In a review of Desperate Remedies: Psychiatry’s Turbulent Quest to Cure Mental Illness by Andrew Scull, a Cornell prof gives his reasons for wondering:
Scull’s book is a must-read for those who have been – or fear they will be – touched by mental illness. The rise of psychiatry, he reminds us, was linked to the emergence of asylums based on the premise that a carefully calibrated regimen could restore lunatics to sanity. By the end of the 19th century, however, therapeutically inclined institutions had become “mausoleums with a mad, captive population.”
Psychiatrists then reinvented themselves as “bio-psychologists.” Deploying an array of treatments for what had been deemed intractable diseases over the objections of family members, they claimed substantial success rates. Convinced that sepsis acting on brain cells caused psychosis, Henry Cotton removed the teeth and tonsils of asylum inmates. The insulin coma therapy of Manfred Sakel, “the Pasteur of Psychiatry,” was hailed as a treatment for schizophrenia. In 1927, Julius Wagner-Jauregg won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for inoculating syphilis patients with malaria. In 1949, Egas Moniz, the pioneer of frontal lobotomies, became psychiatry’s second Nobel Laureate.Glenn C. Altschuler, “Is Psychiatry Facing an Existential Crisis?” at Psychology Today (April 20, 2022)
We didn’t know this. And the rest is worth a read too.