From In Two Minds to MIND: The circulation of ‘anti-psychiatry’ in British film and television during the long 1960s

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This article explores the circulation of ‘anti-psychiatry’ in British film and television during the long 1960s, focusing on the controversial BBC television play In Two Minds (1967) and its cinema remake Family Life (1971). These films were inspired by R. D. Laing's ideas on the aetiology of schizophrenia, and were understood as uniting the personal and political motivations of progressive film-makers (Ken Loach, Tony Garnett, David Mercer) and progressive psychiatrists (Laing, David Cooper, Aaron Esterson). Drawing upon practitioner interviews with producer Garnett and director Loach, and extensive archival research on the production and reception of these films, this article contests previous scholarship on the popular circulation of anti-psychiatry and the movement's perceived polarisation from mainstream British psychiatry. While the reception of In Two Minds and Family Life did intensify an adversarial relationship between ‘rebel’ anti-psychiatrists and hard-line behaviourists such as William Sargant, the wider psychiatric field largely welcomed the films' contributions to mental health awareness and used the publicity to counter the idea of a ‘battle’ within the profession. This included leading UK mental health organisation the National Association for Mental Health looking to Loach and Laing as models for engaging contemporary audiences as it rebranded to MIND in 1972. This article contributes to historical understandings of the complex interactions between the fields of media and mental health, as well as recent scholarship challenging the idea of a clear split between anti-psychiatry and British medical orthodoxy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-81
Number of pages29
JournalHistory of the Human Sciences
Issue number5
Early online date16 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • R. D. Laing
  • anti-psychiatry
  • film
  • psychiatry
  • television

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