By Thomas Szasz All modern history, as learnt and taught and accepted, is purely conventional. For sufficient reasons, all persons in authority combined, by a happy union of deceit and concealment, to promote falsehood.

          Lord Acton (1834 - 1902)

For more than a century, leading psychiatrists have maintained that psychiatry is hard to define because its scope is so broad. In 1886, Emil Kraepelin, considered the greatest psychiatrist of his age, declared: “Our science has not arrived at a consensus on even its most fundamental principles, let alone on appropriate ends or even on the means to those ends.”

  Contrary to such assertions, I maintain that it is easy to define psychiatry. The  Dr. Thomas Szasz     problem is that defining it truthfully — acknowledging its self-evident ends and the                                  means used to achieve them — is socially unacceptable and professionally suicidal. Psychiatric tradition, social expectation, and the law — both criminal and civil — identify coercion as the profession’s determining characteristic. Accordingly, I regard psychiatry as the theory and practice of coercion, rationalized as the diagnosis of mental illness and justified as medical treatment aimed at protecting the patient from himself and society from the patient. The history of psychiatry I present thus resembles, say, a critical history of missionary Christianity.

  The heathen savage does not suffer from lack of insight into the divinity of Jesus, does not lack theological help, and does not seek the services of missionaries. Just so, the psychotic does not suffer from lack of insight into being mentally ill, does not lack psychiatric treatment, and does not seek the services of psychiatrists. This is why the missionary tends to have contempt for the heathen, why the psychiatrist tends to have contempt for the psychotic, and why both conceal their true sentiments behind a facade of caring and compassion. Each meddler believes that he is in possession of the “truth,” each harbors a passionate desire to improve the Other, each feels a deep sense of entitlement to intrude into the life of the Other, and each bitterly resents those who dismiss his precious insights and benevolent interventions as worthless and harmful.

  Non-acknowledgment of the fact that coercion is a characteristic and potentially ever-present element of so-called psychiatric treatments is intrinsic to the standard dictionary definitions of psychiatry. The Unabridged Webster’s defines psychiatry as “A branch of medicine that deals with the science and practice of treating mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.”

  Plainly, voluntary psychiatric relations differ from involuntary psychiatric interventions the same way as, say, sexual relations between consenting adults differ from the sexual assaults we call “rape.” Sometimes, to be sure, psychiatrists deal with voluntary patients. As I explain and illustrate throughout this volume, it is necessary, however, not merely to distinguish between coerced and consensual psychiatric relations, but to contrast them. The term “psychiatry” ought to be applied to one or the other, but not both. As long as psychiatrists and society refuse to recognize this, there can be no real psychiatric historiography.

  The writings of historians, physicians, journalists, and others addressing the history of psychiatry rest on three erroneous premises: that so-called mental diseases exist, that they are diseases of the brain, and that the incarceration of “dangerous” mental patients is medically rational and morally just. The problems so created are then compounded by failure — purposeful or inadvertent — to distinguish between two radically different kinds of psychiatric practices, consensual and coerced, voluntarily sought and forcibly imposed.

  In free societies, ordinary social relations between adults are consensual. Such relations — in business, medicine, religion, and psychiatry — pose no special legal or political problems. By contrast, coercive relations — one person authorized by the state to forcibly compel another person to do or abstain from actions of his choice — are inherently political in nature  and are always morally problematic.

  Mental disease is fictitious disease. Psychiatric diagnosis is disguised disdain.  Psychiatric treatment is coercion concealed as care, typically carried out in prisons called “hospitals.” Formerly, the social function of psychiatry was more apparent than it is now. The asylum inmate was incarcerated against his will. Insanity was synonymous with unfitness for liberty. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a new type of psychiatric relationship entered the medical scene: persons experiencing so-called “nervous symptoms” began to seek medical help, typically from the family physician or a specialist in “nervous disorders.” This led psychiatrists to distinguish between two kinds of mental diseases, neuroses and psychoses: Persons who complained of their own behavior were classified as neurotic, whereas persons about whose behavior others complained were classified as psychotic. The legal, medical, psychiatric, and social denial of this simple distinction and its far-reaching implications undergirds the house of cards that is modern psychiatry.

