Louis Menand in the New Yorker on depression and therapy: Mental health as science? Science as science?

In this week’s New Yorker, Louis Menand writes eloquently about depression, psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, and our American culture. Although as a journalist he glosses over a few complex issues, for the most part he presents them with impressive clarity and even a history lesson (re valium in the 1970s and ’80s). Here’s a teaser:

The position behind much of the skepticism about the state of psychiatry is that it’s not really science. “Cultural, political, and economic factors, not scientific progress, underlie the triumph of diagnostic psychiatry and the current ‘scientific’ classification of mental illness entities,” Horwitz complained in an earlier book, “Creating Mental Illness” (2002), and many people echo his charge. But is this in fact the problem? The critics who say that psychiatry is not really science are not anti-science themselves. On the contrary: they hold an exaggerated view of what science, certainly medical science, and especially the science of mental health, can be.

Mental health has come under fire recently, and Menand shows us why — but the conclusion is not as simple as it might seem.

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