The Critical Psychiatry Network always surprises me for the firepower it has, and yet how it always seems to be in curmudgeonly despair about the state of mental health services, and the way the world has inevitably made it like that. And this conference did much the same – an extremely lucid and persuasive set of arguments from five speakers all of whom came from different angles on the same central proposition: we’re going to hell in a handcart. And the only thing we can do about it is to argue p-values, point out loopholes in pharmaceutical regulation, or bask in the comfort of seeing how Foucault said it all years ago. No, I’m sorry, that’s a cheap jibe – these were serious academic contributions to a major modern critique of our current system.
Maybe what I’m fed up with is how little impact ‘serious academic contributions’ have in the world’s current – deplorable and frightening – state of epistemology and ontology. I read about it from ‘real intellectuals’ in the London Review of Books, I hear it from our group members’ fight to have their profound disabilities recognised by the ‘welfare state’, I learn all about it from my wife in how her job, managing the operating theatres in a large teaching hospital trust, attempts at humanity are constantly undermined by ‘the machine’, I see it in the mechanistic way young doctors are now taught their skills and knowledge, and I feel it impinging everywhere around us. And others describe far better than I how the two major political events of the west, in 2016, are now playing it out…
But here’s a quick roundup of what I was excited by at the annual gathering of the Critical Psychiatry Network: