. Duncan himself of indulging in.

The fact that ‘antipsychiatry’ has existed in one form or the other for some time, and indeed has sometimes been vehement enough to approach psychiatry as a demon to be exorcised, is noteworthy.

Such a statement, authored by Indian psychiatrist Nimesh G. Desai, was published under the title Anti-Psychiatry: Meeting the Challenge in the 2005 Oct-Dec issue of the Indian Journal of Psychiatry.

Even if the anti-psychiatry movement of  psychiatrists has elapsed, for some of us, its victims, in the psychiatric survivor movement, as long as there is a psychiatry, anti-psychiatry never died. We will fight on. We will fight on until psychiatry ceases to exist at which point anti-psychiatry, having served its purpose, itself will cease to exist, for there is no anti-psychiatry without psychiatry.

Of course, just as NAZIism was replaced by neo-NAZIism, keeping alive the anti-fascist vision, the chances of that happening anytime soon are not so great as we would like for them to be.

Anti-Psychiatry however is a phoenix-bird, and it is reborn from the ashes of its previous existences. So long as psychiatry continues to oppress and abuse, it will meet with resistance. Sure, anti-psychiatry was yesterday. Not only was it yesterday, but it is today, and given the abuse and arrogance of psychiatry, it will be tomorrow.

You can bank on it.


Unlearning Spurred On By Undiagnosis

Unlearning is very important to me. The school system I grew up with taught me I couldn’t do anything correctly. Unlearning this education meant I could do things correctly despite all I had been taught to the contrary. One wonders how many lives have been squandered at the alter of learned futility. Unlearning, in this case, was a matter of recognizing the value of utility instead.

Obviously, being taught that you are “incapable” of doing anything worthwhile is going to complicate the project of living one’s life severely. This complication translated, for yours truly, into a “serious mental disorder” diagnosis. Taught by the education system that I was “incapable”, there were all these doctors ready and willing to jump in with a “disease” diagnosis. My “incapacity”, in their eyes, was due to my having a “disease”, specifically, a “disease” of the brain.

If you read the literature on institutionalization, you will find mention of something they call “learned helplessness”. One could say, in a sense, that this diagnosis process merely represented an extension of the business of education. Here was, after all, confirmation that I was “incapable” of producing anything of value. Not only are people taught that they are “incapable”, but the suggestion is made that this “incapacity” is owing to having become “stricken” with “disease” rather than schooling.

If you succeed in failing at being educated, no wonder, for continued if lower education, we’ve got the mental health system. It can help if this unlearning process is accelerated by the shock of the mental health system. Through the mental health system, I learned to undiagnose fictitious disease. or rather because these “diseases” come to you through other people, pretty much the same thing, to unlearn them. The mental health system could be referred to as a form of radical unlearning.

If learning is a diagnosis, continued unlearning must, logically enough, encompass undiagnosis. Anyway, it makes sense to me. If nobody ever told you to be wary, if the mental health system doesn’t unteach you wariness, that wrong place must be the right place for you. Theoretically speaking, of course. There are some evil scoundrels in the world, and some of them are in positions of authority. Cardinal rule: You don’t attain positions of authority through unlearning.

More and more people it seems are discovering unlearning. The textbook may have black print on white paper, but transparent print on a transparent sheet of, say, plastic isn’t outside of the realm of possibility. One has to wonder, in most learning situations, where is the person in the classroom to tell the class to take everything said in front of it with a grain of salt? If there is such a person, it’s usually the person catching hell from the teacher. I would like to suggest that this may be because the teacher has a lot of unlearning to do yet.

Free Tziona Ben Aharon From Northeast Florida State Hospital

MindFreedom International Human Rights Alert

Tziona Ben Aharon was Baker Acted five times by her son, and one of those detentions led to her civil commitment at Northeast Florida State Hospital in Macclenny near Jacksonville. Tziona, a 58 year old Miami resident, has been given a diagnosis of “dementia”. There are affidavits attesting that Tziona has been physically attacked by hospital staff. Tziona is currently malnourished, dehydrated and “asleep” most of the time. On one occasion, her sister, Jaffa Raviv, reports that she was found by hospital staff to be non-responsive, pale, and unconscious. She is under a regimen of six or more drugs, one of which is the powerful neuroleptic Haldol. She is also unable to communicate with the staff at the hospital because she doesn’t speak english, she only speaks Hebrew. There has been evidence of the use of restraints on Tziona by NEFSH, and she is also said to have been subjected to shock treatments.

Recently we staged a protest in support of Tziona in front of Northeast Florida State Hospital. The protest went very well, and was even covered by Channel4 News in Jacksonville. Although this protest went well, it has not lead to Tziona’s release. Neither of Tziona’s sisters, despite a court order, have been allowed by the hospital to visit their sister. Jaffa Raviv is afraid that continued treatment at NEFSH will result in her sister, Tziona’s, death.

