Monthly Archives: October 2020

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.

Mental Illness in the Third World – More Refutation of Anti-Psychiatry

By Marvin Ross

A recent BBC report describes the horrific conditions for those living with serious mental illness in Nigeria. The article begins with

“Some adults, said to be mentally ill, were found with iron chains around their ankles, and forced to eat, sleep and defecate within the same confined place.

In one case, a 32-year-old man was chained up for at least seven years in his parents’ garage in north-western Kano state.”

and “The 30-year-old rescued from his parents’ garage in Kano, where neighbours said he had been locked up for seven years for allegedly being mentally ill, could barely walk when he was found”

Sadly, this is not that unusual. Part of the problem is a basic lack of psychiatric services but a bigger reason is the stigma associated with mental illness. Nigeria is not the only place where this happens to the mentally ill. Human rights Watch just issued a report on people with metal illnesses being kept in chains in many parts of the world.

The report points out that “Many are forced to eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate in the same tiny area. In state-run or private institutions, as well as traditional or religious healing centers, they are often forced to fast, take medications or herbal concoctions, and face physical and sexual violence.”

these reports do not surprise me but it brought back memories of my many fights with the anti-psychiatry zealots who used to and probably still do argue that psychiatric medication makes people sick while those in the third world focus on helping the mentally ill to recover. This is the view put forth by my old nemesis Robert Whitaker of Mad in America infamy. It was 8 years ago that I wrote that Anti-Psychotics aren’t the Anti-Hero.

Whitaker believed and probably still does that anti-psychotics are bad and that recovery has worsened with their introduction. He then went on to suggest that outcomes are better in developing countries than they are in our society. The shackles mentioned above are not new and have been going on for years but maybe he thinks that is better than taking medications. Regardless, the two studies that Whitaker cited as his proof are two studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) that were heavily criticized when they were published.

Of Course, the Donald down in DC would reject anything done by the WHO but Fuller Torrey wrote an extensive critique of Whitaker and explained what was wrong with his reliance on those two studies. I highly recommend that you read his paper.

And I have to wonder if those opposed to medications for mental illness wear masks.

Can Donald Change His Spots

By Dr David Laing Dawson

As wrong as the anti-psychiatry folks are about psychosis and psychotic disorders and the application of biomedical science to understanding them, there is definitely much to quibble about with psychiatry’s category of personality disorders.

Should we even try to categorize them? Are they illnesses? Are they defined more by an oppressive capitalist hierarchy and social construct than by objective analysis?

And although psychiatry tends to define these disorders in non-contextual ways as if they exist within people themselves in a permanent fashion, “they” only really exist, objectively, within human interactions. It really does take at least two people to create a “personality disorder” even if the “disorder” leads to self-isolation in a cabin in the woods. Even a sociopath must have a society to act badly within in order to be defined as a sociopath.

Of course volumes have been written about these behavioural, philosophical, medical, and social conundrums.

But, as Joe Biden would say, “Here’s the deal.”

We are in the midst of a very public display of the harm that can be rendered by someone who does have a “personality disorder.”

We all have traits, and to some extent we each have our own repertoire of interactional and transactional patterns, the ways we deal with relationships, challenges, compliments, successes, failures, people. And most of us can alter or grow that repertoire as needed by changing realities, empathy, perception of better outcomes, even self interest.

But when we talk about a set of personality traits becoming a disorder we are really talking about someone with a fixed, immutable set of traits that do not adjust to changing realities, new experiences, new needs, new projections of outcomes.

Enter Donald.

I am writing this because there was actually an editorial in our newspaper indicating a hope that Donald would learn from his diagnosis/illness of COVID, just as a quite a few opined at the time of impeachment that maybe he learned a lesson.

Well no. He has a fixed repertoire of behaviours. We can describe them at length, and ponder what lies “beneath” them, as many have done. But the problem is they do not change, even when to do so would be easy, and in his own interest as well as that of his country.

So enough with the sympathy for his contraction of COVID. He cannot change and he remains a danger to himself and everyone around him.

Social Workers, Cops and the Mentally Ill

Marvin Ross

This is the 3rd time in the past few years that I find myself disputing the nonsense spewed out by certain social workers. The last time was in this forum in a blog called the Good the Bad and the Ugly of Social Work.. Before that was another social worker who disputed the fact that mental illness is a medical problem. This time, it is another staff member from the McMaster University School of Socal Work, Ameil Joseph, in an op ed called Hamilton Police Not Mental Health Professionals. Before dealing with his assertions, allow me to give you his first paragraph. He started with:

“I am a social worker, I am a professor of social work, I train social workers, I have over a decade of practice experience in mental health in supportive housing, crisis respite, assertive community treatment, early intervention and not-for-profit board governance settings, I have also written a book on forensic mental health in Canada, and published my work in peer-reviewed journals and conferences across Canada, the US, and in Europe.”

He left out that he is a very stable genius.

