… Psychiatry is not about medicine in the commonly understood sense. Real medicine is guided by the maxim “First, do no harm”, and values the integrity and self-determination of the individual above all else. Instead, psychiatry is about the one thing that shrinks never mention: power. Power imbalances and powerlessness are quite obviously the primary preventable causes of emotional suffering in humanity. Indeed, many if not most cases of “depression” could be more aptly described as “internalized oppression”. Power over one’s own life is a bare minimum requirement for happiness and mental health. Yet psychiatry’s first step is to take away power, to infantilize and objectify the patient and pathologize a hypothetical “disease” which is functionally indistinguishable from the patient itself.
By implicitly and automatically accepting the power status quo and, in effect, enforcing it, psychiatry is a major source of human misery and oppression among the powerless, and a costly and often traumatic detour from emotional healing and “mental health.” Furthermore, despite its supposed campaign against the stigmatization of the “mentally ill,” psychiatry itself is the source of most of that stigma: the “medicalization” of injustice necessarily results in the dehumanization and marginalization of its victims, who are seen as incompetent and without legitimate grievances in the public eye. This process of marginalization has the added benefit of alienating public compassion, which allows shrinks to run their punitive, profitable fiefdoms without outside interference.
Thus the analogy between forced psychiatry and the Catholic Inquisition goes deeper than human rights abuse. In many ways, psychiatry could be said to be the Church of the Status Quo, the medical face of fascism. It’s a powerful and violent tool of social control in a deeply unjust and dysfunctional society.