Announcing The World’s First Anti-Psychiatry Scholarship

According to a recent article in NOW Toronto magazine, the world’s first anti-psychiatry scholarship has been officially established at The University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute of Education. The Bonnie Burstow Scholarship in Anti-psychiatry is aimed at students of education who believe psychiatric drugs and treatments are more harmful than helpful.scholarship

The scholarship is named for Bonnie Burstow, a trauma specialist and critic of psychiatry, who will matchdonations to the scholarship fund with up to $50,000 out of her own pocket. An associate professor in the Ontario Institute of Education’s Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, Burstow is of the belief that there is no proven biological basis for mental illness, and that psychiatric methods and the institutions that support them violate human rights.

Burstow is the author of Psychiatry and the Business of Madness, a fundamental critique of psychiatry that examines the foundations of psychiatry, refutes its basic tenets, and traces the workings of the industry through medical research and in-depth interviews. The book calls for a dismantling of the field the way it is currently practiced.

Burstow has many fundamental reasons for her beliefs, her publications and for her founding of the scholarship. “I’m hoping this scholarship will spur alternative ways of arranging society so that we aren’t inventing diseases or brain-damaging people, and there is a greater acceptance of difference. We need to work out problems together rather than bring in experts. I’m looking for the creation of something far more egalitarian1.”

Burstown runs an anti-psychiatry support group, which is attended by people who often hold anti-racist and feminist viewpoints. She also attracts medical students interested in hearing from an authority who doesn’t subscribe to the psychiatric paradigm. She says, “The long history of psychiatry is the long history of pathologizing2 women. The feminist community has been aware of that for decades. It is also an institution that pathologizes blacks, lesbians and gays.”

20 to 25 students are attracted to Burstow’s course in a given year. While none of the classes have “anti-psychiatry” in the title, the perspective is always incorporated.

Anti-psychiatry may be a niche in the world of academia, but critiques of psychiatry have impacted methods and have certainly shaped public opinion of the field. An outstanding example is Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and its Oscar-winning film adaptation 13 years later, which created an enormous amount of distrust of psychiatry, and specifically electroshock treatments.

The Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights has been exposing psychiatry and its abuses since 1969.

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1egalitarian (adjective) – asserting, resulting from, or characterized by belief in the equality of all people, especially in political, economic, or social life.

2pathologizing (transitive verb) – to view or characterize as medically or psychologically abnormal

 

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