Is Mental Illness a Myth? Very Bad Wizards Podcast

David and Tamler explore my provocative and still relevant 1961 book “The Myth of Mental Illness,” the topic selected by our beloved Patreon supporters. When we think of mental disorders as “diseases,” are we making a category mistake? Are we turning ordinary “problems in living” into pathologies that must be treated (with pills or psychoanalysis)? Does this model rob us of our autonomy in direct or indirect ways?

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Dr. Allen Frances MD Saving Normal

While it is common to hear that we are in the midst of a mental health crisis, a closer examination of the available data strongly suggests that so-called diagnostic inflation may actually be a key contributor to the apparent increase in mental illness.  Dr. Allen Frances, MD, author of Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt Against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life speaks with host Dr. Pete Kelly, C.Psych around why it’s so hard to define “abnormal” in the context of mental health, a historical consideration of the origin and development of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) (including human factors – politics, pharma etc. – that have permeated the development of the DSM), how DSM-5 has strongly contributed to diagnostic inflation, challenges and caveats associated with the treatment of mental illness with pharmaceuticals, the importance of psychotherapy in the treatment of mental illness and whether (and how) the DSM might be reformed.  Dr. Frances also provides a psychiatrist’s perspective on Trump and the psychological and societal factors that have allowed Trump to ascend to power. 

Allen Frances, MD, is professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Duke University School of Medicine. Dr. Frances was the chairman of the DSM-IV Task Force and a member of the leadership group for DSM-III and DSM-III-R. He is the author of the award-winning international bestseller Saving Normal, as well as Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump and the reference work Essentials of Psychiatric Diagnosis. He lives in San Diego, California.

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David Ramsay Steele on the Myth of Mental Illness

Steele does not get Szasz’s position right when it comes to brain disease and mental illness. If something is discovered to be a brain disease, it ceases to be mental illness and is subsumed under the rubric of neurology, not psychiatry. Still worth a listen.

Libertarian writer David Ramsay Steele joins Bob for a fun tour of some essays from his collection, *The Mystery of Fascism*.

Mentioned in the Episode and Other Links of Interest:

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Hearing Voices with Al Galves on Stories We Live By

Psychotherapist Al Glaves and I will talk about how the medical model of mental illnesses was created and how it is fed by the American Public’s acceptance of its harmful and erroneous beliefs. We will speak about the factors that motivate the various “states of being” (in essence, troubled and troubling modes of behavior, expressions of thought, and emotional reactions) that are ultimately diagnosed as “mental illnesses and disorders.” Finally, we will discuss the ways the public can protect itself from the lies of the psychiatric model and Big Pharma and still successfully participate in the process of psychotherapy. 

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Psychiatric Drugs and the Rise of Mental Illness with Robert Whitaker

Today’s guest is Robert Whitaker. Robert is an American journalist and author who has won numerous awards as a journalist covering medicine and science, including the George Polk Award for Medical Writing and a National Association for Science Writers’ Award for best magazine article.

In 1998, he co-wrote a series on psychiatric research for the Boston Globe that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. His first book, Mad in America, was named by Discover magazine as one of the best science books of 2002. Anatomy of an Epidemic won the 2010 Investigative Reporters and Editors book award for best investigative journalism. He is also the publisher of

Today’s episode focuses on a topic very near and dear to my heart. I hope the information and awareness you gain adds value to your life the same way it did mine. If you’re ready, lets head into today’s courageous conversation with the one and only, Robert Whitaker. 

P.S. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it, and tag @courageously.u





Michael Fontaine: Mental Illness in the Ancient World

Was there Mental Illness in the ancient world? What did people think about Suicide or Schizophrenia? How did the philosophies of Epicurus or Hippocrates help? And what can this teach us about Mental Illness today?

Michael Fontaine, Professor and Associate Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education, The Department of Classics, Cornell University, New York treats us to a new perspective on the extremes of the human condition.

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Here are some links to references mentioned on the podcast:

1. The paper Michael gave at the American Psychiatric Association about Thomas Szasz and Epicurus (on mental illness):
2. A long review essay on “Mental Disorders in the Classical World.” (It’s all about classics, and a good overview to how Michael approaches mental illness):
3. 2013. ‘On Being Sane in an Insane Place—The Rosenhan Experiment in the Laboratory of Plautus’ Epidamnus,’ Current Psychology 32, 348-365. – This paper is about Plautus’ Menaechmi (the twins separated at birth).
4. 2017. ‘Schizophrenia, then and now:  The Libation Bearers of Aeschylus,’ in J.A. Schaler, H.Z. Lothane, and R.E. Vatz, eds., Thomas S. Szasz: The Man and his Ideas. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, New Jersey, pp. 169-193. – This was summarized in the podcast.
5. The world’s first Lobotomy:
6. You can get Michael’s latest books, How to Drink: A Classical Guide to the Art of Imbibing here:
as well as The Pig War

***Update from Michael: Also, since we did our podcast, a bombshell of a book came out that casts doubt on some of what I say about the modern experiment in article #3 down below. You can read my review of it in Psychology Today here:

***The interview initially took place in August 2019.

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Scott McLain and Laurence Simon on Thomas Szasz

Scott is a graduate of the University of Michigan, a musician and living in Spain as an educator. We will discuss our mutual interest in Szasz’s ideas and how we both became convinced that the ideology of psychiatry is based on an unscientific, illogical and toxic set of ideas in which a moral judgment poses as a medical diagnosis. 

