Fighting Misuse of Psychiatry Earns Sharfstein Prestigious “Profile of Courage” Award

Baltimore, Dec. 04, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Former American Psychiatric Association (APA) president and current president and CEO of Sheppard Pratt Health System, Steven S. Sharfstein, M.D., is being recognized by fellow members for displaying high ethical standards in decision-making on critical, heated issues during his presidency, which later shaped pieces of our nation’s history.

President of the APA from 2005-06, Sharfstein’s leadership quickly became associated with fighting against the potential misuse of psychiatry. Among many issues addressed, his involvement in three major and largely controversial decisions shaped his time in office and psychiatry today:

  • Interrogations in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: Despite great pressure and opposition from our nation’s civilian and military leadership, Sharfstein, after a 2005 visit to the prison alongside the U.S. surgeon general and other health leaders, concluded that it was not ethical for psychiatrists to participate in the questioning of the imprisoned terrorist suspects at Guantanamo. Following this statement, the Department of Defense proceeded to work with psychologists, not psychiatrists.
  • Same-Sex Marriage: After observing the significant mental health issues that can result from federal and state officials not allowing this right, Sharfstein led the assembly to make what was at the time a highly controversial decision to back civil marriage for same-sex couples.
  • Safety of Psychiatric Drugs in Opposition to The Church of Scientology: Tom Cruise’ 2005 publicity tour for the movie, ‘War of the Worlds’ quickly turned into a tour for the promotion of Scientology, including Cruise’s decision to speak out against the reality of mental illness and condemn the use of psychiatric drugs. Cruise even publicly criticized Brooke Shields for taking Paxil for postpartum depression. Sharfstein, and many other APA members, quickly spoke out against this dangerous notion, affirming that these drugs are safe and effective. As Sharfstein said on a ‘Today Show’ appearance, “Mr. Cruise might be a halfway decent actor, but in terms of playing doctor, he is totally irresponsible.”

Sharfstein accepted the Profile of Courage award – which is given up to once per year – during a plenary session at the November Assembly.

About Sheppard Pratt Health System

Sheppard Pratt Health System is the largest private provider of mental health and substance use services in the U.S. serving more than 70,000 individuals annually across two free-standing psychiatric hospitals, 12 special education residential and day schools, and numerous outpatient and telepsychiatry sites in Maryland. Sheppard Pratt maintains three main arms of research, including the Stanley Research Program at Sheppard Pratt, the Department of Clinical Research Programs and the Sheppard Pratt-Lieber Research Institute.

Sheppard Pratt offers a full range of mental health, substance use, special education and community support services to treat people of all ages and diagnoses; this includes a full continuum of care, with inpatient units and day hospitals grouped homogenously by population and subspecialty, so that patients are comfortable in their environment. All programs (with the exception of The Retreat) accept insurance.

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Source:Sheppard Pratt Health System