bigleyma is thinking…

“The Cold Grip of Psychiatry”: Simon Wessely

with 6 comments

There are many people now who are trying to locate the source of the ideas that our government has taken up with respect to how illness/disability is regarded in the current social and economic climate. Since it forms the basis and the justification for their ‘reforms’ of welfare in the sphere of ‘health-related benefits’ it is quite evidently the most important factor that is affecting the lives of those who would seek support of this kind.

As ever with issues of human/social effect there is often a complexity which needs to be unravelled in order to identify streams and themes of thought and activity which have contributed to those effects. This blog, as I’ve indicated, is an attempt to work out those factors which have brought us to the situation we experience now, the matters detailed elsewhere on the blog under the ATOS Healthcare category. (Much more material can be found via my (unfinished) Blogroll links).

One theme that can be identified is the input that Psyciatry/Psychology has had on the new thinking surrounding incapacity and the relationship between health/ill-health and work.

Relatedly, Barbara Ehrenreich has written a wonderful (and darkly funny) account of the Cult of Positive Thinking that constitutes part of this psychology, I strongly recommend it for the insight it gives into how these people think. It’s an eye-opener not only for the present day but also as to the historical origins of the perspective, which are surprising. She illustrates how this idea, that by taking a positive slant on your life you can overcome everything from cancer to physical reality itself, has permeated western culture, often for the purpose of profit. I recommend everything Ms Ehrenreich has written, actually, she’s like a sharp breeze of reason amid the clammy fog of disinformation we’re constantly drenched in.

So my idol aside 🙂 let’s turn to Simon Wessely:

Professor Simon Wessely MA, BM BCh, MSc, MD, FRCP, FRCPsych, F Med Sci.

On the internet there’s a huge amount of information about this man, specifically in connection with the struggles of sufferers from ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, to combat the campaign that he has led to have their condition designated as a ‘mental problem’, and the terrible consequences this has had for some people. I’ve held back from covering him due to this fact as I feel that people should read these accounts, and view the videos, and the reports by medical professionals first hand. It is a scandal, the worst aspect of which is the length of time it has been going on. I plan to assemble all the associated links that I’ve encountered in a separate post, later. For now I’ll just post one link as an introduction. It’s by Margaret Williams and was written in 2007 and published on the ME Action Org UK site. It’s entitled “Wessely, Woodstook and Warfare?”. As I seemed to have some problems loading it in I have also saved a copy to my dropbox, here, just in case anyone has trouble accessing the original.

I think what this piece, and many similar ones available online, demonstrates is that there is a web of connections between what would seem to be disparate personnel acting independently and impartially. At the heart of this, though, there is one central idea that they all share. This, for diverse reasons of varying advantage to their vested interests, is a motivation to transform the way that the public, and the medical world, thinks about health, illness and work. It is not difficult to perceive the slant that this unified group wish to impress upon the consciousness of the masses:

“In November 2001 a conference assembled at Woodstock, near Oxford. Its subject was
‘Malingering and Illness Deception’. Amongst the 39 academics and experts was
Malcolm Wicks, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Work, and Mansel Aylward,
his Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). What linked
many of the participants together, including Aylward, was their association with the giant
US income protection company UnumProvident”.

Aylward himself has embraced the tenets of ‘Positive Psychology’ having spent many years researching it at both Cardiff and Harvard Universities.

There can be no confusion about the advantages that would accrue to Wessely’s profession should there be widespread mainstream medical acceptance of this new illness paradigm, based on the ‘bio-psycho-social’ model. Clearly it strongly serves the interests of the psychiatric/psychology professions to ‘pry open’ what has previously been the province of biological medicine, and insert themselves therein.

Coming soon: The rise of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Written by bigleyma

October 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm

6 Responses

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  1. always flattering to be the subject of a blog, even though it is wrong in almost every detail. However, am honoured to be quoted in the blog as barbara ehrenreich, one of my heroines for many years. Anyone who knows me or has heard me speak will know very well that i am sceptical, to put it mildly, of the current vogue for positive psychology. On the other hand, you are correct, i have long been of the view that it is better for your mental health to be in work than out of work.

    best wishes

    Simon Wessely

    Simon Wessely

    October 17, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    • In answer to Professor Wessely-Your input into the Gulf War medical examinations and findings led to many Gulf War veterans taking their own life. Is that the reason you have now been employed by the government to aid their reduction in people claiming welfare? Using your skills as an unofficial euthanasia master rendering the task of using gas chambers nil and void as you have been so successful in the past in making them do it to themselves? I watched a group of Gulf War veterans over many years tire of the endless welfare examinations, ridicule of people such as yourself, not being taken seriously as they DID get worse. Some developed walking problems, were in wheelchairs, having family members care for them soley as they could not access social care as you said they were all malingerers. You have a heavy weight on your shoulders as out of that group of 15, eight committed suicide. So if that was taken as an empirical study, you had been successful, a 50% reduction on scroungers claiming the Welfare State. BRAVO, good for you. No wonder Cameron loves you so much…..

      Angie mitchell

      November 26, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    • Duh, Simon. We KNOW it is better for our mental health to be working rather than not working – that is why so many of us with ME try and work part time from home even though it exacerbates the pain and other symptoms, also of course the poverty that comes with not working doesn’t help one’s mental health either.

      As an academic you should know that just to say ‘it [the blog] is wrong in every detail’ is meaningless without saying why and how.

      So. if you’re still connecting to this blog can you answer: what is your connection to UNUM? Do you recognise that the insurance industry set to gain a lot by these ideas? Is money the driving force behind what is happening?

      Hazel Quinn


      November 27, 2011 at 3:59 am

  2. Dear Professor, you are clearly not familiar with the reality of “work” for people vulnerable people like myself whom quickly fall prey to the worst aspects of human nature…


    November 26, 2011 at 9:15 am

  3. Just in case any one sees this – everyone should be awate that there is an upcoming conference if interest to anyone affected by this crap:

    The International Forum on Disability Management is meeting at the Royal Society of medicine in the UK later this year.

    It appears, largely, to be a meeting of many of those behind the Welfare Reform Bill including:

    Dr Bill Gunnyeon, Chief Medical Adviser and Director for Health and Wellbeing, Department for Work and Pensions

    Prof Sir Mansel Aylward CB, Chair, Public Health Wales and Director, Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research, Cardiff, Wales – which is sponsored by UNUM insurance notorious for it’s refusal to payout on disability claims and the primary source of ‘policy based evidence’ for the DWP.

    A couple of notorious and powerful shrinks (Prof. Simon Wessely (Kings) and Prof. Peter White (Barts and speweer of spun shit such as the PACE trail)) that work with the DWP and promote the unproven biopsychosocial model of illness that helps so much in refusing people’s benefits claims.

    Several representatives from large insurance companies who advise governments on how not to payout on welfare claims.


    May 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    • So sorry Sam, I was away from my blog for a while there so didn’t see your comments 😦
      Looks like a lot of ‘the usual suspects’ there. They just keep going don’t they? This little
      tight group perpetrating a distorted vision of disability and illness shared by no-one who
      has even the slightest grasp of what it means to suffer from the daily experience of impaired
      physical or mental/emotional capacity.

      From your other comment I’m not sure which link you’re looking for. Is it this one?:

      Sorry once again for lateness!

      Update: Oh I see there is another one by Tate Mitchell on the methodologies that seems
      to have disappeared. Perhaps someone on the ME forums will have saved a copy?


      May 25, 2012 at 11:50 pm

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