On the Brink of Murder Because of an Antidepressant

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While going through a divorce in 2012, award-winning documentary filmmaker Katinka Blackford Newman from London was prescribed escitalopram (Cipralex or Lexapro, from Lundbeck). This is a depression pill, but Katinka was not depressed, only distressed, with sleepless nights, when she needed to leave the family home after a 12-year marriage.

The pill nearly killed her and took her away from her kids, which Katinka has described in her book, “The pill that steals lives.” She also made a very moving 8-minute film about her own story that I recommend everyone with an interest in psychiatry to see, and she has an interesting homepage, with links to documentaries and with stories about people who killed themselves or others or were seriously harmed by the pills.

Trap with medical bottle full pills. 3D rendering isolated on white background

Katinka started hallucinating wildly, thinking in very violent images, and imagined she had stabbed herself in the stomach. She took a kitchen knife and lacerated her left arm. She became convinced she had stabbed and killed her two children, Lily and Oscar, 12 and 11 years old, respectively. Nothing really mattered, and it was pure luck that she didn’t kill herself or someone else, as she had no sense of reality.

Katinka ended up in a private psychiatric hospital in central London, Florence Nightingale. The psychiatrists didn’t realise it was the pill that had made her ill. They diagnosed psychotic depression and forced her to stay and take more drugs.

Oscar says in the film that after three months on antidepressants and antipsychotics, his mom had no emotions and walked around like a robot in a very dirty dressing gown for a whole year.

Katinka couldn’t hold a conversation and wasn’t interested in anything. The worst thing was that she couldn’t feel anything, couldn’t even feel any love for her children.

After a year, Katinka was on seven different drugs, including two neuroleptics (olanzapine and quetiapine), a depression pill (fluoxetine), an anti-epileptic (lamotrigine), lithium, a sleeping aid (zopiclone) and a couple of benzodiazepines to be used if the other drugs were not enough to knock her down.

Her psychiatrists insisted she had treatment-resistant depression. They didn’t realise they had caused her condition themselves. Who would not become depressed on such a drug cocktail? It is considered malpractice to give more than one neuroleptic simultaneously, which increases mortality for no benefit, and it is also bad medicine to give several minor tranquillisers, and indeed for more than a couple of weeks.

Then, her private insurance ran out, and she was admitted to a public hospital where they stopped all the drugs cold turkey. This was also serious medical malpractice. It is very dangerous to stop psychiatric drugs abruptly, which can cause akathisia, suicide and homicide.

But Katinka’s so-called illness disappeared in just three weeks. She was able to love her children again and look them in the eyes.

Oscar says in the film: “All along, I have been saying to everyone: It’s the pills. No one would believe that you get medicines, and they would make you crazy and psychotic, and I just thought, this has to stop.”

So, a small boy knew what caused his mom’s problems while highly paid psychiatrists at a private hospital harmed her indescribably and gave her a totally wrong diagnosis, psychotic and treatment-resistant depression.

At the book launch in 2016, which I attended, Katinka said she was very lucky to be there alive, and not serving a life sentence for killing her children.

As an introduction to her book, I write: “This book describes in vivid detail how ordinary people can become murderers if they take antidepressant drugs and how psychiatry can destroy people. It is a catching personal testimony about what is wrong with psychiatry, its love affair with unscientific diagnoses and harmful drugs, and its blindness towards the fact that what look like psychiatric diseases are often side effects of psychiatric drugs.”

A mother in Holland did not have the luck Katinka had. When Katinka published her book, I was an expert witness in a double homicide case in Holland where I emphasised that serious professional malpractice played a crucial role. Aurélie Versluis had killed her two children with a knife while having indisputable symptoms of akathisia on paroxetine (Seroxat or Paxil, from GlaxoSmithKline) but her pleas for help were ignored. After three months on the drug, she became suicidal but instead of withdrawing it, her psychiatrist advised continued use.

Aurélie told two people about nightmares where she slit her children’s throats (which she ultimately did, and also tried to commit suicide). Two days prior to the homicides, she reported to her supervisor that she was ill and told several people that she was not feeling well. She visited her family doctor (who had prescribed paroxetine) with her complaints and her company doctor who dismissed her. Finally, she contacted her psychologist who did not have time for her.

It is a gruesome story. She was not herself, which a forensic psychiatrist confirmed three days after the homicides. And her doctors continued to harm her. They stopped paroxetine cold turkey when she was in the psychiatric penitentiary six months after the homicides, causing serious harm that persisted for five months.

I did my best in court, but the judges failed to understand that those who should have been accused were Aurélie’s psychiatrists, not her. She should have been released because of drug-induced insanity. They sentenced her to 9 years in prison, but questions were raised in parliament if the judicial system was too harsh. It surely was. In these cases, it is very rare that judges do anything other than accepting the explanations of the psychiatrists, even though they have a huge conflict of interest when they defend themselves or their colleagues in a system that is sick.

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Chemicals, chemicals, chemicals… Boy, has this industry made a literal killing drugging people into oblivion. How is this any different than numbing ourselves with food, alcohol, video games, or recreational drugs? Let’s never address the problems in a cogent and effective manner, which are largely socioeconomic in nature, and for many of us, cultural.

    Being formally educated in our hypercapitalist culture is not an indicator of wisdom and intelligence, but knowledge in a specific field that will allow you to harness your skills for the purpose of acquiring capital and maintaining a system that exploits people.

    Nobody gets a degree in psychiatry because they are looking to help people, even if their initial intentions are noble. It’s a racket designed to afflict people who are vulnerable. To make money off of their suffering and cast them as unreliable narrators in their own lives, which is why these big brains possess a level of hubris that is unmatched by no other.

    You can’t tell a psychiatrist that the drugs they prescribe are harming you physically (affecting your brain, nervous system, blood pressure, and overall fitness) and psychologically (induced psychotic episodes, emotional blunting). Their PhDs won’t allow them to take any criticism, which they interpret as patients being non-compliant. They have kids to feed and know more than you do, so take your pill, relax, and be quiet.

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  2. “Then, her private insurance ran out”

    “highly paid psychiatrists at a private hospital harmed her indescribably and gave her a totally wrong diagnosis, psychotic and treatment-resistant depression.”

    I think they may have given her a ‘diagnosis’ which would allow them to keep her right where she was until the insurance ran out. As long as the ATM of Private Insurance is paying, the $200 walk pasts will continue.

    I had a friend who went through pretty much the same thing. Went to hospital because of bleeding in his throat, the Gold Standard Private Insurance meant he wasn’t allowed to leave until the insurance were no longer paying, and then he was sent home with bottles of pills and in an absolute dribbling mess. He wasn’t capable of doing much other than dribbling onto his dressing gown.

    His sister flushed the pills down the toilet and he got better in about three weeks too (though I agree tapering would have been better). Once he was well enough he cancelled his health insurance and went as basic as he could. He lived wayyyyy beyond what the doctors gave him, and finally put a 44 magnum into his mouth when he was faced with the choice of being taken into their ‘care’ again.

    I bet the Doctors have their EFTPOS machines ready for anyone with Top Level Health Insurance who fit the criteria for such enslavement.

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  3. Peter, can you discuss a context of murder versus being forced to die in response to the disemowering nature of mental health treatment as currently practiced? If individual and collective decision decision making are entangled in policy or even law; then where are the definitive moments being afforded for “self-determination? That is the graduated track with recovery?

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