Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

By Marvin Ross

We began this blog in early October 2014 so we are now into our 7th year. When we started, neither of us was sure we would be going this long nor that we could sustain one blog a week. As it happened, there were weeks when we generated 2 and even 3 blogs a week. We still have a great deal to say although we may slow down a bit with Mr Trump either walking out of the White House on his own volition or dragged out screaming and clutching onto things by the secret service.

David will have to find something else to focus on which I’m sure he will. As a reminder, his compilation of Trump views from Trump’s first two years in office are compiled into Two Years on the Psychiatrist’s Couch (5 stars on Amazon) and available everywhere.

In our seven years, we have been read in a grand total of 163 different countries (51,692 in Canada and 45,296 in the US). We have generated 494 posts read 115,388 times by a total of 59,834 different people. And, we just learned that we rank at number 43 worldwide for all blogs dealing with mental illness according to feedspot.com. See https://blog.feedspot.com/mental_health_blogs/

We will be continuing with our regular blogs but I’m pleased to report that we are working on two new books. One of them will be published by Bridgeross in the Spring once the pandemic is well underway to being behind us – hopefully. That book will be an autobiography by Jude Mersereau in Hamilton who has schizophrenia and is a wonderful artist and singer. She and her husband, who also has schizophrenia, also perform their music. That book will feature some of her art.

A few years ago, Jude was one of three subjects that we looked at in our documentary of the Cottage Studio for people with schizophrenia called The Brush, the Pen and Recovery. She is featured in our trailer and that is her singing in the background while her husband, George, accompanies her on the guitar.

The other book is one that I’ve just started as a refutation of all the nonsense of anti-psychiatry that exists out there today making it difficult for people to get evidence based treatment. It suddenly dawned on me when I wrote my blog The US Election, Covid-19 and Anti-Psychiatry. Anti-psychiatry, I argue, is another manifestation of the anti-science ignorance that we see driving the anti-masking, anti-vax attitudes that are so prevalent today despite all the advances society has made in science. I’ve actually made very good progress since I started it partly because I can’t go anywhere with the lockdowns of covid. I will keep you posted.

Portrait of Jude and George’s daughter , Amanda

Research Projects for a Social Sciences Graduate Student:

By Dr David Laing Dawson

1. Cult leaders, con artists, and snake oil salesmen, I assume, arise in every culture. We have had a few in Canada. But I was really struck the other day just how much that market flourishes in the USA. Perhaps I have simply been overly saturated with American news and social media during these COVID months, but between broadcasting short bits on Keith Raniere, founder of NXIVM, and Trump, CNN sponsors tried to sell me something to improve my brain, and then something else to take all my aches away, and then something else to improve my immune system, and then I cut away to watch Paula White, (White house spiritual advisor) speaking in tongues, and then another televangelist telling his people that even during COVID and unemployment they should continue their tithe to his church, if they want God to look favourably upon them.

And we all know of course that a Con artist and snake oil salesman rose to and seized the presidency of that country, and 72 million Americans would be happy for him to continue in this role.

As a psychiatrist I have only had the privilege of interviewing failed cult leaders, con artists, and snake oil salesmen. One I saw years ago had tried all three of those endeavours before falling to the lowest rung of that ladder, selling encyclopaedias door to door. (He had failed in a Ponzi scheme, been convicted, did time in prison, where he came to Jesus, studied hard, and then worked his way up to pastor of a church upon release, which worked fine for him for a while, at least until the number of sexual assault allegations had grown to a point that could not be ignored) (About which I must make a satirical point: Shouldn’t we set the limit at, say, 10 sexual assault accusations, after which one cannot either run for political office, be a pastor of a church, or take boy scouts on camping trips?)

But seriously, before speculating why the market for cult leaders, con artists and snake oil salesmen is so broad and rich and successful in the USA, it would be wise to compare with other countries.

The goals are pretty obvious: money, sex and power. Perhaps in other countries the aspirations are just not that high.

A Cornered Narcissist is not a Pretty Sight

By Dr David Laing Dawson

This was first published in November, 2018 after the mid terms when the Republicans did poorly. It is highly relevant today as the Narcissist in Chief is refusing to accept defeat and leave. For more of Dr Dawson’s insights, pick up a copy of his Two Years of Trump on the Psychiatrist’s Couch available everywhere in print and all e-book formats (5 stars on Amazon)

Here is what to expect:

Increasing displays of petulance, irrational accusations, self-pity, rage, and depression, while he continues to seek out adoring crowds and fawning world leaders wherever he can find them.