‘Joker’: una interpretación szasziana

Szasz, Thomas. 1974. “The Myth of Mental Illness, rev. ed. New York, Harper and Row

Simon, Laurence 2019 “Psycho”therapy” and the Stories We LIve By

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David Ramsay Steele and Tom Woods Discuss Thomas Szasz

David Ramsay Steele discusses the phenomenon of fascism, what it really was, and what’s wrong with using it as a generic term of abuse. Plus: vegetarianism and animal welfare, Thomas Szasz, and why economic growth doesn’t have to mean the consumption of more and more resources.

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Laura Delano: Connecting People Through the Inner Compass Initiative

This week, we interview Laura Delano. Laura is Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Inner Compass Initiative and The Withdrawal Project, which aim to create safe spaces for people to connect and the opportunity to learn about and be guided through the process of getting beyond the mental health system and off psychiatric drugs. 

The passion she feels for the mission and vision of ICI arises from the fourteen years she spent lost in the mental health system and the journey that she’s been on since 2010, when she chose to leave behind a “mentally ill” identity and the various treatments that came with it, and gradually began to rediscover and reconnect with who she really was and what it means to suffer, struggle, and be human in this world. 

Since becoming an “ex-patient,” Laura has been writing and speaking about her personal experiences and about the broader social and political issues sitting at the heart of “mental illness” and “mental health.” Since 2011, she has worked both within and beyond the mental health system.

In the Boston area, she worked for nearly two years for a large community mental health organization, providing support to and advocating for the rights of individuals in emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, and institutional “group home” settings. After leaving the “inside” of the mental health system, she began consulting with individuals and families seeking help during the psychiatric drug withdrawal process. Laura has also given talks and workshops in Europe and across North America, facilitated mutual-aid groups for people in withdrawal, and organized various conferences and public events such as the Mad in America International Film Festival.

In this interview, we got time to talk about Laura’s personal experiences of the mental health system and what led her to co-found the Inner Compass Initiative and The Withdrawal Project.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Laura’s experiences as a patient in the mental health system, starting treatment at age thirteen and leaving the system behind at age 27.
  • How she spent much of that time as a compliant patient, taking the medications and following the advice of her doctors.
  • That, by 2010, she was on 5 medications (Lithium, Abilify, Lamictal, Effexor and Ativan) and had spent the last decade becoming worse and unable to properly engage with life.
  • How she came to read Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker and that it was a profound moment of realisation.
  • That Laura decided to take control of her life and became determined to get off the drugs as quickly as possible.
  • How traumatic it was to come to the realisation that almost everything she had been told during treatment was overly simplistic or incorrect.
  • That Laura did experience feelings of being a victim of psychiatry but realised that this increased her emotional dependency on psychiatry and that it was necessary to move beyond that to feel free.
  • That these experiences made Laura passionate about her own process of healing and rediscovering herself and helping others to find their way back to themselves after being psychiatrized.
  • That as she healed she moved into a space of acceptance and gratitude and felt that the period around three years off the drugs was when she came to feel really alive and motivated again.
  • That Laura feels that if we are going to move beyond the mental health system, it is about helping people to realise they don’t need the mainstream system and point them to alternatives at a local level and creating physical spaces where people can come together.
  • How Laura came to co-found The Inner Compass Initiative and The Withdrawal Project which aim to create safe spaces for people to connect and the opportunity to learn about and be guided through the process of getting beyond the mental health system and off psychiatric drugs.
  • That The Withdrawal Project was highlighted in a recent New York Times article discussing antidepressant withdrawal.
  • How ICI and TWP present information on many aspects of psychiatric drugs and withdrawal to help guide and inform people who do want to start the journey off their psychiatric drugs and away from the mental health system.
  • That TWP connect is a free peer-to-peer networking platform that allows people to connect one on one with others who have similar experiences.
  • How a similar peer-to-peer system is available on ICI to enable conversations about moving beyond the mental health system.
  • That Laura wants to encourage people not to give up because we do heal from psychiatric drugs and that we need to spread that message far and wide.
  • The need to both learn and unlearn when approaching how we take back our power and control of our lives after psychiatric treatment.
  • How important it is to properly prepare before starting to taper from psychiatric drugs and how the Withdrawal Project can enable that preparation.
  • The ‘speed paradox’ when coming off psychiatric drugs.
  • How people can find out more about The Inner Compass Initiative and The Withdrawal Project.
  • That Laura is keen to support local community initiatives to get underway.

Relevant links:

The Inner Compass Initiative

The Withdrawal Project

TWP Connect

Learn about psychiatric drug withdrawal

Inner Compass Initiative’s The Withdrawal Project Gets Mention in The New York Times—Is the Tide Finally Turning?

The New York Times – Many People Taking Antidepressants Discover They Cannot Quit

Read more about Laura’s journey into and out of the mental health system

Laura’s presentation in Alaska, 2015

Anatomy of an epidemic by Robert Whitaker

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Myths of the Addiction Industry

Steven Slate, who once struggled with drug use himself, joins me to talk about whether what we think we know about addiction is really true. Is addiction a “disease”? Is “treatment” the only way to deal with it? Are people who believe that don’t need treatment “in denial”? Is moderate consumption always off limits for people who have had problems?


The State of Logic podcast, featuring libertarian Kevin Van Eekeren, looks at business, politics, current events, and more via a mix of serious critical thinking and laugh-out-loud conversations. Check it out at

Book Discussed

The Freedom Model for Addictions: Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap

Guest’s Blog

Guest’s Website

Guest’s Twitter


Related Episodes

Ep. 909 What the War on Drugs Really Looks Like, Minus the Propaganda (Johann Hari)
Ep. 342 The Truth About the Rehab Industry and 12-Step (Lance Dodes)

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