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Symposium Materials:

· Symposium Program

· Upstate Update

· A Letter from Azerbaijan Psychologists

· Greetings from the Department of Psychiatry by Mantosh Dewan, M.D.

· "Forty Years of Consequences."
Remarks by Nelson Borelli, M.D.

· "The State's Insatiable Need to Incarcerate Those Who Frighten It."
Remarks by George J. Alexander, JSD

· "Psychiatry's Moral Anchor"
Remarks by Robert Daly, M.D.

· "Electroshock -- Epitomizing the Myth."
Remarks by John M. Friedberg, M.D.

· "Thomas Szasz's Personalist and Ethical Conception of the Cause and Cure of Character, Conduct, and Conflict."
Remarks by Zvi Lothane, M.D.

· "Therapeutic Paternalism in Australia: A Szaszian Critique of Repetition Strain Injury (RSI)."
Remarks by Professor Robert Spillane

· "Thomas Szasz: Rhetoric and Mental Illness."
Remarks by Richard Vatz, Ph.D.

· "Thomas Szasz's Impact on Political Issues: Two Examples from Germany."
Remarks by René Talbot

· "Some Recollections of a Psychiatry Resident-in-Supervision with Professor Thomas S. Szasz, M.D."
Remarks by Laura W. Neville, M.D.

· Introduction Letter
· Accommodations
· Registration Form
· Driving Directions



Nelson Borelli, MD*

A presentation for "LIBERTY AND/OR PSYCHIATRY: 40 YEARS AFTER THE MYTH OF MENTAL ILLNESS", a symposium in honor of Thomas S. Szasz, on his 80th Birthday, in Syracuse NY, April 15th, 2000.

Summary: By ideologizing Szasz's 1960 plain scientific observation pertaining to absence of disease, the mental illness establishment caused consequences worth twenty-four magnificent books and many papers, which are facing us now and forever.

When, in 1960, Thomas Szasz said that there was no medical illness in "Mental Illness" he was not standing on the soapbox of an ideologue. Rather, like the boy in the Hans Christian Andersen tale, he spoke with the simple honesty of a bystander who described, candidly, what he saw: the Emperor had no clothes. The Mental Illness Establishment moved quickly: it characterized Szasz's observation as a reckless idea and attacked it on several fronts.

In 1941 young Thomas Szasz went to study medicine and then psychiatry because he wanted to make a living in the noble profession of Medicine. At the time of his graduation, psychiatry was still "swanked-up" in the splendiferous clothing of Super Medicine. Psychiatrists were among the first specialists in medicine and had long enjoyed a certain celebrity as physicians.

As a more pragmatic young practitioner, Doctor Szasz began to see with his own "free" eyes the excesses of celebrity and fanciful use of the concept of illness in his chosen field. For him, this was a simple observation of fact, not an idea born of any particular rumination on the subject. Like the boy in Andersen's tale, he realized the Emperors of Psychiatry wore a fabric of knowledge that was illusion and that it transcended the limits of science. Thankfully, he was moved to write a book about it.

What a predicament for the young psychiatrist. He was on the threshold of a bright future in psychiatry, but found himself at odds with its intellectual foundations. A secure job at a university was perhaps the best solution under the circumstances. Had the Mental Illness Establishment humbly accepted and mended the tragedy so well exposed in The Myth of Mental Illness, we would now be hosting a retiring Dr. Szasz, the eminent psychiatrist, rather than Thomas S. Szasz the "lion of the pen".

Instead, the Establishment moved to ideologize Szasz's original observation. Two sets of consequences were created. First, the reactive forces of the Establishment embarked on a national campaign to fight the "Enemy" and to expand the myth. Unable to dismiss him from their ranks, Thomas Szasz, the writer, was to be branded and contained as a demon in psychiatry. Forty years later, this campaign has grown from an intellectual footnote to a state sponsored cult.

The second consequence has been Szasz's voluminous writing. Much of his subsequent twenty-four magnificent books and hundreds of papers and presentations have served to answer and to successfully challenge the Establishment's powerful campaign. In writings charged with the power of disciplined observation, research and clarity, Szasz has provided us with two other very valuable contributions: an immense source of knowledge of human nature and a well-substantiated theory of the reason for the Mental Illness ideology. He has shown that the Mental Illness ideology is not a simple mistake but a political doctrine for professional profit. It is a doctrine that was adopted by nefarious elements within the political system for the purpose of social control and human domination, control and domination to be achieved by convincing people that they are not responsible for their own acts, that they are not their own moral agents, and that they are children in need of a custodian.

It seems incredible that forty years after it was exposed, the Mental Illness myth is still accepted by so many. People seem to have a preference for understanding uncomfortable aspects of life through the convenience of myth. This would explain the success of the notion that diseases can "invade" persons, and thus they take away their moral sense. In truth, we know this notion is not different than the myth of the Devil's incarnation which was widespread in the first part of the second millennium.

Why the fantastic constructs? Why do intelligent people continue to ignore the simple truth that Szasz has so well exposed? Is it that the evil forces of human domination are playing a trick on us? Is it the fear of facing the "Fatal Freedom" as Szasz seems to suggest in his latest book? Is it that we have failed to adequately explain the myth? Is it that society reacts slowly? Or is it that Szasz is the re-incarnation of Rene Descartes, this time "sans" a pineal gland.

By the middle of the second millennium Descartes had debunked the Devil myth. Unfortunately, he simultaneously paved the way to scientific stature and to the foolish concept that the pineal gland was the site of the soul, that is, the pineal gland was one's moral agent.

At the end of the same millennium Thomas Szasz exposed the Emperor's nudity and removed the comforting myth of mental illness as moral excuse. In so doing Szasz left us alone, with not even a little pineal gland to have handy as a moral prop when existential despair strikes. This is a reality that may take more than forty years to accept.

Predictably, the collective wisdom of Society will eventually come to terms with Szasz's radical deconstruction. Only then will Society be able to avoid the terrible consequences of falsifying reality.

*Nelson Borelli MD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, Illinois. He has been practicing psychiatry for forty-five years. He has treated people with all kind of psychiatric syndromes; has used all therapeutic modalities from electric shock, Metrazol, insulin coma and ACTH in the 1950's to the contemporary psychotropic drugs. He has read and studied all of Dr. Szasz's books and most of his papers and in the last thirty years he has utilized Dr. Szasz's principles and techniques, successfully and gratifyingly, in assisting people that consulted with him professionally.

Doctor Borelli recognizes Thomas S. Szasz as one of the most, if not the most, lucid, honest, articulated and courageous writer of the second millennium.

Copyright 2000, Nelson Borelli, MD

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