Psychiatrist Szasz Contends Mental Illness Does not Exist

"Institutional psychiatry should be regarded as a threat to your freedom." Dr. Thomas S. Szasz, a professor of Psychiatry at the State University of New York, told an audience of roughly 200 people last night in a lecture sponsored by the Harvard Libertarian Association (HLA).

Claiming that mental illness does not exist. Szasz said doctors declare people to be mentally ill only on the basis of their own ethical and moral standards.

Szasz condemned the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for refusing to protect the rights of "persons accused of mental illness." Szasz compared commitment to an institution with slavery, and recalled that the ACLU also supported the confinement of Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II.

Szasz voiced his opposition to government intrusion in medicine, saying, "Medicine is a government monopoly. The state can regulate the number of doctors who can practice in that state."

There should be a "free market in drugs and doctors," Szasz added.

Suicide does not show mental imbalance but "is the most elementary of human rights," Szasz said adding, "if you want to hurt yourself, you have that right. I am opposed to all government intrusion in this area."

Peter J. Ferrara '76, a spokesman for the HLA, said last night the association is a student group that believes all individuals have the right to govern their own lives in any way they choose.