"What makes and creates mental illness is the very system designed to help it."

Professor Yvonne McEwan
Fife University, Scotland


Mental health advisors have predicted that as many as 30% of people affected by the recent attacks will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).40 Is this just more rattling of the mental health money tin?

PTSD emerged in the aftermath of the Vietnam War when veterans were having difficulties overcoming the brutal events they had participated in and, unlike previous wars, returned home not to the glory of marching bands and public cheers, but to criticism and official cover-up of the Vietnam horrors.41

In all wars, soldiers have suffered emotional and spiritual trauma, quite aside from physical injuries. Uncontrollable fear often rendered soldiers unfit to fight. This has been known variously as nostalgia (Civil War), shell shock (WWI), battle fatigue (WWII), brainwashing (Korean War), post-traumatic stress disorder (Vietnam War) and Gulf-War syndrome (Gulf War).42

Professors Herb Kutchins and Stuart A. Kirk, authors of Making Us Crazy, tell us that most of the soldiers suffered the effects of participating in "atrocities, seeing grotesquely mutilated bodies, or going on particularly dangerous missions." Those who suffered the mental effects of this were experiencing battle fatigue, or in other words, exhaustion. But as Kutchins and Kirk state, "…military psychiatrists, far from identifying battle fatigue as early warning, were involved in the exact opposite strategy; namely, minimizing the seriousness of the complaints and pushing soldiers back into combat as quickly as possible."43

Three American psychiatrists, Robert Jay Lifton, Chaim Shatan and John Talbott (later to become a president of the American Psychiatric Association [APA]), coined the term post-traumatic stress disorder and lobbied for its inclusion in the 1980 edition of the APA's "billing bible," The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).44


Today, PTSD has become "stretched and blurred," says Tana Dineen, Ph.D., author of Manufacturing Victims.45 It can be applied to "psychiatrists in training, those exposed to toxic substances, potential aids patients, and those who have survived a heart attack…the application of PTSD has resulted in everything being pathologized until the only way to be is to be 'abnormal,'" she says.46

Kirk and Kutchins state, "PTSD has become a catchall category used to identify an increasingly wide pool of problems that originate in traumatic life events and are not attributable to preexisting…malfunctions."47

Even psychiatrists and psychologists have used PTSD as a defense for sexually abusing their patients and committing health care fraud.

Ottawa, Canadian psychiatrist Gerasimos Kambites had his license suspended for six months in 2000 for inappropriate sexual relations with two female patients. In 1999 he had been reprimanded and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, after pleading guilty to defrauding the government insurance company of $14,048. Kambites claimed his actions related to PTSD brought on by having been imprisoned, tortured and expelled from Uganda in 1988, even though he'd been well enough to later go on and get his qualifications as a psychiatrist in 1993.48

Today, the DSM is commonly considered a checklist of behaviors and symptoms, which is not founded in medicine or science. Indeed, according to an international poll of mental health experts conducted in England in 2001, the DSM-IV (fourth edition) was voted one of the 10 worst psychiatric papers of the millennium. It was criticized for reducing psychiatry to a checklist. "If you are not in the DSM-IV, you are not ill. It has become a monster, out of control."

In the third revision of DSM in 1987, there were 11 changes made to the definition of PTSD, a further 15 changes in the fourth edition in 1994.49

With the DSM-IV today, there are 175 combinations of symptoms by which PTSD can be diagnosed.50 The manual claims that the diagnosis of PTSD "can only be made four or more weeks after the initial trauma." Another disorder, "Acute Stress Disorder," was adopted to describe the first four weeks following a traumatic event.51 Yet hardly, a week had gone by following the terrorist attacks on America before we began hearing psychiatry's PTSD pitch.

Kutchins and Kirk summarize PTSD: It "has become the label for identifying the impact of adverse events on ordinary people. This means that normal responses to catastrophic events have often been interpreted as mental disorders."52

"…the APA and its minions will not even acknowledge that they are creating public policy. As they explain it, they are simply making diagnoses (and in the process making many more of us crazy)," they state.53

Dr. Dineen sums up psychological grief counseling for trauma or PTSD this way: "While trauma counseling may sound wholesome and benevolent, most people are probably better off finding their own ways of coping, be it prayer, love of family or a strong-willed refusal to be a victim. In fact, it's quite likely that some of the very people these counselors are trying to help actually learn to view themselves as long-term victims of psychological trauma."54

For a more complete account of the mental health industry's long history of failures and abuses, see Psychiatry: A Human Rights Abuse and Global Failure at