  The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, was first called the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane. In 1892, it was renamed the American Medico-Psychological Association, and in 1921, the American Psychiatric Association (APA). In its first official resolution, the Association declared: “Resolved, that it is the unanimous sense of this convention that the attempt to abandon entirely the use of all means of personal restraint is not sanctioned by the true interests of the insane.” The APA has never rejected its commitment to the twin claims that insanity is a medical illness and that coercion is care and cure. In 2005, Steven S. Sharfstein, president of the APA, reiterated his and his profession’s commitment to coercion. Lamenting “our [the psychiatrists’] reluctance to use caring, coercive approaches,” he declared: ” A person suffering from paranoid schizophrenia with a history of multiple rehospitalizations for dangerousness and a reluctance to abide by outpatient treatment, including medications, is a perfect example of someone who would benefit from these [forcibly imposed] approaches. We must balance individual rights and freedom with policies aimed at caring coercion.” Seven months later, Sharfstein conveniently forgot having recently bracketed caring and coercion into a single act, “caring coercion.” Defending “assisted treatment”–a euphemism for psychiatric coercion– he stated: “In assisted treatment, such as Kendra’s Law in New York, psychiatrists’ primary role is to foster patient improvement and help restore the patient to health.” 

Psychiatry and society face a paradox. The more progress scientific psychiatry is said to make, the more intolerable becomes the idea that mental illness is a myth and that the effort to treat it a will-o’-the-wisp. The more progress scientific medicine actually makes, the more undeniable it becomes that “chemical imbalances” and “hard wiring” are fashionable clichés, not evidence that problems in living are medical  diseases justifiably “treated” without patient consent. And the more often psychiatrists play the roles of juries, judges, and prison guards, the more uncomfortable they feel about being in fact pseudomedical coercers — society’s well-paid patsies. The whole conundrum is too horrible to face. Better to continue calling unwanted behaviors “diseases” and disturbing persons “sick,” and compel them to submit to psychiatric “care.” It is easy to see, then, why the right-thinking person considers it inconceivable that there might be no such thing as mental health or mental illness. Where would that leave the history of psychiatry portrayed as the drama of heroic physicians combating horrible diseases?

  Alexander Solzhenitsyn is right: “Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. Any man who has once proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle.”

  Scientific discourse is predicated on intellectual honesty. Psychiatric discourse rests on intellectual dishonesty. The psychiatrist’s basic social mandate is the coercive-paternalistic protection of the mental patient from himself and the public from the mental patient. Yet, in the professional literature as well as the popular media, this is the least noted feature of psychiatry as a medical specialty. Pointing it out is considered to be in bad taste. It would be difficult to exaggerate the extent to which historians of psychiatry as well as mental health professionals and journalists ignore, deny, and rationalize the involuntary, coerced, forcibly imposed nature of psychiatric treatments. This denial is rooted in language.  Psychiatrists, lawyers, journalists, and medical ethicists routinely call incarceration in a psychiatric prison “hospitalization,” and torture forcibly imposed on the inmate “treatment.” Resting their reasoning on the same faulty premises, psychiatric historians trace alleged advances in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses to “progress in neuroscience.” In contrast, I focus on what psychiatrists have done to persons who have rejected their “help” and on how they have rationalized their “therapeutic” violations of the dignity and liberty of their ostensible beneficiaries.

  I regard consensual human relations, however misguided by either or both parties, as radically different, morally as well as politically, from human relations in which one party, empowered by the state, deprives another of liberty. The history of medicine, no less than the history of psychiatry, abounds in interventions by physicians that have harmed rather than helped their patients. Bloodletting is the most obvious example. Nevertheless, physicians have, at least until now, abstained from using state-sanctioned force to systematically impose injurious treatments on medically ill people. Misguided by fashion and lack of knowledge, sick people have often sought and willingly submitted to such interventions. In contrast, the history of psychiatry is, au fond, the story of the forcible imposition of injurious “medical” interventions on persons called “mental patients.”

