The Myth of ‘Critical Psychiatry’

(Submitted as an e-letter responding to Duncan Double’s BJPsych article ‘Twenty Years of the Critical Psychiatry Network‘. The article will not be open-access in the future, so please let me know if this link expires.

the e-letter is lightly edited here [mainly to remove a repeat of ‘but’]. After several weeks it was published.)


Duncan Double tells us that the CPN is an embattled minority trying to push back against the ‘mainstream’ who hold that ‘mental illness is brain disease’, but the only evidence he cites for most ordinary UK psychiatrists holding such views is Sami Timimi’s memoir.

He does not mention that the CPN is officially approved and promoted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ leadership, through the CPD module written by its co-chairs Hugh Middleton and Joanna Moncrieff:

Screenshot_2019-02-04 Critical psychiatry

The reality is that the CPN is very much part of the psychiatry establishment’s failure to address long-term decline in NHS spending on mental health and learning disability services, from around 25% of the total health budget decades ago, to 11% today. The latest ‘Five Year Plan’ trumpets ‘a real increase’, but closer examination shows the commitment to be a mere 0.1%, well within the margin of error:

As with ‘Critical Psychology’, the common factor of the range of views within the CPN is a commitment to anti-diagnosis purism (, hence the repeated employment of the ‘brain disease’ strawman by its members.

Dr Double stresses ‘minimising the use of coercion’ and ‘helping people improve their social situation’, but his solution of a ‘non-eclectic’ biopsychosocial approach seems Utopian, given his failure to call for adequate funding of community-based services.


(Those new to my blog may want to read my previous pieces critical of the CPN, especially ‘Pillshaming‘ and ‘Neoliberalism‘. Sami Timimi, who with Joanna Moncrieff is


a member of the ‘Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry‘ (CEP), is briefly criticised in my pieces on fellow CEP members Peter Kinderman and John Read.

For failure on mental health and learning disability funding by the psychiatry establishment and one of its ‘fronts’, see my piece on ‘Asylum Magazine‘.

For further evidence that the CPN is far from critical of establishment psychiatry, see this polite ‘debate‘ between Joanna Moncrieff and internationally prominent Pharma-psychiatrist Carmine Pariante, which barely touched on Pharma-psychiatry enmeshment, and completely avoided the smears and abuse of people concerned about ‘Prescribed Harm’ by Dr Pariante’s close Pharma-psychiatry colleagues.

Screenshot_2019-01-22 Joanna Moncrieff and Carmine Pariante Debate Antidepressants - Mad In America

In the last two weeks Dr Moncrieff has declined to confirm whether she still claims the CPN are ‘dissidents’:

16-Moncrieff-dissident )



About Dr Neil MacFarlane MRCPsych

Independent Psychiatrist providing culturally informed mental health opinion, advice, and a few new facts. Based near London, UK. Main qualifications: BA MBBS MA MRCPsych.

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