Social Psychiatrists as Freedom Fighters!


Psychiatrists can fight for freedom in external society and internally for our minds.




We seem to be in one of our not unusual tests of time about freedom in the United States, freedom lost or found.

Today, former President Trump is supposed to become our first president in history to be arraigned. Then, tomorrow evening begins the annual Jewish holiday of Passover, the story of how the Jewish people long ago escaped from their slavery in Egypt under a Pharaoh. Usually celebrated with a special meal and storytelling in which we empathetically imagine being there; others, especially from other oppressed groups, are often invited to attend and participate.

Freedom fighters are generally thought to be those who put their lives at risk for their country’s freedom. So how can social psychiatrists fit that definition? We cannot, really, in that sense. But we do fight for freedom in external society and, additionally, internally for our minds.

Take all the oppressive forces in society:

-The antis, the isms, and the social phobias, all of which potentially might be considered to be social psychopathologies

-Undue traumas, intergenerational and anew

-Gun violence and mass shootings

-Recalcitrant poverty

-The cultish communications on the internet and elsewhere

-Political extremism and gridlocks

All we can do, and are doing more so recently, to address the adverse social determinants of mental health, should increase social freedom.

Freedom of individual minds is a focus of any psychiatrist and other mental health care professional. Various mental disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorders, schizophrenia, various affective disorders, and dementias, limit freedom of thought. Stigma, secondary trauma, and our epidemic of burnout does put us at risk—a psychological risk.

We in socially oriented psychiatry can do all of this, not with guns and other physical weapons, but with our social psychological relationships, from one on one in therapeutic alliances, to working collegial relationships, and on up to larger group processes in society. These indeed are ethical priorities as described in the American Psychiatric Association Principles of Medical Ethics, with Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry.

Individuals are only free if they are free enough externally and internally. Let’s continue to arm ourselves psychologically to fight for that goal.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

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