Monthly Archives: April 2021

Does Wearing High Heels Cause Schizophrenia?

By Marvin Ross

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

No, this is not a joke. It is an example of the weird pseudoscience and anti-science beliefs that proliferate and impact treatment. I came across this when reading the blog respectful insolence written by a doctor (pseudonym of Orac) who regularly debunks bad medicine. On this occasion, he was again going after a medical journal called Medical Hypotheses that covers weird theories. He was talking about a paper on how wearing masks in the age of covid is dangerous and debunking that.

Before critiquing this bad idea, he mentioned the various bits of dubious theories covered by Medical Hypotheses that actually find their way into pubmed. What caught my eye was high-heeled shoes are linked to schizophrenia. Intrigued, I looked it up and it was written by Jarl Flensmark who lives in Malmo Sweden. This is the pub med entry https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15325026/

“Heeled footwear began to be used more than a 1000 years ago, and led to the occurrence of the first cases of schizophrenia. Industrialization of shoe production increased schizophrenia prevalence. Mechanization of the production started in Massachusetts, spread from there to England and Germany, and then to the rest of Western Europe. A remarkable increase in schizophrenia prevalence followed the same pattern.”

“High rates of schizophrenia are found among first-generation immigrants from regions with a warmer climate to regions with a colder climate, where the use of shoes is more common. Still higher rates among second-generation immigrants are caused by the use of shoes during the onset of walking at an age of about 11-12 months.”

BUT

“Bicycle riding reduces depression in schizophrenia due to stronger stimulation by improved lengthening contractions of the triceps surae muscles. Electrode stimulation of cerebellar loops normally stimulated by mechanoreceptors in the lower extremities could improve functioning in schizophrenia.”

Jarl has also published a paper on how the wearing of flat shoes has therapeutic potential in psychiatry and neurology and that flat shoes promote neurogenesis. But I should mention that at least he does mention that schizophrenia exists and warrants further research.

While we may laugh, people do take this stuff seriously. The alleged study showing the dangers of wearing face masks has in the words of Orac “gone viral in the COVID-19-denying/minimizing, antimask, anti-public health interventions, antivaccine crankosphere.”

It is because of the growth of anti-science and anti-psychiatry that I wrote my latest book, Anti-Psychiatry and the UN Assault on the Mentally Ill. The lesson to be learned is to be suspicious of what you read and to check the reliability of sources.

Excerpts From When Neurons Tell Stories – A Layman’s Guide to the Neuroscience of Mental Illness and Health

A new book coming soon from Erin Hawkes-Emiru

Many of you may remember Erin for her 2012 book When Quietness Came: A Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey with Schizophrenia. That book was published by me (Bridgeross) and is still selling I’m pleased to say. Her book on Amazon has 4.4 stars out of 5 from 27 reviews. In 2019, Erin was awarded the prestigious Courage to Come Back Award from Vancouver Coastal Health (my second author so honoured. The first being Sandra Yuen MacKay who wrote My Schizophrenic Life).

Erin has been a frequent speaker for various groups in BC such as the BC Schizophrenia Society, police, health professionals and others.

Erin has a master’s degree in neuroscience and was the recipient of a number of research grants including two from the prestigious Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Unable to continue with her PhD because of her schizophrenia, she has been working as a peer counsellor on an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team in Vancouver.

In her latest book, she states that:

“I’m hoping to bring you on a tour of the neuroscience of schizophrenia and other related topics. The people who will bring this neuroscience to life are my clients, people who experience mental health and addiction challenges. Their stories form the backbone of this book. “

I realize that the value of peer support can be controversial but when done properly and as intended, it can be helpful. This is Erin’s definition of her role:

“Empathy, the compassionate understanding what someone’s feeling, is what peer support is all about. Other members on the ACT team, while highly compassionate, cannot know what it’s like to live with a mental illness, as peer support workers do. True, no one can ever empathize with every person’s exact circumstances and past experiences, and I, compared to most of our ACT clients, have had a very different, privileged life. I do, however, draw alongside them in their frustration with symptoms, their intolerance of medication side effects, or their feelings of helplessness when certified to hospital. I can empathize with meeting these challenges at times with despair and helplessness, other times with the satisfaction of regaining mental wellness. I know how much someone helping you accomplish small goals can make you feel heard and validated. However, I cannot know what it is like to be very poor, addicted to street drugs, and/or “housed” in an SRO downtown. I feel my privilege acutely and ask for the humility to be quiet and listen when I cannot speak from experience. Somehow, sometimes, it works. As Miguel said, and as I quoted earlier: “We have fuck all in common, but you’re my best friend.”

