Return to Contents

Public health and classifying mental disorders
The biological revolution in psychiatry resulted in effective biomedical treatments for identifying a number of disorders, but it did not necessarily identify the disorders’ underlying mechanisms or etiology. It has led to the adoption of a classification system that privileges signs and symptoms at the expense of multifactoral etiologies. And I think that this combination of the biological revolution in psychiatry and the ascent of the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders [dsm] has influenced public health interventions in risk-taking behaviors. . . . In terms of public health, it seems that the dsm classification model is not the best model for population mental health. First of all, there’s no robust reason to assume a single cause for a psychiatric syndrome. There’s also no robust reason to assume a neurobiological scenario can result in only one outcome. For syndromes like Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) for instance, the biological revolution has led to new interventions for the control of the signs of ts but has not gotten us any closer to understanding the etiology of TS.

—Howard Kushner, Nat Robertson Professor of Science and Society, speaking on “The Biological Revolution in Neuropsychiatry: A Public Health Challenge,” February 18, 2002

Criminalizing migration

Immigration law has come to be an integral part of criminal law enforcement through a system of penalties, largely exclusion or deportation. . . . Those of you not closely watching immigration law may think we are talking about murder, rape, and kidnapping when we talk about aggravated felonies. In fact, Congress in 1996 broadened this area so substantially that now we find people in this category who technically are not felons and surely didn’t commit a crime any of us would consider an aggravated felony. If you are an aggravated felon, you cannot get any release from removal. Whatever other redeeming features you may have, such as for example having been in the United States since childhood, being married to a United States citizen, having United States citizen children, having led a law-abiding life until this one encounter with the law—none of this matters if you are labeled an aggravated felon.

—Nora Demleitner, Professor of Law, St. Mary’s University School of Law, speaking as part of the School of Law’s Thrower Symposium on Immigration Law, February 21, 200