Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
The book by Charles Barber titled “Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation” isn’t antipsychiatry. Most of it isn’t about psychiatrists. It’s about the pharmaceutical companies targeting people through television ads to ask their general practitioners for antidepressants. The first half of the book explores how pharmaceutical companies target both the public through direct advertising and use data mining to market antidepressants to doctors. The second half of the book suggests how cognitive behavioral therapy can be more appropriate for the mildly depressed or people without mental illnesses that have trouble with a temporary situation in their lives. Barber, who worked for ten years with homeless people with severe mental illnesses, claims the people who need the most help are getting left behind because they are a much smaller market compared to people who have trouble adjusting to a temporary, but difficult life situation. Therapy can work as well or better for the “worried well” and mildly depressed. He states that psychotropic medication is absolutely necessary for serious mental illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Barber discloses in this NPR interview that he has obsessive compulsive disorder and takes Prozac. It’s been a while since I’ve read this book, but this interview on altertnet.org sums it up nicely.
I really wish that Barber had named his book something else because it’s much more nuanced than the title suggests. I guess he wanted to grab readers’ attention. That’s unfortunate because an interview of him on YouTube gets lumped with antipsychiatry videos.