This depression will take the form of blunt affect, self-imposed isolation, and paranoia.

I was struck by Trump’s demeanour right after the midterms. The news channels referred to it as upbeat, positive. His words (the actual words) started out upbeat, declaring the midterms a Republican “victory”, calling it “great”, before taking pot shots at all his favourite enemies and hinting at a democratic/deep state conspiracy against him, but his affect throughout this was flat, his pronunciation dull, his face blunted. even when using the words “great” and “victory” – at least until his petulant rage at Jim Acosta.

With the democrats now having the majority in the House, the republicans weakened in many State legislatures, the firing of Jeff Sessions, we are now into the endgame.

I don’t profess to feel any certainty how this will unfold. The possibilities include everything from impeachment to endless investigations to a thin gruel of feigned bipartisanship to more unrest, polarization, and violence.

But Donald Trump’s responses are predictable, and highly visible in his five tweets today attacking the press and the Mueller Investigation with even more recklessness and less attention to reality than we have seen before.

There was a time when a mad king could be isolated and the kingdom protected from his madness. Unfortunately we now have twitter and more than a few sycophants surrounding this president. And many more commentators still trying to shine a kind light on his outrageous words and notions.

Perhaps the world’s frightening march back to 1913 with the rise of nationalism, the erection of fences, the dissolution of agreements, and the rebirth of oligarchs will proceed without Trump. Or, or, or America might return to an improved version of itself as the beacon of successful liberal democracy, perhaps even with universal health care, gun control, less racism and a major role to play addressing climate change. I hope they try. Whatever poison flows below the 49th parallel tends to seep into Canada.

So, my American friends, it is now time for damage control and careful planning. If only you could promise him a statue bigger than Lincoln’s and the rating of “best president ever” in the history books in return for his retirement to Mar-a-Lago, quietly and permanently.

The Adoration of Donald John Trump

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Watching video coverage of the Pro-Trump gathering in Washington I was struck by the aerial shot of crowds surging toward the roadside to get a glimpse of Trump in his motorcade on the way to his golf course.

Why?

Surely they have seen enough of him.

In the days before television and then social media and Youtube this might have made some sense. Until that point the fans of a president might have only read his words, listened to speeches on radio, and seen the occasional photo. The urge to see your leader in the flesh may have been compelling.

Which leads me to a more important thought.

One of our tasks in this century and the last, perhaps the most important one, is to build social structures, social contracts, institutions, that protect us from those instincts that once upon a time conferred upon our tribes, survival value. Then, thousands of years ago, but not now. Now these same traits can lead us to self-destruction.

And the instinct or trait in this case, as witnessed in the crowd surging to the roadside, is that of giving oneself over to a leader. This is played out within the politics, etiquette, and lingo of the present, but really, this instinct can override reason, thought, and consideration.

I can see this instinct, this trait, (probably residing to various degrees bell curve style within a tribe’s populace), being very important for survival for thousands of years. In fact this is demonstrated in much of the ancient history we are taught.

I picture one watering hole, one river, one hunting ground or arable plain, and two tribes competing for this abundance. Within one tribe each member thinks for him or herself. They discuss, argue, persuade. The leader tries to convince them they should get ready to fight, but they consider the real consequences of this and argue, rationally, about other approaches, compromises. Meanwhile the leader of the other tribe has exhorted his members to take up arms (for King and Country and invisible God) and attack. And a high percent of folks in this second tribe have that trait, that gene, and they fall in line. And once they have fallen in line no reason can budge them.

And for thousands of years this was the tribe that survived and passed on its genes.

Perhaps the charismatic leader of the moment has but good in his heart, or perhaps he is a conman or worse. I don’t think it matters to that percent of the population that instinctively suppresses reason, wisdom, science, reality, and probability for the chance to give one’s destiny over to this other, to this new king or prophet. And this could explain the puzzling phenomenon of many Obama voters switching to Trump in 2016.

