Thomas Szasz died on 8 Sept 2012 at the age of 92. His death was reported by Jacob Sullum of Reason.com today.
Szasz was best known for his vehement opposition to psychiatry as it is practiced in North America. He became a “star” of the anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s with the publication of his controversial and widely-discussed article, “The Myth of Mental Illness,” which appeared in American Psychologist in 1960. He was also the author of many books critical of psychiatry.
Szasz argued that the various conditions commonly treated by psychiatrists are not “illnesses,” properly speaking, at all, and should not fall within the purview of the medical profession. They are instead, in his words, “problems of living,” not qualitatively dissimilar to problems that many people have in managing their lives. Szasz was especially critical of the practice of compulsory commitment of the “mentally ill” to mental hospitals.
Szasz’s beliefs about psychiatry were connected to his general libertarian political outlook, which was borne, in part, of his experience with Soviet-style communism in his native Hungary.