The Church of GSKology, Part 2

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A century ago Freud and Jung made us aware of the biases underpinning what patients say. Not everything should be accepted at face value. In particular claims of abuse may not be based on reality. We needed experts – analysts – they claimed, to tease out what is real from what is not. The Catholic Church was once intensely hostile to Freud, but when it came to child abuse adopting a Freudian approach was very convenient. But while Freud essentially denied that real abuse was taking place and got away with it in his life-time, the Catholic Church has learnt to its cost that many claims of abuse are real.

Study 329: 50 Shades of Gray

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Access to data is more important than access to information about conflicts of interest. It is only when there is access to the data that we can see if interests are conflicting and take that into account. Problems don’t get solved unless someone is motivated for some reason. We need the bias that pharmaceutical companies bring to bear in their defense of a product, along with the bias of those who might have been injured by a treatment. Both of these biases can distort the picture but it’s when people with differing points of view agree on what is right in front of their noses that we can begin to have some confidence about what we have.

Creating Alternatives to the Medical Model

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Last year I visited the United States on a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to explore ‘alternative routes to mental health recovery’ and to visit a range of peer-led, alternatives to the medical model, with the aim of using the knowledge gained to help develop alternatives in the UK. Looking back, all the organisations and services I visited came about because groups of people in the US decided they wanted something different to conventional mental health services, and then decided to work to make that dream a reality.

War on Civilization: What Would Happen if Patients Radicalize?

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In Paris today we have a lot of people mouthing words that come easily: "Je Suis Charlie." For anyone who wants to be Charlie, who wants to get to know what modern politics is all about, by feeling it in your marrow, try reporting an adverse event on treatment to your doctor. Outside your doctor’s surgery/clinic/ consultation room you can believe you are operating in a democracy. Inside the room you may be treated with courtesy and apparent friendliness but you are being treated in an arrangement set in place to police addicts. This is not a domain in which ideals of Liberty, Equality or Fraternity are welcome.

Psychiatry Reconsidered … Once Again

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It would be a shame if Andrew Scull’s Madness in Civilization did no more than draw well deserved applause for his authorship and historical expertise, and a prominent place in the bibliography of madness. My own copy of Madness in Civilization arrived last week, and it is great; comprehensive, brilliantly written, lots of colourful and many disturbing illustrations. Madness’ continuing story, “From the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine” is told as never before, but there seems to be something missing...

Truth is Like a Lion: The 25th Hearing Voices Conference

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The Hearing Voices movement is a beautiful thing, and last year it was 25 years old. What has happened in 25 years? A confidence has grown in a different approach to hearing voices, listening and embracing rather than trying to control and silence voices. Key to this has been Hearing Voices groups and conferences, where people who hear voices are listened to with openness and curiosity. It’s not about telling people who hear voices to throw away their pills if they are taking them, its about creating spaces to listen deeply to what is happening.

Questions About Jeffrey Lieberman’s “Notorious Past and Bright Future of Psychiatry”

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I just attended my first American Psychiatric Association (APA) meeting even though it has been going for 168 years. I was invited to join a symposium on vitamin-mineral combinations as primary treatment of psychiatric symptoms. There was one talk I decided to attend, not because I was particularly interested in the topic, but because it would give me an opportunity to ask Jeffrey Lieberman a question.

Study 329 in Japan

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By 2002 GlaxoSmithKline had done 3 studies in children who were depressed and described all three to FDA as negative.  As an old post on Bob Fiddaman’s blog reproduced here outlines, several years later they undertook another study in children in Japan. (Editor's note: This is a re-print, by David Healy, of a post by Bob Fiddaman)

Book Review: The Importance of Suffering

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This is a very important, well-written book which should become essential reading for anyone involved in the healing arts, since suffering is - or should be - at the heart of our endeavors. Suffering tells us what’s really important to us, and our approach to it tells us what we’re really made of.

Implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement on Equitable Access to Healthcare

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A new generation of multilateral and bilateral trade agreements is likely to significantly threaten access and cost of healthcare, and limit signatory Governments sovereignty to prioritise health care policy to protect and improve the health of citizens. The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), a Pacific Rim regional trade agreement involving 12 countries — including New Zealand, Australia and the US — is one such agreement, and it has the potential to significantly alter the domestic environment for health policy-making.

How Can We Spread the News?

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Ever since I read Mad in America and later Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker, I have been wondering how to spread this knowledge to the masses and how to do this in a way that will make a difference to as many people as possible.

No More Tears? The Shame of Johnson & Johnson

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In 1972, prisoners at Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia were paid $3 to have their eyes held open with clamps and hooks while Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo was dropped into them. In 2011, mothers of newborns were arrested when their babies tested positive for exposure to cannabis, a false result caused by the use of Johnson & Johnson’s Head-to-Toe Foaming Baby Wash. Young men have undergone mastectomies to remove breasts grown as a result of Johnson & Johnson antipsychotics, which were used as a result of Johnson & Johnson's criminal promotion of its drugs for off-label purposes. And now, Johnson & Johnson has announced the removal of carcinogenic chemicals from their No More Tears baby shampoo.