In Canada our constitutional monarchy is an institution that recognizes that particular human instinct and reduces its negative consequences. When the Queen visits many Canadians surge to the roadside to see her passing and waving, even knowing she is but a symbolic, powerless, expensive, anachronistic head of our very diverse tribe. Only a scattering turn out to see our Prime Minister drive into town. He is just a person temporarily filling an important role in our social structure. We can (mostly) see him and his thoughts, policies, and ideas clearly and judge him accordingly.

Americans need a figure head, a real Uncle Sam, onto whom they can project their dreams and wishes, distortions and fantasies, their need for a prophet, and then this might allow them to view their real human politicians through a clear and rational lens.

The Inadequate Tyrant and the Three Steves

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I briefly felt some sympathy for Donald Trump but then, thank God, it dissipated quickly. On the other hand this is the first time we can be somewhat grateful for Donald’s unremitting narcissism, his short attention span, his limited knowledge, and his pubescent emotional reactions.

Without these traits I fear we would be witnessing a slow coup, and, as Pompeo said, a smooth transition to a second (read president-for-life) Trump term. But Trump is short sighted, impulsive and flailing within his narcissistic injury, and very busy trying to undo the hurt and reconstruct the outcome of the election, rather than planning the destruction of American Democracy.

Our American friends might yet get their decent, calm, Biden/Harris presidency and re-establish themselves on the world stage as a beacon of hope.

But behind the scenes we can always find the Millers, Minuchins, Barrs, Bannons, Goebbels, Hesses, Speers, and Himmlers, plus, now, the public cheerleaders for autocracy, the Hannitys, Carlsons, Ingrahams….

They are trying. Here is the list of their accomplishments so far:

  • Stack the Supreme Court
  • Undermine faith in the democratic process
  • Sow distrust of all news media
  • Use current technology to spread your own reality widely
  • Over-turn the election by any means
  • Put your own men in charge of the Pentagon and the Military
  • Ensure the state and city police forces are on your side
  • Co-opt as many religious leaders as possible
  • Encourage all the private militias and hate groups (make sure they are armed and standing by)
  • Ramp up division and fear by letting a pandemic get out of control
  • Sow distrust of academics and scientists
  • Sow distrust of any agencies that do not fall in line
  • Choose a bogeyman (socialism this time) and repeat and repeat the imaginary horrors to come.

Joe and Kamala, this is still a gunfight. This is not the time to be gentle and trusting.

The US Election, Covid-19 and Anti-psychiatry

By Marvin Ross

The US election has delivered the final blow to science. As the medical paper, Stat News reported, the 70 million Americans who voted for Trump “agree with a president who has called the nation’s top scientists “idiots,” openly mocked mask-wearing, and has insisted states must be “liberated” from lockdowns.” While I don’t disagree with their declaration, this anti-science movement has been coming for a long time. The opposition by many to simple public health strategies like wearing masks, social distancing plus embracing unproven drugs for Covid like hydroxychloroquine are just the latest manifestation of anti-science acceptance.

It’s difficult to know when this anti-science trend began, but probably with the search for alternate cancer treatments and the conspiracy theory that cancer is be curable but big pharma refuses to because they make so much money selling drugs. That one did not gain much acceptance but other anti-science beliefs dealing with psychiatry and mental illness, anti-vax views, alternative medicine and the use of vitamins, homeopathic potions, reiki, etc, opposition to genetic modification, avoidance of gluten by people who did not suffer celiac disease and the list goes on are common.

Some of these have had serious health consequences much like the opposition to standard public health strategies is having in Covid. One commentator in the US election circus pointed out that by the time Trump leaves office, another 100,000 Americans will have died. And the proponents of this anti-science are not all uneducated, ignorant people. There are doctors who push hydroxy and are willing to sell vitamins to increase immunity although I am not sure of their motivation. A lot of middle class, educated people are opposed to vaccinations based solely on anecdotes and a “study” found to be badly flawed that was pulled from the medical journal where it was originally published.

How many seemingly educated people tell you they cannot consume gluten even though they do not have celiac disease or rail against GMO? Genetic modification has been going on for years in one form or another to develop crops that are more resistant to drought or frost or whatever. Our dogs are genetically modified to produce animals where the desired characteristic becomes dominant.

