Lucas Richert


On his book Break On Through: Radical Psychiatry and the American Counterculture

Cover Interview of February 12, 2020


Mental health is an emotionally charged issue. And rightly so. Given the World Health Organization’s recent warnings that mental illness will become the planet’s most common illness in the next two decades, it is not surprising that mainstream, preventative, and alternative approaches to mental illness are attracting attention.

For instance, in 2018, the UK-based Wellcome Trust Foundation, advocated a “radical new approach” to mental health treatment because “different disciplines use different measurement scales, there are inconsistent approaches to diagnosis and treatment, and there’s a lack of shared data.”

This is important to recognize. That the current discussion about mental health is ongoing – and it’s got a long history. Whether we’re plumbers or pediatricians or politicians, we should understand that some debates happen over and over. Or what was once considered radical is pretty obvious.

Raymond Waggoner, the president of the 16,000-member strong APA in 1968, asserted that “change was a catchword in American life” and the APA ought to be more “action-oriented.” He added: “We should not be afraid to be social activists,” and psychiatry ought to play a more “constructive role in our future society.”

Fifty years later we still struggle with mental health policy. And we could all get a bit more “action-oriented.”