Tziona has been put on a feeding tube she cannot swallow or eat on her own, yet the hospital refused to transfer her to VITAS Healthcare, Sunrise FAX: 1-877-848-2702, where she might receive the medical attention that she so desperately needs. The hospital has also refused to transfer her to North Beach Rehabilitation Center FAX: 305-945-8280. Members of her family have also spoken about the possibility of moving her to Israel ASAP.

MindFreedom International has issued a previous alert on Tziona, but her situation at NEFSH has changed little since that alert was issued. We are, therefore, issuing a second human rights alert on behalf of Tziona Ben Aharon. You can help Tziona by calling the following numbers and by asking for Tziona’s immediate release from Northeast Florida State Hospital, and her transfer to the care of her family and, through them, to a real medical facility.

Florida Governor Rick Scott
Office Phone: 850-921-8461

Hayden Mathieson
Florida Mental Health Commissioner
Department of Children and Families
Phone: 850-921-8461
Fax: 850-487-2239

Disability Rights Florida
800-342-0823 Toll Free
850-488-8640 Fax

You may also want to call any of the numbers listed from our previous alert.

1. Joseph A. Infantino – Hospital Administrator (904)259-6211 Ext. 1104
2. Alice Oswald – Assistant Administrators Institutional Superintendent
(904)259-6211 Ext. 1107
3. Doug Shine – Head of Social Workers Administration (904)259-6211 Ext. 1505
4. Dr. Colleen Belle – Head of Psychiatry (904)259-6211 Ext. 1751
5. Dr. Garry Dopson – Head of Medical – Critical Services (904)259-6211 Ext. 1618
6. Dr. Stella Rodriguez Medical Services Tziona’s Doctor Building 3C
(904)259-6211 Ext. 1534
7. Bob Bark – Nurse Psychiatry (904)259-6211 Ext. 1985
8. Brian William Hurd Tziona’s Attorney 1(321)759-6719 CELL
1(321)453-5007 Office
9. Chaplain – Rabbi Mendy Levy (305)342-6665

For additional information call:

10. Yaffa Raviv (305)773-0717



What is antipsychiatry?

Opposition to the field of psychiatry and, especially, the destruction wrought by that field.

Is antipsychiatry a school of philosophy, psychiatry, or social work?

Emphatically, no.

Antipsychiatry has been defined as a treatment approach, it isn’t that, is it?

Most definitely not. The problem here is that it was a word first both coined and resurrected by psychiatrists. Psychiatry, obviously, doesn’t have a deed on the language. The word was first coined as a term of disparagement for critics of psychiatry, however, criticism of psychiatry need not be conceived of as an insult. If it is psychiatry itself that is harmful and menacing, the danger, then the word becomes complementary.

Why antipsychiatry?

Psychiatry is a major threat to civil liberties of people throughout the world. The methods, by and large, used for treating “mental illness” involve punishing innocent people, and injuring healthy bodies. What’s more, psychiatry is based upon an illusion, that there is such a thing as “mental illness”. No “mental illness” has ever been proven to exist. Instead you’ve just got lists of behaviors, behaviors that somebody doesn’t like, not necessarily ‘the patient’, described as “symptoms”.

What is psychiatry if it isn’t medicine?

It is a social control mechanism that involves getting troubling figures out of the way by pretending healthy bodies are “sick”. It is also deception and manipulation utilized on behalf of maintaining the status quo. In a word, it is legalized and state sanctioned fraud.

People do have “mental illnesses”, you do have to admit that, at least?

I have to admit no such thing.

People have ‘nervous break downs’, they go ‘mad’, they display ‘cyclical behaviors’, how can you say that there is no such thing?

Yes, people get disoriented in all sorts of fashions, however, deceptions, including self-deceptions, and confusion, are not diseases.

What should we do about people who display such behaviors?

Humor them.

Shouldn’t the behaviors be suppressed?

No. Not so long as nobody is injured.

What about ‘danger to self and others’?

This is the ruse used for locking people up. It has nothing to do with reality. If one does harm to another, one has committed a crime, and it is a matter for the criminal justice system. If one has done injury to oneself, it was not harm to another. You own your own injury, and that can be an expensive proposition, but however expensive, the mental health system still manages to be an even more expensive proposition. Dismantle the mental health system, and you are not locking up innocent people, nor are you encouraging people to injure themselves. As is, the system serves as just such encouragement for people to injure themselves.

What about psychiatrists who call themselves antipsychiatry?

