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December 1979

Will the Real Doctor Please Stand Up?

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1979;36(13):1399-1400. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1979.01780130017001

To tell the truth, psychiatric practitioners and tens of thousands of their patients and families annually know the reality and nontrivial nature of mental dysfunctions. Many also know that these in fact reflect quite different and specific disorders, diseases, crises, or handicaps of differing intensities and durations and causation. They know firsthand of our capacity to provide significant remediation for the majority of these, as well as the agony of the persisting and perplexing problems challenging professional skill, ingenuity, and research.

These differentiated realities are obscured by a truly operative myth, that of "The Mentally Ill." One speaks of such a "class" only for convenience, or for broad public policy and bureaucratic purposes. But such rubrics of convenience lead to mischief and complacency by the concrete and literal interpretation of bureaucrats, budget officers, and the media who view psychiatric services for one and all as an assembly line function. For

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