CCHR Co-Founder

Dr. Thomas Szasz was Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus at the State University of New York Health Science Center, Adjunct Scholar at the Cato Institute and a Lifetime Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

szaszpicHe was perhaps the world’s leading social critic of the moral and scientific foundations of psychiatry, having authored more than 35 books on the subject, starting with The Myth of Mental Illness, a book which rocked the world of psychiatry upon its release more than 50 years ago.

Szasz would later state, “My great, unforgivable sin in The Myth of Mental Illness was calling public attention to the linguistic pretensions of psychiatry and its preemptive rhetoric. Who can be against ‘helping suffering patients’ or ‘treating treatable diseases’? Who can be for ‘ignoring sick people’ or, worse, ‘refusing patients life-saving treatment’? Rejecting that jargon, I insisted that mental hospitals are like prisons not hospitals, that involuntary mental hospitalisation is a type of imprisonment not medical care, and that coercive psychiatrists function as judges and jailers not physicians and healers, and suggested that we view and understand ‘mental illnesses’ and psychiatric responses to them as matters of law and rhetoric, not matters of medicine or science.”

Szasz authored more than 35 books exposing the psychiatric profession, and its complete lack of moral and scientific foundations including the Manufacture of Madness and The Therapeutic State. Leaders in medicine, law, and the social sciences regard his works among the most influential in the 20th and 21st centuries. His work continues to have a profound impact on how we view disease, behaviour, liberty, justice and responsibility. According to The Journal of Psychiatry & Law, Szasz “has had more impact on the actual practice of psychiatry in this country than anyone since Freud.”

In 1969, Dr. Szasz co-founded the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), and has said of the organisation, “We should all honour CCHR because it is really the only organisation that for the first time in human history has organised a politically, socially, internationally significant voice to combat psychiatry. This has never been done in human history before.”

Of his association with CCHR, Szasz said, “I got affiliated with an organisation long after I was established as a critic of psychiatry, called Citizens Commission for Human Rights, because they were then the only organisation and they still are the only organisation who were active in trying to free mental patients who were incarcerated in mental hospitals with whom there was nothing wrong, who had committed no crimes, who wanted to get out of the hospital. And that to me was a very worthwhile cause; it’s still a very worthwhile cause. I no more believe in their religion or their beliefs than I believe in the beliefs of any other religion. I am an atheist.”

When asked by a reporter, “How do you work therapeutically then with your clients?” Szasz responded, “Somebody would call me and say I have a problem, and I would talk on the phone before making an appointment. What is your problem? And they would tell me whatever it is—they want to get married, they want to get divorced, you know, the usual problems of life. I would say okay, we’ll make an appointment. And I would ask the person, how can I help you? Then we’d have a discussion. It used to be called counselling, I mean what did people go to ministers and rabbis for thousands of years—to talk about their lives.”

Dr. Thomas Szasz A.B., M.D., D.Sc. (Hon.), L.H.D. (Hon.)*

*A.B.: Bachelor of Arts; M.D.: Medical Doctor; D.Sc. (Hon.): Honorary Doctor of Science; L.H.D. (Hon.): Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in recognition of achievements in the humanities

Thomas Szasz Accolades

“Arguably, Szasz has had more impact on the actual practice of psychiatry in this country than anyone since Freud.”

— The Journal of Psychiatry & Law

“No one attacks loose-thinking and folly with half the precision and zest of Thomas Szasz.”

— John Leo, social science editor for U.S. News & World Report

“Szasz is a brilliant debater…. He can turn a topic as somber as insanity and its social context into a book that is extraordinarily entertaining.”

— The New York Times Book Review

“Stripping away centuries of self-serving propaganda written by psychiatry’s acolytes, Dr. Thomas Szasz gives us a radically new look at the history of the world’s most dangerous political religions. From the eighteenth century’s ‘trade in lunacy’ to the nineteenth century’s ‘insane asylums’ to the twentieth century’s ‘snake pits’ to the twenty-first century’s ‘outpatient commitment,’ Szasz gives us a radically different perspective on the major episodes in the history of psychiatry.”

— Keith Hoeller, editor of Review of Existential Psychology & Psychiatry

“Dr. Szasz makes a real contribution by alerting us to the abuses—existing and potential—of human rights inherent in enlightened mental health programs and procedures. He points out, with telling examples, shortcomings in commitment procedures, inadequacies in the protections afforded patients in mental institutions and the dangers of over-reliance on psychiatric expert opinion by judges and juries.”

— Arthur J. Goldberg, Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

“Bit by ‘barbarous and bizarre’ bit, Thomas Szasz dismantles psychiatry’s rickety scaffolding, exposing over two centuries of physical torture and tortured logic. Professor Szasz takes the necessary analytical and empirical solvents to this state-empowered fraternity of sorcerers. He also supplies the only salve for the psychiatric violence he correctly dubs ‘psychiatric slavery’: abolition: Now, ‘Let the sunshine in.’”

— Ilana Mercer, libertarian columnist and writer,

“Throughout his distinguished career…Thomas S. Szasz has steadfastly defended the values of humanism and personal autonomy against all who would constrain human freedom with shackles formed out of conceptual confusion, error, and willful deception.”

— Dr. Richard E. Vatz, Professor, Towson State University, and Lee S. Weinberg, Professor of Legal Studies, University of Pittsburgh

“Tom Szasz is one of the most compassionate and loving persons I have ever known, and I have known and know many great and good people in my life. I say this because many people have been so critical of him throughout his professional career. That is the price he must pay for the work he has done. It takes a brave person to withstand such criticism…. Here is a man who has demonstrated uncompromising commitment to family, honesty, truth, and liberty throughout his life.”

— Jeffrey A. Schaler, Department of Justice, Law and Society American University School of Public Affairs

“Thomas Szasz remains unique among contemporary observers of the social, ethical, and political implications of psychiatry: every argument he makes, and each word he chooses, are deserving of our closest attention.”

— Paul Roazen, author of Encountering Freud

“It is no exaggeration to state that Szasz’s work raises major social issues which deserve the attention of policy-makers and indeed of all informed and socially conscious Americans…. Quite probably he has done more than any other man to alert the American public to the potential dangers of an excessively psychiatrized society.”

— Edwin M. Schur, The Atlantic

“Thomas Szasz…has been one of the few writers who have helped keep me sane in this insane business.”

— Dr. David Stein, Professor of Psychology and Criminal Justice, Virginia State University

“Szasz helps people recognize how many issues portrayed solely as questions of mental health are actually questions of liberty. He has helped open the eyes of generations of Americans to the fact that merely wearing a white coat doesn’t make a person trustworthy enough to shackle other people.”

— James Bovard, best-selling author and lecturer

“For decades, Thomas Szasz has publicly challenged the excesses that obscure reason. The Medicalization of Everyday Life offers a no-nonsense perspective on prevailing dogma. It is only through clear vision that intelligent choices can be made. Required reading for all professionals in health care fields, and all those who are subject to their unwitting prejudices.”

— Jeffrey K. Zeig, Ph.D., Director, The Milton Erickson Foundation

“Thomas Szasz is the preeminent critic of psychiatry in the world.”

— Dr. Richard E. Vatz, Professor, Towson State University

“Every defender of the therapeutic state should be strapped down and made to answer the questions Dr. Szasz poses about the psychiatric industry’s mission creep.”

— Mike Hume, columnist, The London Times