Book review: Critical psychiatry textbook

This book review was published by Haakon Rian Mancient Ueland in Norway on LinkedIn.

In the mid-50’s, a revolution in psychiatric treatment happened. Psychotropic medication entered the scene with a blast. New drugs that would give those afflicted with psychosis, depression and anxiety a new life. Since then, the pharmaceutical industry has launched an amazing number of concoctions. Xanax, Zyprexa, Prozac – the names have become household names, and are liberally doled out by the medical profession. “Mother’s little helper” – benzodiazepines – got some serious competition.

The marketing campaign had a lot of help from the media. Books were written about their life changing effect,  magazines such as Time featured them on the cover, and the world was changed.

For the better?

When speaking of mental health, the situation is dire. As shown in the most chilling indicator of all – the suicide rate. Globally, 800.000 people die from suicide every year – twice more than from homicide.

In my country, Norway, other health indicators are pointing in the wrong direction. A rising number of adolescents are on disability. Is the answer more drugs, or is it time for a shift?

Peter C. Gøtzsche is the director of the Institute for Scientific Freedom. According to WikiPedia, he is “a Danish physician, medical researcher, and former leader of the Nordic Cochrane Center at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark. He is a co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration and has written numerous reviews for the organization. His membership in Cochrane was terminated by its Governing Board of Trustees on 25 September 2018.”.

Gøtzsche is a meticulous man. A scientist who holds himself – and others – to the highest standards. He has worked in the pharmaceutical industry himself, so he knows how the business works.

And he is angry. His anger shines through every word in his 2022 book, “Critical Psychiatry Textbook” – an alternative to the current curriculum offered psychiatrists undergoing their speciality training.

I can support his anger. I grew up the son of one of Norway’s finest psychologists, who specialized in people with psychosis issues the last years of her life. And I have been the leader of two organisations within mental health.

I have met people destroyed by drugs. Facial features distorted. Minds twarted. Cognition gone. I have met those whose bodies are plagued by tremors; tardive dyskinesia; which is one of the malignant effects of the “antipsychotics”. People who can’t hold a cup of coffee.

With clarity and a solid list of references, Gøtzsche adresses essential questions such as

  • Are psychiatric disorders caused by a chemical imbalance?
  • Are psychiatric diagnoses reliable?
  • Is ADHD a social construct, or an actual disease?

“Critical Psychiatry Textbook” is not a comfortable read. It challenges deeply ingrained notions. “A pill for all ill” has been hammered into the collective. As has the thought that it is possible to “feel wrong”, that a psychiatric label says anything about a specific human – as if we all aren’t somewhere on the spectrum.

It is quite ironic. If you speak with God, you have faith. If God answers, you are psychotic.

If you are in any way affected by these issues – get this book. Visit The Institute of Scientific Freedom, buy the book. Educate yourself.

Gøtzsche also offers alternatives. Working approaches to mental wellbeing.

You have a choice. You can be a sheep or a shepherd. What do you think will bring you most joy?