Monthly Archives: June 2022

RIP June Conway-Beeby – Your Fight for the Families of Schizophrenics Will Continue

By Marvin Ross

It was not unexpected but long time advocate and pioneer for families, June Conway-Beeby, left us this week at the age of 92.

If I am not mistaken, June was one of the founders of what was Friends of Schizophrenics in Ontario which then became the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario. She was one of the first executive directors and despite having lost her son to the disease, she did not vary. According to her long time ally, Patricia Forsdyke from her presentation to the Ontario Legislation Committee:

“June Conway Beeby knows a lot about danger. Mathew, her young delusional son, drove two ordinary dinner knives through his eyes (and died as a result). June will tell you about danger. She is here today. When he was released from hospital she was told never to be alone with him when he was released from hospital because he was dangerous! Mathew was not taking his medication.”

June was 79 at the time and she showed up at the meeting. What I find remarkable is just how many mothers lose a child to schizophrenia but continue for years to advocate for improvements. I honestly do not know if I would.

When former SNL and SCTV star, Tony Rosato was in court in Kingston Ontario fighting his hospitalization for Capgras Syndrome, she was outside the court talking to the press about the failures of our system. She told the media that “there is no system in place that properly takes into account Rosato’s illness, diagnosed as Capgras syndrome” and “This poor soul needs treatment.”

She added that with treatment, people with the syndrome can get their lives back on track. Rosato has not had access to treatment, as he has been in jail two years awaiting a trial that finally began this week.

We all owe June a huge debt of gratitude and it is my wish that she never knew how her fought for organization has been corrupted into the Institute for Advances in Mental Health “designed to redesigning society for better mental health”.

Bankrupt Political Strategies for Improving Mental Illness Care – An Ontario Election Example

By Marvin Ross

The Canadian province of Ontario has just had an election for a new government in which all four parties running put forth their ideas on how we could improve services for the mentally ill. Unfortunately, most talk about mental health rather than illness and put forth strategies to increase the use of psychotherapy for essentially the worried well.

What appears below is my post election op ed critiquing the party platforms. The lesson for advocates is to reject the term mental health and to focus on illness. And while psychotherapy may be appropriate in some circumstances, it is not appropriate for illnesses. Medicine is based on the concept of triage where the most seriously ill or injured go first. In our world, the most seriously ill – those with schizophrenia bipolar, etc – are ignored

The election is over and the biggest losers are the mentally ill. The sad reality is that it did not matter who won as none of the parties offered a realistic solution.

Mental illnesses (unlike the vague mental health referred to by politicians) like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, severe depression are medical problems requiring prescribed medications, often hospitalizations and life long care. As explained by my fellow blogger, Dr. David Laing Dawson, “calling severe mental illness a “mental-health issue,” and addiction an “issue with substances” is ridiculous.

These “issues” become a new reality, he says, that allows us “to ignore the real reality of the jails and prisons filling with the mentally ill, the burgeoning homeless population, and the horrific struggle families go through trying to get psychiatric treatment for a family member who is mentally ill.”

In an op ed in here last year, I pointed out that Premier Doug Ford made no progress in mental illness services other than a report called Road Map to Wellness which has not accomplished much because of COVID-19, as explained by the minister responsible last year and confirmed recently by a staff member. The wait time for children’s services went from 18 months in 2018 to 40 months today.

Ford did establish a new bureaucracy called the Centre of Excellence for Mental Health and Addictions “as a central engine to design, manage, and co-ordinate the mental-health and addictions system.” Most of what they have done is to arrange for psychotherapy sessions for people, including internet sessions and supports for stressed health-care workers.

I don’t want to knock psychotherapy, but serious mental illnesses require much more than talk therapy. The Polish psychologist and critic of psychotherapy, Tomasz Witkowski, in his forthcoming book, “Fads, Fakes, and Frauds,”points out that there are 45 theoretical schools explaining the functioning of our psyche and that in psychotherapy there are over 600 different (often conflicting) modalities. So, when politicians push psychotherapy, which school and which modalities do they favour? I suspect they have no idea.

To be fair, the Tories did set up four new mobile clinics in hard to reach communities and they are working on the establishment of early psychosis programs.

The Liberal platform we can discount. In 2010, they released the results of an all-party committee consultation on improving mental health and addictions based on extensive consultations and expert submissions from across the entire province and then failed to act on almost all of them.

The NDP wanted to make mental health part of OHIP (Ontario’s public health plan), which it already is. Mental illnesses are covered by OHIP as treatment is provided by medical doctors and hospital stays. Andrea Horwath focused most of her efforts on counselling in order to help people stressed by the COVID pandemic when the main problem is the lack of timely services for illnesses.

The Greens were a little more realistic in advocating for supportive housing with extensive supports, reducing wait times and increasing spending on mental illnesses from seven per cent of the health budget to 10 per cent. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, we spend less than most countries in the OECD with France at 15 per cent and the UK at 13 per cent. They, too, pushed for more psychotherapy but the bottom line is no one had any realistic strategies to improve services.

