On This Day … 08 September

People (Births)

  • 1970 – Nidal Hasan, American soldier, psychiatrist, and mass murderer.

People (Deaths)

  • 2012 – Thomas Szasz, Hungarian-American psychiatrist and academic (b. 1920).

Nidal Hasan

Nidal Malik Hasan (born 08 September 1970) is a former US Army Major convicted of killing 13 people and injuring more than 30 others in the Fort Hood mass shooting on 05 November 2009. Hasan was a United States Army Medical Corps psychiatrist. He admitted to the shootings at his court-martial in August 2013. A jury panel of 13 officers convicted him of 13 counts of premeditated murder, 32 counts of attempted murder, and unanimously recommended he be dismissed from the service and sentenced to death. Hasan is incarcerated at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas awaiting execution.

During the six years Hasan was a medical intern and resident at Walter Reed Army Medical Centre, colleagues and superiors were concerned about his job performance and comments. Hasan was not married at the time, and was described as socially-isolated, stressed by his work with soldiers, and upset about their accounts of warfare.[9] Two days before the shooting, less than a month before he was due to deploy to Afghanistan, Hasan gave away many of his belongings to a neighbour.

Prior to the shooting, Hasan expressed critical views described by colleagues as “anti-American”. An investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) concluded his e-mails with the late Imam Anwar al-Awlaki were related to his authorised professional research and he was not a threat. The FBI, Department of Defence (DoD) and US Senate all conducted investigations after the shootings. The DoD classified the events as “workplace violence”, pending prosecution of Hasan in a court-martial. The Senate released a report describing the mass shooting as “the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001”.

The decision by the Army to not charge Hasan with terrorism is controversial.

Refer to 2009 Fort Hood Shooting.

Thomas Szasz

Thomas Stephen Szasz (15 April 1920 to 08 September 2012) was a Hungarian-American academic, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He served for most of his career as professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York. A distinguished lifetime fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a life member of the American Psychoanalytic Association, he was best known as a social critic of the moral and scientific foundations of psychiatry, as what he saw as the social control aims of medicine in modern society, as well as scientism. His books The Myth of Mental Illness (1961) and The Manufacture of Madness (1970) set out some of the arguments most associated with him.

Szasz argued throughout his career that mental illness is a metaphor for human problems in living, and that mental illnesses are not “illnesses” in the sense that physical illnesses are; and that except for a few identifiable brain diseases, there are “neither biological or chemical tests nor biopsy or necropsy findings for verifying DSM diagnoses.”

Szasz maintained throughout his career that he was not anti-psychiatry but rather that he opposed coercive psychiatry. He was a staunch opponent of civil commitment and involuntary psychiatric treatment, but he believed in and practiced psychiatry and psychotherapy between consenting adults.

His views on special treatment followed from libertarian roots, based on the principles that each person has the right to bodily and mental self-ownership and the right to be free from violence from others, and he criticized the use of psychiatry in the Western world as well as communist states.