The one anti-science position that is the most firmly established and damaging is anti-psychiatry. After the development of anti-psychotic medications in the 1950’s, hospitals began discharging patients. It was believed they would stay on medication and get support in the community but the funds for that support were never made available. Since then, we have seen an increase in homeless mentally ill and of the mentally ill in jails.

Despite the advances in less dirty and more targetted medications, hospital and community resources have not been adequate to provide effective treatment. Added to this, is a move away from science to a belief that mental illness is a life choice (a response to a difficult life), childhood trauma, and a disdain for psychiatry as not being a valid discipline.

The United Nations has taken the position in their Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that would abolish all involuntary treatment and hospital admission along with the criminal defence of Not Criminally Responsible. In British Columbia, there is a movement to change the Mental Health Act to do away with involuntary treatment and committal. It is believed that involuntary treatment violates the human rights of the ill person when in fact involuntary committal and treatment allows the person the human right of not being driven by his/her psychiatric demons.

This anti-psychiatry movement has even resulted in a scholarship at the University of Toronto for anti-psychiatry studies. The person responsible for that has spent considerable time going after the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health because they provide ECT. Of course, studies of ECT for depression have demonstrated considerable efficacy but these do-gooders consider it to be torture. My two article on the topic can be found here and here.

There is a great deal that can be written about anti-science movements that continue to prevent the seriously mentally ill from getting the treatment they need and have such disastrous impacts on fighting other diseases but that will have to wait for another day. It would actually make a good book.

A Tuesday Morning Prayer for the US Election

Dr David Laing Dawson

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Dear Americans. Please give Joe Biden an overwhelming victory this week.

My selfish reason for this prayer is that I cannot tolerate Donald Trump occupying so much real estate in my mind for the next 4 years.

For less selfish reasons, 4 more years of Trump will do irreparable damage to the largest democracy in the world, to the world of western democracies, and to the world as a whole, including the world of my grandchildren, to say nothing of the planet itself.

(Did you know the Trump administration, in just 4 years, has quietly enacted a total of 75 measures that negatively impact the environment and increase the likelihood of rapid global warming?)

Some scholars and pundits think the damage is already irreparable. And certainly a narrow victory by Biden will lead to months of unrest, uncertainty, and, possibly, consequences almost as bad as those of a Trump victory.

I will be content, over the next few years, to ponder, think about, research and write about our human tendency to join cults and blindly follow poisonous leaders, but, please, as an historical phenomenon and from an academic distance. Please.

Guest Blog Mental Illness Left Out of BC Candidates Debate on Mental Health Services

By Susan Inman author of After Her Brain Broke Helping My Daughter Recover Her Sanity

Just before BC’s Oct. 24th election, candidates from the NDP, Liberal and Green parties participated in a debate on mental health services organized by the BC CMHA. Unfortunately, for people concerned about those living with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia, during the entire two-hour event there was only one fleeting reference to “mental illness.”

There was no mention during this debate of what advocates for the needs of people with severe mental illnesses frequently call attention to such as the shortage of acute and tertiary psychiatric beds, the need for more supported housing, implementation of cognitive remediation programs and focused efforts to improve the ability of mental health staff to cooperate with families. The current BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (see Guide to the Mental Health Act Appendix 13) actually allows for communication between staff and families in order to provide continuity of care; too many staff either do not know about this provision or prefer not to abide by it. Promoting improvements in this cooperation would be an excellent and inexpensive policy position for a political party.

Most of the plans that were presented focused on promotion of mental health especially among children and youth. These were discussed as ways to prevent future mental health problems. The debate’s moderator, Tyee health reporter Moira Wyton, firmly declared that “root causes” of these future problems are abuse and trauma and the evening’s discussion was shaped around these beliefs. Wyton promoted the popular but erroneous notion that mental health problems should be understood as arising from adverse social determinants of health. No-one mentioned the existence of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or appeared to know that neither of these medical disorders, impacting about 4% of the population, can be prevented.

While there was no acknowledgement of the existence of or the needs of people with severe mental illnesses, threats to the basic safety of this population were actually omnipresent in much of the debate. These threats relate to support for the current vigorous efforts from some advocacy groups to cut off access to involuntary treatment.

