Siri Hustvedt

Psychiatry’s brutal history and unanswered questions
Jun 2022

The Washington Post

Psychiatry’s brutal history and unanswered questions

Siri reviews Andrew Scull’s Desperate Remedies: Psychiatry’s Turbulent Quest to Cure Mental Illness for the Washington Post's "Outlook" section.

"Andrew Scull’s Desperate Remedies tells the story of psychiatry in the United States from the 19th-century asylum to 21st-century psychopharmacology. His lucid prose and urgent narrative style take the reader through psychiatry’s dubious characters, its shifting conceptions of mental illness and fluctuating diagnostic categories, the often gruesome treatments visited upon patients and their families, and the ultimate demise of public mental hospitals for “community care,” which, as he explains, meant no community and no care. Instead, severely ill patients were abandoned to fend for themselves, ending up on the streets or in prison, where many of them remain today.

"Scull describes how doctors, driven by hubris, greed and flimsy theoretical assumptions, embraced invasive, brutal techniques as solutions to insanity and then summarily pronounced them effective, often protected by the profession as a whole. These purported “successes” depended not only on a gullible public but on a press eager to tout the most recent medical miracle.

Read the article.