Political involvement of psychiatrists: We live in a "therapeutic culture". [There] are changing sociocultural norms for what is considered normal and acceptable. Are--and should--psychiatrists be aware of the sociological and political changes occurring as a result of the millions taking antidepressants or receiving psychotherapy? Should psychiatrists take a more active role in managing forces that influence communities, given the positive therapeutic effects of unconditional positive regard, hope, trust, interpersonal connection, and belonging (some of the common factors)?Psychiatrists as a group are extremely heterogeneous, in terms of personality style, intellectual background, and political beliefs. Those who involve themselves in administration or politics may do so in a loving attempt to help their community, but may also do so due to a need to have more influence, control, money, or self-aggrandizement (to be fair, I suppose most people would be motivated by all of these factors, to some degree). There are a lot of big egos in psychiatry, just like everywhere else.
I've often thought of the ideal role of psychiatrist (politically) as some kind of monastic figure ("Jedi-like", if I could indulge in a popular culture metaphor): serenely outside the political machine, possessing wisdom but healthily setting aside the need to exert power or control at all. This type of paradigm is in conflict with the competitive and ambitious world of politics or administration.
I do agree that we all need to be more active in informing ourselves about political concerns, and attempting to help not only individuals, but also groups, communities, or nations. And psychiatry as an organized group most definitely needs to be aware of large-scale social effects of treatments such as psychotherapy and medications.
In very dark and troubled times, or in dark and troubled parts of the world, very bad things can happen politically. The institution of psychiatry has sometimes been involved in these events. At other times, psychiatrists or therapists are themselves persecuted. It is a luxury to live in a peaceful and free nation, and we need to be vigilant to maintain social and political freedom.
Here are a few articles about this:
http://www.atypon-link.com/GPI/doi/pdf/10.1521/prev.88.2.295.17677 (an essay about psychiatry in Nazi Germany)
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/16082 (an 2003 excerpt published in the New York Review of Books about psychiatry in China)