Ivor Browne - in his own words: ‘We’re living in a society that is driving people mad’

Browne, one of Ireland’s best known psychiatrists, on mental illness, Eastern philosophy, nature and more

Ivor Browne, one of Ireland’s best known psychiatrists, died on Wednesday at his home in Ranelagh, Dublin aged 94.

A former professor of psychiatry at University College Dublin, Dr Browne voiced concern throughout his career on what he saw was an overreliance on medication to treat mental illness. Attracted to Eastern philosophy, he articulated his viewpoint in interviews and writings over several decades:

“We are not living in a healthy society. We’re living in a society that is systematically driving people mad. It’s a society that needs to be fixed.” – The Irish Times, 2013

“This Celtic Tiger is quite frightening because the old religion has died and nothing is replacing it.” – The Irish Soul: In Dialogue, 2001


“Mental illness is seen as a disease caused by either a disturbance in our biochemistry or by genetic influences – but this is a myth. This view of mental illness arises from a reductionist scientific concept ... and it breaks down when applied to living creatures such as ourselves.” – The Irish Times, 2010

“In dealing with psychiatric illness, there is no treatment you can apply to a person that will bring about real change in them. The person has to undertake the work himself and this involves pain and suffering.” – The Irish Times, 2010

“It’s been a good thing, this horrible recession following from our enthusiasm for the material. People are relating to each other a bit more. I think there’s more optimism now. When the Celtic Tiger was functioning, people didn’t seem at all happy.” – The Irish Times, 2013

“If you try to relate in a loving way you find that people respond. When you give as much love as you can, you get it back 100-fold.” – The Irish Times, 2013

“I would take the... Eastern view that everything is God... There is some kind of creative core to the universe.” – The Irish Soul: In Dialogue, 2001

“I don’t know what all this jazz about the Oedipus complex is. It seems to me to have been grossly exaggerated in importance.” – The Irish Soul: In Dialogue, 2001

“The system [for treating mental illness] is worse now: instead of being contained by walls, people are contained by drugs.” – The Irish Times, 2013

“This civilisation can’t last too much longer. Nature is not going to tolerate a cancer like us without hitting back. It’s going to happen sometime during this century.” – Meetings With Ivor, 2017

“I may be crazy. But it’s no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Meetings With Ivor, 2017

References: The Irish Times; Meetings With Ivor documentary, Alan Gilsenan (2017); The Irish Soul In Dialogue, Stephen J Costello (2001)

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