Elephants and Flamingos

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I am walking through my local park in Copenhagen, Denmark, early in the morning breathing in the fresh smell of damp soil and late summer blooms. I am thinking about my thesis that I have just handed in and the fact that if it is passed I will be a certified psychologist! But, I will not be just any psychologist. I will be Denmark's first official 'Mad' psychologist, joining the ranks of others such as Rufus May, Eleanor Longden, Arnhild Lauveng, and Pat Deegan.

The Church of GSKology

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Facing a sexual abuse lawsuit, the archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis made a big deal of putting an independent panel in place to investigate. They put the Reverend Reginald Whitt in charge of appointing the panel and receiving its reports on behalf of the archdiocese. Rev. Whitt told priests and deacons that the task force may review specific files to determine whether the policies of the archdiocese concerning clergy sexual misconduct were properly followed. But, he wrote, “Access to these files will be within my control, and limited only to what is necessary for the task force.” This sounds terribly like the approach Sir Andrew Witty is attempting to put in place for GSK, AbbVie and the rest of the branded pharmaceutical industry vis-a-vis abuses, including child abuse committed in their name. They are asserting their right to spin their version of what it is you put in your body even though this clashes fundamentally with your right to know what you are putting in your body.

The Tragedy of Lou Lasagna

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In 1956, Lou Lasagna was on his way to being the most famous doctor in the United States; an advocate for controlled clinical trials of both the safety and effectiveness of medication, as well as for a revision to the Hippocratic Oath to include a holistic and compassionate approach to medicine. Then, caught in the nexus of reason, regulation, and the pharmaceutical machine, his star fell.

American Woman

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On Thursday, May 31, 2001, a woman whose name is known only to GlaxoSmithKline emailed the company:   "My name is... I was diagnosed with panic...

Madness and the Family, Part III: Practical Methods for Transforming Troubled Family Systems

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We are profoundly social beings living not as isolated individuals but as integral members of interdependent social systems—our nuclear family system, and the broader social systems of extended family, peers, our community and the broader society. Therefore, psychosis and other forms of human distress often deemed “mental illness” are best seen not so much as something intrinsically “wrong” or “diseased” within the particular individual who is most exhibiting that distress, but rather as systemic problems that are merely being channeled through this individual.

Towards a Hermeneutic Shift in Psychiatry

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I know that this might sound odd coming from a critical psychiatrist, but I believe that psychiatry has a future. Furthermore, I maintain that a good deal of psychiatry as practised now is helpful and that many psychiatrists manage to play a positive and therapeutic role in the lives of their patients. However, I also believe that we are at our most helpful when we depart from the current biomedical ideology that has come to dominate in our profession. As a first step, we need to get beyond the reductionism that currently guides most psychiatric research and education.

Winning Friends and Influencing People

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Some readers of Mad in America may be aware that Scientific American published a short blog by me on 17th November 2014 - Why We Need to Abandon the Disease-Model of Mental Health Care. This blog was rather wonderfully (and slightly embarrassingly) described by Phil Hickey on his website, Behaviorism and Mental Health, as “an important milestone.” My blog attempts to summarise many of the key points of a perspective widely shared on Mad in America: 

RxISK Stories: Gambling on the Side Effects of Antidepressants

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In June last year, three months into a prescription for anti-depressant drug Efexor, former financial analyst Tim Hillier left his hotel to wander the empty streets of Alice Springs in an attempt to clear his head. An hour earlier, he had wagered $80,000 -- almost the entirety of his life-savings -- on a first-round Wimbledon tennis match featuring Aussie hope Sam Stosur.

“Decolonizing Global Mental Health: The Psychiatrization of the Majority World” (Book Review)

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The Movement for Global Mental Health's objective is to ensure that people living in low- and middle-income countries have access to the best and most effective modern psychiatric drugs and therapies. In pursuing these objectives it assumes that to do so is a neutral project beyond political concerns. China Mills’ book Decolonizing Global Mental Health challenges this view.

Looking forward to the Good Ol’ Days

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One of the most remarkable aspects of Robert Whitaker’s (2010) outstanding book Anatomy of an Epidemic was his comparative data that contrasted outcomes for mental disorders prior to the introduction of pharmacological treatments with outcomes for mental disorders after pharmacological treatments became the main, and often only, course of action. I have asked people in workshops to estimate who might be better off – someone diagnosed with what we now call bipolar disorder prior to the introduction of lithium or someone diagnosed after lithium became a standard treatment. Almost without exception workshoppers estimate that the people diagnosed before lithium was available do much worse. Whitaker’s data indicate exactly the opposite. It’s a staggering finding.

If Not Meds, Then WHAT?

A great deal of the information published on MadInAmerica is devoted to this very important question, so many constructive ideas are often presented. We think that nutrition and diet should always be part of the conversation.

Krazy Kiwi Kids

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The New Zealand government has just published research showing the numbers of children aged 2-14 years being diagnosed with mental disorders has doubled in the last five years with the key driver being an increase in anxiety disorders.

Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia? What About Black People?

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In many respects it is difficult to fault the report Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia, recently published by the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP)[i]; indeed, as recent posts on Mad in America have observed, there is much to admire in it. Whilst not overtly attacking biomedical interpretations of psychosis, it rightly draws attention to the limitations and problems of this model, and points instead to the importance of contexts of adversity, oppression and abuse in understanding psychosis. But the report makes only scant, fleeting references to the role of cultural differences and the complex relationships that are apparent between such differences and individual experiences of psychosis.