This week an FDA advisory panel decided to remove warnings of serious psychiatric side effects from the Chantix product label. “In making its recommendation, a US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel reviewed the results of a study that was released earlier this year and found that Chantix does not appear to increase the risk of suicidal behavior,” Ed Silverman reports for STAT. “An FDA medical review team had cast doubt on the study due to problems with collecting and analyzing side effect data as well as ties some investigators had to Pfizer.”
In 2010, my 25-year old son was prescribed Prozac for depression. After a psychiatrist doubled his dose, my son became acutely psychotic and had to be admitted to the hospital. Over the next twelve months, during which time he was treated with antidepressants and neuroleptics, my son had five further psychotic experiences. I thought it might be that my son was having difficulty metabolising the drugs.
A new study published in Lancet Psychiatry challenges the common practice of locking psychiatric wards to prevent patients from attempting suicide or leaving against the advice of their physicians. The study finds that locked doors do not stop these behaviors, and the researchers speculate that locked wards may even be worse for patient safety.
A Canadian woman is attempting to assert her right to a lawyer in order to fight an involuntary psychiatric hospitalization. While homeless, the patient checked herself into an emergency room during a mental health crisis. She was then transferred to a psychiatric hospital and told she could not leave. She must now go before a Mental Health Review Board and argue for her own freedom, a task she is expected to do without any legal assistance. "The suggestion that we expect folks to go and make that case, even if you weren't ‘mentally ill’, on your own would be a remarkable thing. But to do it when you're ‘mentally ill’? It's embarrassing that we would expect people to be able to do that and get a fair hearing," said Mark Underhill, one of the lawyers representing the woman.
New research out of the United Kingdom examines the cumulative impact of systemic racism on the mental health of minorities over time. The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, finds that people who experience repeated incidents of racial discrimination are significantly more likely to report mental health problems than those who experience fewer instances of discrimination.
The Lancet Psychiatry published a study last week finding no benefit to locking up patients in mental health hospitals. Data on 145,000 patients found no difference in rates of suicide and patients leaving against advice when comparing those with similar symptoms severity in locked and unlocked wards. “Psychiatry professor Tom Burns, whose commentary on the study was also published in The Lancet, told Nine To Noon an open-door policy could be preferable for those with depression, anxiety or psychosis, as it promoted a better therapeutic atmosphere and more positive health outcomes.”
On NPR’s Morning Edition, Lauren Silverman debunks the assumption that mass shooters are usually ‘mentally ill,’ and that mental health policy can substitute for gun control legislation. "We need more funding for treatment of people with ‘mental illness’ in this country," Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a psychiatrist and director of the division of law, ethics, and psychiatry at Columbia University, says. "But to argue for that funding on false grounds — namely to try and persuade the public that it will protect them [to] have more mental health clinics — in the long run can only backfire."
On his Critical Psychiatry blog, Duncan Double offers his response to Peter Gøtzsche’s and Peter Breggin’s latest blogs on forced treatment. “They want to abolish all forced intervention in psychiatry. Here I do not agree. Society does expect psychiatry to manage madness on its behalf. However much informal and voluntary interventions, including psychotherapy, may have developed since the origins of psychiatry with the asylums in the 19th century, they have not completely replaced the need for compulsory detention.”
The news media frequently write stories that connect mental health issues with violence, according to a new study published this month in Health Affairs. After analyzing a sample of 400 news stories about ‘mental illness’ written between 1995 and 2014, researchers found that the increasing emphasis on violence and mass shootings were “highly disproportionate to actual rates of violence” among those with mental health issues. This gap between what gets represented in the news and what occurs, in reality, may fuel stigma and decrease support for recovery-oriented mental health treatments and policies.
On Wednesday, May 18th, Daniels had what was probably his 102nd consecutive episode of ECT. As always, he told the staff that he did not want it and did not consent to it; as always, he got it. Later on the next afternoon, Garth left to join his family in Brisbane. None of us have a crystal ball but his position now seems much better than at any stage in the past. Let’s look at some of the facts and opinions surrounding this case.
If you’ve read recent reports that state “US suicide rates surge to a 30 year high,” you might first justify the reality with the fact that things feel very wrong in our world today. On a personal, national, and planetary level, people are suffering to survive and the distress is coming from all sides – medical to economic to existential. But you probably also wonder why more people are choosing this permanent and self-destructive path, and feel compelled to submit to seemingly logical appeals to provide these individuals more help and greater access to treatment. Surprise: that may be the last thing our population of hopeless and helpless needs. Life’s inevitable challenges are not the problem. It’s the drugs we use that are fueling suicide.
