Protesters say psychiatrists over-label and over-medicate

    Several thousand psychiatrists are in Philadelphia for their annual convention – and some mental health advocates are expressing their opposition to what they see as overdiagnosing and over-medicating of people with mental illnesses.

    About 200 protesters gathered in Center City yesterday, May 5th, and marched to the convention center. Their signs read “label jars, not people” and “don’t medicalize emotions.” Participants voiced their concerns with the next edition of the influential diagnostic and statistical manual, the DSM – often referred to as the bible of psychiatry. The DSM plays a big role in this year’s American Psychiatric Association conference.

    Joseph Rogers of the Mental Health Association of South-Eastern Pennsylvania says he has participated in work groups for the next edition of the DSM – due out next year – but didn’t feel like his opinion was heard: “The fundamental nature of psychiatry is such that’s so eager to label, so eager to see people as diseased brains, that I don’t know that we have made much progress.”

    His colleague Debbie Plotnick said psychiatric labels can have a life-long impact: “Sometimes when people are handed a label when they are young, like schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder, they are told they will never be able to work, they will never have a life, they will never be able to go to school, this kind of label is very detrimental.”

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    Philadelphian Barbara Granger came to the protest march to express her concerns about overmedication of people: “It’s not just chemicals, they are working with human beings.”

    APA president and psychiatrist John Oldham said his professional organization has no interest in diagnosing people with illnesses they don’t have. He added that the next edition of the DSM will contain fewer different diagnoses than the last edition.

    During an event today, May 6th, mental health advocates will discuss changing the mental health system. This event takes place at the Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany on 13th Street, from 2 – 5 PM.

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