Tom Cruise debates psychiatry on NBC's Today show

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

In an interview on NBC's Today show with Matt Lauer, Tom Cruise aggressively defended his opposition to psychiatry and anti-depressive drugs. This occurred after being asked questions about his criticism of Brooke Shields, who has been taking drugs, including Paxil, for postpartum depression. Cruise is usually known for keeping his cool in interviews, but recently he has been slightly more unbound.

Cruise's statements, including "Psychiatry is a pseudoscience", and "There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance in a body", reflect the beliefs of the Church of Scientology, of which he is a member. The interview became particularly tense when Lauer mentioned that he knew people who had been helped by taking Ritalin, an attention-deficit disorder drug.

"Matt, Matt, you don't even — you're glib," Cruise responded. "You don't even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, OK. That's what I've done."

Cruise went on to say: "You don't know the history of psychiatry, I do."

Cruise has not formally studied medicine beyond a high school education, having dropped out in his senior year (1980) to pursue an acting career. In light of this, some members of the psychiatric community have refuted Cruise's controversial statements. Dr. John Scully, medical director of the American Psychiatric Association, has said "The illnesses we treat - anxiety, depression - are very real illnesses...The treatments work. We have demonstrated that through robust scientific study."

Lauer insisted that Ritalin helped people: "You're telling me what's worked for people I know or hasn't worked for people I know. I'm telling you, I've lived with these people and they're better," Lauer said.

Cruise hinted that Lauer was promoting Ritalin and Lauer scoffed: "I am not. I'm telling you in their cases, in their individual case, it worked."

The exchange ended when the two basically agreed to disagree. Cruise, who is 42, did admit that one of his goals is to speak more about Scientology in an effort to get people to understand it better.

Scientology has historically been at odds with the established medical and mental health community. The rift dates back to the 1950s and Scientology's founding father L. Ron Hubbard. In his book, "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health", published in 1950, Hubbard claims that Dianetics (later called Scientology) could cure the majority of human ailments. These claims were sharply disputed by a variety of mainstream science and medical professionals including psychiatrists.

On Monday, June 27, 2005, the American Psychiatric Association released a statement that stated the following: "It is irresponsible for Mr. Cruise to use his movie publicity tour to promote his own ideological views and deter people with mental illness from getting the care they need...Rigorous, published, peer-reviewed research clearly demonstrates that treatment (of mental illness) works...It is unfortunate that in the face of this remarkable scientific and clinical progress that a small number of individuals and groups persist in questioning its legitimacy."

The APA represents nearly 36,000 physicians specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

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