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

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

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.

707, 2014

The Proactive Search for Mental Illnesses in Children

By |July 7th, 2014|

ellie-320A 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.

Read it here.

 

505, 2014

Dangerous Linkages

By |May 5th, 2014|

The unplugging of a Saanich School District database raises serious concerns about the BC government’s secret plans for students’ personal information—and for everyone’s BC Services Card information.

The BC Ministry of Education warned Saanich School District in March that it would cost the district millions of dollars to make their openStudent database properly integrated with the BC Services Card. Daunted, the school board immediately cancelled development of their in-house database for recording student information, abandoning the two years and $1.5 million they’d invested.

However, there’s a snag in this seemingly straightforward story. Based on the facts the public has been given about the BC Services Card, the government’s assertion to Saanich couldn’t possibly be true. So was the provincial government misleading the school district? If so, why? Or does the government have secret plans for the BC Services Card and our schoolchildren’s personal information that are much more invasive, expansive and expensive than the public realizes?

Clues to the answers lie in

505, 2014

Commissioner urges public accountability for police chiefs — RCMP internal investigation also underway

By |May 5th, 2014|

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.

304, 2014

My Scary Trip through Ukrainews, Victoria

By |April 3rd, 2014|

When it comes to complex international issues, does following the news increase or diminish our understanding?

I want to talk about something that’s difficult to talk about in person: Ukraine. But not the actual place or events surrounding it, which I know less than nothing about. (Emphasis on less, an issue I’ll return to shortly.) I want to discuss the local Victoria aspect of “Ukraine”— which is more influential over my own life.

It seems we’re talking, writing and posting online about Ukraine a lot more than we used to. We debate what’s happening there, who’s to blame, and even about what actions we should be taking: providing financial support, boycotting, brokering negotiations, sending troops, the whole gamut.

So what caused this local cultural shift? Events in Ukraine? Many dramatic international events happen that we don’t talk about. And even though a million Canadians have some Ukrainian ancestry, many more have German or Irish ancestry, and I haven’t noticed any heavily-funded Victoria-Ukrainian

503, 2014

From Compliance to Activism: A Mother’s Journey

By |March 5th, 2014|

cindi-fast-featured-700x494Through 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

403, 2014

“To Safeguard Against Tyranny”

By |March 4th, 2014|

Read deeper and BC Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin’s ruling in support of teachers against the provincial government is about much more than just our schools.

It seems appropriate that the late-January BC Supreme Court ruling won by the BC Teachers Federation has received attention in our news media. But there’s an undercurrent that permeates Justice Susan Griffin’s Reasons for Judgment that hasn’t been discussed nearly as much as it should be: Her very worrying evaluation of the state of our democracy.

For those who haven’t been following the story, the BC Liberal government passed legislation in 2002 that seemed to be a blatant attack against the most basic civil rights of teachers to freely associate and take action collectively. It deleted hundreds of agreements from existing contracts and stripped the BCTF of virtually any powers to bargain on key issues about teachers’ working conditions—primarily with respect to the number of students in classes, and the learning environments for children with

102, 2014

Are Local Police Being Covertly Militarized?

By |February 1st, 2014|

Vancouver and Victoria police told academic researcher Adam Molnar they’ve started training in combat exercises with the US military. Police weren’t so forthright when Focus came asking.

Western Canadian police forces and the US military have been skirting laws on both sides of the border in secretive, controversial, urban-combat training exercises, says researcher Adam Molnar. Molnar recently completed his Political Science PhD thesis for the University of Victoria, titled “In the Shadow of the Spectacle: Security and Policing Legacies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.” His study provides a behind-the-scenes look into how the biggest peace-time security operation in Canadian history permanently re-shaped British Columbia policing with respect to governance, use of electronic surveillance, public order emergencies, and public-private partnerships. One of its most provocative chapters outlines the creation of the Vancouver Police Department’s “Military Liaison Unit,” and the spread of the model to other police departments including Victoria’s.

Molnar can’t disclose the names of the police sources he interviewed due

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