Inhumanity: the real legacy of schizophrenia label

Don Weitz

One way to libel, dehumanize, and sometimes destroy people you don’t like is to label them “schizophrenic,” “psychotic,” or “paranoid.” I should know. In 1951 when I was 20 and locked up for 15 months in McLean Hospital (a notorious psychoprison near Boston affiliated with Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General  Hospital), the shrinks labeled and stigmatized me as “schizophrenic”  while I was struggling with a common identity crisis that neither my  family nor the psychiatrists recognized.

I was very confused, anxious – rebelling against my parents’ middle-class values and against  authority generally, as young people have done and are still doing. I was soon psychiatrized – forcibly drugged, locked up, labeled "schizophrenic". At the time, the psychiatrists never mentioned or acknowledged my diagnosis, Approximately 40 years later, I discovered this fraudulent, unscientific and permanently stigmatizing diagnostic label in my medical records for the first time; it's never been erased.

Psychiatric labels are like Crazy Glue, they stick to you forever.  During this psychiatric imprisonment, psychiatrist Douglass Sharpe prescribed 110 subcoma insulin shock treatments within a 6 week period. I was tortured.  Labeled "schizophrenic", insulin-shocked and lied to, I had no civil and human rights. I was treated  as less than human, like an experimental animal or guinea-pig.

I should have been treated with dignity, respect, and humanity which all of us are entitled to but was not. That's the real meaning and legacy of "schizophrenia".

[The passage above is a revised and edited excerpt from a chapter in the e-book by Don Weitz Rise Up/Fight Back: Selected Writings of an Antipsychiatry Activist].