Psychiatrists and psychologists are warning that their professional practice is increasingly seeing people being unfairly treated in the UK.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists said it has seen “a dramatic rise” in cases of abuse in its services, with an average of four cases per week.
In a report, it said that some psychiatrists have had “trivial” differences of opinion over what constitutes “harm” and “inappropriate behaviour”.
The report said that the “risk of harm to patients, staff and their families” is “greater than it was a decade ago” and that many psychiatrists were “unwilling or unable to make a reasoned judgement”.
“It has been shown that a psychiatrist can be a victim of bias or a victim or witness of a bias in the treatment they receive,” it said.
“It is also clear that psychiatrists have a responsibility to protect patients and their wellbeing.”
Psychiatrists and mental health professionals have been targeted in the past by right-wing politicians, including the former leader of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has called for psychiatric treatment to be “wiped out” and said it was “necessary to protect the nation”.
“I don’t want to take part in that, but I know that there are some who would be willing to do it,” he said.
In his manifesto, Le Pen called for the dismantling of mental health services and for the creation of “safe houses” to “escape the clutches of the State”.
But he has since backtracked and said that he would “not be in favour of banning people from accessing psychiatric services”.
The RCMP said it does not have a specific policy on whether or not psychiatrists should be allowed to practice.
“In any given case, a psychiatric service may be able to take the views of the individual into account in making decisions about whether to take action,” it wrote.
“But it is also important to note that this does not mean that the service cannot act in the interests of patients and in ensuring the safety of patients in the care they are in.”
The report also highlighted a number of incidents of “shameful” treatment by psychiatrists.
“A patient may be told they have ‘been diagnosed with psychosis’ by a psychologist, despite having no psychiatric history whatsoever,” the report said.
The report’s authors said that in one case, “a psychiatrist who had not had a single patient in the last 30 years was informed that he had a serious case of schizophrenia”.
“This was made to the patient and was not supported by any clinical evidence, including a psychiatric assessment,” the authors said.
Dr Daniel Hagger, the RCMP’s director of mental medicine and health, said that “many of the psychiatrists in the field are suffering from the same issues as all of us” and called on them to be more transparent.
“They have to explain why they have been put on a ‘hit list’ and the names of all of the people who they have labelled,” he told the BBC.
“They have got to be clear on what their policies are and if they are not acting within the law.”
I think the more people are coming forward and saying, ‘I was labelled, I was told I had a mental illness’, the more we can make a difference.