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'Mixing religion and science in psychiatry dangerous'

Akram Mohammed Mysore, Feb 2, 2013, DHNS

Psychiatrists must stick to their sciences, says Prof Rob Poole

In recent years there has been a trend where patients with mental disorders often find comfort from religious practice.

According to Prof Rob Poole, co-director of Centre for Mental Health and Society, Bangor University, United Kingdom, religious practices differ from what psychiatrists do.

However, commenting on the trend in which psychiatrists offered ‘religious’ solutions to mental disorders, he is of a firm view that psychiatrists should simply stick to their science.

“A well educated patient from West Africa was admitted in our centre for some mental disorder. Family of the patient believed that it was due to a curse, and only if she performed the ‘snake ritual’ she would be rid of the disorder. Her family tricked us and left to West Africa to perform the ritual. We had sent a nurse along with the family. The nurse informed us later that the women was relieved of her illness soon after performing the ritual,” he said.

Though such phenomenon are rare and remains unexplained in medical terms, he offered a liberal scientific view, where he opines that psychiatrists should be ready to work with priests or any other religious heads, if that would offer explanations and solutions to mental disorders.


After delivering a lecture on ‘Spirituality and Boundaries in Psychiatric Practice’, at the Indo-European symposium on coercion, he advised that psychiatrists should refrain from attempting to do the ‘religious stuff’ themselves.

“There are psychiatrists working in a religious and spiritual way. (But) these things should be seperate. If a patient wants religion, he will go to a priest. If he wants science, he will come to a psychiatrist. Mixing and matching these two fields is dangerous,” he said.

Or else, what authority do we (psychiatrists) have to treat mental disorders, he asked.
He mildly criticised a group in United Kingdom, who wanted prayer as a part of treatment of disorders, which he said was part of a ‘distinctly Christian form of psychotherapy.’

Dr Vinayprasad, a MD student from Kasturba Medical College, speaking about psychiatry in India said that people do not prefer to consult psychiatrists for their mental problems, due to the stigma that only mad people required the consultation of psychiatrists.

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