On October 23, Psychiatric News (the APA’s media outlet) ran an article titled ‘60 Minutes’ Interviews APA President on Schizophrenia. The article was written by Mark Moran, a Psychiatric News reporter.
The piece opens with a quote from Jeffrey Lieberman, MD (President of the APA):
“’60 Minutes’ showed a genuine interest beyond simply producing what was expected to be a popular segment and indicated a desire to do follow-up reporting on psychosis and violence.”
The article provides a brief sketch of the 60 Minutes segment which aired on September 29, and a follow-up interview with Dr. Lieberman. Dr. Lieberman recounts that there were three main themes in the interview:
1. Schizophrenia is a brain disease that can cause people to be violent.
2. Mental health services in the US are inadequate at present.
3. The mass shootings “…are disproportionately caused by people with mental illness who have not gotten treatment”
Dr. Lieberman then stated:
“I was delighted that ‘60 Minutes’ did such a good job dealing with a complex and controversial topic.”
So I thought I’d take a look at the 60 Minutes segment, which was called Untreated mental illness an imminent danger? It ran to 14 minutes, and you can see the transcript here.
Here’s the opening statement by CBS reporter Steve Kroft:
“The mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard two weeks ago that resulted in the deaths of 13 people, including the gunman, was the 23rd such incident in the past seven years. It’s becoming harder and harder to ignore the fact that the majority of the people pulling the triggers have turned out to be severely mentally ill — not in control of their faculties — and not receiving treatment.”
This is followed by an interview with E. Fuller Torrey, MD, saying the kinds of things Dr. Torrey says:
“About half of these mass killings are being done by people with severe mental illness, mostly schizophrenia. And if they were being treated, they would’ve been preventable.”
The reporter applies this concept to James Holmes, the Aurora movie theater shooter who, we are told:
“… had been a brilliant graduate student…studying the inner workings of the brain, until something suddenly went wrong with his…”
Dr. Lieberman is then quoted as saying that this is not unusual:
“You can be the most popular student, you can be the valedictorian of your class. And if you develop schizophrenia it will change the functioning of your brain and change the nature of your behavior.”
There’s some footage of Dr. Lieberman working in a lab, dressed in a white coat and blue latex gloves, transferring liquid to a test tube with a pipette. He shows the reporter some brain scan slides:
“You can see the structural abnormalities in a brain scan.”
The reporter asks:
“This is really a disease of the brain. Not a disease of the mind?”
To which Dr. Lieberman replies: “Absolutely.”
The rest of the segment is given to interview of clients, family members, and Tom Dart, Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois.
In the Psychiatric News article, as I mentioned earlier, Dr. Lieberman commended CBS for doing “… such a good job dealing with a complex and controversial topic.”
In fact, they did an extraordinarily biased and one-sided job. Perhaps the most fundamental issue in this regard is the notion that the condition labeled schizophrenia is a brain disease. There is a growing and convincing body of opinion (and research) that challenges this view. If 60 Minutes had wanted to do a good job with a complex and controversial topic, they should surely have presented this alternative perspective.
- Boyle, M., It’s all done with smoke and mirrors, Clin Psychology: Ap 2002, 12: 9-16;
- Harding, CM, et al, Empirical correction of seven myths about schizophrenia with implications for treatment: Acta Psychiatr Scand, 1994: 90: suppl 384: 140-146;
- Zipursky, et al, The Myth of Schizophrenia as a Progressive Brain Disease. Schizophrenia Bulletin. Online Nov 20, 2012;
- Harrow M, Jobe TH, Factors involved in outcome and recovery in schizophrenia patients not on antipsychotic medications: a 15-year multifollow-up study, J Nerv Ment Dis. 2007 May; 195(5):406-14;
Secondly, Dr. Lieberman in his white coat trotting out brain scan slides was nothing more than tawdry PR. Here again, there is mounting evidence that the brain pathology noticed in people whom psychiatry labels schizophrenic is the direct result of the neurotoxic drugs used to “treat” this condition, rather than a feature of the so-called disease. CBS made no mention of this, and made no attempt to challenge Dr. Lieberman’s facile contentions.
- Moncrieff J, Leo J., A systematic review of the effects of antipsychotic drugs on brain volume, Psychol Med 2010 Jan 20; 1-14
- Beng-Choon Ho, Andreason, N. et al, Long-term Antipsychotic Treatment and Brain Volumes: A Longitudinal Study of First-Episode Schizophrenia, Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011; 68(2):128-137;
- Fusar-Poli et al, Progressive brain changes in schizophrenia related to antipsychotic treatment? A meta-analysis of longitudinal MRI studies, Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 2013, 37: 1680-91.
Thirdly, CBS accepted at face value the notion that the majority of the people pulling the triggers (in the mass shootings) have turned out to be “…severely mentally ill…and not receiving treatment.”
The only source they quote in support of this contention is Dr. Torrey who, incidentally, puts the figure at “about half,” and who is known for his one-sided views on this topic.
Fourthly, psychiatrists have been systematically expanding their diagnostic net for the past five decades. Today, it is widely claimed that at any given time, a fifth of the population meets the criteria for a DSM “diagnosis.” Virtually any kind of significant human problem is a mental illness. Mass murderers tend to be people with problems. So – by definition – mass murders are committed by people with mental illness. This is psychiatric logic.
Fifthly, evidence is accumulating that some psychiatric drugs increase the likelihood of violent behavior. There is also abundant anecdotal evidence that many of the mass shooters were taking psycho-pharmaceutical products at the time of the killings. It was widely reported, for instance, that Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard shooter whom CBS mentioned in the segment, had received two prescriptions for Trazadone (an antidepressant of the serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI) class) from the VA in the weeks prior to the killings.
It is widely believed that Adam Lanza, the Newtown killer, was taking a psychiatric product at the time of the murders. The Office of the Attorney General of Connecticut won’t release information on this, however, for fear that it might “…cause a lot of people to stop taking their medications”. This, I suggest, can only be interpreted as a confirmation that he was in fact on “meds.”
It has been reported in the media that James Holmes, the Aurora Movie Theater shooter, had psychotropic drugs and scripts in his home at the time of the shootings.
Psychiatry is under attack. Its concepts are being exposed as spurious and disempowering, and its “treatments” denounced as dangerous and destructive drugging.
But they adamantly refuse to address these issues, and as the pressure increases, they retreat deeper and deeper into their cocoon of self-deception. The only tactics they seem to understand are deception and spin. It’s not – and never has been – a question of “how can we improve our performance?” but rather: “how can we improve our image?” They seem unable to grasp the reality: that the illnesses they are promoting are spurious and the product they have been selling is destructive nonsense. They are drug-pushers masquerading as doctors.
And their latest spin plumbs a new depth – even for psychiatrists. It goes like this: “mentally ill” people are really dangerous. They’re the ones who are behind these mass shootings. We psychiatrists are the only ones who can save the world from this peril. Just give us more money, and more psych wards, and more drugs, and more power, and we’ll be on the job like the super-heroes that we are.
Psychiatrists are capitalizing on the public’s fear to rescue their tarnished image, and have no hesitation in further stigmatizing their clients in the process.