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder frequently involve episodes of psychosis accompanied by anosognosia, a brain based inability for people to understand that they are ill and need treatment. Without this treatment, people are left trapped in psychosis and frequently become homeless, victimized, addicted and, increasingly, incarcerated. Although the streets and shelters of cities and towns across the province are full of these people, no-one during the two hour debate took notice of them.

Wyton’s beliefs shaped the discussion of involuntary treatment; early in the debate Wyton declared that evidence shows that involuntary treatment doesn’t work.

This was an alarming moment for people familiar with the dangers of living with psychotic illnesses. It doesn’t take much research to find substantial evidence that involuntary treatment does very often not only get people out of psychosis, but allows them to live more stable and longer lives.

The evidence supporting the use of involuntary treatment is why in recent years the US has brought in numerous Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) programs. BC’s extended leave outpatient programs are similar to these. Research on AOT programs have demonstrated dramatic reductions in homelessness, hospitalization, arrests, and incarceration.

Involuntary treatment for psychotic disorders relies on the use of medications. A recently released long and large (62,000 people) study coming from Scandinavia demonstrates that people diagnosed with schizophrenia who stayed on antipsychotic medication were twice as likely to be alive after 20 years in contrast to those who didn’t.

Wyton and the Green Party candidate advocated for a review of and changes to BC’s Mental Health Act; groups pursuing this effort want to eliminate involuntary treatment. The Green candidate also advocated for the elimination of Canada’s reservation to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD); he sees it as essential in ensuring human rights. Canada’s reservation to the controversial CRPD ensures that people have access to involuntary treatment when they need it.

Wyton writes that mental health advocates want to ‘overhaul” what she calls an outdated Mental Health Act. Her questions during the debate assumed that the value of the review of the Mental Health Act isn’t to be questioned. She seems unaware that advocates in my community of families of people with the most severe mental illnesses are very concerned about these efforts; we know that if the goals of the groups pushing for the review are realized, access to involuntary treatment will disappear.

Wyton references a report from the BC Ombudsperson which has led to more careful completion of necessary forms used in involuntary treatment. The Ombudsperson report relies on a document, Operating in Darkness, released by the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS), an organization pushing for a review of BC’s Mental Health Act; the Ombudsperson did not recommend this review or any significant changes to the Mental Health Act. Lead author Laura Johnson is representing the plaintiffs in the current attack on BC’s Mental Health Act which would eliminate access to involuntary treatment. Johnson’s perspectives on psychotic illnesses and treatments relied on the beliefs of the fringe group Mad in America (MIA), not the knowledge of contemporary psychiatry. Johnson quotes a MIA psychiatrist who believes anti-psychotic medications don’t actually get and keep people out of psychosis. This is a common belief in the influential psychiatric survivor/alternative movement made up of people who believe they were harmed by psychiatrists and medications that they didn’t need for their problems.

Wyton’s article supports Johnson’s and the BC Ombudsperson’s recommendations for “independent” rights advice. However, the core issue in this change wasn’t acknowledged. As Johnson wishes, the report suggested a change in the way legal rights are explained to involuntary patients. Currently, legal rights, including the request for a review panel, are explained by psychiatric nurses and social workers who see and work with the patients. The Ombudsperson recommended that an outside legal agency, like the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) with which Johnson is affiliated, take over supplying legal advice. If this were to happen, then millions of dollars in the vastly underfunded mental health system would now be going to lawyers. And if CLAS supplies these lawyers, these lawyers will be working to get people out of the hospital, regardless of how severely ill they may be.

The debate would have been the perfect opportunity for an impartial moderator to ask the Green candidate, who called for the elimination of Canada’s CRPD reservation, to discuss the consequences of this action.

This would have allowed everyone to learn that the consequences include elimination of all involuntary inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment and eliminating the not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder defence. The effect would be that the more than 15,000 people a year in BC, whose illness is so severe that they are likely to harm themselves or others or deteriorate, would be turned away from hospitals.

Currently, people who are found to have committed their crimes because of their mental illness are sent to forensic hospitals. These hospitals allow people whose mental illnesses are understood to have caused their crimes to receive treatment and regain their freedom. Instead, if Canada’s reservation to the CRPS is removed, anyone convicted of a crime, no matter how mentally ill they were at the time, will serve their sentence in the regular prison population. People with mental illnesses in the regular prison system often cannot follow rules and end up with longer sentences. Some of us would have appreciated a moderator asking a human rights lawyer, like the Green candidate, to explain how these changes further the human rights of this population.