His article is a plea to defund some of what the police do as he suggests they consider themselves to be mental health professionals. I cannot imagine any cop being delusional enough to consider himself/herself to be a mental health professional. Here is a simple definition of what the policing role is:

they typically are responsible for maintaining public order and safety, enforcing the law, and preventing, detecting, and investigating criminal activities.

Maintaining public order and safety is a rather broad category under which we can include dealing with noise complaints, crowd control, domestic disputes, and patients with mental illness who are in crisis and may disrupt the peace and pose a danger. As I have said numerous times, the vast percentage of police encounters in mental illness situations is exemplary. Some are not but those officers should be fired and their unions should recognize that defending them is not in anyone’s best interest.

The reason the police perform this function is that they regularly patrol the streets and are available for quick response depending on the urgency. In order to replicate that speed, we would need to have mental health professionals patrolling the streets waiting for calls. That would be an incredibly wasteful use of resources. Police responding to mental illness calls is no different from cops responding to domestic disputes but I’ve not heard of anyone who thinks society should employ marriage cousellors to perform that task. Domestics can be very dangerous for police as can mental illness calls.

The professor states that “Mental health services are underfunded and should not be diverted to policing budgets and programming led and governed by those without knowledge in these areas.” He is correct that the mental health services are underfunded but that is really a separate issue. I have never seen funds diverted from mental health to the police. Yes, the police have large budgets but those budgets are to enable them to fulfill the role they have in society. How large a police force we need is always a hotly debated issue and I do think (as do others) that the budget they spend for militarized equipment is excessive.

I also found troubling this comment:

“Mental health training that is entirely biomedical in focus and that does not attend to social, historical, and systemic issues that disproportionately affect marginalized groups, continue to reproduce harm, and authorize violence.”

That is one hell of a convoluted sentence but if I understand what he is trying to say is that the biomedical approach is wrong. And looking at his credentials on google scholar, I see no knowledge of medicine, biology, psychiatry, neuroscience. One of his papers has to do with social work supporting the consumer-survivor movement (read anti-psychiatry). One of his books is entitled Deportation and the Confluence of Violence within Forensic Mental Health and Immigration Systems The subject of the chapters are very interesting.

I have no problem with his exploration of racism and colonialism but before he disparages biology, physiology, neurology and medicine, he should familiarize himself with the basic tenants of those disciplines.

A retired social worker wrote who worked with the severely mentally ill released from in-patient psych units into the community, said “I know how valuable the police are when it comes to an individual who stopped taking their psychotropic medications”……and “Thank God for 911, and our police who would arrive and get the patient safely back to hospital. We need to rethink the whole defunding situation. Be careful what we ask for, friends.”

Another letter to the editor complaining about the professor was from a family member comparing her experiences of the police with a social worker. She said “it was the police who came to our aid. When 911 is called, they show up. And they do their job.” In contrast, she said, “a social worker responded to our crisis call by telling us that we were wasting their time and diverting attention from people who really needed it. And the snotty, condescending , bratty tone of that phone call will never be erased from my memory.”

As most families will tell you, the police show more respect for the families who are ignored and considered a nuisance by the professionals but that is a topic for another day.

Memo to all teachers at Case Western Reserve Elementary School for the tone deaf:

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Due to the untoward fracas that occurred between two of our boys and a supply teacher Tuesday, new rules for outdoor play will be instituted immediately, or when we get senate approval.

We are happy to report that though the supply teacher’s credibility and reputation was sorely injured he did not succumb to any physical harm. Of course he will never be allowed to supervise recess activities with this age group again. Perhaps he could moderate the debates of our 14 year old girls instead.

And at this point, let me make it clear that the taunts, opinions, and verbal assaults by either boy involved do not in any way reflect the opinion of this school. We can only hope and pray they also do not coincide with the opinions of the majority of students attending this school, with the exception of a group calling itself the Proud Boys, whom we just learned about and will be taking immediate action to ensure they stand down, or sit down or stand by at least.

We have learned one of the two boys involved in the fracas is president of his class. We have not been able to find a clear constitutional basis for removing him from this office but we did immediately report his behaviour to his parents, one Svetlana Putin and a Sean Hannity, though we are unsure of custody. However, we hope they will help their son Donny at the very least catch softball questions during his suspension.

We have received numerous complaints from the family and friends of the other boy, Joey, but until the witnesses have completed their testimony we are not prepared to assign fault. However, young Donny’s advice for his buddies to oversee all teachers when they mark exams will not be tolerated by the Teachers’ Union.

We did contemplate removing Donny from the school, at least on a temporary suspension, but unfortunately he has barricaded himself in classroom three and refuses to budge until a group he calls the Supreme Court asks him to. As we understand it, this small group he calls the Supreme Court owes him a lot of money.

However, classroom three will be out of bounds for the foreseeable future, with the exception of fast food deliveries.

Nonetheless in light of our inability to discipline Donny appropriately it is recommended that a full staff and student meeting be held in the beginning of November to decide whether or not to continue as a school of high pedagogical reputation and seriousness or adapt to what appears to be an inevitable social shift into a tribal, virus ridden, violent and regressive mess.

Sincerely yours,

Ms. Violet Olsen,

School Principal.