Citizens Committee on Human Rights

The Mental Health Watchdog

Australian National Office

Dr Thomas Szasz Quotes on Child Psychiatry

Labeling a child as mentally ill is stigmatization, not diagnosis. Giving a child a psychiatric drug is poisoning, not treatment.

I have long maintained that the child psychiatrist is one of the most dangerous enemies not only of children, but also of adults who care for the two most precious and most vulnerable things in life—children and liberty.

Child psychologists and psychiatrists “rob the child of his most important possession, himself….

How can parents protect their children from the therapeutic state, that is, from the alliance of government and psychiatry? They can do so only by disabusing themselves of the idea that what ails an unhappy or misbehaving child is a mental illness, and that so-called psychiatric treatment can help him.

The empire of child psychiatry was erected on a moral fault line, namely, the assumption that ‘juvenile delinquency’ is a disease that the child psychiatrist is especially qualified to diagnose and treat. But delinquency is not a disease, like diabetes. It is not even a disposition, like compulsivity. It is simply an…incapacitating status ascribed to a misbehaving minor.

The conventional definition of child psychiatry is that it is a medical specialty devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illnesses that afflict children. From a sociological point of view, child psychiatry is a secular institution for regulating domestic relations. From my point of view, it is a form of child abuse.

Like fast-food chains, child psychiatric inpatient units and the wholesale psychiatric drugging of children, in and out of hospitals, are recent…and remarkably popular products and practices.

The systematic confinement of children in psychiatric institutions devoted specifically to housing them began during the 1950s, and became a large scale phenomena only in the 1970s. Today, hundreds of thousands of children are imprisoned in psychiatric hospitals, most of them, even to psychiatric authorities, unnecessarily.

Because the mental diseases that supposedly afflict children are undeniably misbehaviors, and because the child mental patient is in an even more helpless position than the adult mental patient, child psychiatry is a doubly problematic enterprise.

Child psychology and child psychiatry cannot be reformed. They must be abolished.

In social terms, it gives the impression to people that behavioral problems are medical and should be handled with drugs; it imposes a certain stigma on the child, possibly on the family. It medicalizes educational and child-rearing problems, and it may cause biological problems in the person taking the drug. I don’t know if the average person on Main Street realizes that if a 30-year-old man has a pocketful of Ritalin, he can go to jail for years. This is called ‘speed.’ And this is what they give as a treatment to schoolchildren when there’s absolutely no laboratory or medical evidence that they are sick.

No one explains where this disease [ADHD] came from, why it didn’t exist 50 years ago. No one is able to diagnose it with objective tests. It’s diagnosed by a teacher complaining or a parent complaining. People are referring to the fact that they don’t like misbehaving children, mainly boys, in the schools. The diagnosis helps tranquilize the parent, tranquilize the school system. It offers them the sense that they are doing something about the problem, that they are dealing with it in a rational, scientific way. It’s a kind of pharmacological magic.