François Ferrero: Inquiry of the Geneva 1980s’ Psychiatry Crisis
François Ferrero’s reply to Barry Blackwell’s comment
I am grateful to Barry Blackwell for his appreciation of my essay and also to acknowledge that it is “incomplete.” I am fully aware of that. I tried to base my paper on solid sources avoiding, up to now, expressing my personal opinions. Nonetheless, such stimulating comments encourage me to go further.
I would like to add one dimension to his remark that the “final analysis will be related to the personas of the principle actors in the drama and the local, social and scientific climate.”
It concerns the political dimension.
It is obvious that the general climate in Geneva at that time was influenced by personas. However, this statement has to be put in relation with a long conflicting history between the Political world and Psychiatry, represented by some Directors of Psychiatry. This conflictual relationship goes back to the creation of the first psychiatric asylum in Geneva in 1832, a topic I may develop on another occasion. That is to say, the 1980 drama and its consequences have to be placed in a pretty unusual long history.
I have to admit that at the time, at the end of ‘70s, I was less aware of the political dimension of these conflicts.
Since then I have understood that this drama offered a unique opportunity for the Right to take over the Geneva Ministry of Health after about 20 years of Socialist power. Since the ‘80s the Right has never abandoned it.
Of course, these events have created great distress and dilemmas and I have probably not sufficiently developed this aspect.
Yet, I did point out: “these 12 months were difficult for the psychiatric teams and probably for many patients… The collaboration between Colleagues working in the psychiatric Hospital or in the Outpatient Clinics was extremely limited.”
There was a lot of suffering during these years and we lost a lot of energy. Despite that, some talented people were able to succeed, to stay creative and to develop valuable research projects.
French Psychiatry has very much influenced Geneva and, going back to 1968 in Paris, it was not only Jean Delay’s service that was disrupted. Many other University Services were disturbed, including that of the famous and well-respected cardiologist Jean Lenègre. The demonstrations also disturbed the Sector of the “13th arrondissement,” the “cradle of sectorization” created by Psychoanalysts, and even the lectures of Jacques Lacan. During these troubled years, people were not really focused on the question of specific treatments but much more on the refusal of any authority to allow them.
February 7, 2019