Human nature explored
Psychiatrist Writes Book
CREMORNE psychiatrist Dr David Bell has been, along with his patients, a captive of the loony bin. He has written a new book, entitled Welcome to the Loony Bin, and says the title is not only a reference to mental illness, but to the profession that treats it.
“If I unduly seem harsh in my criticism of psychiatry, I plead my lifelong devotion to it,” Dr Bell (pictured) writes. “The reality is that many of psychiatry’s diagnoses are invalid and its treatments ineffective.”
For the layman, the book gives a fascinating insight into the world of psychiatry.
Dr Bell admitted his book was likely to offend some people as he took a swipe at what he saw as fashionable illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
“My review of the claims made after the HMAS Melbourne and (HMAS) Voyager disaster will upset some, as will my view of the epidemics of RSI and the complaints of work-caused pain that has no recognisable pathology,” he said.
The son of a Polish migrant, Dr Bell wanted to be a psychiatrist before he could even spell the word and he now reflects on a 55-year career.
His career started in the 1950s at the former mental hospital Callan Park, where, in those days, theories held sway, such as that constipation caused epilepsy.
While critical of the backwardness of “lunatic asylums”, Dr Bell was later to worry about the number of mentally-ill patients released into the community to end up homeless or in jail.
Dr Bell said he developed a great affection for the humanity of his patients.
“In the consulting room, the psychiatrist becomes involved with the beautiful and interesting side of the most repellent personality,” he writes.
After a career in the public sector, Dr Bell switched to private practice in Mosman in the 1970s, and also became sought-after as a medicolegal expert, providing professional opinions on compensation claims.
He often championed the cause of brain-injured patients.
Now retired, Dr Bell is alarmed by the current ice epidemic.
He witnessed the first epidemic of amphetamine use In the 1950s, and “at first It spread through women using amphetamines to control obesity”.
“The government banned its prescription in 1968, and the epidemic disappeared overnight,” Dr Bell said.
Now he said the current epidemic was fed by an illicit trade and was even “more scary, more dangerous and more violent”.
Despite his experience in treating addiction, Dr Bell said he believed deprivation of supply was the most effective weapon in dealing with drug issues.