National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy

American Psychosis or Mad Science?  
What A Care System for Seriously Distressed People Might Look Like

Two recent books, American Psychosis (by psychiatric scholar E. Fuller Torrey) and Mad Science (by social work scholars Stuart Kirk, Tomi Gomory, and this presenter), offer historical and critical analyses of the post-World War II mental health system in America and suggest directions for reform. Both books appear especially concerned with people who seriously disturb others or experience long-lasting extreme mental states or disabilities (the "seriously mentally ill"), but their analyses and proposals for reform differ sharply. Both books agree that the treatment system has utterly failed those for whom it was ostensibly designed, but each book attributes the failure to sharply different causes. The books offer compelling but competing visions of where reform should begin, what it cannot ignore, and what it could look like. In this presentation I will compare and contrast these works (as objectively as possible) with the aim of finding common ground, though perhaps only irreconcilable differences, between their two different visions. The mental health system seems ready to undergo another momentous transformation, comparable in magnitude to the two great changes that characterized it over the past 120 years. Where might the next change lead?


Goals and Objectives

1.       To identify the main features of proposed reforms of the mental health care  system outlined in two recent books, American Psychosis and Mad Science.

2.      To identify the main stated and unstated assumptions underlying each book's conclusions and proposals for reform.

3.      To seek common ground between the two books' different visions, in order to encourage dialogue between people with sharply different views on the character and purposes of the mental health system. 

American Psychosis or Mad Science?, Keynote address, NARPA 9/5/14 (pdf)

Link to brief presenter bio:

David Cohen, Ph.D.