We will all continue to suffer as a result.

My Review of the forthcoming book “Fads, Fakes, and Frauds”

Psychology Gone Wrong

Marvin Ross, medical writer/publisher, author ofAnti-Psychiatry and the UN Assault on the Mentally Illand blogger at Mind You Reflection on Mental Illness, Mental Health and Life wrote a short review of my new forthcoming book Fads, Fakes and Frauds: Exploding Myths in Culture, Science and Psychotherapy.

“In 2015, I had the pleasure of favourably reviewing Psychology Gone Wrong: The Dark Side of Science and Therapy by Tomasz Witkowski and Maciej Zatonski. Since then, I’ve been anxiously waiting for him to write more. His latest book, Fads, Fakes, and Frauds, has been worth the wait. Since 2015, the amount of disinformation has increased considerably and, thanks to the Internet, that disinformation is spreading faster than ever before.

We tend to take at face value much of what we are told by “experts” without ever looking at the evidence and governments buy-in and fund all manner of strategies that…

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Putin was Predictable

By Dr. David Laing Dawson

I watched Fareed’s Zakaria’s Putin documentary on CNN the other night. He ends the narrative by suggesting we not look for clinical explanations but rather make a moral judgement of the man. And then he uses the word “evil”.

During the documentary we got to see Vlad singing in English, “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill”, and George W. Bush and Donald Trump praising Vlad’s intellect and honesty.

But it occurred to me that two character traits would be essential and necessary from the start for anyone interested in becoming a dictator, and these two traits would have to exist in extreme form to enable someone to succeed in such a position. And they would be, of course, narcissism and psychopathy. It is easy to understand the meaning of “narcissism”, and in this instance “psychopathy” would mean lacking the capacity for guilt or empathy and having the capacity for ruthlessness.

Now usually a degree of empathy is necessary for any social success, but it can be replaced by, or substituted by, cleverness, intellect, scheming and manipulation. Hence the ability to charm George W. Bush without actually experiencing any empathy for anyone.

And thus rather than thinking of Vlad as a man who was good but went bad, so to speak, it would be more useful to think of any and all dictators as being, by the very fact of their achievements, narcissistic psychopaths. And thus realizing where they are predictably going to lead their countries when either their power and control are threatened or they simply grow older and bolder.

I am not an historian but a survey of the strongmen dictators who have arisen in my lifetime seems to bear this out.

The democratically elected governments of our world tolerate, enable, and even support these dictators for economic or strategic reasons in fair weather times. But all of them, at some point, either wage a killing purge of dissidents or particular ethnic groups within their own countries, or decide the time is right to expand their realms and go to war. Some do both.

They are also, by definition, grandiose, so they usually, eventually overstep, but still the damage is done.

  • Hitler, Mao, and Stalin, each responsible for 10 to 20 million deaths.
  • Saddam, emboldened, decides to kill off his Kurdish minority and then annex Kuwait.
  • Pol Pot, a couple of million deaths purging his own country.
  • Slobodan Milosevic, bolstered by the west as a “peacemaker”, attempts to create a Serbian empire by war and genocide.

etc. etc. etc. etc.

But if there is a point to these observations it is that we should never support, embolden, encourage, appease or enable any dictator. By the very nature of these men they will, sooner or later, commit atrocities.

Only in fiction do High School Chemistry teachers become psychopathic drug lords. Only in fiction do professional hit men have soft spots for children and little dogs. Only in fiction do psychopaths give up their life of crime and devote their remaining years to good works and charity. And only in fiction might a successful, ruthless dictator, decide that, really, he should help transition his country to a healthy inclusive democracy with an independent judiciary and a free press – and be a good friend to his neighbours.

Medical Assistance in Dying and the Mentally Ill – Canada’s Shame

By Marvin Ross

It is known as MAID and something that I have always supported. It became legal in Canada in 2016 with the proviso that the patient must be suffering and must have a condition that will result in his or her death. That death does not have to be imminent like in the next week or month but is foreseeable. ALS is a good example of that. In my opinion, it is humane and it is logical and, frankly, it is something I would chose to do if faced with intractable pain and suffering leading to death in the very near term. We end the suffering of our pets when they are old, in pain and terminal so why not us?

Unfortunately, the rules around MAID are being extended to remove the provision of “reasonably foreseeable and terminal”. This opens the door to people who are ill and suffering but who do not think they are getting proper treatment for their problems or for whom the treatments available are not deemed to be acceptable. They can end their lives at the government’s expense. The most damning denunciation of these policies first appeared in the London Spectator and in the Australian Spectator with the headline “why is Canada euthanizing the poor?”.

We have now reached a situation where people who have disabilities are deciding and being approved for assisted death because we do not provide them with the proper care and supports they deserve as human beings and as citizens of a wealthy first world country.

Two women in Ontario with multiple chemical sensitivities trying to live on the obscene disability payments of $1169 a month (well below the poverty line) were approved for death simply because the support we as a society give to the disabled is so inadequate that death is a viable alternative. To put that Ontario disability payment into perspective, when the Canadian government established payments for people who lost their jobs because of Covid, they paid them $2000 a month arguing that was the minimum amount people needed to exist.

