Category Archives: Mental Health

Can Laurel House Be Saved?

The decision to close Laurel House by October is, simply, bizarre.

Victoria’s last remaining drop-in, education and training centre for people diagnosed with mental illnesses is a rare success story (see June’s Focus) in a beleaguered system. While the Eric Martin psychiatric hospital and Archie Courtnall Centre endure psychiatrist resignations, and while police-backed psychiatric emergency responders are greeted with fear as often as gratefulness, Laurel House’s voluntary options for leisure, peer networking, skills development, and just being oneself in a therapeutic atmosphere stand out as popular amongst both front-line workers and consumers alike. There’s no better evidence of this than the support emerging in city media coverage and letters to the editor.

Kathleen Sumilas voices the sentiments of many clients when she says, “Laurel House saved my life.”

So why have the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the funders, and the Capital Mental Health Association, the independent organization running Laurel House, recently blindsided everyone with this announcement? Yes, new programs will run from CMHA’s offices and around the city. However, everyone recognizes our lack of community supports for people diagnosed with mental illnesses has contributed dramatically to other problems like suicides, homelessness and emergency room line-ups, so why axe our most successful program?!

The answers have been dubious. Continue reading

Bumpkins Dismiss Conspiracy Theories

Beware the spoon-feeders of anti-conspiracy pap. You know who I mean. Like several local Victoria writers who suggested that if you suspect corporations may influence U.S. policy in Iraq, Princess Diana’s accident was not accidental, or certain leaders may have been complicit in 9/11, then you “forgot [your] medication” and evidently need far-fetched conspiracy theories as “comfort food” to help you “cope”.

Anti-conspiracists relentlessly attack conspiracy theories, yet their reasonings often have nothing to do with facts or proof. In their minds, for example, the suggestion that companies, regulators, doctors, scientists and thousands of victims have been involved in a global cover-up of a drug’s dangerous side effects is so improbable it not only doesn’t merit serious investigation, it’s laughable.

And that’s dangerous.

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Mind Struggles Between Psychiatrists and Psychiatrized

I’m having an email discussion here, which some might find interesting, with Patricia Lefave, a writer, social-psychological theorist and psych-survivor. The discussion revolves around an essay Lefave wrote about the self-justifying, tautological mental operations in many psychiatrists doing diagnoses, and some questions I posed to her about often seeing similar psychological blinders in some repeat patients.

Eli Lilly Internal Documents – Re ZyprexaKills.tar.gz

In the course of research for articles in Adbusters and Focus magazines, I found these documents. They are internal memos, emails and studies from Eli Lilly and Company, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

There are a lot of relatively uninteresting pages mixed into this large file (269 MB), but overall some of the documents do seem to indicate, exactly as the New York Times and others have written, that Lilly apparently was involved in illegal, possibly criminal activities by misleading doctors about side effects and appropriate uses for their sedating-antipsychotic Zyprexa (Olanzapine), currently one of the world’s top-selling drugs.

Previously, distribution and even to some extent discussion of these documents was suppressed by an injunction from Eli Lilly in the United States. At that time, I found them using the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s TOR anti-censorship stealth network. As of mid-Feb, the injunction against U.S.-based websites was lifted, and the documents are re-appearing widely online.

The single document was very large and used up expensive bandwidth. Since there are now other and better ways to access these documents, I have removed my own copies from my website as of July 2007. I suggest going to the Furious Seasons blog to get them piece by piece or to this German site. Some Bittorrent files are also available.

For those just generally interested in the story, lawyer Jim Gottstein of PsychRights has posted an excellent overview of links.

As they obviously did for Gottstein, for me, the documents raise particular concern and sympathy for those people around the world who are being forced to take Lilly’s Zyprexa and other very dangerous drugs against their wills, victims of forced psychiatric interventions or inappropriate treatment in homes for the elderly. These documents help show how misguided forced psychiatric intervention really is, and how its methods tend to be more similar to chemical restraint and torture than to science or medicine.

An Interview with Dr. Abram Hoffer

At 88, Dr. Abram Hoffer is still dispensing wise nutritional advice and damning critiques of our health care system. On beginnings, orthomolecular medicine, psychedelic research, a revolutionary treatment for schizophrenia, and the state of present-day psychiatric care.

No Canadian psychiatrist has been simultaneously more dogged by controversy and more beloved by his patients than Victoria’s Dr. Abram Hoffer.

In an era when most psychiatrists believe in medicating for life, Hoffer has been a one-man “underground railroad” helping unchain patients from tranquillizing drugs.

Yet that’s not the reason he’s controversial.

Upon going to work as Director of Psychiatric Research for the Province of Saskatchewan in 1950, Hoffer and colleague Dr. Humphry Osmond became trailblazers.

They were one of the earliest institutional teams using psychedelics for therapy. They provided Aldous Huxley with the mescaline that led to his famous treatise, “The Doors of Perception”, which in part inspired Timothy Leary’s Harvard research and the psychedelic 60s. Hoffer also visited Prague, helping spark the 20th century’s other major psychedelic researcher, Dr. Stanislav Grof.

Teaming with Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling, they then became internationally renowned for research into “megavitamin” treatments, and founded “orthomolecular medicine“.

But most controversially, Hoffer and Osmond were the first to develop a biochemical theory and proclaimed cure for schizophrenia.

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