Yes, they are entitled to do so. I don’t have a deed on the language either. There are psychiatrists who talk about a post-psychiatry, too, but as far as I can tell psychiatry is bigger than ever before. I could be wrong, but as far as I can tell, calling oneself antipsychiatry doesn’t make psychiatry any bigger than it already is. In that regard, it’s a good thing; if it could actually make psychiatry smaller, then it would be a much better thing. A smaller psychiatry would mean fewer patients. Psychiatry is a business, an industry, and it’s this industrial aspect of it that has sent the rates of what folks call “mental illness” soaring.

Is antipsychiatry a movement?

Well, that’s what we’d like to see alright, movement.

What is the goal of antipsychiatry?

An end to the fraud of psychiatry. Using medical pretexts to strip people of their humanity, and to physically injure them, is the wrong thing to do, and we need to put a stop to it.

The Definition of Antipsychiatry Updated


Although the Wikipedia page on the subject of antipsychiatry goes a good bit farther, the only dictionary definition of antipsychiatry on the internet readily available that I found was that supplied by Collins English Dictionary at

an approach to mental disorders that makes use of concepts derived from existentialism, psychoanalysis, and sociological theory.

Given that the term is used to refer to the views of dissident mental health professionals, psychiatric survivors, Scientologists, conspiracy theorists, conservative political commentators, academics of all persuasions, random citizens, etc., etc., etc. I find it, as far as definitions go, thoroughly inadequate.

A preferable approach, not to anything called “mental disorders”, but rather to defining the word antipsychiatry, would be to look at the component parts of the word itself. You take the prefix anti, meaning against or in opposition to, and add it to the word psychiatry, meaning the study and treatment of “mental disorders”, and then you can envision better what you’ve got en toto. In other words, a more embracive definition might be as follows.

opposition to the practice and profession of psychiatry.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because of a dialogue I’d been having with a person who, under the intellectual influence of Thomas Szasz biting criticism of what was referred to as antipsychiatry on the European continent, was saying that the antipsychiatry of R.D. Laing and David Cooper, and here we mean the antipsychiatry of David Cooper as R. D. Laing came to disavow the term, was actually a school of psychiatry to be opposed by people who are part of an antipsychiatry movement, real or imagined.

A primary criticism Szasz leveled at Cooper, by the way, which hopefully we have hereby surmounted, is that he never defined the term. Again, simply look at the definition of the prefix, and the definition of the word it is attached to, and I think we have that territory, more or less, covered.

On another level, we have to look at the term as it has been used historically, and I think to do so, we should be speaking in the plural, rather than of antipsychiatry, of antipsychiatrys, that is to say, I don’t think there is one homogeneous grouping of people that can be called antipsychiatry, but that rather it is a heterogeneous grouping of people that might conceivably come under a blanket description covered by this appellation.

  • Anti-bio-medical psychiatry (R. D. Laing, David Cooper, Critical Psychiatry Network, etc.)
  • Anti-non-consensual coercive psychiatry (Thomas Szasz)
  • Anti-bio-medical psychiatry + anti-non-consensual coercive psychiatry (early psychiatric survivor movement 1969-1985[?])
  • Anti-the-profession-and-practice-of-psychiatry (grassroots anti-psychiatry activism today)

Also, some of these people would definitely not refer to themselves as antipsychiatry while others of them would be emphatic in their identification with the term. Many of the leading authorities of the reigning biological medical model of psychiatry are prone to refer to all critics of their approach to the treatment of mental disorders by the term antipsychiatry. This leaves us with another set of antipsychiatrys, plural, when it comes to use of the term.

  • People who don’t identify themselves as antipsychiatry but who are identified as antipsychiatry by others—the slandered.
  • People associated with antipsychiatry (or the antipsychiatry movement) who don’t themselves identify with the term, or who would not personally be identified with it, but who yet remain an influence—philosophic or theoretical association.
  • People who identify themselves as antipsychiatry—the partisan resistance.
  • People who identify themselves as antipsychiatry, and say that others who also identify themselves as antipsychiatry are not really antipsychiatry, or true versus false antipsychiatry–factionalism.

Another reason for writing this piece is to dismiss the idea, so often circulated, that antipsychiatry is a thing of the past, a movement, or an approach to problematic persons, that belongs to the 1960s and 1970s, and that is no longer relevant to current concerns, and to contemporary times. Antipsychiatry was around before the word was coined, it is still with us today, and it will  be with us in the future. Antipsychiatry, in fact, will be around so long as people are having their human rights violated by  oppression within the psychiatric system. Antipsychiatry is still very much alive and kicking, and if it ever remits, that remission is only a surface matter, as it is always under the skin, and threatening to bubble over into the body-politic of day to day life and living. Psychiatry, on the other hand, at present is often said to be undergoing a crisis. Antipsychiatry, however, is confident that this crisis will resolve itself somehow in a manner that will not prove favorable to psychiatry.