I have no doubt that people will find Erin’s new book a fascinating and informative read. It will be available in print very shortly and, you can pre-order the kindle version now at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B092P7HCP9.

When Neurons Tell Stories A Layman’s Guide to the Neuroscience of Mental Illness and Health Erin Hawkes-Emiru, ISBN 978-1-927637-38-8, 281 pages, $19.95

And, in case you are wondering, Erin is now Hawkes-Emiru as she married since her last book and she and her husband and baby daughter live in Vancouver, BC

Covidiots and the Lack of Care for the Mentally Ill

Marvin Ross

Like most advocates for the seriously mentally ill, I often feel like I’m bashing my head against a wall trying to improve understanding of mental illness and to get better care for those who are ill and their families. We just have to look at the number of mentally ill people who are homeless and the frequent tragedies involving this group to realize how little is being done.

Thanks to the reaction by many against measures to help minimize the spread of Covid-19, I began to see the common thread underlying the opposition to masks, social isolation, proper psychiatric treatment, and vaccinations. That thread is anti-science and the huge growth in the past number of years in what is called alternative medicine. There is no such beast as alternative medicine according to a 1998 editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine. Drs Kassirer and Angel pointed out that:

There cannot be two kinds of medicine — conventional and alternative. There is only medicine that has been adequately tested and medicine that has not, medicine that works and medicine that may or may not work. Once a treatment has been tested rigorously, it no longer matters whether it was considered alternative at the outset. If it is found to be reasonably safe and effective, it will be accepted. But assertions, speculation, and testimonials do not substitute for evidence. Alternative treatments should be subjected to scientific testing no less rigorous than that required for conventional treatments”

Unfortunately, there are many who distrust modern medicine and science and refuse to or are incapable of understanding the evidence. When it comes to psychiatry, this anti-scientific belief has become widespread. The very existence of mental illness is often denied and the work of medical professionals is looked upon with skepticism. As a result, in my new book, I decided to review all the common myths promulgated by the many anti-psychiatry advocates out there and demonstrate the fallacy of those beliefs.

This has resulted in my latest book just released in March, 2021 called Anti-Psychiatry and the UN Assault on the Mentally Ill.

I fully anticipate being savagely attacked for what I’ve written just as I’ve been for my articles in Huffington Post that ran for 7 years from 2011 to 2018 and for the blogs I’ve written on this site since mid-2014. I was not a favourite of a lot of the anti-psych types who consider me to be a pawn of big pharma and a “drug em up, lock em up” advocate. One group selling vitamins to replace psychiatric medication even threatened to sue me and crashed a meeting where I was giving a talk. One of Robert Whitaker’s bloggers on Mad In America felt compelled to write about my opposition to the Open Dialogue strategy in Finland and one of his followers read my last book Schizophrenia Medicine’s Mystery Society’s Shame to give it a bad rating on Amazon.

“Rasputin” said I so disagreed with so much of the first part of the book that I wanted to give this book 2 stars. However, I agree with the author’s belief that far too little is being done to treat schizophrenia and his sincere approach to the illness. For that I give it a 3.”

He or she then pointed out that “If you want a real history of schizophrenia and it’s treatment try “Mad in America”. This book is more for the proponents of schizophrenia as “brain disease”. There is very little convincing evidence provided. Indeed, the author spends the first third of the book outlining studies which purportedly show major differences between “normal” and schizophrenic brains.”

