Friday, June 18, 2004

George Bush and the mad-doctors

There is a story in today's edition of BMJ (British Medical Journal) on a "sweeping mental health initiative" to be unveiled by George Bush in July. The plan involves mental health screening for "all consumers" linked to a "state of the art" medication treatment plan. BMJ itself, as well as other more radical commentators such as Mark Frauenfelder, draw attention to the close links between the Bush family and drug companies, particularly Eli Lilly, who stand to make further billions out of the scheme.

Clearly there are elements of conspiracy and corruption here, but that is endemic to the American political system in any case (oops, there goes my chance of ever getting a US visa again). Of more interest I think is the continuing medicalisation and psychologisation of American and world society that is signalled by this. And as usual it is all being done in the name of human rights. For example, the president's commission who recommended the new system say they are concerned because "each year, young children are expelled from preschools and childcare facilities for severely disruptive behaviours and emotional disorders" - and hopefully now many more of these disruptive kids will be put on rational treatment regimes "based on efficacy data from clinical trials" (to quote Darrel Regier, director of research at the American Psychiatric Association).

I guess soon Americans will be able to sleep more soundly at night, since, as Dr Graham Emslie, who helped develop a Texas project on which the new nation-wide system is to be modelled, explains: "There are good data showing that if you identify kids at an earlier age who are aggressive, you can intervene... and change their trajectory."

I am trying not to be naive about this. Of course there are kids who are uncaring and violent and make their own and others' lives a misery, and of course society has every right to protect itself from such kids and to try and help them. For whatever reasons, there may even be many more such kids in America than there are in most other countries. But to pretend that violent, disruptive behaviour is simply a property inherent in individuals and not also in the political fabric of society as a whole and that it can be fixed by screening out and medicating (or therapising) individuals - that is madness.


Blogger Brandon said...

Touche! (sorry couldn't do the accent on my PC).

11:19 am  

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