(Another unpublished letter to the Cape Times)
De Lille says ‘schizophrenic, mad’ Ehrenreich has lost the political plot”. Cape Times 17 April refers
The medical dismissal of Tony Ehrenreich by mayor Patricia de Lille has overtones of Nazism. The Nazi regime relegated all those it disagreed with to the ranks of the unfit and unwell. Both the Soviet Union and the Apartheid regime deployed madness and psychiatry in the defense of political policies. During the Brezhnev period psychiatry was used as a tool to eliminate political opponents — all those who openly expressed views that contradicted officially declared dogma.
Under Apartheid hundreds of South Africans were sent to mental asylums by doctors because of their opposition to apartheid where they often underwent forced medical procedures. Dr Aubrey Levin, aka “Dr Shock” used electric shock therapy to “cure” gay conscripts during the apartheid era and is a tragic case in point.
The use of a medical label such as schizophrenia by the mayor is thus extreme cause for concern. She may wish to research her subject a little more, since there is considerable opposition to the use of the term within medical circles.
The Campaign to Abolish the Schizophrenia Label (CASL) says: “The idea that schizophrenia can viewed as a specific, genetically determined, biologically driven, brain disease has been based on bad science and social control since its inception … The concept of schizophrenia is neither valid nor reliable. It has outlived any usefulness it may once have claimed and is extremely damaging to those whom it is applied.” Despite this, mainstream psychiatry continues to perpetuate the myth that when talking about ‘schizophrenia’ we are discussing something that actually exists.
“For a diagnosis to have any clinical utility it must be reliable. That is to say there must be consistency in how individuals are diagnosed. There is no evidence that this has ever been the case with schizophrenia. Read (2004), has illustrated how it is possible for 15 individuals with nothing in common to be gathered together in one room and ALL be diagnosed with schizophrenia. There is thus no definitive evidence to suggest that the reliability of the diagnosis has improved since that date. An unreliable diagnosis cannot by definition be valid.”
To be labelled ‘a schizophrenic’ is one of the most devastating things that can happen to anyone. This label implies dangerousness, unpredictability, chronic illness, inability to work or function at any level and a lifelong need for medication. To champion the idea that schizophrenia is an illness and that ones political opponents are unwell makes a mockery of patient rights and freedom of speech. “Saying that it is a disease just like any other (sometimes referred to as mental health literacy) makes the situation worse, in that it has been shown to increase amongst other things mistrust and a desire for social distance.”
In 2002 in order to remove the stigma and prejudice associated with the term schizophrenia, The Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology renamed the condition.
“Their reasons were that the old term ‘Seishin Buntreyso Byo’ (mind- split disease) was ambiguous, had purely negative connotations and was in part related to the inhumane treatment of most people who carried the diagnosis (Sato 2006). The new term is ‘Togo Shitcho Sho’ (Integration disorder). It is defined not as a specific illness, but as a syndrome based on a stress vulnerability model, with many different causes, symptoms and outcomes. This change was brought about largely by lobbying from service users and family groups, and has been welcomed by service users and families alike.”
As a survivor of psychiatry and as an individual who has borne the brunt of numerous attempts by the medical fraternity and even members of my own family, to label away “madness” while classifying race identity, I can only express my sympathy and solidarity with Tony Ehrenreich.
David Robert Lewis
(ex Steering Committee), People’s Health Movement