  In short, where psychiatric historians see stories about terrible illnesses and heroic treatments, I see stories about people marching to the beats of different drummers or perhaps failing to march at all, and terrible injustices committed against them, rationalized by hollow “therapeutic” justifications. Faced with vexing personal problems, the “truth” people crave is a simple, fashionable falsehood. That is an important, albeit bitter, lesson the history of psychiatry teaches us.

  One of the melancholy truths of the story I have set out to tell is that, stripped of its pseudomedical ornamentation, it is not a particularly interesting tale. To make it interesting, I have tried to do what, according to Walt Whitman (1819-1892), the “greatest poet “does: He “drags the dead out of their coffins and stands them again on their feet … He says to the past, Rise and walk before me that I may realize you.” To this end, I have, where possible, cited the exact words psychiatrists have used to justify their stubborn insistence, over a period of nearly three centuries, that psychiatric coercion is medical care.

On Dr. Szasz And Coercive Psychiatry

Pseudoscience, Psychiatry, BAB's A List

By Leonard Roy Frank

Thank you, Ilana Mercer, for performing a valuable public service by publishing Thomas Szasz’s extraordinary essay, “Coercion as Cure”! For 50 years now Dr. Szasz has courageously challenged the ideology and practice of coercive psychiatry. In the revised edition (1974) of his landmark work “The Myth of Mental Illness” (1961), he stated some of the major principles underlying his critique. They are worth repeating here:

  -“Disease or illness can affect only the body; hence, there can be no mental illness.

  -‘Mental illness’ is a metaphor. Minds can be ‘sick’ only in the sense that jokes      Leonard Frank      are ‘sick’ or economics are ‘sick.’

  -Psychiatric diagnoses are stigmatizing labels, phrased to resemble medical diagnoses and applied to persons whose behavior annoys or offends others….

  -If there is no mental illness there can be no hospitalization, treatment, or cure for it….

  The introduction of psychiatric considerations into the administration of the criminal law—for example, the insanity plea and verdict, diagnoses of mental incompetence to stand trial, and so forth—corrupt the law and victimize the subject on whose behalf they are ostensibly employed….

  There is no medical, moral, or legal justification for involuntary psychiatric interventions. They are crimes against humanity.”

   That the psychiatric profession and society at large have mostly ignored Dr. Szasz’s critique helps explain the deplorable state of the current “mental health system.” More and more people are being labeled with psychiatric “diseases” as more and more diagnoses are being conjured up. Philippe Pinel (1745-1826), the “father of modern psychiatry,” had only four categories of what was then called “insanity,” but in 1952 the American Psychiatric Association described about 106 “mental illness” categories in its “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual,” and its 4th edition published in 1994 had 374 such categories.

   As was true on a smaller scale in Pinel’s time, psychiatric violence, coercion and deception are today standard operating procedures: e.g., “mental patients” who refuse psychiatry’s powerful drugs, called “medications,” are held down and forcibly injected. These drugs, especially in large doses, are frightening in their effect but the bottom line is that sooner or later they make the individual feel mentally, emotionally and physically wasted. Moreover, the longer the drugs are taken, the more likely they are to cause permanent brain damage and other, sometimes life-threatening and life-shortening, medical problems. And even when consented to, the consent is likely to be fraudulent because psychiatrists seldom supply accurate and full information about the risks involved in taking these drugs.

  In addition to the many millions of adults being subjected to this kind of abuse, psychiatrists and other physicians, in a practice almost unheard of a generation ago, are “prescribing” a variety of psychiatric drugs to an estimated 5-10 million children and adolescents. The drugs will cause many of these youngsters to become habitual psychiatric- and street-drug users and eventually “chronic mental patients.”

   There has also been a resurgence in the use of electroshock (electroconvulsive treatment, ECT). Since 1940 more than 6 million people in this country alone have undergone this brainwashing, brain-damaging, and memory-destroying procedure. Even today, more than 100,000 Americans are being electroshocked every year.

