Date Published:

Aug 01, 2007 01:00 AM

Author: MindFreedom South Africa

Source: MindFreedom South Africa

MindFreedom South Africa is calling for an “alternative hypothesis to mental illness” that will once and for all, put an end to coercive psychiatry in the run up to the 10th International Conference on Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology held at Sun City, South Africa 26 – 30 August 2007.

The profession of psychiatry continues to promote the practice of forced electroshock, involuntary commitments, seclusion, and the denial of fundamental human rights to persons accused of mental illness. Individual self-ownership –the right to be considered in possession of bodily and psychological integrity– is negated by these acts and those considered different, abnormal or maladjusted continue to be given psychiatric labels and forced to take medication simply for being “persons”.

Ten years after the South African “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” found startling evidence of human rights abuses in the medical and psychiatric fields under apartheid, and despite progress towards full political rights, the system continues to deny mental health patients basic freedoms. In the absence of alternatives to recovery, the biomedical model of human consciousness continues to prevail in the mental health sector, where health care workers are seemingly oblivious to basic human rights such as the right to refuse treatment.

The conference topic: “Hypotheses, Neuroscience & Real Persons”, is surely an ironic reference to ongoing criticism of institutional and private psychiatry for objectifying human beings and denying patients the right to be considered persons under the law?

You are hereby invited to submit an alternative hypothesis to the conference and to contribute your own model of human behaviour, to our campaign by participating in a non-violent revolution of human rights in mental health. We also welcome your participation in our ongoing struggle for treatment alternatives and the right to be considered persons under the law.

One working hypothesis, called the “Sun City Hypothesis” authored by cognitive dissident, David Robert Lewis is the following: There is a direct correlation between drug company sponsorship of psychiatric conferences and the growth of mental illness around the world in a syndrome compounded by a strategic redefinition of mental health by big pharma in terms of production and consumption i.e. the creation of consumers and markets.

Carol Tarvis, author of Mismeasure of Woman, has already suggested that the DSM’s authors suffer from “delusional scientific diagnosing disorder.” In an editorial, “In Bed Together at the Market — Psychiatry and the Pharmaceutical Industry,” psychiatrist Matthew Dumont urged that psychiatry declare itself an arm of the pharmaceutical industry. (Baughman 1997)

The Sun City conference is ironically sponsored by:  GlaxoSmithKline

On the Agenda: “Monday 27 August,19:00 Dinner Symposium (sponsored by Industry)”

South African media has yet to pick up on the Zyprexa Scandal and literature associated with a well known psych-drug that is the cause of diabetes (see the Zyprexa scandal) and the efforts of Big Pharma to silence whistleblowers.

Neuroscience or pseudoscience? Recent claims by a South African scientist to have discovered the “madness gene” are easily refuted as a “category error” in which prior evidence of congenital defects amongst sufferers of DiGeorges syndrome are being extrapolated into  the general population in order to prove an essentially unprovable  theory of schizophrenia. See 2007/08/890311.shtml

Like the claim of being on the threshold of a break-through in psychoanalysis earlier in the century, the claim of genetic causation seems premature (Grob 1998).

We are demanding further amendments to the current South African Mental Health Care legislation to recognize the rights of individuals to self-ownership in the light of article 12 of our constitution, which guarantees the right to security in and control of the body, and bodily and psychological integrity. The 2007 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Disabled, has upheld the right to psychological integrity as well as the legal capacity of persons suffering from mental disability.

South Africa is the first country in the world to enshrine psych-rights in its constitution; however the current Mental Health Care Act makes no mention of article 12 and has only a passing reference to human dignity.

Baughman Jr., Fred, The future of mental health: Radical changes ahead, Vol. 125, USA Today Magazine, 03-01-1997, pp 60. Grob, Gerald. 1998  Psychiatry’s Holy Grail: the search for the mechanisms of mental disease. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 72: 189-219.


In addition to the Sun City Hypothesis, a declaration, to be known as the Cape Town Declaration, which will “assert our fundamental humanity and common heritage in Africa”, as well as “the innate fallibility of the human mind and falsifiability of science including the theory of ideas”, and “the right to refuse treatment” will be drafted during the 17th International Congress of Analytical Psychology, near Robben Island, Cape Town by the User/Survivor Network in conjunction with MindFreedom South Africa.

If madness is error, as Michel Foucault puts it, then the attempt to psychiatrise the human condition is sheer folly. Human beings cannot be reduced to biophysical chemical reactions, nor can gene breakthroughs or the sequencing of the human genome modify or alter the human spirit. In fact, human behaviour is not reducible to analysis or theory and individuals need to be treated on a case by case basis

The poverty of the Western psychoanalytic approach can be seen in the current trial of a former Zimbabwean “State Patient” Theunis Olivier”, who claims to have been a “Satanist” and to have “multiple personality” syndrome and is using the insanity plea to escape punishment for the crime of murder. Psychoanalysis attempts to escape moral agency and self-ownership by positioning itself between the State and the Church, in a new priesthood, able to rule on matters of life and death.

In fact, the current discourse of the medical model and biopsychiatric methodology employed by the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) in conjunction with psychoanalysis, is antithetical to western libertarian theories of the individual on the one hand, and the collectivist ideological position of African Ubuntu on the other. Can a way be found to reconcile these differing or divergent points of view without resorting to straightjackets, commitment laws and thorazine?

Testimony from patients abused by the mental health system – the victims of psychiatry, psychoanalysis and psychology – has is available online. Of the three p’s psychiatry has the worst track record in human rights, while the role of the fourth p – philosophy in terms of ideology, has not been quantified.

Biopsychiatry’s neo-Kraepelinian approach to urgent life issues (i.e the theory of discrete classification of mental illness invented by Dr Emil Kraepelin) continues to produce labels that are neither humanist-positivist-scientific nor supported by evidence-fact-based research.

As many philosophers argue: There is no link between human consciousness and the brain, and the mind is essentially a metaphor. (Jaynes 1976)

We therefore invite delegates to both the 10th International Conference on Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology (26-30) and the 17th International Congress of Analytical Psychology, to develop an  alternative consciousness discourse, one which avoids the extreme  nosologies of psychiatric diagnosis i.e. classification systems as  evidenced by the experience of the apartheid-era classification of  non-whites as mentally inferior, lacking insight and prone to  infantilism, as well as the racist psychological studies of the past.

Surely what we need is gnosis, knowledge of spiritual mystery, rather than nosos, the classification of life as a disease?

According to Thomas Scheff. “Although the last five decades have seen a vast number of studies of functional mental disorder, there is as yet no substantial, verified body of knowledge in this area, comparable, say, to medical knowledge of infectious diseases. At this writing, there is no rigorous and explicit knowledge of the cause, cure, or even a coherent classification of the symptoms of functional mental disorders (such as schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorders, etc). Such knowledge as there is, is clinical and intuitive. Clinical knowledge in psychiatry and the other mental health therapies is large and impressive, but so far has not been formulated in a way that would be subject to verification by scientific methods.” (Scheff 1999)

Since Nelson Mandela is one of the best-known inmates of the former Robben Island Lunatic Asylum and the history of South Africa’s mental health development is incredibly unique – we are the only nation on the planet to enshrine psych-rights in our constitution — we are making use of this opportunity to embark upon a special and more humane path of consciousness and will be organizing tours to the island on a first-come, first-served basis.

Join the discussion, or simply board the freedom boat chartered by the user/surviver network as we travel to Robben Island, to reclaim madness and folly from the straights!

Jaynes, Julian, Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, 1976

Scheff, Thomas,”Being Mentally Ill, 3rd Edition”, Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter, 1999