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Democratic Psychiatry

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Title: Democratic Psychiatry  
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Subject: Franco Basaglia, Psychiatry, Chinese Society of Psychiatry, Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia, Outline of the psychiatric survivors movement
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Democratic Psychiatry

Democratic Psychiatry (Italian: Psichiatria Democratica) is Italian society[1] and movement for liberation of the ill from segregation in mental hospitals[2]:61 by pushing for the Italian psychiatric reform.[3]:95 The movement was political in nature but not antipsychiatric in the sense in which this term is used in the Anglo-Saxon world.[3]:95 Democratic Psychiatry called for radical changes in the practice and theory of psychiatry and strongly attacked the way society managed mental illness.[3]:95 The movement was essential in the birth of the reform law of 1978.[3]:95

Organizing committee

Democratic Psychiatry was created by a group of left-orientated psychiatrists, sociologists and social workers under direction of Bologna the first nucleus group called Democratic Psychiatry, consisted of Franca Basaglia, Franco Basaglia, Domenico Casagrande, Franco di Cecco, Tullio Fragiacomo, Vieri Marzi, Gian Franco Minguzzi, Piera Piatti, Agostino Pirella, Michele Risso, Lucio Schittar, Antonio Slavich.[6]:119


In 1977, Democratic Psychiatry helped the Radical Party, a political organization principally concerned with the human rights defense, to collect together three-quarter of a million signatories to a petition to improve the mental health law and thus to prohibit hospitalization to psychiatric hospitals.[7]:5 According to Italian law this petition could have resulted in a national referendum on the issue.[7]:5 To avoid a referendum which could have forced the government to resign, the government passed Law 180 in May 1978 and thus initiated the dismantling of the psychiatric hospitals.[7]:6

Directive committee

The 2010 National Congress of Democratic Psychiatry in Romе elected the new directive committee consisted of national secretary Emilio Lupo, national president Luigi Attenasio, honorary president Agostino Pirella, national treasurer Maurizio Caiazzo.[8]


Basaglia and his followers deemed that psychiatry was used as the provider of scientific support for social control to the existing establishment.[9]:70 The ensuing standards of deviance and normality brought about repressive views of discrete social groups.[9]:70 This approach was nonmedical and pointed out the role of mental hospitals in the control and medicalization of deviant behaviors and social problems.[9]:70 According to A. Giannelli, at least in the beginning Democratic Psychiatry used phenomenological and existential ideas as its ideological and cultural reference point.[2]:61 However, according to P. Fusar-Poli with coauthors, Democratic Psychiatry was culturally grounded on Gramsci’s theory of “revolutionary reform” and Foucault’s critique of the “medical model”.[10]


The objectives of the association were (and still are) to pool professional initiatives and energies in any part of society which are aimed at closing mental hospitals and restoring the rights of psychiatric patients.[9]:71


The programme of Democratic Psychiatry stated in Bologna on the 8 of October 1973 included the following proposals:[6]:121[11]

  1. To continue to fight against exclusion, by analysing and rejecting its sources in the social structure (the social relations of production) and in the superstructures (norms and values) of our society.
  2. To continue the struggle against the “asylum” as the place where exclusion finds its most obvious and violent expression, as well as the practical means of reproducing the mechanisms of social marginalization.
  3. To underline the dangers of reproducing segregating institutional structures, even in the mental health services created outside the hospital.
  4. To make explicit, in a practical way, the link between acting in the specific psychiatric field and the more general problem of medical care, by demanding a unified action (beyond the division of labour and skills) which in the specific struggle for the promotion of mental health involves us in the broadest possible struggle for a concrete and necessary health reform based on, and expressing, a new social logic.


  1. ^ "Società Italiana di Psichiatria Democratica: Sito Ufficiale". Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  2. ^ a b Giannelli, Alberto (2007). Follia e psichiatria: crisi di una relazione. FrancoAngeli. p. 61.  
  3. ^ a b c d Fioritti A., Lo Russo L., Melega V. (January 1997). "Reform said or done? The case of Emilia-Romagna within the Italian psychiatric context". American Journal of Psychiatry 154 (1): 94–98.  
  4. ^ Gijswijt-Hofstra, Marijke; Oosterhuis, Harry; Vijselaar, Joost (editors) (2005). Psychiatric cultures compared: Psychiatry and mental health care in the twentieth century: Comparisons and approaches. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. p. 253.  
  5. ^ Crossley, Nick (2006). Contesting psychiatry: social movements in mental health. London: Routledge. p. 165.  
  6. ^ a b Donnelly, Michael (1992). The Politics of Mental Health in Italy. London: Routledge. pp. 119–122.  
  7. ^ a b c Kendall Т. (September 1996). "Trieste: The Current Situation". Trieste: Mental Health Department. Retrieved 02-10-2010. 
  8. ^ "Comitato Direttivo". Società Italiana di Psichiatria Democratica: Sito Ufficiale. 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  9. ^ a b c d Sapouna, Lydia; Herrmann, Peter (2006). Knowledge in Mental Health: Reclaiming the Social. Hauppauge: Nova Publishers. pp. 69–73.  
  10. ^ Fusar-Poli P., Bruno D., Machado-de-Sousa J.P., Crippa J. (October 2009). "Franco Basaglia (1924—1980): Three decades (1979—2009) as a bridge between the Italian and Brazilian mental health reform".  
  11. ^ Minguzzi G.F. et al (October 1973). "Documento programmatico e progetto di statuto di Psichiatria Democratica". Bologna: Dipartimento di Psicologia dell'Università degli Studi di Bologna. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 

See also

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