   Coercive psychiatry may be defined as the use of psychiatric methods by means of outright force and intimidation or in the absence of genuine informed consent to “treat” non-existent “diseases,” diseases for which there are no proven physical markers.

   There is no way to calculate the amount of suffering coercive psychiatry has caused and continues to cause those individuals directly affected. Nor is there any way to assess the degree to which coercive psychiatry has undermined and continues to undermine the values and moral standing of every society in which it operates.

   In “The Second Sin” (1973), Dr. Szasz anticipated the coming of “the Therapeutic State” in which “the principal requirement for the position of Big Brother may be an M.D. degree.” In such a state, the prevailing creed of “therapeutism” will justify “proclaiming undying love for those we hate, and inflicting merciless punishment on them in the name of treating them for diseases whose principal symptoms are their refusal to submit to our domination.”

   Two questions need to be asked: 1) How close are we to “the Therapeutic State” which would necessarily result in the loss of our freedom, and 2) What are we, the people, going to do to prevent its establishment?                

—Leonard Roy Frank, Editor, The Random House Webster’s Quotationary

Brief bio of David W. Oaks, MFI Director

by David W. Oaks — last modified 2008-01-09 12:31

David W. Oaks, director of MindFreedom International, has been a psychiatric survivor human rights activist since 1976. David was a working class student attending Harvard University on scholarship in the 1970's when he experienced psychiatric institutionalization five times. He was diagnosed schizophrenic, and underwent forced psychiatric drugging and solitary confinement.

Harvard's student volunteer agency Phillips Brooks House placed David with one of the early psychiatric survivor human rights organizations, Mental Patients Liberation Front. David wrote his senior paper about community organizing with psychiatric survivors, and graduated with honors in 1977.

As well as his activist work in the field of human rights in the mental health system, David has also worked in the environmental, peace and social justice movements.

David lives with his wife Debra in Oregon and loves camping and gardening.

David is available for speaking engagements and workshops. He has presented on topics such as "community organizing for independent systems change in the mental health system" to a diverse range of participants including in Chile, Norway, Ireland, Turkey and throughout the USA.

E-mail address: oaks (at)

David gives workshops! For a description of his most popular workshop -- Community Organizing for Independent Systems Change -- click here.

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Judi Chamberlin

Judi is considered one of the most effective international psychiatric survivor activists. Judi is shown here holding the National Council on Disability report From Privileges to Rights, which her good friend the late Rae Unzicker helped create. Judi has served for years on the MFI board. (Photo by Tom Olin)


Mary Maddock Petitions Ireland About Forced Psychiatric Drugs

by David W. Oaks — last modified 2007-12-12 17:08

In Cork, Ireland, Mary Maddock, one of the founders of MindFreedom Ireland, submitted an official petition to the government of Ireland, and a copy of the text is here. Mary challenges the legality of Irish policy on forced psychiatric drugging. Mary presented the petition to the European Union Petitions Committee durings its tour of Ireland.

Mary Maddock of MindFreedom Ireland



CORK, IRELAND: At a meeting in Cork on Thursday, 28 June 2007, human rights activist Mary Maddock, psychiatric survivor and founder-member of  MindFreedom Ireland presented her petition to the European Union Petitions Committee, currently touring Ireland.

Her petition is entitled 'The Illegality of Ireland's Mental Health Act of 2001 as it Concerns the Forced Use of Mind Altering Drugs on Unwilling patients.' A copy of the petition text is below.

A second petition on the same issue was presented by John McCarthy, well known activist who stood as a candidate in the recent general election specifically on the issue of mental health.

The Petitions Committee, which is gathering petitions on a number of different issues, includes Irish MEPs Kathy Sinnott, Mairead McGuinness and Proinsais De Rossa.  Ms. Sinnott is Vice-Chair of the Committee.



