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Saturday, 31.10.2020

Francois Ferrero: Inquiry of the Geneva 1980s’ Psychiatry Crisis:
Francois Ferrero’s reply to Hanfried Helmchen’s comments


            These comments from Hanfried Helmchen are particularly welcome.  They help to broaden the scope of my paper and help to better understand the context, as well as future developments,for example the tentative effort in Germany to implement a legal prohibition of ECT in the mid-1990s.

            Of particular interest is Helmchen’s suggestion to return to the 1968 events and I would like to thank him for reminding us of the reference tothe excellent biography of Jean Delay by Driss Moussaoui.

            My paper doesnot proposea sufficently wide perspective of what was going on elsewhere aroundthe world in psychiatry at that time.As with other crises, the Geneva crisis finds his roots in a wider intellectual movement which, from my point of view, is particularly well-represented by some important books. Three of them were published between 1960 and 1961 -seven-eight years before the 1968 movement:

            In France, Michel Foucault’sFolie et déraison: histoire de la folie à l’âge classique, which washis PhD thesis(1961); in the USA, Erving Goffman’s Asylums(1961) and in Scotland, Ronald D. Laing’s The Divided Self (1960).

Nevertheless, the list is definitely much longer and everyone could add his favorite references.

            Going back to Foucault, despite the fact that his theories were then widely criticized,it is ofinterest to rememberthat he was trained as a Pathological Psychologist and that he had some clinical experience acquired in Paris’ Sainte-Anne Hospital and in France’s Fresne Prison. He was fluent in Germanand, at that time, very much interested in phenomenology. He wrote an introduction to a paperbyLudwig Binswanger, Traum und Existenz (1930), and published it in French (1954). In 1954, he worked also in the Münsterlingen Hospital, Switzerland, with Roland Kuhn, a representative of the phenomenological movement in psychiatry and well known as the discoverer of Imipramine few years later (Kuhn 1971).



BinswangerL. Traum und Existenz.   Zürich: H. Girsberger & Cie; 1930.

Foucault M. Folie et Déraison : Histoire de la Folie à l’âge Classique. Paris:  Khalfa J  Librarie Plon; 1961.

Foucault M.Introduction. In: Binswanger L. Le Rêve et l'Existence (Dream and Existence, translated by J. Verdeaux), Paris: Desclee de Bouwer; 1954, pp. 9-128.

Goffman E. Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. NewYork: Anchor Books; 1961.

Kuhn R. The Imipramine story. In Ayd F, Blackwell B, eds.  Discoveries in Biological Psychiatry. Philadelphia: Lippncott; 1971, 205-17.

Laing RD. The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness. Harmondsworth: Penguin; 1960.

MoussaouiD. A Biography of Jean Delay. Amsterdam: Excerpta Medica; 2002.


October 25, 2018