By now you are probably wondering where the UN comes into all this and here is the answer. When I first conceived of this book, I talked to my friend Dr John Gray in Victoria, BC who is an expert on the mental health acts.. He pointed me towards the UN and the fact that many of the anti-psychiatry advocates were instrumental in helping that body develop its Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Countries that ratify this convention must agree to ratify section 12 which would have countries abolish all involuntary hospitalization and treatment and end the criminal defence of Not Criminally Responsible. Canada, the UK and Australia have ratified the Convention but refuse to accept the ban on involuntary treatment and committal. Pressure is being put on Biden to ratify the Convention as the US has not done so yet.

For the health and benefit of mankind, we must all oppose these anti-science “covidiots” and make sure that our health policies are based on science.

Insanity as a Criminal Defence

By Marvin Ross

I had always considered that the M’Naughton Rule as developed in England in 1843 marked the first time insanity was used to absolve someone of criminal responsibility for committing a criminal act. The practice actually goes back much further in time and demonstrates that our ancestors had more sense than the United Nations does.

The UN in its Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities wants signatories to abolish insanity as a defence. They are also opposed to any form of involuntary committal or treatment as they have been, as I discuss in my new book Anti-Psychiatry and the UN Assault on the Mentally Ill, been taken over by anti-psychiatry advocates.

Daniel M’Naughten was tried for the murder of Edward Drummond who he mistook for the British Prime Minister, Robert Peel. M’Naughten has been the standard under common law for the defence of insanity with minor differences between jurisdictions. When the rules are satisfied, the verdict is not guilty by reason of insanity (Not Criminally Responsible in Canada) and results in a sentence to a secure facility for an indeterminate time or at the discretion of the court. The insanity defence is recognized in England and Wales, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Hong Kong, the Republic of Ireland, Norway and most US states. Only Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Utah and Vermont do not recognize this. Those states, however, still allow for a defence of not able to form intent due to a mental illness.

According to the British House of Lords at the time:

“the jurors ought to be told in all cases that every man is to be presumed to be sane, and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary be proved to their satisfaction; and that to establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong”

I was surprised to learn that insanity has been considered going back to pre-Norman times (before 1066). While there was no distinct criminal code in that period, a murderer could pay compensation to the victim’s family. If the murderer was insane, then his family paid on his behalf. During Norman times, insanity was a special circumstance in which the jury would deliver a guilty verdict and refer the defendant to the King for a pardon.

In 1800, England introduced the Criminal Lunatics Act and the reason is quite interesting. James Hadfield was a respected officer in the British Army who attempted to kill King George III at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Hadfield had been badly wounded in battle at Flanders in 1794. While in hospital recovering, he told another patient that he was George III. Later, he claimed to be Adam from Adam and Eve fame and then the “Supreme Being”. He recovered enough to rejoin the army but was soon discharged due to insanity. In 1800, he went to the theatre to kill King George but missed. He was tried for high treason but was acquitted on the grounds of insanity. He was the major reason for the introduction of the Act.

There was fear that Hadfield would only be kept locked up until he regained sanity and then he would deteriorate and again attempt murder or possibly even succeed. As a result, the new law stated that “If [the jury] shall find that such person was insane at the time of the committing such offence, the court before whom such trial shall be had, shall order such person to be kept in strict custody, in such place and in such manner as to the court shall seem fit, until His Majesty’s pleasure shall be known.

This act was in force in England until it was repealed in 1981 and replaced with the Mental Health Act of 1983. The new Act allowed for people to be detained and treated against their wishes. This was replaced in 2007 when various refinements were made including Community Treatment Orders. These acts were and are specific to England and Wales although other jurisdictions have acts that are similar. The point is that some people with untreated mental illness do commit horrible acts that, were they sane, they would not commit. It is for their protection and the protection of society that they be committed and treated as quickly as possible so they can return back to society.

A civilized society should not allow someone to continue in a state where they can do harm to others without taking action. And a civilized society does not invoke punishment on them for doing something they have no control over. There are, I’ve read, people with schizophrenia on death row in various US states because of what they did when ill. Many of them are still ill and I suspect are not aware of what they did. Execution is never right and it is even less right when it is someone being killed by the state for committing an act they had no control over.

But the UN endorses that. I am slightly biased but I think you will find Anti-Psychiatry and the UN Assault on the Mentally Ill an eye opener for the unscientific beliefs that have become so well entrenched.