From Psychiatric Times/Conversations in Critical Psychiatry: Awais Aftab interviews Lithuanian psychiatrist and human rights advocate Dr. Dainius Pūras, who served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health from 2014 to 2020.
Pūras: “The most worrying feature of psychiatry is that the leadership, under influence of hard-liners, tends to label those experts who blow the whistle and critically address the status quo as anti-psychiatrists. We know from many painful chapters in the history of psychiatry and medicine what happens with discoveries in biomedicine when they are disconnected from values and undermine human rights. They can become dangerous and harmful. And if influential psychiatrists continue to repeat that values are not a priority in mental healthcare, we should not be surprised that global mental health and global psychiatry is facing a crisis, which to a large extent is a moral crisis, or a crisis of values.
. . . during my travels, I met individuals who use or have used mental health services and who shared their personal experience. The most impressive and painful testimonies were the ones I heard from women, and they often had very similar stories, despite being from very different regions. Usually, the story is that the woman is brought by relatives to see a specialist because of some mental health condition, and at some point she starts to realize that she is alone among strangers, and she starts to insist on going home. But then she is told that the decision has been made that she needs inpatient treatment for her mental health issue. And then, after her desperate attempts to disagree, she is subjected to involuntary measures. When subjected to restraints, she feels the same way she felt when she was raped 1 or 5 or 10 years ago. And then some of these women would implore me, please tell the psychiatrists and other staff in psychiatric facilities to stop doing this.
And so, quite often, during numerous meetings with representatives of psychiatry, I would share this story. Reactions were different. Some would take this seriously. But the reaction of many professionals, including academic psychiatrists, was that we should not take what psychiatric patients are saying seriously, and that the intentions of involuntary measures are always good, so it is wrong to see parallels between them and rape. If such a willingness to discount the feelings and testimonies is widespread, I cannot help but think that psychiatry is really in a serious crisis.”