Experts to Discuss Medication and Mental Illness

Posted: October 24, 2006

Two leading British mental heath experts will give a provocative talk titled "Drugging Our Distress: A Broader Look at Medication and Mental Illness" Monday, November 13, at 7:30 pm. The talk will be held in Hooker Auditorium in the Clapp Laboratory and is free, open to the public, and accessible to all.

The event will explore why so many people use psychiatric medication and why the United States is one of only two countries where drug companies advertise directly to consumers. Addressing the issue will be two experts on the industry. Philip Thomas, M.D., professor of philosophy, diversity, and mental health at the University of Central Lancashire, was a psychiatrist for more than 20 years in the British National Health Service and has published more than 100 articles and three books on psychiatry and mental health. Rufus May, a clinical psychologist from Bradford, England, and cochair of Evolving Minds, a public forum on mental health issues, became interested in humane approaches to distressing experiences when he himself was labeled with schizophrenia as an 18-year-old. He has published a dozen articles in scientific and popular journals and has been widely interviewed in the British media.

"Most of what Americans know about psychiatric medication comes from the drug companies, either directly in the form of advertisements or, indirectly, in the form of research funded by the pharmaceutical industry," said Gail A. Hornstein, professor of psychology and coordinator of the November 13 event. "Twenty years from now, we will likely regard this information the way we now regard claims about smoking that come from the tobacco industry. Speakers like Philip Thomas and Rufus May offer an independent perspective that is crucial to our understanding of medication and mental illness."

The event is sponsored by the Purington Fund, the Dean of the College, and the Department of Psychology and Education at Mount Holyoke College, as well as the Freedom Center in Northampton and the Five College Program in Culture, Health, and Science.