Monday, March 29, 2010

Disabled Immigration Detainees Face Deportation

As someone who works closely with people suffering from schizophrenia I found this New York Time article quite disturbing. It seems "The Great Confinement" of the seventeenth century has returned in the twenty-first century as "The Great Deportation." In both cases the issue is the failure of governments to recognize the significance of mental disability. It is sad that the knowledge acquired over the last three plus centuries hasn't had more influence on power.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nominee to Disability Council Is Lightning Rod for Dispute on Views of Autism

As diagnostic categories get expanded to include less disabled people, it seems that there will be more examples of people advocating that their condition be de-medicalized. This New York Times article describes a 22 year old man diagnosed with Asperger syndrome wants autism to be considered as a form of "neurodiversity"  and funds devoted to finding its cause and cure be spent on providing accommodations. In the past I've run into people diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder making similar arguments.  When I imagine our society becoming thoroughly medicalized, with the concept of the normal losing its meaning, I imagine that the process of de-medicalization will grow dialectically.  I am wondering if there is a literature on the process of de-medicalization.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Büchner and Madness

Thanks to GEB for suggesting James Crighton's book Büchner and Madness: Schizophrenia in Georg Büchner's Lenz and Woyzeck. [see the comments after the post "Lenz by Georg Büchner."]  Crighton's book is quite remarkable. Starting from an appreciation of the insightful and empathic descriptions of psychotic disorders in Büchner's Lenz and Woyzeck, Crighton asks whether factors in Büchner's personal life or knowledge of contemporary psychiatry contributed to his ability to create these works. Because Crighton is meticulous in his attempt to answer these questions the reader is guided through an era of German history and the history of psychiatry in Germany that was quite unfamiliar to me. I found his presentation of case histories of psychotic disorders in this period of particular interest. In the end Crighton acknowledges that he can't explain Büchner's genius, but it is the journey through this book, not the conclusion, that is so enriching.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In Haiti, Mental Health System Is in Collapse

Not surprisingly the earthquake in Haiti has affected its, already fragile mental health system, disastrously. As I look at signs of our, already inadequate, mental system crumbling I feel like a man with no shoes meeting a man with no feet. This New York Times article gives a vivid picture of circumstances in Haiti.

Friday, March 19, 2010


I have just found a terrific blog on the history of psychiatry called h-madness. I will list it in my links.  Here is the "about us" section: H-Madness is intended as a resource for scholars interested in the history of madness, mental illness and their treatment (including the history of psychiatry, psychotherapy, and clinical psychology and social work).  The chief goal is to provide a forum for researchers in the humanities and social sciences to exchange ideas and information about the historical study of mental health and mental illness.  The blog, therefore, primarily serves university and college faculty, students, and independent researchers.
Subscribers are encouraged to share information about teaching and research as well as news about professional activities and events, such as job postings, conferences, and fellowships and grants.  While most postings are in English, postings in other languages are welcome.The editors are:
To contact us:

Canton Asylum for Insane Indians

Recently Carla Joinson introduced me to her blog and website on the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians (1902-1934). which showed me that there are still fascinating local stories to be told in the history of psychiatry. "If there were ever a building that ought to be haunted, Joinson tells us, the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians in South Dakota would be that place.  Native Americans were committed to its care, involuntarily, with little recourse for protest. Many remained for life…"I will list the link. 

Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression, edited by Nell Casey

The most interesting essay in this collection was Joshua Wolf Shenk's "A Melancholy of My Own," where he argues that the introduction of the term "depression" (by Adolf Meyer in 1905 as a replacement for melancholia) into the lexicon of psychiatry has served, if nothing else, to deaden and flatten the way we use language to describe certain painful experiences. The essays in this collection are strong evidence for his argument. While some of the authors do use vivid language to describe their experiences most then seem to say that all that was 'just depression,' making reading these essays a numbing experience. I guess i shouldn't have expected more from a book with an introduction written by the apostle of Depression Kay Redfiled Jamison. Published in 2001, this book does seem to provide a useful sourcebook on the historical question of how psychiatry influenced the way people in the late twentieth century thought about themselves.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Against Freud: Critics Talk Back by Todd Dufresne

This book published in 2007 consists of nine interviews with Freud "bashers." [Wortis, Menaker, Sulloway, Crews, Cioffi, Shorter, Esterton, Borch-Jacobsen, Israëls:] The interviewers are not very probing and mostly give the critics a chance to restate their positions. Having read most of these writers works, I didn't find much new in this book. For those who haven't read these critics, this book assumes too much familiarity with their work to serve as an introduction.