Coercion in psychiatry stems from the historic inequality
between the psychiatrist and the person who is designated
as the “patient,” even though he/she may not have chosen this
role, and may not see him/herself as needing psychiatric attention.
The psychiatrist has the power to define an individual as
mentally ill, and then to confine and treat the person based
on that definition. The user/survivor movement sprang from
the desire of those coerced by psychiatry to escape the patient
role, and to redefine their experiences in ways that are personally
meaningful. Psychiatry’s medical model explanation of the
users’ experiences is often an obstacle to such understanding.
The user/survivor analysis of the power relationship brings
into question everything about how psychiatry is conceptualized
and practiced. In this presentation, the voice will be those
of the users, and a historical approach will highlight the
analogies between psychiatry and other forms of oppression,
particularly those that claim to be “for their own good.”
Only when the users have equal rights, and can choose or reject
psychiatric involvement in their lives, can psychiatry become
an honest and ethical enterprise.
Keynote speech from June 7, 2007, at the congress "Coercive
Treatment in Psychiatry: A Comprehensive Review", run by the
World Psychiatric Association in Dresden, Germany, June 6-8, 2007