Articles

Articles2020-08-12T16:55:38+00:00

A selection of my articles published in magazines, newspapers, journals, and webzines.

1409, 2020

Will the Mental Health Industry Undermine the Community-based Climate Change Revolution?

By |September 14th, 2020|

As mainstream mental health ideas and approaches are increasingly incorporated by community resilience-building groups, critics warn about the dangers of pathologizing and medicalizing reactions to climate change.

Read the article on Mad in America.

 

1002, 2020

Are Psychiatric Medications Safe? The FDA’s Answer May Surprise You

By |February 10th, 2020|

The Deputy Director for Safety at the FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products answers my questions about how the risks of psychiatric drugs are evaluated by health regulators – and explains what you need to know to better protect yourself. Read the whole article or listen to an audio version of the interview at the Inner Compass Initiative website. (Note that while psychiatric drugs are the focus, much of our discussion generally applies to any other drugs as well.)

501, 2018

Reporting Flu Vaccine Science

By |January 5th, 2018|

Many news articles about a study of influenza vaccine and miscarriages raised good questions—but for questionable reasons, reports Rob Wipond.

(This article appeared in The BMJ (British Medical Journal), January 5, 2018.)

When reporting on medical studies, the popular press has a habit of sensationalising. So the muted response to a recent research paper reporting increased risk of miscarriage with influenza vaccines was at first sight surprising.

The study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that women who had received an influenza vaccine containing the 2009 pandemic strain pH1N1 and who were also vaccinated in the next flu season had a statistically significant, 7.7-fold higher odds of spontaneous abortion within 28 days of the second vaccination. (Absolute risk increase could not be calculated because it was a case-control study.) The concerning odds ratio fostered extensive discussion in the paper. But the news media projected an air of calm, highlighting the observational study’s many limitations.

The headline on the

1311, 2016

Escape from British Columbia

By |November 13th, 2016|

Some people say that our province’s strong mental health laws save lives. A constitutional court challenge says they lead to discrimination, abuse, fear and the flight of psychiatric refugees.

THE PSYCHIATRIC NURSE held out a paper cup with pills. Sarah clasped a handwritten note. Having learned not to protest loudly, the 24-year-old gave the nurse her note that read, “I have a right to my mind and my body.” Then, she reluctantly put the pills in her mouth.

Sarah knew that she had to execute her escape out of British Columbia quickly, before the drugs seized control of her mind again.

Sarah (she requested her name be withheld) is sharing her story to show support for a constitutional court challenge recently launched by Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS). The Vancouver non-profit is arguing that a key part of British Columbia’s Mental Health Act, called “deemed consent,” violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“At CLAS, we’re routinely told that people are either

2312, 2015

Why Does Psychiatry So Often Get a Free Pass on Standards of Evidence?

By |December 23rd, 2015|

The website HealthNewsReview.org specializes in publishing critiques of misleading press releases and news reports on health care and medicine. But they tend to let a lot of claims from psychiatry go largely unquestioned. Today, HealthNewsReview.org published my own review of one of their reviews.

Why Does Psychiatry So Often Get a Free Pass on Standards of Evidence?

A HealthNewsReview.org team gave a five-star, 9/10 glowing rating to a Philadelphia Inquirer article about an electro-mechanical device that ostensibly helps people avert experiences of panic. I would give this review by HealthNewsReview.org a failing grade. And though psychiatry has certainly produced more dangerous interventions than this breath-training device seems to be, the HealthNewsReview.org review nevertheless illustrates some of the common ways in which hyperbolic psychiatric and psychological claims frequently get free passes from otherwise thoughtful medical critics. I believe these deeper problems need to be more widely examined and discussed, so I’ve written a review of the HealthNewsReview.org review.

1) Is there disease-mongering

912, 2015

Province to Rein in Police Chief Associations?

By |December 9th, 2015|

A surprise government announcement could lead to the resolution of long-standing controversies about police secrecy.

The British Columbia provincial government has pledged to pass legislation to make the BC Association of Chiefs of Police and BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police “public bodies.” The announcement came from Bette-Jo Hughes, Chief Information Officer and Associate Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services, speaking in mid-November to MLAs reviewing the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The amendment to FOIPPA could resolve many concerns about how the associations operate — concerns that Focus has been reporting since 2012.

“I will be prepared to celebrate when the ink is dry,” commented Micheal Vonn, policy director for the BC Civil Liberties Association. Vonn has reason to be concerned. For years, members of the associations have sidestepped transparency and accountability by ping-ponging between claims that they were acting as “private citizens” or “public servants.” For example, the BCACP

2002, 2015

Are America’s High Rates of Mental Illness Actually Based on Sham Science?

By |February 20th, 2015|

The real purpose behind many of these statistics is to change our attitudes and political positions.

ABOUT one in five American adults (18.6%) has a mental illness in any given year, according to recent statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health. This statistic has been widely reported with alarm and concern. It’s been used to back up demands for more mental health screening in schools, more legislation to forcibly treat the unwilling, more workplace psychiatric interventions, and more funding for the mental health system. And of course, personally, whenever we or someone we know is having an emotional or psychological problem, we now wonder, is it a mental illness requiring treatment? If one in five of us have one….

But what NIMH quietly made disappear from its website is the fact that this number actually represented a dramatic drop. “An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable

311, 2014

Research Suggests That Psychiatric Interventions Like Admission to a Mental Facility Could Increase Suicide Risk

By |November 3rd, 2014|

A major study identifying the highest risk factors for suicide we’ve ever found has been barely discussed.

(This article was published by AlterNet on October 23, 2014. I am republishing it here in full with some of the links to references included for those who are interested.)

One of the most provocative studies of suicide ever done was published in the September edition of the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. It appeared shortly after Robin Williams’ suicide, and shortly before the World Health Organization’s World Suicide Prevention Day. Both of those events received widespread media attention, but this study was not reported by any media that I’ve seen, except relatively obscurely by me in my role as news editor for the online science and psychiatry community Mad In America.

The study looked at a broad population and identified some closely related, easily modifiable factors in people’s lives that were linked to being 6 times, 28 times, and

410, 2014

A More Moral Policy

By |October 4th, 2014|

Victoria Police change policies on Mental Health Act arrests.

When arrested under the Mental Health Act, people will now be advised of their rights and allowed to make telephone calls “if reasonable and safe to do so,” according to new Victoria Police Department policies. Police will also leave written reports at the psychiatric hospital.

The changes came about after complaints by Gordon Stewart and Vince Geisler, and an article in Focus (see “An Overabundance of Caution,” December 2013).  Read the rest at Focusonline.

 

1007, 2014

The Algorithmic Managing of ‘At-risk’ Children

By |July 10th, 2014|

headlines-all6Experts point to mounting evidence that scientifically dubious mental health screening programs are just one part of an international governance shift towards creating all-pervasive surveillance systems for diagnosing ‘pre-crime’ and managing ‘at-risk’ children and youth. And not only is this not helping kids, critics argue, it’s demonstrably harming them.

Part two of a Mad In America investigation into the expansion of psychological screening and electronic surveillance of children and youth. Read it here.

Or read part one.

Go to Top