What is the BizOMadness Blog?

This blog is devoted to raising critical awareness of psychiatry generally. It is likewise devoted to the antipsychiatry research projects, publications, and related activities of Dr. Bonnie Burstow. Especially foregrounded are The Psychiatry Project, The Madness Project, and "Psychiatry and the Business of Madness". Related to one another, The Psychiatry Project and The Madness Project involve hundreds of interviews, a dozen focus groups, analysis of several hundred documents and their activation, and dedicated periods of institutional observation. The culmination of both as well as of decades of related interviews and activities is "Psychiatry and the Business of Madness" (timely updates on its publication will be provided)--a cutting edge book in which psychiatry is investigated from multiple angles and which begins to tackle the inevitable question: So if we get rid of psychiatry, where do we go from there?

For the Events page to find events related to this research or this book, see

To check out reviews of Psychiatry and the Business of Madness and related publications, see http://bizomadnessreviews.blogspot.ca/

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Response to a Query About the Standard Allen Frances Line

I have just been asked (via email) by someone at a conference that Allen Frances is attending what to do about Allen Frances's line that the antipsychiatry people are being ideological and that when someone is in crisis and so their judgment in impaired, forcing treatment may be the kindest thing to do. Also that better that they spend a week in a psychiatric institution than a far longer time in prison. As these are points that in one form or another are made again and again, I thought that I would post my response.  It went as follows:

Yes, that is the standard Frances line. Unfortunately, coercing what they consider as the odd person into receiving the treatment which they "need" is exactly the rationale that lies behind the system that we now have, exactly the discourse that underpins current mental health systems throughout the world; and so taking this line leaves us approximately where we are now. Frances is arguing that less people need to be coerced and then we just need to add safeguards. As reasonable as this seems, that is precise argument that led to the current state of affairs—and it resulted in no lasting changes for anyone—just more steps and more tic boxes, more types of governance as it were. Given the "treatments" that we currently administer overwhelmingly harm, moreover, it is an argument that minimally makes no sense at this point in time. Even before we factor what Frances would call "impaired judgment" (and how easily we apply this judgment to others) overwhelmingly the person with bad judgment is in the long run not making worse decisions for themselves than the system makes for them. "Crises", moreover, as the ancient Greeks knew, are "turning points". With support, people need to be allowed their space to work things out for themselves. As for making mistakes, even terrible ones in a crisis, that possibility is precisely our lot as human beings. We make our decisions, and if they don't kill us, we learn from them. 

Allen Frances, I would add, is quite rightly worried about the situation where distressed people transgress society's rules and end up in prison. His answer is to put them in a psychiatric institution instead. While I have no question but they are being horrifically mistreated in jail, it is not in the least clear to me that their week-long stint in a psychiatric institution will not hurt them more in the long run that a longer stint in prison, for they are fairly likely to end up on psych drugs for life. What this shows, is not that a little bit of psychiatry is the answer—but that neither the psychiatric system nor the prison system work—and we need to be tackling both institutions simultaneously. And here precisely is the folly of tackling the societal dilemmas that face us piecemeal. And indeed of accepting any kind of incarceral answer. 

That noted, it is not that Frances has no ideology. He does. It is the same ideology that all people have who think that they have "no ideology"—liberalism. The good thing about liberalism is it never goes to "excess". The bad thing about liberalism is that it gets to the roots of absolutely nothing, and as such, it cannot solve our problems.

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