David Lepofsky, disability advocate and Visiting Professor of Disability Rights at the Osgoode Hall Law School is quoted in the above article saying “We’ve now gone on to basically solving the deficiencies in our social safety net through this horrific backdoor, not that anybody meant it that way, but that’s what it’s turned into.” Devorah Kobluk, a senior policy analyst with the Income Security Advocacy Centre in Toronto, part of Legal Aid Ontario added “With the right support, I have no doubt people with disabilities can live well in society. We all want people with disabilities to know that their lives have value.”

Canadaland reported last year about a number of people who are planning to apply for MAID when their money runs out and they can no longer afford to live and pay for their care. They said:

“In Canada right now, there are people choosing medically-assisted death, not because their illnesses are killing them or the pain is unbearable, but because they can’t afford the cost of managing that pain and getting the care they need to live with dignity.”

If you have about an hour to spare, I highly recommend that you listen to this podcast with Toronto psychiatrist Dr Sonu Gaind. As the promo states:

“He’s grown alarmed since Canada stopped requiring a reasonably foreseeable death for euthanasia, as he tells Anthony in this week’s episode. People who are poor, lonely or battling mental illnesses, who’s lives might get better with help, are being offered a lethal injection instead. And children could be next. What once threatened to be euthanasia’s slippery slope, says Gaind, has turned out to be a cliff.”

We should all be disgusted with these changes but how did they come about? Well, it was either Dr Gaind or Dr Stefanie Green, president of the Canadian Association of MAiD Assessors and Providers, and/or Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician and health justice activist discussing the issues with Dr Brain Goldman on his CBC radio show, White Coat Black Art who provided this explanation.

The disabled community in Quebec filed an appeal against the MAID legislation with the Quebec courts claiming discrimination against the disabled for not being included in the assisted death legislation brought in by the Federal Canadian government. The one judge who heard the appeal (yes, one judge only) ruled in their favour and ordered the Canadian government to revise the legislation. Normally, when something like this happens, the Justice Minister will appeal and the issue will go to the Supreme Court of Canada for review. That court is comprised of nine justices and, unlike the US, they are not politically motivated. That did not happen. The Justice Minister did not appeal.

That Justice Minister then and now is the Honourable David Lametti who I can only assume was asleep at the time and forgot to file an appeal.

Thanks to that failure, we will soon be putting to death people who should be able to live a reasonable life with the supports they need. But, one injection to prematurely end their lives is a lot cheaper.

Mass Killing and Mental Illness

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Two serious online Psychiatric journals recently implored us to not “equate mass killing with mental illness.”

While the impulse to avoid further stigmatizing mental illness with the burden of mass murder is admirable, simply labeling these killers as bad, evil, amoral, racist, or, as one of the authors called them, “terrorists”, is not in the least helpful.

The information I have on the mass killings of the past 30 years is limited to that which is eventually revealed in the public media, but it is enough, I think, to make these judgements:

For the older men (40’s, 50’s, 60’s) the pattern is often one of a psychotic depression. Failure, a loss of relationship/job, long standing grievances and obsessions, blaming, nihilism, depression, despair, anger and suicide. They shoot up the doctor’s office, the emergency room, the post office, the place of recent employment, the extended family, the perceived cause of their pain and failure, and then themselves.

For the younger men (late teens, early twenties) the pattern is one of a developing psychotic illness like schizophrenia: social isolation, imposed by personality, disability, or illness, failures, grievances, seeking meaning and explanation in the wrong places, finding one, a simple satisfying explanation for all that is wrong, one that also provides a cause or source.

Plus that moment of slipping from obsession to delusion, a delusion in which the young man developing a psychotic illness now believes he is a major player, that he must act to ….., that he has been chosen for……., that he must die in a grand gesture for…..and then be remembered for….

I have been there many times in the past 50 years when young men reached that point. Fortunately not one had access to handguns or AR 15’s. And usually, almost always, the organizing principles, the delusions they arrive at, are only harmful to themselves and their families.

One decided he was Hitler’s illegitimate son. One stabbed his father who was “possessed by evil”. One decided to don the robes of Christ and preach to the masses as he wandered the continent. One did decide to borrow his uncle’s hunting rifle to kill the kids at school who had bullied him, but his right arm froze. Another unfurled a flag on the roof of the police station. Another jumped off a school roof, commanded to do this, to save the world. Another sought the home address of his nurse counselor so that he might kill her and rid the world of evil. Another stopped talking, went mute, lest his words cause more floods and famine. More than a few have come to the conclusion that the police and/or the government are controlling them, have implanted chips in them, listen to them, watch them day and night. Some have wondered if I am part of this evil cabal. And many, in the last 15 years, have fallen down the rabbit hole of internet conspiracy theories.

But none had easy access to weapons of mass killing.

So yes, in both those age groups, at the expected age of onset, mental illness is often a factor, along with easily attainable weapons. And of these two factors the latter is far more amenable to prevention.