On May 29, Psychiatric News ran an article titled Lieberman Sees Promising Future for Psychiatrists, Patients. The author is Mark Moran, a senior reporter for the American Psychiatric Association.
The post is an account of Dr. Lieberman’s outgoing presidential address to the APA conference in New York, and contains many quotes from this most eminent and memorable psychiatrist.
“Our future is now. We have been waiting, many of us our whole lives, for the chance to change the way the world thinks of psychiatry and the way we think of ourselves as psychiatrists. Let’s use the momentum we have to plunge ahead into the next year with our confidence brimming, our energy renewed, and our sights set high.”
“We will better educate the public and the media about what mental illness is, what psychiatry does, and what our role in the future of health care in the U.S. will be. As a result, the public will gain a more accurate and respectful understanding of mental illness and psychiatry.”
We will get respect. Rah!
“Driven by scientific advances and economic forces, psychiatry will increasingly become a scientifically based discipline, achieve capabilities to diagnose and treat patients with mental disorders that previously would have been unimaginable, and in doing so rejoin the family of medicine.”
Did he say rejoin?
“This [productive relationship with the White House and Congress] will foster constructive legislation and policies favorable to psychiatry and people with mental illness,”
“As the caretaker of the DSM, APA will ensure that it is managed responsibly and by the most rigorous scientific and ethical standards.”
“…there is no health without mental health.”
“…everyone deserves a checkup from the neck up!”
“…it [psychiatry] can break free of the ignorance, mystery, and stigma with which it has been historically associated…APA must lead the way. Today we celebrate the progress we’ve made as an organization, as a field of medicine, and the prospect of a better future. This is our opportunity to change the practice and perception of psychiatry for the better and as never before. Last year, standing on the stage in San Francisco, I told you that `our time has come.’ Today I say to you that our future is now!”
Standing ovation; deafening applause and cheers; blaring trumpets.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
If there were a prize for using as many words as possible to say absolutely nothing, I would have no hesitation in nominating Dr. Lieberman. It is as if he has become intoxicated by his own cheerleading. “Our time has come.” “Our future is now.” “There is no health without mental health.”
What Dr. Lieberman is doing in these pep rallies is insulting to his listeners. The great question in all of this is: What do the psychiatrists in the audience think? Do they not feel insulted? Do they not feel that this kind of self-congratulatory drivel is beneath their dignity?
If psychiatry were the wholesome, valid, or valuable thing that Dr. Lieberman would have us believe, then there would be no need to artificially generate enthusiasm and collective self-esteem. It could stand on its record. Nephrologists, cardiologists, pulmonologists, etc., don’t engage in this sort of spectacle because they have no need to. Psychiatry is stigmatized because its concepts are known to be spurious, and because its practices are known to be destructive and disempowering. The stigma is actually an accurate reflection of the reality. No amount of cheerleading can dispel this kind of stigma.