Last week we traveled to East Coast to interview several individuals who are currently involved in the vigorous debate surrounding the definition and treatment of mental illness in our country.  In Cambridge, Massachusetts we met Robert Whitaker whose most recent book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, takes a critical look at the effectiveness of our current pharmaceutical approach in addressing mental illness.

In his book, Whitaker asks why the number of adults and children disabled by mental illness has skyrocketed over the past thirty years in spite of the fact that the spending on pharmaceutical medications to address the problem has increased 80 fold.

Whitaker is an excellent journalist, but not a scientist. He told us that it was two separate World Health Organization reports that got him interested in looking into this mystery. The studies show the recovery from severe mental disorders, like schizophrenia, was much better in developing countries than in developed countries like the U.S.

I found Robert’s argument and the evidence he presented very convincing. Next week we will be posting an interview with the well-known psychiatrist, E. Fuller Torrey, who is critical of some of Whitaker’s viewpoints.

3 Responses to “Interview with Robert Whitaker: Anatomy of an Epidemic”

  1. Jenny

    Errm, this no mystery that the pharma drugs aren’t working. Throughout time humans have used various substances in order to achieve altered states of consciousness. In our society really only alcohol remains, all the other drugs have been made illegal and possession/dealing are crimes punished by the state while that same state licenses doctors to administer far more dangerous and addictive drugs. Tobacco is becoming illegal but nicotine products are pushed by doctors/pharma just a change of who gets the profit.

    Therefore people aren’t now allowed to self-medicate as humans always had (except by getting drunk); the modern world is too complicated and stressful = we have lost access and control to/of almost everything. Poverty and social isolation add to our distress and oh, along comes pharma with ‘cures’ for our distress.

    In 2005 I found doctors’ sides of pharma sites (for SSRIs my GP+ were pushing me to go on) and found info that made me scared: neuro and brain injury caused by these drugs. I refused them but my GP and the psychiatric nurse were upset at my reasons, they prescribed them routinely and although they claimed to ‘know how they work’ this was a lie.

    Different? That has always meant scary and must be hidden away, locked up and given ‘treatment’ until conformity (to some fictional norm) and compliance is achieved – if ever.

    The WHO is influenced by pharma power and medical lies as are judges and doctors in deciding ‘best interests’ cases. In the future (if pharma doesn’t silence us) we will look back on the use of these drugs as we now look on insulin therapy (for mental illness) and blood letting. But too many lives (and degradation of human DNA, also from nuclear/pesticides) will be destroyed while we wait.

    • Claire P

      I can’t agree with you more and all of my adult experience of the health service in Britain has been a horrendous contradiction of the image of a caring service. It’s a badly managed career path nowadays for overworked people in understaffed institutions with institutionalising mentalities for both staff and patients.
      The lack of warmth, care and resources for simple, mechanical physical faults resulted in the health service nearly killing me, killing my neighbour, taking the wrong breast off someone I met with breast cancer, infecting nearly every person who has been operated on that I know with MRSA at the wound site (conveniently for the hospitals an unrecorded form of MRSA in Britain because just anecdotally the statistics are horrendous for this), killing my father and my Aunt.
      Alarmingly a nurse said to me “You don’t expect us to read your records do you?”.
      Well yes I do. If they don’t it explains a lot doesn’t it. If we are just statistics they don’t have time to check on before medicating even for well understood mechanical bodily failures what can we expect happens to people with complicated mental states that our culture is in total infancy in it’s study and understanding.
      My mother says my grandad was killed by electro shock therapy. Presumably they didn’t check to see the state of his heart first.
      I’m too scared to go to hospital even though it’s free in Britain and hate the infantilising attitudes of the surgeons who are apparently nicknamed “The Gods” here.
      I had pancreatitis a few years ago. Had they bothered to read my file they’d have found my cholesterol (although my doctor didn’t notify me) was incredibly high. It took them nine hours to work out it wasn’t period pains even though I didn’t have a period. This was at the hospital and in the ward exposed by secret filming by a nurse that then got her sacked for telling the truth. Thank goodness for one lone, brave woman in the health service that’s becoming an uncaring corporate mess.
      Our whole culture is sick and too arrogant to learn from ancient more successful and stable caring cultures.
      Thank you Phil for showing what is possible and thank you to Jenny for being brave enough to comment honestly, Claire

      • Phil Borges

        Wow, Claire, it does sound like your experience has been horrendous indeed! Through the making of CRAZYWISE, we have learned of other medical professionals on your side of the ocean who are taking a different approach. Have you heard of Peer-support Open Dialogue?


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