Articles

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

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

806, 2022

Government Forum Reveals 988 Call Tracing Remains a Threat

By |June 8th, 2022|

Keris Myrick, Shelby Rowe and others warned of harms caused by crisis lines that covertly trace calls, but it may not be enough to turn the tide.

It actually wasn’t hyperbole when John Draper, the director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline/988 expansion initiative, said that America is “on the precipice of launching the largest mental health and suicide prevention service in this nation’s history.”

However, much else that got said at last week’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “Forum on Geolocation for 988” was hyperbolic. Government and mental health professionals seemed to be doing a hard-sell to promote public acceptance that anyone calling, texting, or chatting through the new 988 crisis hotline number should be grateful to have their exact geolocation automatically exposed to within three meters. This, in turn, left many questions about government’s commitment to taking seriously the mounting public concerns about crisis lines that do covert call tracing and forced interventions—even as those concerns did finally emerge in

2911, 2020

Suicide Hotlines Bill Themselves as Confidential — Even as Some Trace Your Call

By |November 29th, 2020|

Every year US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline centers covertly trace tens of thousands of confidential calls, and police come to homes, schools, and workplaces to forcibly take callers to psychiatric hospitals. Some people’s lives get upended.

 

Public support for the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is soaring. In 2017, the rapper Logic released a Grammy-nominated song titled with the Lifeline’s 800-number that peaked at No. 3 on Billboard. Since then, call volumes have increased more than 25% as bloggers, vloggers, health zines, and news media from BuzzFeed to USA Today have run promotional stories. COVID-19 pushes volumes higher. Recently the federal government passed legislation mandating that, by 2022, all calls to “988” will be routed to the Lifeline—and some telecommunications companies have already begun implementation.

Driving much of this is growing awareness that calling 911 for issues of emotional distress can lead to deadly police interventions. Yet under-reported and under-investigated is the fact that

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

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