A decade after the publication of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (by Ken Kesey), Stanford Psychologist David Rosenhan tested the limitations of psychiatry by submitting 8 perfectly healthy participants to psychiatric hospitals.
The pseudo-patients claimed to hear voices, which said words including Hollow, Empty and Thud. Once admitted to the psychiatric ward, the pseudo-patients ‘stopped’ hearing voices and had to convince staff of their sanity to be released.
Despite none of the participants actually having a mental illness, they were kept in the hospital for an average of 19 days, and all but one of the participants left with a medical diagnosis of Schizophrenia in Remission.
Rosenhan’s results challenged the efficacy of psychiatry in diagnosing and treating mental disorders. Developing from this (and other) studies, Thomas Szasz forwarded the notion that ‘mental illness’ is a label, which doesn’t help the recipient of the label, but instead acts as a form of social control.