Robert Whitaker: Rise of Mental Illness in America

TUE, APR 13, 2010 (1:05:19)

Robert Whitaker, award-winning science and medicine journalist, discusses his new book, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America.

Why has the number of disabled mentally ill in the United States tripled over the past two decades? Every day, 1,100 adults and children are added to the government disability rolls because they have become newly disabled by mental illness, with this epidemic spreading most rapidly among our nation’s children. Anatomy of an Epidemic first investigates what is known today about the biological causes of mental disorders. Do psychiatric medications fix “chemical imbalances” in the brain, or do they, in fact, create them?

Then comes the scientific query at the heart of this book: During the past 50 years, when investigators looked at how psychiatric drugs affected long-term outcomes, what did they find? Did they discover that the drugs help people stay well? Function better? Enjoy good physical health? Or did they find that these medications, for some paradoxical reason, increase the likelihood that people will become chronically ill, less able to function well, more prone to physical illness?

+ BIO: Robert Whitaker

Robert Whitaker is a science journalist and the author, most recently, of On the Laps of Gods. He has won the George Polk Award for Medical Writing and a National Association of Science Writers’ Award for best magazine article. He was a finalist for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, considered journalism’s top prize. Whitaker has also published more than twenty short stories in literary magazines such as the Indiana Review, Black Warrior Review, Florida Review, and Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry and Prose. He now lives and writes in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Photo Courtesy of B.D. Colen.

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Harvard Book Store
Series
Mental Health Month Series