This may explain [Stanford psychology and law professor David Rosenhan]. He saw real problems in society: The country was warehousing very sick people in horror houses pretending to be hospitals, our diagnostic systems were flawed and psychiatrists in many ways had too much power — and very little substance. He saw how psychiatric labels degraded people and how doctors see patients through the prism of their mental illness. All of this was true. In many ways, it is still true.
But the problem is that scientific research needs to be sound. We cannot build progress on a rotten foundation.
In disregarding Lando’s data and inventing other facts, Rosenhan missed an opportunity to create something three-dimensional, something a bit messier but more honest. Instead, he helped perpetuate a dangerous half-truth.
And today, what we have is a mental-health crisis of epic proportions. Over 100,000 people with serious mental illnesses live on the streets, while we are chronically short of safe housing and hospital beds for the sickest among us.
Had Rosenhan been more measured in his treatment of the hospitals, had he included Lando’s data, there’s a chance a different dialogue, less extreme in its certainty, would have emerged from his study and maybe, just maybe, we’d be in a better place.
Read the whole thing.
Flash-forward to today: San Francisco, Hostage to the Homeless.