Speech by Dr. Thomas Stephen Szasz against psychiatric coercion | Joachim De Zutter
(Dr. Thomas Stephen Szasz was a Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the State University of New York, Syracuse)

When the school authorities tell a mother that her son is sick and needs to be on drugs, how in the world is she to know that, that is simply a lie ? How is she to know that what we now call attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is simply not a disease ?

Now such a mother is not an expert in the history of psychiatry. She does not know that psychiatrists have, for hundreds of years, used diagnostic terms, so-called diagnostic terms, to stigmatize and control people.

I will give you a few dramatic examples. When black slaves in the South ran away to freedom it wasn't that they wanted to be free; they suffered from a disease called drapetomania, from drapetes, runaway slave, and mania. I'm not making this up. This was a legitimate diagnosis, just like attention deficit disorder is. Women, half of the population of mankind, of course, if they were foolish enough to rebel against domination by man, well, then they had a serious disease, called hysteria, which was due to their wandering womb.

Now none of those behaviors was ever a disease and of course, is not a disease. Nor is attention deficit disorder a disease. No behavior or misbehavior is a disease or can be a disease. That's not what diseases are. So it doesn't matter how a child behaves. There is nothing to examine. If he is sick, then there must be some objective science to it, which can be diagnosed by physicians and objective tests. That's why as soon as you go to a doctor, they take a lot of blood and take X-rays. They don't want to hear how you behave.

When I went to medical school, sixty years ago, there were only a handful of mental diseases. I think there were no more than six or seven. Now there are more than 300. And new ones are "discovered" every day.

Labeling a child as mentally ill is stigmatization, not diagnosis. Giving a child a psychiatric drug is poisoning, not treatment. Diseases are a malfunction of the human body, of the heart, the liver, the kidney, the brain and so forth.

Typhoid fever is a disease. You all know that, you don't question that. Spring fever - all you have to know is English - is not a disease.

The task we set ourselves, to combat psychiatric coercion, is important. I think it's important, you all think it's important. Not enough people think it's important. It's a noble task in the pursuit of which we must, regardless of obstacles, persevere. Our conscience commands that we do no less.