Robert Whitaker is a journalist and author of two books about the history of psychiatry, Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic, and the co-author, with Lisa Cosgrove, of Psychiatry Under the Influence. He is the founder of madinamerica.com
Areas of interest
- Critical Psychiatry
- Human Rights
- Soteria Houses and Open Dialogue
Robert Whitaker is an American journalist and author, writing primarily about science and medicine. He is also the founder and publisher of Mad In America – an online magazine, podcast and education platform that aims to be a catalyst for rethinking psychiatric care in the United States and beyond. Bob says:
“We started Mad in America with the thought it would become a forum for rethinking psychiatric and for building an international community of people interested in that topic. I became convinced that psychiatry needed to be rethought after writing two books on this topic – Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic – where I explore three major themes:
Why are long term outcomes so poor for major mental disorders in rich countries?
Why is there such a disparity between what is found in the scientific literature about the nature of psychiatric disorders and the effectiveness of treatments, and what is told to the public?
And why is the voice of those who have been treated so often missing from the general societal discussion, both today and in the past and in the history of psychiatry?
Robert Whitaker is the author of five books, three of which cover the history or practice of modern psychiatry. He has won numerous awards for science writing, and in 1998 he was part of a team writing for the Boston Globe that was shortlisted for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for a series of articles questioning the ethics of psychiatric research in which unsuspecting patients were given drugs expected to heighten their psychosis.
Robert was a medical writer at the Albany Times Union newspaper in Albany, New York from 1989 to 1994. In 1992, he was a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT. Following that, he became director of publications at Harvard Medical School. In 1994, he co-founded a publishing company, CenterWatch, that covered the pharmaceutical clinical trials industry. CenterWatch was acquired by Medical Economics, a division of The Thomson Corporation, in 1998.
In 2001, Robert wrote his first book, ‘Mad in America’, about psychiatric research and medications, the domains of some of his earlier journalism. He appeared in the film Take These Broken Wings: Recovery from Schizophrenia Without Medication released in 2008, a film detailing the pitfalls of administering medication for the illness.
Robert’s book ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic’ won an IRE prize in 2010 for best investigative journalism.The book investigates why the number of mentally ill patients in America receiving SSI or SSDI disability checks keeps rising, despite the so-called “psychopharmacological revolution.” Robert’s main thesis is that psychopharmacological drugs work well to curb acute symptoms. However, patients receiving prolonged treatment courses often end up more disabled than they started.
In April 2011, IRE announced that ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic’ had won its award as the best investigative journalism book of 2010 stating, “this book provides an in-depth exploration of medical studies and science and intersperses compelling anecdotal examples. In the end, Whitaker punches holes in the conventional wisdom of treatment of mental illness with drugs.”