The Illegality of Ireland's Mental Health Act of 2001 as it Concerns the Forced Use of Mind Altering Drugs on Unwilling Patients


Petition by: Mary Maddock

Petition Host: Kathy Sinnott, Member of the European Parliament [MEP] from Ireland SouthMy 'treatment' began in 1976 after the birth of my first child. With little or no discussion it was decided I needed medical treatment, i.e. drugs, mainly a nueroleptic called largactil, and a little later ECT [electroconvulsive therapy] as I had a chemical imbalance in my brain, without having any medical tests to make this diagnoses. I believe this to be the same as forced treatment, and I was forcefully treated with so many injections that to this day I remember the pain and soreness from the many shots.  I got no information about the treatment I received and was not capable of evaluating it myself as it is proven now that nueroleptic drugs cause a chemical lobotomy. I know this to be true from personal experience as simple tasks were a nightmare to perform and I was out of touch with my emotions.    I managed to survive this first onslaught for 7 yrs, but in 1982 I was a victim of psychiatry again and soon I was diagnosed as a manic depressive and was chemically lobotomised once again, this time by three different substances: largactil, surmontil and lithium. I remained on a combination of drugs for almost 20 yrs: on lithium and largactil for most of the time and on all three drugs for over 10 yrs.I am now completely free from drugs for over 7 yrs and at almost 60 years old am leading a healthy and free life in body, mind, and spirit.With the adoption of the Mental Health Act of 2001 (MHA), Ireland's doctors now have the ability to legally force an unwilling patient to continue to take medication for real or perceived mental illness. 

The applicable text of sec. 60 reads:

60-  Where medicine has been administered to a patient for the purposes of ameliorating his or her mental disorder for a continuous period of 3 months, the administration of that medicine shall not be continued unless either:(a) the patient gives his or her consent in writing to the continued administration of that medicine, or    (b) where the patient is unable or unwilling to give such consent:(i) the continued administration of that medicine is approved by the consultant psychiatrist responsible for the care and treatment of the patient, and(ii) the continued administration of that medicine is authorised (in a form specified by the Commission) by another consultant psychiatrist following referral of the matter to him or her by the first-mentioned psychiatrist

The ramifications of this section of the MHA are startling, as what happened to myself can now be forced upon unwilling Irish citizens if two doctors believe it to be in the best interest of the patient, even without any objective standards of testing.My friend and colleague John McCarthy was a delegate to the UN in regards to the recent convention on the rights of the disabled. The treaty, as originally worded in art. 17, left open a number of loopholes which would have allowed States Parties the ability to force involuntary treatment on a patient.

His lobbying helped rewrite art. 12 so that it now reads that "every person with disabilities has a right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity on an equal basis with others." Furthermore, art. 14 states that the disabled shall enjoy the same rights to liberty and security of their persons as the non-disabled, and that the existence of a disability does not "justify a depravation of liberty." As of 30 March, 2007, both Ireland and the EU are signatories to the convention,  and it is therefore binding law on both bodies.      Even before this, the Council of Europe created Europe's most important human rights document, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950), which offers protection inter alia of privacy (Article 8); against inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3); against arbitrary deprivation of liberty (Article 5); and against discrimination in conjunction with other substantive rights (Article 14). I recognize that the EU does not have the authority to enforce these articles, but this document set the precedent for the above UN convention, and is binding on Ireland and every other nation that is current member state of the EU.I strongly believe that the above portion of the MHA are in clear violation of international law, and respectfully ask that the EU, via the petitions committee, recommend that the involuntary forced use of mind altering medications in Ireland be stopped immediately. 

  Committee Draft on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 13 Feb., 2006, available at  Text of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 6 Dec., 2006, available at   "EU Makes Limited Pledge on Disabled Rights," available at  Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 4 Nov., 1950, available at


Related content MF-Ireland Join, Renew, Donate to MindFreedom International. Mad Market Books & Gear

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George Ebert George is one of the truly long-term psychiatric survivor human rights activists who has worked for decades for our movement. George is one of the founders of MindFreedom International's "Support Coalition." He is a leader in Mental Patients Liberation Alliance in New York State, and is a survivor of electroshock. (Photo by Tom Olin.)  



                      (reply from Marcin Libicki, chairman, committee on petitions)


Dear Ms Maddock,


I would like to inform you that the Committee on Petitions considered your petition and decided that the issues which you raise are admissible in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament, insofar as the subject matter falls within the sphere of activities of the European Union.


