The Royal College of Psychiatry is the UK equivalent of the American Psychiatric Association. On January 14, they announced that Professor Simon Wessely has been elected as their next president, and that he will take office on June 26, 2014.
Dr. Wessely is an eminent psychiatrist who has been knighted by the Queen for his services to psychiatric medicine.
In their press release, the Royal College reported that Dr. Wessely’s priorities as President will be:
- Make parity between mental and physical health a reality.
- Improve the image of psychiatry and psychiatrists.
- Improve recruitment into psychiatry and encourage medical students to discover the unique qualities of psychiatry.
- Ensure excellence in education, and put high-quality training delivered by psychiatrists for psychiatrists at the heart of education.
The promulgated priorities of the incoming President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists warrant, in my view, some scrutiny.
1. “Make parity between mental and physical health a reality.”
There’s a clearly implied admission here that there is some lack of “parity” between physical and mental health, though there’s no clear indication of what this actually means. My best guess, based on context and other material that Dr. Wessely has written, is that this is a reference to the fact that psychiatry is denied the same respect, status, and perhaps remuneration that is afforded to other medical specialties.
There are, I suggest, very good reasons why psychiatry is denied this respect and status. These reasons are: the spuriousness of its concepts, the blatantly self-serving expansion of its “diagnostic” categories over the past five decades, and the destructive nature of its “treatments.” They want to be treated like real doctors, but the fact is that they aren’t.
Perhaps Dr. Wessely plans to pursue parity by means of a fundamental revision of psychiatry’s core concepts and a critical and honest review of its practices. That would be refreshing – but don’t get your hopes up.
2. “Improve the image of psychiatry and psychiatrists.”
So Dr. Wessely is not planning to promote critical self-scrutiny in psychiatry. Nor is he envisaging any fundamental reforms of practice. What he appears to have in mind is some kind of PR job that will improve the façade while leaving all the destructiveness of psychiatry in place. Like repainting a clapped out old truck!
3. “Improve recruitment into psychiatry and encourage medical students to discover the unique qualities of psychiatry.”
Dr. Wessely is correct in pointing out that psychiatry has unique qualities. It is the only medical specialty that treats non-existent diseases, and in the process does more harm than good.
Dr. Wessely doesn’t tell us how he’s going to attract more recruits to this dubious activity, but I venture to guess that it will be a matter of image enhancement (as in his second priority) rather than any kind of substantive house-cleaning.
4. “Ensure excellence in education, and put high-quality training delivered by psychiatrists for psychiatrists at the heart of education.”
This is the kind of platitudinous nonsense that politicians say when they want to make a favorable impression without actually saying anything.
Some of my readers may recall that Dr. Wessely was the author of the June 2013 article DSM-5 at the IoP. This was a cheer-leading piece designed to promote the message that, despite the controversy surrounding the launch of DSM-5, psychiatrists are good guys, and psychiatry is a noble profession. I critiqued the article in the post Psychiatry Still Doesn’t Get It.
It is clear from Sir Simon’s current list of priorities that he still doesn’t get it. His priorities are to promote psychiatry and to improve its image, but there is no suggestion that he has taken on board the criticism, that psychiatry is based on spurious premises, and is destructive, disempowering, and stigmatizing in practice.
WHAT DR. WESSELY MIGHT HAVE SAID
Imagine if, instead of the PR job outlined above, Dr. Wessely had said something like this:
Psychiatry has been under increasing criticism in recent years. A great many of these criticisms are valid, and my primary goal during my term of office will be to promote an honest and forthright examination of these issues.
In particular, we will examine the trend, that has dominated psychiatry over the past 60 years, of shoe-horning all human problems into a medical model and pretending that we’re treating these problems with medications, when all we’re actually doing is drugging people with neurotoxic chemicals.
I will order an immediate and thorough inquiry into the link between suicide (especially in teens and young adults) and SSRI’s.
I will order a similar inquiry into the damage that is routinely being done by neuroleptic drugs. And in particular, I will pursue a detailed inquiry into the Royal College’s rejection of Dr. Joanna Moncrieff’s suggestion to discuss this topic at our annual general meeting in June of this year.
Yes, just imagine!
I guess one doesn’t get to be President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists by rocking the boat.