As regular readers of this blog know, we are very interested in the pros and cons of psychiatric diagnosis. We try to discuss this issue in an accessible way and reach as broad an audience as possible. It was a great pleasure, therefore, to be invited by Lewes Skeptics (a Sussex branch of the Skeptics in the Pub network) to give a talk about mental illness, diagnosis, and some of the controversies raised by the new version of the psychiatric classification manual DSM-5. We’ve since been asked to make the talk available more widely, so we’ve posted it below. It’s a video of the slides, accompanied by a soundtrack recorded on the night.

It was interesting to see that the event sold out in a few days. Since we’re hardly big names, we hope this says something about the level of public interest in mental health. The same happened the last time that the Skeptics put on a mental health-related talk (by psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff), so something clearly strikes a chord. On the night of our talk the room was jammed, the temperature was hot and the controversy even hotter! Actually that last bit isn’t true. The debate was conducted in the most civil and decorous manner – not always easy when passions on this topic can run high.

We’d like to thank Lewes Skeptics (and in particular Eugene Gill) for hosting the event, and for their commitment to promoting public engagement with important topics. If you want to know more follow them @LewesSkeptics on Twitter. We are also grateful to John Warburton man of many parts, two of which were his very strong forearms. The fortitude with which he acted as a human boom for the recording equipment was admirable. Thanks also to the audience. The pub patrons of Lewes are clearly a thoughtful lot.

You can view the video either in the embedded version below:

There is also a recording of the discussion following the talk. The quality is slightly more variable as questioners were sitting in different parts of the room. The Q&A audio is available on Sound Cloud.

By Anne Cooke and John McGowan