Addressing the Divide Between the Arts and Medical Sciences


This week, we interview Dr. Peter Gordon. Dr. Gordon describes himself as a gardener with an interest in medicine. He trained in both medicine and landscape architecture before specialising in psychiatry and now works with older adults in Scotland. In addition, he is an activist and campaigner and has a range of creative interests including filmmaking, photography, writing and poetry.

In this interview, we talk about Peter’s own experiences of psychiatric treatment and how we need to address the divide that exists between the arts and the medical sciences.

In this episode we discuss:

  • What led Peter to have combined interests in the arts and the sciences, training both in architecture and medicine.
  • How he was interested in the plurality of thinking required for psychiatry as opposed to general medicine.
  • How he feels that his training in both the arts and the sciences led to a more rounded appreciation of why purely biological approach might miss opportunities to help people.
  • How Peter became an activist, partly in response to the commonly taught subjective/objective diagnostic approach.
  • How we should be focussed on the potential of any medical intervention to cause harm and should consider this carefully alongside any potential benefit.
  • How we need to take account of all experiences to ensure we provide the maximum benefit and minimum harm to people.
  • Peter’s own experiences with the mental health system, taking antidepressant drugs and experiencing treatment within a psychiatric hospital.
  • How stopping his antidepressant drug resulted in withdrawal effects and led to Peter’s only episode of severe depression.
  • Why Peter is concerned that we seem to be downplaying the experiences of people who have struggled with psychiatric drugs.
  • How Peter’s experiences have influenced his approach to prescribing.
  • The dominance of the biological approach and why it should not dictate how we respond to individual experiences.
  • How the evidence is starting to show that diagnosis can often disempower and bring about ‘otherness’.
  • Peter’s plea for people to be kind to one another and work together to maximise well-being.

Relevant links:

Peter’s blog: Hole Ouisa

The caption is wrong

Paroxetine tablets [Film-coated]

Peter’s films on Vimeo

Mary Midgley

Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall

Raymond Tallis


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James has personal experience of psychiatric drug withdrawal and is a keen advocate for greater awareness of the need to taper safely. He hosts and produces the Let's Talk Withdrawal and Mad in America podcasts.