François Ferrero: Inquiry of the Geneva 1980s’ Psychiatry Crisis

Forced Hospitalization, ETC and Sleep Therapy 

François Ferrero’s reply to Ambros Uchtenhagen’s comments


            Ambros Uchtenhagen’s comment sounds familiar to me, not only because I’ve known him since I started my psychiatric training. I am aware of his many contributions to psychiatry in Zurich and elsewhere. He is a pioneer in different domains, in family and group psychotherapy, as well as in the organization and planning of psychiatric services. In the 1970s he proposed implementing sectorization in the Canton of Zurich, following the model developed by Christian Müller in the Canton of Vaud. He also promoted Social Psychiatry and was one of the founders of the Swiss Society of Social Psychiatry. Then, when the city of Zurich had to face a massive wave of drug abuses, he developed a very successful system of care, including drop-in centers and emergency units for drug dependents in collaboration with psychiatrists and GPs working in private practice and with many other partners, including medical students. He became an internationally recognized expert in the field.

            Uchtenhagen’s comment adds valuable testimony on the diversity of Swiss psychiatry as presented in my answer to Edward Shorter’s comment.

            Uchtenhagen also stresses the raison d’être of psychiatry: “To care for the health and wellbeing of patients; to guarantee availability and access for those in need of care; and for the information and safety of the population at large about what is done and how it is done.”

            “How it is done?” appears nowadays a prerequisite for psychiatry’s credibility, image and attractivity as it is for medicine at large.

            Without giving lessons, Uchtenhagen reminds us of some basic ethical requirements of our engagement.

            We have to hear his warning about current difficulties and challenges psychiatry has to face, with the hope it could help to avoid past mistakes.


May 16, 2019