I was a little alarmed to see this week that Tom Cruise came out against psychology. His reasons for doing so are doubtless different from my own reasons (which are described particularly in the comments to this post). I know nothing at all about Scientology, so I'm not in a position to judge its reasoning here. Still, finding Tom Cruise on your side on issues of sanity is somewhat like finding Michael Moore on your side on issues of foreign policy: It has to be alarming.
So, I'd like to take a moment to underline two articles from today's worldwide press that support my contention that psychology is not a science, and ought not to be allowed to exercise the power it does in our legal system and, indeed, our general society. The first is from the Washington Post, and is called "Racial Disparities Found in Pinpointing Mental Illness." Here are some important paragraphs.
Although schizophrenia has been shown to affect all ethnic groups at the same rate, the scientist found that blacks in the United States were more than four times as likely to be diagnosed with the disorder as whites. Hispanics were more than three times as likely to be diagnosed as whites....Emphasis added. I assume that the reader understand why that is alarming. This isn't just a "race" story: if anyone's experience, goals, or thoughts sound "unusual" to psychologists, they're insane. You may just need to be medicated for your own good, as in the case of "one thirty-year-old woman" who was talking fast, called people at all hours, and didn't seem to need much sleep. "[H]er charts showed she had been hospitalized for schizophrenia and treated with injectable medications, which suggested that her doctors thought her schizophrenia was particularly severe." In fact, she didn't have schizophrenia at all.
The data confirm the fears of experts who have warned for years that minorities are more likely to be misdiagnosed as having serious psychiatric problems. "Bias is a very real issue," said Francis Lu, a psychiatrist at the University of California at San Francisco. "We don't talk about it -- it's upsetting. We see ourselves as unbiased and rational and scientific." ...
Unlike AIDS or cancer, mental illnesses cannot be diagnosed with a brain scan or a blood test. The impressions of doctors -- drawn from verbal and nonverbal cues -- determine whether a patient is healthy or sick.
"Because we have no lab test, the only way we can test if someone is psychotic is, we use ourselves as the measure," said Michael Smith, a psychiatrist at the University of California at Los Angeles who studies the effects of culture and ethnicity on psychiatry. "If it sounds unusual to us, we call it psychotic."
The story lists other things that can be diagnosed as severe mental illness. One of them is "intense religious belief." What constitutes "intense" is obviously just as variable as anything else in this business: whatever strikes the psychologist as "unusual... we call it psychotic."
The second story comes from the Bangkok Post. It is called "Mental Health Problems Soar in Bangkok." The story takes it as read that these problems are real -- after all, psychologists say that they are real.
The number of Bangkok people with mental health problems has soared 900% from 587 per 100,000 to 5,485 in three years, according to a National Economic and Social Development Board report.The number of people with problems has soared 900%. In three years.
Gonna need a few more "hospitals" to confine these people.