It’s common for human and disability rights groups to avoid acknowledging the negative consequences of their positions. In fact, these groups often actively undermine efforts by journalists and filmmakers to draw attention to the suffering of people with untreated mental illnesses.

The psychiatric survivors, whom these groups rely on to support their positions, maintain that attention should not be given to those with untreated psychotic disorders who cycle in and out of homelessness, ER’s and incarceration. They argue that this attention promotes stigma against people like them whom they say are people with mental health challenges. In fact, just the use of the term “mental illnesses” is seen as offensive and this might explain its basic absence in the recent debate.

Human and disability rights advocates must look beyond the perspectives of the psychiatric survivor movement if they want to authentically represent the rights of people with severe mental illnesses.

People like my daughter and her friends who live with schizophrenia have had access to involuntary treatment when they needed it. Although they aren’t able to participate in contentious meetings or write about their opinions, they don’t want to be left in untreated psychosis in the future.

If rights groups wanted to truly represent the people they are assumed to represent, they could easily access the perspectives of people with severe illnesses who publicly support access to involuntary treatment.

Julia Fast blogs about living with her bipolar disorder in Psychology Today. She supports involuntary treatment and writes:

“The concept of individual rights doesn’t apply to someone who is not in his or her right mind. We are not in our right minds when we are sick.”

Joseph Bowers, who has lived a long life with schizophrenia writes:

“I’m near seventy, healthy, a husband and father who is retired with enough money coming in. None of this could have happened without involuntary treatment. My civil liberties were not taken away when force medicated and treated. I was instead liberated from the tyranny of serious psychosis.”

Eric Smith, who lives with bipolar disorder, endured 15 years of chaos before he got access to involuntary Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) services. He writes,

“AOT saved me from the criminal justice system and from insanity.”

Erin Hawkes, a Vancouver based peer support worker on an Assertive Community Treatment, makes clear her support for involuntary treatment in her National Post article (#19), “Forced Medication Saved My Life.”

The absence of the perspectives of people like these writers living with psychotic disorders was very evident in this debate. Alternative groups and their allies in academia want to de-medicalize all ‘mental health problems.’ They promote the notion that all people impacted by ‘mental health challenges’ object to involuntary care. They have been aided in these efforts in the unwillingness of national and provincial governments to provide adequate public mental illness literacy campaigns. Until they are exposed to essential information, the public won’t increase its support for the policies and programs that actually help, not harm, people with severe mental illnesses.

The lack of basic public mental illness literacy hurts people with psychotic disorders. This lack leads to family and friends not looking for medically based advice and this leads to prolonged duration of untreated psychosis (DUP). Long DUP is strongly linked to worse outcomes.

Now that BC has held its election, the Green Party is limited to three representatives; their perspectives won’t be receiving the same kind of attention as they did during this debate. Hopefully, journalists covering the ongoing efforts of groups like them that are fighting to stop access to involuntary treatment will become more able to inform the public of what the consequences of these changes would mean.

The lack of acknowledgement of severe mental illnesses in this debate is not unique to BC or Canada. These are problems arising from trends in the social sciences, divorced from scientific and evidence-based approaches, that got out of control. Those pushing for a review of BC’s Mental Health Act want us to see it as “outdated.” In fact, it’s a tribute to more rational voices that managed to prevail. People in other parts of Canada, whose family members have been left to flounder in untreated psychosis, look to BC as a model for a more humane response to people trapped in psychosis.

The inadequate funding of services for people with severe mental illnesses will continue to confront the newly re-elected NDP government. However, not providing these services leads to homelessness, recurring use of ambulances and ER’s, the development of concurrent disorders, and involvement in the criminal justice system. These are very expensive consequences for taxpayers.

The profound economic impact of CODID 19 may make it even more difficult to get the necessary supports for this population and the family caregivers they often rely on. Families like mine can only hope that, at least, legal decisions won’t be made that will make life even harder and more dangerous through misguided interpretations of human rights.

