In his New York Times op-ed entitled “Our Failed Approach to Schizophrenia“ Paul Steinberg, a psychiatrist in private practice, proposes we all go back to the “golden age” of psychiatry, when patients spent years in institutions and were treated with a mixture of vastly experimental medication and supposedly therapeutic heaps of unbelievable abuse. You know, the age of cold packs, lobotomies, electroshock therapy without anesthetic, insulin shock therapy, and the systematic violation of their dignity as human beings. We have a great many narratives from those times and know that the patients were nothing but barely-human, barely-sentient beasts to the doctors and the nurses who cared for them. You have read The Snake Pit, The Bell Jar, and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. They were written by “schizophrenics” who managed to get away and get on with their lives. If you haven’t, you should read Janet Frame’s Faces in the Water. The world-renowned New Zealand author, who died in 2004, was saved from receiving a lobotomy by a newspaper clip. On the day of her scheduled surgery the operating doctor read that his patient had just received a coveted literary prize for a collection of short stories the poor woman, who had been in the hospital for years and had received multiple ECT and insulin shock applications, had all but forgotten having written.
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