|22 March 2004
Remarks of Dr. Thomas Szasz, co-founder of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, at the
35th Anniversary and Human Rights Award Dinner, Citizens Commission on Human Rights
International, Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, California, February 28, 2004.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I want to thank Jan Eastgate, Bruce Wiseman, and everyone at the Citizens Commission on
Human Rights for establishing an annual award in my name, "The Thomas Szasz Award for
Outstanding Contributions to the Struggle Against the Therapeutic State." It is a great
honor and I deeply appreciate it.
It gives me great pleasure to salute Dr. Anatoly Prokopenko for his courageous opposition
to psychiatric oppression in post-Communist Russia and to congratulate him as the
inaugural recipient of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights' Thomas Szasz Award.
"The trouble with people" -- said Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw, 1818-1885), the great
nineteenth-century American humorist -- "is not what they don't know but that they know
so much that ain't so." That people "know so much that ain't so" is precisely the trouble
with respect to what Americans know about psychiatry. After a decades-long propaganda war,
waged by an unholy alliance of psychiatry and the state, people now "know" that mental
illness is like any other illness and that psychiatric practices are like other medical
practices. This just ain't so.
When I was a young doctor, most people knew better: They recognized that mental hospitals
were prisons not medical hospitals and called them "snake pits." They knew that
psychiatrists were jailers, not healers.
Since then, the image of psychiatry has become transformed from the administration of
snake pits to the prescription of psychiatric miracle drugs. It's another con-game.
Antipsychotic drugs resemble antibiotic drugs like mental hospitals resemble medical
hospitals, that is, not at all. The name of the game is still coercion.
A few decades ago, mental patients could be confined only in mental hospitals. Now, they
can be confined in drug-induced disability as well, a punishment called "outpatient
Another lamentable development is the claim that millions of children suffer from a
mental illness called "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder" (ADHD) and that
Ritalin -- administered to the child often against the will of the parent -- is a
treatment for it. Of course, it is always administered against the will of the child.
What child wants to be stigmatized as crazy?
When school authorities tell a mother that her son is sick and needs to be on drugs,
how is she to know that that's a lie? How is she to know that what experts call Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not a disease?
Bedazzled by psychiatric jargon, she does not realize that diagnoses are not diseases.
She is not expert in the history of psychiatry. She does not know that psychiatrists
have always used diagnostic terms to stigmatize and control people -- for example
black slaves who ran away to freedom suffered from drapetomania;
women who rebelled against being controlled by men suffered from hysteria;
until only a few years ago, men and women who engaged in sexual acts with members of
their own sex suffered from the dread disease of homosexuality.
Of course, none of those behaviors was a disease.
Nor is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder a disease.
No behavior or misbehavior is a disease or can be a disease. There is no mental disease.
Don't forget that, not long ago, psychiatry's two favorite mental illnesses were
masturbatory insanity and homosexuality. They are no longer mental illnesses. Why not?
Because people stopped believing that "self-abuse" causes insanity and that homosexuality
is a perversion that ought to be treated as a disease and also punished as a crime.
However, that did not end the horrors. On the contrary, it was the beginnings of worse
horrors. No sooner do psychiatrists "declare" that a mental illness is not an illness
than they "discover" - that is to say, invent - a host of new mental illnesses.
When I went to medical school, sixty years ago, there were only a handful of mental
illnesses. Now there are more than three hundred, with new ones "discovered" every year.
George Washington warned: "Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is power.
Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." Psychiatry is a part of the
This is what parents who are told that their child suffers from Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder must never forget. They must never forget that school personnel
and child psychiatrists and psychologists are government agents. Their job is to control
children, not to care for their health or well-being.
Caring for the health and well-being of children is the parents' job. Government, as
Washington said, is not reason. It is unreason.
Labeling a child as mentally ill is stigmatization, not diagnosis. Giving a child a
psychiatric drug is poisoning, not treatment.
I have long maintained that the child psychiatrist is one of the most dangerous enemies
not only of children, but also of adults who care for the two most precious and most
vulnerable things in life -- children and liberty.
Adults have physical and political power over children. This is why sexual relations
between adults and children are outlawed and the act is called "statutory rape." For the
same reason, we ought to outlaw psychiatric relations between adults and children and call
child psychiatry by its correct name, "psychiatric rape."
Child psychiatry -- like all of psychiatric slavery -- cannot be reformed. It must be
How can parents protect their children from the therapeutic state, that is, from the
alliance of government and psychiatry?
They can do so only by disabusing themselves of the idea that what ails an unhappy or
misbehaving child is a mental illness, and that so-called psychiatric treatment can help
They can do so only if they recognize that bringing up children is no picnic -- that, in
fact, it is the hardest and least publicly rewarded job in the world, bar none. Raising
children is tough. It has always been and always will be tough.
I agree with Josh Billings. It is not a good idea to know things that ain't so. If we
want to avoid such false knowledge, we must speak clearly and think clearly. Diseases are
malfunctions of the human body, of the heart, the liver, the kidney, the brain.
Typhoid fever is a disease. Spring fever is not a disease; it is a figure of speech, a
metaphoric disease. All mental diseases are metaphoric diseases, misrepresented as real
diseases and mistaken for real diseases.
It is time to conclude. The task we set ourselves - to combat psychiatric coercion - is
It is a noble task in the pursuit of which we must, regardless of obstacles, persevere.
Our conscience commands that we do no less.
Thank you very much.
Copyright © Thomas S. Szasz Cybercenter for Liberty and Responsibility. All rights reserved.
Published here with the permission of Dr. Thomas Szasz.