Keifer Sutherland’s Grandpa, Universal Health Care and the US Election

By Marvin Ross

October 20 is the birthday (born 1904) of Keifer’s grandpa, Tommy Douglas. Tommy was a Baptist preacher who became a social democratic politician (something modern day Baptist preachers in the US would likely never do). Douglas is responsible for introducing universal health care, first in Saskatchewan in 1962, and then to the rest of the country.

The Saskatchewan plan was so successful that a Conservative Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker, appointed a Supreme Court Justice, Emmett Hall, to study universal health care. Hall recommended a nationwide health care system based on the Saskatchewan model. In 1966, the Liberal Prime Minister, Lester B Pearson and his minority government created the program, with the federal government paying 50% of the costs and the provinces the other half.

A program to help all Canadians was developed first by a social democrat Baptist preacher, promoted by a Conservative populist and created by a Liberal. Two years before his death, Tommy was voted as the Greatest Canadian. Keifer is a staunch supporter of Canadian medicare.

Like most people in the developed world, I look at the US and their attitudes towards universal health care and their divisive politics and shake my head in wondrous disbelief. In the final presidential debate, Trump claimed his success at fighting the pandemic and Biden pushed for improved health care but still supports (as best I can figure) the role of insurance companies. How badly served the American people are by their inadequate health system only requires a look at their health statistics like maternal mortality, infant mortality, lifespan, etc.

The US response to the coronavirus is an example. Since the pandemic began, I’ve been watching the numbers and rankings on Worldometer. In terms of total cases, the US is number one and has been number one since the very beginning. Canada started out in 13th place (if I recall correctly, and has now dropped to 30th. In cases per million population, the US ranks at 11 and Canada ranks at 90. For deaths per million, the US ranks 10th and Canada ranks 36th.

Why Americans who could benefit from universal health care with proper preventative services and treatment that will not cause them to go bankrupt oppose it I will never understand. They have all been brainwashed to think that universal care is communism and bad neither of which is true.

Three years ago, I did a piece in Huffington Post on how Canada’s universal health care system saved my life. I recommend that Americans read it https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/marvin-ross/to-the-americans-doubting-universal-health-care-it-saved-my-life_a_23219381/

the world is anxiously waiting for some significant changes on November 3 and it can’t come soon enough.

Charities

By Marvin Ross

I have always been very suspicious of charities and, before donating to anyone, I do a thorough due diligence. I was twigged to write this blog because of a series of very bizarre ads on my local television stations for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.

Their ads are of a series of people proclaiming “not today” with respect to suicide. The implication is that if you give money to their charitable foundation, people will not kill themselves. Take a look for yourself

That is totally absurd and I have no doubt that they could find better and more logical reasons to convince people to give them money.Aside from their clinical programs, they do have very good research projects helping to uncover the biological basis of mental illnesses.

As mentioned at the outset, my family gives to organizations where most of the money goes directly into doing some good. We’ve found that some of the food banks and food scarcity agencies are the best. One such local agency sets up meals for the homeless at various churches throughout the city in the cold weather and very little of the donations go to administration.

In Canada, the most that should go to admin from donations is 15% and you can check that through the Canada Revenue Agency database of registered charities at https://apps.cra-arc.gc.ca/ebci/hacc/srch/pub/dsplyBscSrch. As an alternate, you can look at Charity Intelligence https://charityintelligence.ca/ According to them, the CAMH Foundation has a B+ rating and 84% of the donated money goes to the actual charitable activities.

Contrast that with what used to be the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario who have now changed their name to the Institute for Advancements in Mental Health and their mandate has gone from helping families of those with schizophrenia to “support(ing) people living with mental illness and create innovative solutions for mental health.” This, I am sure, will have the family members who founded the organization in 1979 turning in their graves.

Donations to this group result in only 55% of the donations actually going to programs.

Canada ran into a political embarrassment when the government decided to award a large contract to the We charity without tender. It turned out that members of the Prime Minister’s family had been paid for speaking engagements with the charity and the Finance minister and his family and gone on a trip to one of their charitable sites in Africa and forgot to repay the $50,000 the trip cost. He forgot, he said, and then resigned.

The We charity is now in disarray and has been exposed in an investigative piece at https://www.canadaland.com/we-charity-in-kenya/

There are worthwhile charities that can use your money or your energy but be aware.