A selection of my articles published in magazines, newspapers, journals, and webzines.
Are America’s High Rates of Mental Illness Actually Based on Sham Science?
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
Research Suggests That Psychiatric Interventions Like Admission to a Mental Facility Could Increase Suicide Risk
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
The Algorithmic Managing of ‘At-risk’ Children
Experts 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.
The Proactive Search for Mental Illnesses in Children
A new government-funded mental health training program for British Columbia family physicians and school staff promotes screening for mental disorders in all children and youth. Critics say the program omits key scientific evidence, seems more like drug promotion than medical education, and downplays serious potential harms. Nevertheless, programs like it are rolling out across Canada and the US.
Part one of a two-part Mad In America investigation into the expansion of psychological screening and electronic surveillance of children and youth.
Commissioner urges public accountability for police chiefs — RCMP internal investigation also underway
Following closely on the heels of Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s recommendation that the BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) and BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police should be made subject to provincial freedom of information laws, the RCMP has been ordered to conduct an internal investigation of the BCACP. Read more at Focusonline.
From Compliance to Activism: A Mother’s Journey
Through years of turmoil and confusion, Cindi Fisher’s enduring love for her involuntarily committed son gradually changed her from compliant mom to mental health civil rights activist. That’s when authorities banned her from even contacting her son. But could she be a bellwether of a coming nation-wide wave of protestors? Click here to read the full article at Madinamerica.com
Police Chiefs: Public or Private?
BC’s Information Commissioner launches an inquiry into police chief associations.
Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has launched an inquiry into British Columbia’s two police chief associations. Denham is considering recommending to government that the BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) and the BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police (BCAMCP) should be declared governmental “public bodies” and be made subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). According to her December 6 “letter to stakeholders,” the Commissioner is also inviting public input about this possible recommendation until February 14, 2014.
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissoner (OIPC) evidently has some of the same concerns about the associations that Focus has been reporting on for two years, as it’s become clear that these secretive associations have been doing everything from crafting the government’s policing legislation to ordering police media spokespersons around the province to promote the virtues of mass surveillance. “In my reflections on
An Overabundance of Caution
We’re worried about each other’s “mental health” a lot more than we used to be. But calling 911 for someone can be a disastrous approach, say victims of our good – or not so good – intentions.
The day before, John had interred his mother’s ashes. But then came what he describes as an “unbelievable, incomprehensible incident” that, in his sensitive state, was “otherworldly” and “traumatizing.”
John (who wishes to keep his name confidential) went to a Victoria recreation centre to try to clear his mind. He bumped into a friend and they talked into the wee hours. When John returned home, the lights in his condominium were on.
“I thought, I must have leaned up against the dimmer switch when I was putting my shoes on,” says John. Then he noticed an out-of-place binder, his laptop positioned differently, his email program opened. “Something was askew,” says John. “It was like I was in some sort of parallel universe.”
Had someone broken in?
Coup de Police
Secret police chief association records provoke serious questions about lack of police oversight in this province.
As I read through hundreds of pages of records from two BC associations of chiefs of police, I discovered that a letter I had sent to the West Vancouver Police Department Chief Constable had been turned over to all of Canada’s major banks, Canada Border Services, CSIS, and the US Secret Service. This certainly made a mockery of my privacy rights. Yet I realized that much more than privacy was at stake. These previously secret records—a drop from a much vaster pool—painted a worrying picture of unchecked police powers.
A catch up: Last year, I set out to learn more about the BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) and BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police (BCAMCP), because these groups have had tremendous influence on public opinion and provincial justice policies for decades, and yet there’s virtually no publicly available information about them. My
“Curiouser and Curiouser”
Ruling on BC Police Chiefs contradictory and confusing. (Originally published in Focus, July 2013)
In May, Acting Deputy Registrar of Lobbyists Jay Fedorak issued a decision that the BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) and Municipal Chiefs of Police (BCAMCP) do not need to register as political lobby groups under BC’s Lobbyists Registration Act. Unfortunately, rather than providing clarity, Fedorak’s reasoning has merely fuelled questions swirling around the secretive activities of our police chiefs.
Deputy Registrar of Lobbyists Mary Carlson launched an investigation of the two police chief associations in October after I reported my questions about the associations to her (see Focus, November 2012, and May 2013). The associations were claiming to be “private groups” exempt from BC’s freedom of information laws covering public bodies. However, I asked, if the associations are actually private groups, aren’t they legally required to be registered and tracked as lobby groups, since they do a