14 July 2009

Radioland Visits Broadmoor

I am a regular listener to This American Life on the public radio here in the US. Their last show, titled Pro Se after the legal term for representing oneself in court, really caught my attention. The first long story in it is about a man, here given the pseudonym Tony, who faked mental illness to avoid prison for committing grievous bodily harm. He ended up in one of the highest security units at Broadmoor and has been there for twelve years.

The story goes into detail about the difficulty of shaking a psychiatric diagnosis, especially within the context of a psychiatric hospital. There was a well known study done about the 'stickiness' of psychiatric diagnoses back in the 70's; I can't remember who just now but there is a copy of it somewhere in my research folder and I will find it. The story also includes something new to me - perhaps I've been under a rock and this isn't news to anyone else - which is the Scientologists' campaign against psychiatry. Now that I know about it, I wonder whether that might be behind some of the comments I've seen.

Anyhow, I can't write a proper post about this just now because I am off to my parents' today and I won't have the necessary books with me to write what I want to about it. The reason I have gone ahead and put this up is that This American Life will let you download their shows for free for one week so I thought I'd give anyone interested the chance to do so. If you're reading this after Saturday, you can always listen to any of their shows for free by streaming.

"Brian says Tony's story demonstrates that no two psychiatrists can agree on anything and they basically just make it up as they go along. I think his story demonstrates that it is a huge mistake to screw with psychiatrists and you should be careful not to tell people you're crazy, because you might turn out to be way too convincing about it."

Tony's story is told by Jon Ronson.

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