The committee began its examination of your petition and decided to ask the European Commission to conduct a preliminary investigation of the various aspects of the problem.  The committee will continue its examination of your petition as soon as it is in receipt of the necessary information.


I will keep you informed of any further action taken on your petition in due course.


Yours sincerely,



By Lynn Stuter

February 19, 2008

Once again Americans sit transfixed in front of televisions, soaking up the images of violence emanating from Northern Illinois University. Six are dead including the shooter — a 27 year old man; a former student at NIU who, like so many before him, was a “nice young man” who had gone off his meds and started acting erratic.

The talking heads are at it again. News anchor after news anchor, rehash after rehash, focuses on guns on campus; talking head after talking head makes the preposterous and unsubstantiated claim that more guns means more violence.

The American people sit in front of their television sets and gobble it up like the latest tasty creation in candy, marketed with the promise of keeping the consumer thin.

That such might not be the truth goes right over the heads of people who want to believe, wholeheartedly, that their government would never lie to them, much less those nice people who deliver what little real news doesn’t end up on the editing room floor before the daily news airs.

There is one commonality in all of these shootings that, while mentioned, is lost in the subterfuge focusing on guns.

Not long ago, a young man was arrested in the parking lot of a high school in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. On the front seat of his car was found a loaded shotgun; three other high-powered rifles were found in the trunk; the result of a burglary at his uncles’ home the night before in which the young man was suspect.

What was to come out in the days following this incident was that the young man had recently been on mind-altering anti-depressants.

Here we go again. Kip Kinkel, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, the Virginia Tech shooter, all on mind-altering prescription anti-depressants, as was the Northern Illinois University shooter; as have been a long list of shooters who have killed a multitude of others before killing themselves or surrendering as authorities converged.

How many of these shootings have to happen before the people rise up and demand accountability for young people being put on these mind-altering drugs? How many more people have to die before we finally say “enough is enough”?

More here:

  Natural News Illinois Shooter was Treated with Psych Meds Prior to Shooting Rampage February 17, 2008 by Mike Adams

(NaturalNews) It comes as no surprise to anyone who's been following school shootings all the way back to the Colombine High massacre in Colorado: Every young, male shooter that has gone on a killing spree in the United States also has a history of treatment with psychotropic drugs -- typically SSRI antidepressants. These shootings have three things in common: 1) The shooters are young males. 2) The shooters exhibit a mind-numbed disconnect with reality. 3) The shooters have a history of taking psychiatric medications.This latest shooting by 27-year-old Stephen Kazmierczak shares the same three factors. Stephen was considered a "normal, undistressed person," according to press reports. He was considered "an outstanding student" and even received a Dean's Award for outstanding work in sociology. So what happened to Stephen's brain that caused him to snap and open fire on students in a college classroom?

Psych meds make good people do bad things

Psychiatric medications, of course, are well known to cause extremely violent thoughts and behavior in young males. This is actually acknowledged by the FDA and is found in the black-box warnings printed on the packaging for such drugs. In Europe, the prescribing of many such drugs to children and teens is actually illegal. But in the United States, where psychiatric medications have become the "new medicine" for American youth, nobody seems to pay attention to the simple fact that every school shooting we've seen in the last decade has been committed by a young male with a history of treatment with psychiatric medications.The mainstream media, of course, is trying to spin the story by claiming Stephen snapped because he stopped taking his medications. MSM headlines proclaim, "Illinois Shooter Stopped Taking His Medications." What these headlines fail to communicate is the fact that psychiatric drugs cause long-term disruptions in the brain which lead to a strong dissociation with reality. These young, male shooters hardly even know they're in the real world anymore. They no longer see their fellow classmates as human beings, but rather as lifeless objects to be used for target practice. For those people taking psychiatric medications, there's even a strong dissociation with one's own life, as evidenced by the repeated willingness of these shooters to ultimately turn their guns on themselves.

More here:

TeenScreen petition now at 25,032 signatures: