Category Archives: Alternative Treatment

Follow Up on Smoking and Serious Mental llness and Psychiatry in Scandinavia

By Marvin Ross with an addendum by Dr David Laing Dawson

My blog on smoking turned out to be one of the most widely read blogs that we’ve done. I had made the point that people with schizophrenia have a shortened life expectancy of about 20 years compared to a shortened life expectancy from smoking of about 10 years. One of the reasons for the shortened life expectancy not involving smoking is the poor medical preventive care that these people receive from the health system.

Of course, there are those who argue that the treatment for schizophrenia – prescription medication – is a leading cause of death. I’ve just come across a paper from Sweden on real life mortality in a cohort of close to 30,000 patients. Data was collected on the period from 2006 to 2013 on all cause mortality among those with schizophrenia aged 16-64.

What the study found was that the use of long acting injecting anti-psychotics resulted in a mortality that was 30% lower than that for oral agents. Long acting paliparidone turned out to have the lowest mortality followed by oral aripiprazole. However, the use of any antipsychotics resulted in less mortality than not taking them. So much for the anti-medication faction who, in my opinion, have a great deal in common with anti-vaxxers.

My blog on open dialogue and the medication free units in Norway also resulted in a number of comments. Hakon Heimer pointed out that a recent article in Psychiatry Online found that “The present data on Open Dialogue are insufficient to warrant calls for further research on the program other than those projects that are currently under way.” The editorial on the research of Open Dialogue stated that “Unfortunately, the results of this review are underwhelming.”

Heimer is founder, project director, and executive editor of Schizophrenia Research Forum, an online knowledge environment for researchers, which is part of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. He also advises the National Institute of Mental Health in the US.

And then, I received this:

Linking up the mind emotions abuse illness and recovery

what a piece of dirt article , where is the bin, , how can anyone even accept the current system unless you a child abuser yourself… that all mentallness comes from and what the psychiatrist see all day, and then go hunting brain cells for 50 years and not do a thing,,,, if im wrong, show me or fuck of you bit of filth, or comment, the bomb is ready to blow, the troop are getting in place and the abusers just keep on abusing cause thats what abuse does

Not the first time I’ve had something like this nor will it be the last.

ADDENDUM:

Some other factors supporting these conclusions, including the lowest mortality being found with bi-weekly or monthly injections (vs pills):

Non adherence with oral antipsychotics is high. Depending on the definition of non-adherence, it is found in studies to be 20 to 40%, and underestimated by psychiatrists.

Non adherence with antipsychotic treatment results, for people suffering from schizophrenia, in higher rates of:

  • relapse
  • re-hospitalization
  • emergency visits
  • violence
  • being victims of violence and other crimes
  • arrest
  • incarceration
  • homelessness
  • suicide
  • Inattention to other health matters.

Thus the striking improvement in mortality with injectable antipsychotic medication could be simply attributed to improved compliance with pharmacological treatment.

However, non-compliance with all medications is a major problem. According to one study, about 1/3 of patients do not take all the pills they are prescribed while another 1/3 do not take what is prescribed at all.

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Psychiatry in Scandinavia

By Marvin Ross

There must be something in the water in Scandinavian countries that produces some strange treatment modalities for serious mental illnesses. The latest is drug free units within psychiatric hospitals in Norway. Previously, we had (and still do) the open dialogue program in Northern Finland which claims to cure almost all of schizophrenia drug free.

This program has been touted for years by the anti-medication/anti-psychiatry proponents of the US journalist Robert Whitaker and his adherents in Mad in America. I wrote about this program in Huffington Post back in 2013 and pointed out that there is almost no research showing it to be effective. A Finnish psychiatrist confirmed that “most mental health professionals in Finland would agree with your view that Open Dialogue has not been proven to be better than standard treatment for schizophrenia. However, it is also a widespread view that the programme is attractive due to its client-centredness and empowerment of the service user, and that good studies are urgently needed to establish the effectiveness of the programme. Before it has been established to be effective, it should be seen as an experimental treatment that should not (yet?) be clinical practise.”

At the time, some of my critics on social media attacked me for actually asking a Finnish psychiatrist what mainstream shrinks in Finland thought of the program. Just recently, I received a message from someone on Linkedin asking me if I was still negative about Open Dialogue as there is now new research showing how good it is. I replied that I was negative but would love to seen the research. I never heard from her again.

More recently (in 2015), Dr Dawson also wrote about Open Dialogue in this blog. He commented that “Even if some form of two year intensive counseling/therapy/group therapy worked as well as four weeks of Olanzapine, what on earth would be the justification for withholding the Olanzapine?” And he pointed out that “the psychiatrist and director of Open Dialogue in Finland, in interview, acknowledged that she prescribes neuroleptic medication for “about 30 percent” of their patients.”

Now, Norway has added to this anti-drug position and “By 2017 all health regions in Norway have established medication-free treatment services in mental health care, following a direct requirement from the Ministry of Health and Care Services.” (from correspondence from the Norwegian health ministry).

What is being offered is that “All the drug-free units emphasize creating recovery processes based on patients’ own experiences and wishes. Most services create treatment plans in collaboration with patients. The treatment in Vestre Viken HF in the South-Eastern Regional Health Authority and Vegsund DPS in the Central Norway Regional Health Authority have fixed schedules. Common treatment approaches of the drug-free units are psychotherapy; both individual therapy and group therapy, environmental therapy, art therapy, Illness Management and Recovery (IMR),psychoeducation, physical and social activity, exposure therapy, and networking; both in regards to relatives and work/education.”

Even though this program was first introduced starting in 2015 at the insistence of “user organizations” (and what they are is not defined), no evaluations have been done comparing those who do not get medication to those who do. That research is just recruiting patients and is not expected to have results until 2023.

The issue to me is should this drug free experiment have ever been begun in the first place and the answer is no. The evidence based consensus guidelines for the treatment of schizophrenia all recommend that anti-psychotics should be used in the acute phase and that they should be used in order to prevent relapses once the patient is stable. Not using accepted treatment for serious mental illnesses is as stupid, in my opinion, of oncology centres forgoing standard cancer treatment and allowing patients to try the type of quack remedies you find in alternative medicine.

The one survey that has been done is of psychiatrists and their view of this experiment. The research conducted by a Norwegian hospital was reported on by Mad in America who said “The research, which was funded by a grant from the Stavanger University Hospital, found that psychiatrists carried negative opinions of this initiative. They understood the programs to be unscientific and rooted in the perspectives of dissatisfied service-users within a patient group that “lacks insight” into their problems. These recent findings were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.”

Needless to say that Mad in America disagrees with the criticisms and argue that :

here exists substantial debate in the clinical and research literature over the long-term effects of antipsychotic drug treatment for psychosis and whether the significant safety risks outweigh any benefits. Also, critics have pointed to the impact of guild interests and institutional corruption on current guidelines recommending this treatment.”

Please not that the references they cite to demonstrate their points are all from Mad in America – a highly reputable source of all things scientific.

This entire situation is forcing me to go have a few pints of homeopathic lager!

For the Sake of Society, Focus on Recent not Ancient History

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Perhaps in High School the curriculum should discard all ancient history, the dreary lives of Mesopotamians, the bible stories, the British Empire, the kings of this country and that country, and instead focus on recent history. The realities of recent history. How we lived and what we knew, and didn’t know, with special emphasis on the last 100 years.

I know for most teenagers, surviving and living in the present is paramount. They have little use for things that don’t seem to impact their own lives at this moment. But we could try.

And we could try to preserve that history and keep it visible. Perhaps in front of the city hall we should do away with statues of old queens and put up instead reminders of the epidemics of polio, measles, small pox, pertussis, chicken pox, the things and luxuries people didn’t have a mere 75 years ago, methods of communication and ways of living.

The names of wealthy donors now take the place of the names of pioneers of yesterday. In Hamilton the Henderson Hospital is now the Juravinski. Nora Henderson was a local pioneer in maternal, prenatal and perinatal care. At the time, in this rich part of the world, the infant mortality and maternal mortality rates were equal to those of present day poorest African nations. We should not forget this.

Over the past 150 years there have been many eureka moments in the advancement of medicine and the maintenance of health. Dramatic discoveries with incontrovertible evidence that something works. To name a few: treatment for some cancers, antibiotics, clean water supply separated from sewage, fluoridating water, iodizing salt, and vaccinations, with vaccinations being perhaps the biggest and broadest reaching discovery of them all. (the discovery that dead or attenuated viruses and bacteria can provoke our immune systems to prevent the same live viruses and bacteria from harming us).

And there have been remarkable improvements in the treatment of many chronic conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis, AIDS, some leukemias, hepatitis, serious mental illness, seizure disorders, trauma and injury….

All of these improvements have been the product of science and medicine, not homeopathy or naturopathy.

Dramatic eureka moments have become scarce. More often today medicine struggles with the equations of early detection, invasive treatment, the balance of positive effects vs negative effects of intervention, genetics and life style: e.g lowering blood pressure by a few points by engaging in the right amount and kind of exercise, losing an inch of waist size, to salt or not to salt food, and which is best at which age: two to four alcohol drinks per day or none? vs. taking pills to lower blood pressure.

My left knee is a candidate for replacement, or, or, I could keep my weight down and ride my bicycle almost every day.

For the first time in a century the children born today in North America do not have longer life expectancy than their parents. Some suggest this may actually decrease. The causes for this are obesity, life style, social determinants of health (poverty), addictions, and increase in suicide rate. And, even more dramatically, if the trend continues, the cause of much lower life expectancy for the babies born today will be the anti-science and anti-vaccination attitudes.

Right at this moment nurses and doctors are using a vaccine developed in Canada to stop the spread of Ebola, a disease that has the potential of spreading world wide and causing the kind of population decimation previously caused by the black plague and small pox.

Margot Kidder and Me

By Marvin Ross

Like so many of you, I was saddened by the passing of Canadian actress Margot Kidder. Aside from her acting, she was an advocate for those with serious mental illness and, as a celebrity, she was the recipient of unwanted publicity.

Regular readers of my material know that I have been writing and speaking about the vitamin “treatment” for mental illness called EM Power plus put out by the Southern Alberta company called Truehope. Early on in our investigation of this product and its claims, my colleagues and I came upon an article in the Calgary Sun dated September 19, 2001. The paper reported that Tony Stephan, one of the founders of the company, had been invited along with his partner, David Hardy, to an award ceremony in LA to honour Ms Kidder. The event was sponsored by a group called Safe Harbour.

The newspaper article stated that:

“Kidder who suffers from mental illness and has benefited from EM Power, made international headlines several years back when she was living in a cardboard box. For Kidder and thousands like her, Stephan has become her superman”.

I contacted her in Montana and this is her e-mail back to me:

In response to your questions, no I do not take Synergy or EMPower, whatever that is, and Tony Stephan is certainly not my superman as I have no idea who he is, nor do I know who David Hardy is. I have made a point of not endorsing any products at all. Where on earth did you read such a thing and how can I get hold of them to correct this misrepresentation? Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

best, Margot Kidder

See Pig Pills Inc, P 50

I’m not sure if Margot ever did contact the Calgary Sun but Tony Stephan’s son is in the news again now. David Stephan and his wife are the parents who fed their little boy various so called naturalistic remedies including EM Power. When he became far sicker, they called an ambulance but it was too late and he died of preventable meningitis.

The Stephans were convicted in a lengthy trial and they appealed that conviction all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. In mid-May, the court found that the trial judge had made a number of errors in his charge to the jury and have ordered a new trial. While I am outraged at the court decision, in sober reflection the good judges were not commenting on what happened but on the actions of the trial judge. I have little doubt that the Stephans will be found guilty again.

Meanwhile, the Truehope saga gets even stranger. A few years ago, I received a call from someone in California wanting to disclose that there was a secret ingredient in EM Power + and it was that secret ingredient that made it so effective. This individual told me that law suits against the company were imminent. It turned out that he wanted my investigative colleagues and me to pay him for his information so that we could, in turn, make a lot of money selling this “expose” to papers and media around the world.

That was the last I heard until about a month ago when I received a friend request on Linkedin from a David Rowland of Guelph. I ignored that as I remember the guy from an article I did on alternative nonsense called “Also Good for Gout….” and reprinted here.

This is what I wrote about him:

Nutritionist David Rowland continued with that theme and claimed that 106,000 people are killed each year by drugs that are properly prescribed and taken.

U.S. psychiatrist and anti-quack advocate Dr. Stephen Barrett describes David Rowland on his website (www.quackwatch.org) as “one of Canada’s leading promoters of nutrition nonsense” and says “his writings and speeches advocate ‘freedom of choice’ and decreased government regulation of the health marketplace. His entrepreneurial activities have included practising as a ‘nutrition consultant,’ writing articles and booklets, publishing a magazine, operating a correspondence school, and issuing ‘credentials’ for ‘nutrition consultants’.”

David Rowland was referred to as a Ph.D, but this is what Dr. Barrett has to say about that: “His Ph.D. degree was obtained from Donsbach University, a non-accredited correspondence school operated by Kurt Donsbach, a chiropractor who has engaged in so many health schemes that nobody — including the man himself — can document all of them with certainty.”

David Rowland was also introduced to the audience as a member of the New York Academy of Sciences. The implication was that this membership gave greater credence to what he had to say. A call to the academy revealed that he is a member, but that members are not elected. Anyone can join. All that is required is payment of the membership fee. Membership does not mean that the work members do is endorsed by the academy, the public relations official stressed, although that is sometimes attempted. A recent example, he said, was the dictator of Turkmenistan, who joined and then claimed he was elected until the academy objected.

Needless to say, David Rowland was totally opposed to regulation of the industry — but not, he said, because of the issue of increased cost for compliance with good manufacturing practices his company and others will be required to follow under the new legislation. “The issue,” he stressed, “is your lives and safety” and the “censorship” being applied by Health Canada in its rules against the making of unproven claims for products.

When I ignored his request, I got an e-mail from him with a sworn affidavit for a legal action he has commenced against Truehope. He is suing them because he claims that EM Power contains a secret ayurvedic ingredient called Shilajit and it is believed that shilajit in whole or in part is responsible for the remarkable recovery from mental illness claimed by the product. David Rowland states that he holds the patent for this product and that the Truehope people have violated his rights.

Shortly after I received this e-mail, mental health advocate Natasha Tracy got in touch with me because she received the same information. Natasha had written some very damning blogs about EM Power.

What can I say other than:

Pulling your Hair Out

Alternative Facts

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I was probably ten or twelve when I asked my Sunday school teacher if there was any archeological evidence supporting the parting of the Red Sea and its collapse back over all those chariots. And in grade 7 when our science teacher, Mr. Edmonds, asked the class which way the earth travels around the sun and I told him it depends where in the universe the observer is standing. We argued and he sent me to see the Vice Principal from whom I first heard the idea of ‘convention’.

And then we all run into professors in first and second year university who tell us of the social manufacture of reality, and those who tell us how our attitudes and perceptions are shaped by the power elite. And we run into G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell and ponder the nature of truth. “Moore, are there apples in your basket?” And somewhere along the line a professor turns a chair upside down, places it on a table and asks the class, “What is this?” We tell him it is a chair, and he asks us how we know it is a chair. And someone else tells us that a light switch is neither on nor off, but in a position of relative on-ness, and that an electron might be in two places at once.

During his summer vacation between first and second year university, my grandson, in the comfort of his bedroom, day trades cryptocurrency on his new laptop. We discuss the nature of cryptocurrency, tulip bulbs, and “real” coinage, the very concept of money. I see that some articles on bitcoin are illustrated with a graphic of large, hard, embossed gold and silver coins. The irony is striking. The economists see bitcoin as a silly invented bubble; the bitcoin “experts” talk of cryptocurrency as being as big a social disrupter as the internet, liberating currency as the internet liberated information.

There are ads every night on CNN supporting legitimate journalism. They sometimes show an apple from first one angle and then a second and proclaim that it is still an apple. I think the ad writers missed the Beyond the Fringe parody of Russell and Moore, and Duchamp’s painting of a pipe titled, “This in not a pipe.”

“Moore, are there apples in your basket?”

And then we have Carter Page who apparently is referred to as a “Famous American Economist” when he gives talks in Russia, and Sean Hannity, and President Trump “totally vindicated” by the Nunes memo.

Many explanations for the rise of Donald Trump have been written, grounded in the history of the USA, the technological changes sweeping the world, the paranoia that accompanies mass migration, the always present racism, the forgotten but once privileged white working man, the attraction of populism and demagoguery….

And we are all fascinated by the extent this man can obfuscate, dissemble, lie, confabulate, and contradict himself without consequence.

But, pulling these random thoughts together, it seems to me that with Moore and Russell we left behind the certainty of 19th century truth, and with space travel, the origins of the universe, black holes, space time continuum, anti-matter, the digital revolution, the internet, robots doing our vacuuming and manufacturing, the democratization of information, the ubiquity of video illusion, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and, perhaps most importantly, the development of every day tools that only a few really understand…..we are now a very bewildered species. We used to know where we were going. Now we don’t. We used to understand our tools; now we don’t. We are inundated with fiction; we binge watch Netflix. Many teen boys can recite the political intricacies of the Star Wars series much better than that of their own world. In our fictions there are an astonishing number of American Special forces whizzing around the world killing bad guys and keeping us safe. We find ourselves applying the expectations and conventions of fiction to reality. Conspiracies abound in fiction, though real humans are more prone to folly.

It has long been preached that truth will outlive a lie. But today that lie can be widely disseminated in seconds, with conviction and graphics, while the truth is often slow, difficult, and complex. Today the lie has done its job long before the truth emerges.

It is no wonder that many of us sitting in our puddle of bewilderment and angst are easily coaxed back to primitive religions, pre-enlightenment medicines, strong-men, demigods, and false prophets.

There is a heartening backlash to all this, symbolized in a small way by Georgian College throwing out its program in homeopathy. And in reality the economies of the world are all in better shape than they ever have been, fewer people starve, fewer people die of preventable and treatable illnesses (thanks to modern western medicine), more have access to clean water (modern medicine and science), fewer people are crippled or die from nutritional deficiencies (modern medical use of supplements and scientific dietary advice), fewer people are actually killing one another than ever before, fewer are enslaved, many with chronic illnesses have better lives….. We even have better and better treatments for mental illness…and I don’t mean pig pills, micro-nutrients, and mindfulness.

We are at a tipping point I think. Can sufficient numbers of us, members of this human race, accept the reality of uncertainty, live with the angst of self-aware existence, discard the need for Gods and demigods, accept the scientific manner of seeking truth as primary, accept our species and ecological scientific truths, and get down to the task of preserving and expanding our democratic institutions, accepting this small planet as home to us all, and recognize we face two daunting tasks if we are to survive, that we must deal with over-population and global warming?

And this does not mean we should be wasting time and money shooting large rockets and small roadsters into Asteroid belts.

PS – David Stephan who was mentioned at length in the previous blog, went on a Facebook live video rant earlier this week attacking everyone involved in the cancellation of his lectures including Marvin Ross and Dr Terry Polevoy.

I feel left out. You rant against Marvin Ross and Terry Polevoy. Please add Dr. David Dawson to your list of trolls.

Now, two things: You and your wife were very scientific. You conducted an N of one experiment using nutrition, Pig Pills and supplements on a very ill child rather than taking him to a doctor for appropriate examination, tests and the application of modern medicine. The legal aspects of this are complicated. What is clear is that your pig pills and supplements and “Truehope” failed, and the child died. Your child died.

At the end of your diatribe on Facebook you say the “saddest thing” is the cancellation of your promotional speaking gigs. I would have thought it was the death of your child. It should have been the death of your child.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite Science, Alternatives Flourish

By Marvin Ross

exorcism

Despite the tremendous advances that medical science has made over the past number of years, many persist in their unscientific beliefs about vitamins and alternative medicine. A few things cropped up in the last week to make my head hurt. First, the Journal of the American Medical Association released a report on vitamin and mineral supplements and their efficacy. They stated:

“most randomized clinical trials of vitamin and mineral supplements have not demonstrated clear benefits for primary or secondary prevention of chronic diseases not related to nutritional deficiency. Indeed, some trials suggest that micronutrient supplementation in amounts that exceed the recommended dietary allowance (RDA)—eg, high doses of beta carotene, folic acid, vitamin E, or selenium—may have harmful effects, including increased mortality, cancer, and hemorrhagic stroke”

They then go on to discuss what vitamins should be used for and that list is very specific.

At about the same time, it is revealed that Georgian College in Barrie Ontario is setting up a three year course in homeopathy. Dr Stephen Barrett of Quachwatch describes homeopathy as the ultimate fake. I remember an episode on Marketplace a few years ago where they tried to have people overdose on homeopathic medicines (distilled water) and no one could. The public outcry against Georgian College was so strong that they cancelled the program.

Next up was a notice that David Stephan was to be the keynote speaker at the Saskatoon Wellness Conference. Stephan is the man who, with his wife, was convicted for the death of their toddler who suffered from a very curable meningitis but was given vitamins and homeopathic potions instead. One of the products the child was given was EM Power Plus which is the product his father’s company manufactures and sells. More on that in a minute but the organizer of the event (and Stephan is to speak in other cities as well) is that “he judges his vendors based on their products, not on their personal lives.”

Nice but the two are intertwined. I’ve been writing about this product for years and the following is from an earlier Mind You blog:

The blog Neurocritic entitled one of its articles as EMPowered to Kill as one man with schizophrenia went off his meds to take EMP and brutally killed his father in a psychotic state. I have written on this case as well in Huffington Post. Health Canada has declared the product a health hazard on two occasions. I have written critical articles about this in various publications and an e-book with Dr Terry Polevoy and a former Health Canada investigator and now private detective in Calgary, Ron Reinold, called Pig Pills.

Stephan and his wife both worked at the Truehope website advising customers on their treatment. You can listen to some calls that were made to the call centre here.

One of the research gurus for Truehope is a psychologist at the University of Calgary, Bonnie Kaplan. Her research trial on EMP at the University of Calgary was shut down by Health Canada because it failed to meet the proper standards for a clinical trial but she now writes on mental health and vitamins for the Mad in America website. She also gives lectures where she tells the audience not to google her name (slide 3). She even went so far as to bring professional misconduct charges against Dr Terry Polevoy with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario because he criticized her work.

And yet, she was just named as one of the 150 Canadians who make a difference in mental health for the above work.

Meanwhile, the Schizophrenia Society of Canada states in its recent report on re-imagining itself that:

External stakeholders expressed concern that emphasis on a western medicine biological model of understanding of schizophrenia does not reflect the diversity of ways people from different cultural groups understand and explain mental illness.” (P13).

What can I say to this? OK some people do not agree with how science has tried to understand schizophrenia (and it has a long way to go), and would prefer to ignore treatments (again not perfect but reasonably effective) for their own folkways like exorcism to let the demons out as depicted in the graphic that goes with this.

How is that gonna work?

Probably as well as it did for a young Aboriginal girl from the Six Nations Reserve near me who decided to stop her chemo for what was first described as native healing. Her acute lymphoblastic leukemia was given a 75% probability of a cure with conventional medicine. The “traditional indigenous treatment” she sought out was at a vitamin cure spa in Florida called the Hippocrates Health Institute which is being sued by former staff who allege the company’s president Brian Clement is operating “a scam under Florida law” and practising medicine without a licence.

Sadly, Makala died.

PS I wrote this on Sunday morning and by late afternoon Sobey’s,  a grocery chain, had cancelled its sponsorship with the Wellness Expo and the organizers of the event had removed Stephan’s name from its list of speakers.

Mental Illness and the Political Spectrum

By Marvin Ross

I have always been on the left of the political spectrum – more so in my student days – but I still consider myself left and vote for progressive ideas and progressive candidates. Progressive, of course, is a value laden term but what has baffled me has been the lack of progressive ideas by the left on mental illness.

I’ve just done a Huffington Post piece attacking the establishment of a scholarship in anti-psychiatry at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. After it was penned but before it was published, I was sent a link to an article in Rabble.ca written by the founder of that scholarship, Bonnie Burstow, extolling the supremacy of Toronto academia in anti-psychiatry “scholarship”. She equates this anti attitude for the search for social justice and as diametrically opposed to Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Aside from caring for patients, CAMH has a research budget of $38 million a year, is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre and home to the only brain imaging centre in Canada devoted entirely to the study of mental illness. Among the supporters and activists of anti-psychiatry, Burstow cites David Reville and Cheri DiNovo. Reville was a politician in the disastrous NDP government in Ontario headed by Bob Rae (1990-1995). DiNovo is also an NDP member of the Ontario Legislature.

For non-Canadian readers, the NDP is the Canadian version of a Labour Party.

That disastrous government in Ontario brought in legislation to establish an Advocacy Commission to protect vulnerable people and to promote respect for their rights. That, of course, is laudable but the bill was so flawed and cumbersome that it was immediately repealed by the Conservative government that replaced them in power.

The Ontario Friends of Schizophrenics (now the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario), told the committee that:

Ontario Friends of Schizophrenics has had dialogue with officials because we have been persistent and because we have done our homework in making some solid proposals for improvements in the legislation. We have been unable to meet with a single minister of the three ministries concerned, despite repeated requests and despite the fact that people with schizophrenia are one of the largest groups in the vulnerable population that will be affected by these bills.”

They then pointed out that the bill excluded families; that it gave more power to the commission to enter someone’s home than the police have; that the test of capacity was ability to perform personal care rather than understanding; the low standard of capacity; no provisions for emergency treatment; and too much power to the Consent and Capacity Board.

The Alzheimer’s Society of Metropolitan Toronto was equally critical arguing that the new act penalized the family. Their presenter told the committee that:

“I have serious concerns about the prevailing use of unknown professional advocates with sweeping powers, heavy demands on their time, unclear qualifications and little accountability.”

In Ontario, the only improvement to the Mental Health Act was brought in by the extreme right wing at the time Conservative government under Mike Harris. They have not always been that extreme and the word Progressive precedes Conservative in the name of the party. That improvement to the Mental Health Act was Brian’s Law which enabled those with serious mental illness to be hospitalized if they posed a danger (not imminent as previously) and to be discharged from hospital under a community treatment order. They could live in the community provided that they were treated.

Only 10 members voted against the bill, 6 of whom were members of the NDP. The Health Minister after this was passed was Tony Clement who showed his support for those afflicted with schizophrenia by attending the banquet at the Schizophrenia Society of Canada annual conference when it was held in Toronto. As mentioned above, the schizophrenia group complained that no elected official would meet with them to discuss the flawed bill they were implementing. I have always had respect for Tony while detesting his ultra right policies further honed in the Federal Harper government.

The one member of the legislature who has done the most, in my opinion, to improve services for the mentally ill and the disabled was Conservative Christine Elliott. It was her pressure that resulted in the Liberal Government establishing an all party select committee to look at possible reforms. Despite an excellent report agreed to by members of all three political parties, nothing has been done. Sadly, she left politics after not winning the party leadership but she is the first ever patient ombudsman in Ontario.

And this regressive attitude on mental illness by the left is not unique to Canada. My advocacy friend, DJ Jaffe of the Mental Illness Policy organization in New York often comments that even though he is a Democrat, the most progressive people advocating for improvements in the US are Republicans. He is referring to a bill by Republican Congressman, Dr Tim Murphy called the Helping Families in a Mental Health Crisis Act. I suggested that Canada could use help in mental illness reform from a Republican back in 2013. In 2014 I wrote about how little we could hope for reform in Ontario.

To demonstrate further the left attitude to mental illness, you just have to look at the critical comments that my most recent blog on the anti-psychiatry scholarship garnered. One woman who is doing her PhD in Disability Studies at OISE claimed that I could not criticize because I am a white male member of the bourgeoisie. My proletarian father who worked in a garment factory on piece work and was a member of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, would cringe in his grave located in the Independent Friendly Workers’ section of the cemetary.

That criticism goes on, quoting Barstow, that all that is needed to cure mental illness is that those with the illness know “we are cared for and that we are in control of our own lives.” Another critic said people “get better because they get free from psychiatry, find peers, get in touch with their inner experience, connect with and rely on others.” That same person also said “Psychiatry was invented by the privileged to dehumanise (sic) women, the neurodiverse, gay and lesbian and transgendered people, the poor, the Indigenous, and never-to-be-heard survivors of child abuse.”

I wonder how the scientists in the Faculty of Medicine or at the Centre For Addiction and Mental Health with their budget of $38 million a year feel about being told they are oppressors?

I haven’t heard such rhetoric since the days of Trotskyites on university campuses in the 1960’s but would love to see these critics spend some time in a psychiatric hospital ward with unmedicated schizophrenics, those experiencing the mania of bipolar disorder, or in a severe depressed state. I’m sure they would find some way to rationalize why their attempts to free them from “dehumanizing” psychiatry did not work.

A Subjective Unscientific Analysis of Anti-Psychiatry Advocates

By Marvin Ross

Many of my Huffington Post Blogs attract some very nasty comments from the various anti-psychiatry adherents. The same applies to the blogs by my colleague Susan Inman and we get some on this blog. The Boston Globe award winning Spotlight Team featured in the film Spotlight, just did a series of articles on the sad state of mental health care in Massachusetts. Wanting to foster dialogue, they set up a Facebook Page for comments. And did they ever get comments!

I’ve been looking at more than my fair share of these comments over the years but decided to try to categorize them. So here goes.

1. I was badly treated, mistreated, misdiagnosed therefore all of psychiatry is evil. In some cases, this alleged mistreatment occurred over 50 years ago. I do believe that this happened in most cases and it should not have happened but it did. Personally, I’ve run into (or family members have) some very incompetent and inept treatment by doctors and/or hospitals. This has occurred in inpatient stays, visits to doctors or in emergency rooms. And some of these misadventures have been serious but I do not spend my time denouncing all hospitals, all doctors or all Emergency Rooms. What I have done is to complain to the appropriate authorities. And most of the time I’m successful.

As my English mom used to say, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”

  2. The other very common cry is that I got help and recovered therefore everyone can recover and if they can’t, it is because the docs are bad or are trying to keep people sick to make money and peddle drugs. I’m sure there is an error term in logic where you extrapolate your particular situation to everyone. That is what these critics are doing. It is like saying I survived prostate cancer which has a 5 year survival of 98.8% so that someone with pancreatic cancer can too. Pancreatic cancer only  has a 4% 5 year survival rate. It is not the same nor is say mild anxiety comparable to treatment resistant schizophrenia. Stop mixing apples and oranges.

3. Involuntary treatment for those who are so sick that they pose a danger to themselves, others, or will deteriorate further without involuntary committal means that the state will lock up, drug and keep everyone indefinitely. None of these fears are true so learn what is entailed and get over it. And when I post a video or an article by someone like Erin Hawkes who went through about a dozen involuntary treatments till a pharmaceutical agent was found that removed her delusions, stop insulting her as some have done by calling her a victim and that she is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

How will you learn if you refuse to listen to other opinions?

What I suspect that these involuntary opponents do not understand is that people are not locked up without just cause or forever. There are safeguards in place to ensure regular reviews and appeals. In Ontario a few years ago, a group of so called psychiatric survivors challenged the constitutionality of community treatment orders and supplied the courts with affidavits from people who found them to be bad. This is what I wrote about that in the Huffington Post:

Justice Belobaba only had to look at the affidavit that the plaintiffs filed as part of their attack on CTOs to get an idea of how well they can work. Amy Ness had, prior to being put on a CTO, been involuntarily committed for showing violent behaviour in 2004. In 2007, while hospitalized, Ms. Ness kicked her mother in the back and hit her repeatedly. Then, in 2009, Ms. Ness grabbed a large kitchen knife and marched upstairs toward her mother after discovering a magazine about schizophrenia. In another incident, Ms. Ness kicked and punched the emergency department psychiatrist. By the time she was given a CTO in 2009, she had five hospitalizations.

Since then, while on a CTO, the judge pointed out, she takes her medication and sees her case worker on a regular basis. She has not been hospitalized, she maintains her housing and she works as a volunteer, has a job and takes courses. She does think, however, that the CTO is an attack on her personal dignity.

Herschel Hardin, a civil libertarian once wrote that:

“The opposition to involuntary committal and treatment betrays a profound misunderstanding of the principle of civil liberties. Medication can free victims from their illness – free them from the Bastille of their psychoses – and restore their dignity, their free will and the meaningful exercise of their liberties.”

A psychiatrist I know who is a libertarian (someone who believes that people should be allowed to do and say what they want without any interference from the government) told me that when your brain is immersed in psychoses, you are not capable of doing or saying what you want. Therefore, he was fully supportive of involuntary treatment so that people could get to the position where they had the capacity to do what they want.

4. And then we come to what Dr Joe Schwarcz on his radio show, Dr Joe, calls scientific illiteracy. He used that in his July 10 interview with my colleague, Dr Terry Polevoy, in a discussion on EM Power + and the conviction of the Stephans for failing to provide the necessities of life for their child who died of bacterial meningitis. They refused all conventional medical care, gave him vitamins, herbal products and echinacea till the poor little toddler stopped breathing.

There was a case of scientific illiteracy in that the parents are totally opposed to vaccinations and work for a  company that encourages people with mental illnesses to go off meds in favour of their proprietary vitamins. They had no idea why they were convicted, lashed out at the jury who convicted them and then, at their sentencing hearing, the wife shocked even her own lawyer when she told the court that the Crown had used a phony autopsy report as evidence.

Other examples are that anti-depressants cause violence and suicide. Violence possibly in those under 24 according to a large Swedish study but not in adults. However, the authors state that these findings need validation. There is no definitive proof of this and no evidence of increased violence in adults.

As for anti-depressants causing suicide, a warning that this might be a concern was posted on the labels. Doctors were advised to be cautious when prescribing these for depressed young people.Consequently, this resulted in an increase in suicide attempts.

“Evidence now shows that antidepressant prescription rates dropped precipitously beginning with the public health advisory in March 2004, which preceded the black box warning in October 2004. Since the initial public health advisory, antidepressant prescriptions for children and adolescents decreased, with a consequent increase (14%) in incidence of suicide in these populations.”

On my to-read list is Ordinarily Well The Case for Antidepressants by psychiatrist Peter D Kramer. Kramer is the author of Listening to Prozac and, in this new book, he continues with proof that antidepressants do work and are not simply placebos. Not only do they work, but they are life savers.

In the New York Times review by Scott Stossel, the reviewer points out that when Kramer first began visiting psychiatric wards in the 1970’s, they were filled with people suffering what was then known as “end-state depression”. These were depressed patients in what appeared to be psychotic catatonic states.

Patients like that have not been seen for decades which he attributes to the aggressive use of antidepressants.

And, lest we forget, there is also the common view that the chronicity of psychiatric disorders are caused by the drugs that doctors force on their patients. People love to quote the work of Martin Harrow in Chicago but I suspect that many have not actually read his studies. Some people, he found,  did better after going off anti-psychotics over time than those who continued with their use but that is not surprising. It has always been known that some people improve while others have chronic problems and still others are not able to be helped with anything.

What they do not realize is that in Harrow’s study, 79 per cent and 64 per cent of the patients were on medication at 10- and 15-year follow ups. And that Harrow points out that not all schizophrenia patients are alike and that one treatment fits all is “not consonant with the current data or with clinical experience.” His data suggests that there are unique differences in those who can go off medications compared to those who cannot. And he points out that it is not possible to predict who may be able to go off medication and those who need the long term treatment. Intensified research is needed.

So stop with the reference to Harrow that no one needs meds. And stop also with promoting Open Dialogue when, first, it has never been empirically validated and second, many of their patients are on medication.

5. Regrettably, many of these people lack any civility whatsoever. People are entitled to offer their comments but they should not do so anonymously. And they should show some respect for those who have different views. I’m told that some have been banned from the Spotlight Facebook page and I’ve just banned one anonymous person who posts here for his/her personal attacks. I mentioned above that Erin has been called a willing victim and one who suffers with the Stockholm syndrome for her video and her article. Refute the points she makes but leave the insults aside.

And, one post that I removed from the After Her Brain Broke page on Susan Inman in response to he video What Families Need From the Mental Health System claimed that Susan keeps her daughter locked up and ill and that she likely suffers from Munchausen by proxy.

 

On Naturopathy and Psychiatry

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Naturopathy, Homeopathy

I am growing intolerant.

Many of my patients over the years have attended Naturopaths. And I assume that for every 10 who confess this, the number must be closer to 20 or 30 for the 10 usually confess with a sheepish grin. I seldom react save for a slight smile and nod for it is usually a harmless event and most Naturopaths, I am pretty sure, do not recommend that their patients stop actual medical treatment.

One mother came back with the story that the Naturopath had studied the blood of her three sons under a microscope and found all three samples revealed high concentrations of parasites. I began to react but first asked what she had recommended. A good diet and lots of exercise was the prescription, so I let it pass. How long would it take to explain that if, indeed, her children did have parasites in their blood we should be heading to the emergency of the nearest hospital as quickly as possible.

Another told me his Naturopath had put him on Lithium. Now, if that were true I should monitor his serum lithium levels, his kidney and thyroid function. But I didn’t. Because I assumed if there was some actual lithium in the concoction he was given it was miniscule, less than might be found in a pistachio nut, or, in fact, embodied that other silliness of naturopathy and homeopathy: some distilled or diluted water that had fond memories of a lithium salt that once resided in it.

So naturopathy and homeopathy are mostly harmless. And it was a logical approach to some dis-ease in the early 19th century, based then on two extrapolations: 1. We thought a few dis-eases might be caused by deficiencies in diets so perhaps all dis-eases are caused by deficiencies. 2. We had no idea what those deficiencies might be so let us give each patient a concoction comprised of small amounts of many things and let his or her body choose which it needs. Not a bad idea at the time. Especially at a time when barber-surgeons and physicians were experimenting with drugs and procedures that could do more harm than good.

But we are no longer in the 19th century, and we know a little more about human and animal physiology now. And we can test for deficiencies if they are suspected. And we now know those deficiencies can occur from an absence in diet, or a genetic or acquired inability to absorb and use a particular vitamin, protein, amino acid, or mineral. And we know that a true deficiency leads to a specific clinical condition.

I forced myself to read an “award-winning” article by Jonathan E. Prousky from the Townsend Letter which purports to be the Examiner of alternative medicine. He starts by presenting two cases (fictional compilations he admits), and then proceeds to slander most medical care and all psychiatric care (with the exception of brief interventions for psychosis). In fact he lists psychiatric treatment and the “mental health system” as “oppressors causing a negative load on the allostatic system”. (meaning they are bad for you)

But then he goes on to list the alternatives that will make you well again and keep you well. They are:

  • Exercise
  • Good diet
  • Connecting with Nature (a walk in the woods)
  • Limiting computer/TV/video gaming time.
  • Religious involvement, or at least paying attention to this
  • Regular adequate sleep
  • And finally, supplements of vitamins and Omega 3

My mother would have agreed in the mid 20th century. Though she insisted on fruit and vegetables for Vit C and A, meat and beans for the B vitamins and iron, milk for calcium, playing outside for Vitamin D, a little extra D through the winter, and Cod Liver Oil for brain development. She would also talk of balance, a good nights sleep, and moderation in all things.

We medical doctors spend a lot of time reviewing exercise, diet, finding a balance in life, limiting gaming and virtual reality, seeking comfort and solace in nature (or vacations, dancing, music, art, work, hobbies, relationships, helping others) finding a way of accepting the realities of life and living with the unknowns, getting a good night’s sleep, eating breakfast, and taking Vit D and Omega 3.

All good advice providing that we don’t overdose on vitamin supplements, for excessive quantities can do damage.

But not as a replacement for medical or psychiatric treatment for illness. Not as a replacement for vaccination. Not as a replacement for real blood tests, scans, medical examinations and investigations, treatment with antibiotics, treatment with modern medicines, medical treatment for depression, severe anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar illness. Not as a replacement or “alternative” for science.

The nonsense of naturopathy and homeopathy is not harmless when it convinces people to ignore or forgo real medical prevention and treatment for themselves and their children.

On The Preventable Death of A Child – The Human Tragedy of “Alternative Medicine”

By Marvin Ross

It is a terrible tragedy and the focus of worldwide attention. Ezekiel Stephan was a 19 month old toddler whose parents are presently being tried in Lethbridge Alberta for failing to provide the necessities of life for him. Ezekiel was treated by his parents with various alternative products for what they thought was a cold and croup until he stopped breathing. He was airlifted to Calgary’s Children’s Hospital where he arrived brain dead and soon died of what was diagnosed as bacterial meningitis.

David Stephan, the father, is the son of one of the founders of Truehope – a supplement company that promotes its product, EM Power + (EMP), for psychiatric conditions and recommends that its customers go off medication. I have been writing about them for over 15 years and, along with Dr Terry Polevoy of Waterloo, ON and Ron Reinhold, a former Health Canada inspector and now private investigator in Calgary, we published an E-book called Pig Pills Inc: The Anatomy of An Academic and Alternative Health Fraud. Ron has done an excellent summary of the Truehope history on his website, Rainbow Investigations

Both David Stephan and his wife, Collet, took EMP and gave it to Ezekiel. And both parents worked at sales and marketing for Truehope.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation just obtained and made available the medical interview/history done in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of the Calgary hospital. Aside from the history of Ezekiel’s symptoms and the emergency that precipitated his being airlifted to Calgary, is the family medical history. It is frightening in my opinion.

Collet had no prenatal care from a physician but from a family friend who is a nurse and who helped at delivery. Ezekiel had never been seen by a doctor and was never given any vaccinations. During her pregnancy and while breastfeeding, Collet took EMP. For occasional colds, Ezekiel was given olive oil leaf extract and garlic. According to testimony at the trial, the nurse did suggest that Ezekiel had meningitis and to take him to the ER. They did not but rather went to a naturopath to get some echinacea.

His medications from about 11 months on consisted of daily smoothies containing EMP, Omega 3-6-9, whey protein, FermPlus, and a digestive enzyme. The autopsy report is also available at the bottom of this article for anyone who can stomach the findings.

According to the label for EMP, pregnant and lactating women should consult a doctor before using the product and it advises that the product be kept away from children under 6. And yet seemingly Collet took the product without consulting a doctor and gave it to her child. When EMP was first used in a study at the University of Calgary, Dr Catherine Field, a nutrition researcher at the University of Alberta, told me that she did not know if this product was safe but felt that it could be used short term as long as the research subjects were monitored by a medical doctor. She further stated that it was unsafe for pregnant women or for women who might become pregnant and thus pregnant women were excluded from the study. (P 66 of Pig Pills).

I also have in my possession a freedom of information document provided by Health Canada to an investigative reporter at the Canadian Television Network (CTV) on the adverse events associated with EMP reported to Health Canada. The document is dated January 2007 and deals with “near misses” and reports of Truehope activities.

In one case, a family contacted the owner of Truehope (not named) and it was alleged the family was advised not to seek medical help from a doctor. In another case, a 50 year old woman with multiple gall stones was contacted by an unnamed owner and told to refuse surgery but to take large amounts of olive oil (which the report said is contraindicated).

Two reports to Health Canada were filed by Truehope employees but the information was redacted. In another case, a doctor reported that his pregnant patient was taking EMP and he cautioned her about it as it had an unknown safety profile. The woman checked with Truehope and was assured that it was safe although the doctor was concerned that the information she was given was inaccurate.

There was a great deal of discussion in these documents over safety in children and in pregnant and lactating women and Health Canada insisted that warnings be given about its use for those populations on the label.

Truehope, for psychiatric conditions, recommends that prescription medication be stopped. In 2012, I reported on a case in British Columbia where a man with schizophrenia replaced his psychiatric medication for EMP and became so psychotic that he murdered his father. The headline on one paper proclaimed that vitamin therapy contributed to murder. I followed up with an article asking why Health Canada allowed this agent to be sold and that question is still relevant.

For those interested in the type of advice that Truehope gives to the mentally ill over the phone, you will find these interesting. We had a doctor develop a number of hypothetical scenarios that were then checked for accuracy by a psychiatrist. Frightening is all I can say.

And undoubtedly Tony Stephan will threaten to sue me for this blog. He once threatened to sue The Scientist for an article I wrote about his company and  he has threatened me  with legal action more than once in the past. More recently, he threatened to sue mental health writer and advocate, Natasha Tracy.