I have been researching theories of schizophrenia—and about the rights of schizophrenics—for many years. Initially I undertook the research for a PhD thesis on controversies over the cause of schizophrenia. Later, it was to write this book, which is largely derived from the doctoral research.
Most books on schizophrenia are written by people who have had some kind of direct involvement with the condition as therapists, carers, or victims. At the professional level, these books range from the party line of mainstream psychiatry to the cry-in-the-dark of dissident psychiatrists who know that something is wrong with the attitudes of their mainstream colleagues, but can’t say what it is. At the personal level, these books include first-hand accounts of the tribulations of caring for a child with schizophrenia, and descriptions of what it is like to be branded a schizophrenic, and to suffer the torment of living with drug treatment. All of these types of book are necessarily limited to the personal experience of the author. However, I am not a psychiatrist, or a sufferer of schizophrenia; nor am I a parent of a schizophrenic child. This book has been written from a perspective that is quite different from the usual books on schizophrenia.
My academic training is as an analyst of science and medicine. I come from that school of thought which looks upon scientific ‘truths’ as knowledge that has been constructed through social negotiation, like any other kind of knowledge. This background has given me the tools to deconstruct psychiatric claims and to take an entirely fresh look at medical notions about the nature of schizophrenia.
But it was not academic work that first interested me in psychiatry and schizophrenia. I have come to academic research relatively late in life. Most of my adult life has been spent as a wanderer, and much of my knowledge about the problems of schizophrenics comes from a passage through the school of hard knocks. My dedication to human rights was cultivated by a long sojourn as a draft dodger and peace activist, and I have had abundant personal experience of social alienation and ostracism as a result of being, at different times, an unemployed person and an environmental activist. I have travelled extensively and worked in various occupations. I have also lived for an extended period in a community in which mystical practices were taught.Throughout my years on the social margins, schizophrenia was a frequent topic of conversation amongst people I encountered. So was the threat of forced psychiatry. Being labelled with schizophrenia is considered something of an occupational hazard for people who march to the beat of a different drum, and my sincere hope is that this book might play some small part in reducing that risk.