This narrative of who matters in society and how we convince everyone that certain people don’t count (including, sometimes, those people themselves) should be a familiar one to all of us who’ve been touched by the psychiatric system in some way. But we don’t talk nearly enough about how one interlocks with the other. For example, how do these attitudes about girls and women and their bodies serve as a sort of preparatory ‘class’ for the systems that will bind them just a little further down the road?
“In Nunatsiavut, climate change is already a terrible reality, and it’s taking a heavy toll on mental health,” Ellie Robins reports for the influence. “In Nunatsiavut, land is once again being taken from communities that have lived on it for thousands of years. This time, it’s not being snatched by colonialists. Instead, it’s changing, disappearing, possibly becoming uninhabitable as a result of the behaviors of other, richer people, elsewhere.”
In a new article for Scientific American, Diana Kwon reports on how the true risks for suicide and aggression in children and teens taking antidepressants have been suppressed by drug companies. “Taken together with other research—including studies that suggest antidepressants are only marginally better than placebos—some experts say it is time to reevaluate the widespread use of these drugs.”
The Irish Examiner reports on research by Yolande Lucire connecting antidepressant-induced akathisia to violent episodes. The research concludes that the “medicalisation of common human distress” has resulted in a very large number of people getting medication that may do more harm than good by causing “suicides and homicides and the mental states that lead up to them”.
When the CDC released data revealing an increasing suicide rate in the US, some experts, speaking to major media outlets, speculated that the increase could be tied to the FDA’s Black Box warning for teen suicides on antidepressants. It was suggested that the warnings may discourage some from taking antidepressants and that these drugs may prevent suicides. The research, however, does not appear to support these claims. A new review of studies on the role of antidepressants in suicide, published this month in the journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, concludes that there is no evidence that antidepressants prevent suicide and that the research may even suggest that the drugs increase the risk.
In my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined being drawn into a story of intrigue involving my own government’s efforts to hide, from the public, reports of psychiatric drugs associated with cases of murder, including homicides committed by youth on the drugs. But that is precisely the intrigue I now find myself enmeshed in.
This week’s issue of the New Yorker examines the treatment of people diagnosed with mental health issues in Florida’s prisons. The horrifying stories of prisoners tortured, killed by guards, and driven to suicide while staff looked away reached the public only through the work of investigators and whistleblowers.
Multiple media sources are reporting on new data from the CDC revealing a substantial increase in the suicide rate in the United States between 1999 and 2014, with a steep increase in rates among girls and women. Few report, however, that the percentage of Americans on antidepressants has nearly doubled over this period.
The medication left me emotionally numb, making it impossible to connect with people or sense the aliveness of the world around me. But after two years on antidepressants, I found something that gave me jolt of feeling strong enough to wake me up for a moment. I then spent the next seven years giving myself daily doses of horror to induce an emotional reaction.
New research published in JAMA Pediatrics reveals that transgender women have more than double the prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses than the general US population. The study found that the women, who had been assigned male at birth and now identified as female, had a high prevalence of suicidality, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, generalized anxiety and major depressive disorder.
It is time to create an entirely voluntary psychiatric system. International conscience is clear. The singling out of people with psychosocial disabilities is not worthy of a free society. There are better, safer ways to address legitimate public needs.
Reporting from Elizabeth Rosenthal at the New York Times reveals that more and more hospital guards are now carrying weapons. For patients in mental distress, like Alan Pean, this can have serious consequences.
"There's a growing awareness that alternatives to law enforcement are needed, that alternatives to emergency medical services are needed. There's a lot of people having problems related to psychiatric problems and addiction based problems and poverty problems, that end up getting addressed by the police but may be appropriately addressed by another resource," said CAHOOTS team member Brenton Gicker.
The case of “Beth” depicts, almost innocently, the trials and tribulations of a well-adjusted, talented 15-year-old who developed depression, paranoia, panic attacks, and self-injurious and homicidal behavior, and “bipolar disorder” after being prescribed antidepressants, and then antipsychotics. After Beth decided – on her own – to discontinue psychotropic medications in favor of hormone therapy, she remained free of psychiatric symptoms.
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