April and May 2013 New Yorker has two well-written articles regarding the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

The May 16, 2013 New Yorker addresses the topic of how mental illness is defined in a well written article which begins with the following sentence:

“When Thomas Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, came out swinging with his critiques of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a couple of weeks ago, longtime critics of psychiatry were shocked and gratified.”

Further into the article one reads: “Looking for the neurochemistry of mental disorders that don’t necessarily exist has turned out to be as futile as using a map of the moon to get around Manhattan.”

An April 9, 2013 New Yorker article similarly addresses the topic of how mental illness is defined.

The above-noted reference is from an earlier blog post regarding Erving Goffman and his contribution to sociological research.

The discussion is also of relevance with regard to the Lakeshore Hospital Grounds and the Lakeshore Psychiatric Cemetery.

Also of interest is a May 21, 2013 Toronto Star article: “World Health Assembly: putting mental health on the agenda” – as is a May 2013 Walrus article offering an international perspective on definitions of mental illness.

CBC Ideas series on mental health topics

From time to time, over the years, I’ve found it enjoyable to listen to the Ideas program on CBC Radio. More often, I listen to The Current. Podcasts of previous shows are readily available online.

For your interest, here’s an excerpt from an upcoming August 2013 schedule of Ideas broadcasts:

Monday, August 19

Depression. It has been called the mean reds. The blue devils. The black dog. And through history, treatments for depression have varied wildly. In the Middle Ages, depressives were caged in asylums. In Victorian England, wealthier patients were sent to seaside resorts for a change of air. In 1938, electroshock therapy was used. No wonder then, when the Age of the Antidepressant arrived, it was considered a triumph for psychiatry. Prozac came onto the market in 1987, followed quickly by many similar drugs. And since then, the number of people afflicted with depression has soared. However, in recent years, the antidepressant has come under siege. It is ineffective, even dangerous, some psychiatrists and patients now say, claiming it is not the panacea we thought it would be. In this 3 part program, Rethinking Depression, IDEAS producer Mary O’Connell explores the short and troubling history of the antidepressant.

Tuesday, August 20

Over the years, the descriptions have varied: melancholia, the Black Dog, down in the dumps. The term most used today is “depression”. The World Health Organization says depression is set to become second only to heart disease as the world’s leading disability by the year 2020. An alarming conclusion when you consider the history. One hundred years ago depression was thought to be extremely rare, with 1% of the population suffering. Today it’s often called the common cold of mental illness. But just how effective are antidepressants in treating depression?

Wednesday, August 21

The World Health Organization says depression is set to become second only to heart disease as the world’s leading disability by the year 2020. More recent research over the past decade tells us that antidepressants do not work very well, if at all, for mild or moderate depression. And in severe depression, antidepressants only work in a small number of cases. So how can those who suffer from depression receive effective treatment and even possibly recover? In the third hour of Rethinking Depression, IDEAS producer Mary O’Connell brings us the stories of the depressed who are on the path to wellness and the methods that can be used to get them there.

[End of text from schedule. I have the sense that the format for the show has remained pretty much the same for several decades.]


A July/August 2017 Atlantic article, which I learned about through a July 1, 2017 CBC “Second Opinion” article, is entitled: “The Smartphone Psychiatrist: Frustrated by the failures in his field, Tom Insel, a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, is now trying to reduce the world’s anguish through the devices in people’s pockets.”


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