Dr. E. Fuller Torrey on Better Treatment for the Future

Posted on May 24, 2016 by Ashley Womble

Longtime friend of Fountain House research psychiatrist, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, was recently the recipient of the New York Academy of Medicine’s prestigious Thomas William Salmon Award in Psychiatry. He delivered the 2016 Salmon Lecture at the Academy on March 30 and praised Fountain House for being one of the most effective means of psychiatric rehabilitation.

Dr. E Fuller Torrey (left) accepting the Thomas William Salmon Award in Psychiatry with Fountain House Medical Advisory Board Member Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD


In the lecture, titled “The Future of Psychosis: Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder in 2040,” Dr. Torrey discussed the merger of psychiatry and neurology and better treatment for the future. Highlights of his lecture are below.

The Merger of Psychiatry and Neurology

Dr. Torrey presented evidence that contradicts old theories that schizophrenia is genetic. He cited three reasons to believe that “bad genes" are not major contributors to the causes of schizophrenia. Men with schizophrenia have a very low fertility rate, first cousin marriages do not increase the incidence rate, and 75% of people with schizophrenia were killed in Nazi Germany.

The merger of psychiatry and neurology will help people understand that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are diseases of the brain. Dr. Torrey discussed the linkage of specific symptoms of schizophrenia to specific brain areas. He said that schizophrenia is a network disease and suggested that several infectious agents may be possible causes.

Better Treatment for the Future

Dr. Torrey called for better treatment of people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He discussed the problem of anosognosia, in which people do not believe they are ill, as well as state laws governing involuntary treatment. Dr. Torrey stated the need for sufficient psychiatric hospital beds, because there are currently 50 for every 100,000 people who need them.

He told the audience that Fountain House is the “the best model,” citing its combination of access to supportive housing, vocational opportunities, and socialization. He said that Fountain House is exactly what community health should look like.

In order to give better care, psychiatrists must have better training. Dr. Torrey said that Fountain House is the type of place where psychiatrists should be trained in order to learn more psychosocial treatments. He suggested that psychiatrists spend six months at a clubhouse like Fountain House.

Dr. Torrey ended his presentation with a quote from Dr. Stephen Rachlin. “The paramount civil right of the patient should be that of adequate treatment. By so doing, we will maximize our ability to assist in the attainment of the most important civil liberty which can be granted to the seriously ill patient—freedom from psychosis.”

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