Saturday, July 9, 2011

Patrick McGorry on ABC radio

A discussion between Prof. Patrick McGorry and the Dalai Lama from the June 2011 Happiness and Its Causes Conference in Sydney has been broadcast on the radio show All in the Mind hosted by Natasha Mitchell. It should be repeated on Monday at 1.00pm.

The beginning of the discussion consists of McGorry giving a monologue about stuff that he is interested in - psychosis in youth and his psychiatric practice. I found McGorry's account to be cause for concern, but not in the way that McGorry probably intended. McGorry used the self-contradictory phrase "severe spectrum" to describe psychotic illness. I can only guess why McGorry might have chosen to use such nonsensical terminology - either he is himself confused in his thinking, or he aims to confuse the listener. Then McGorry went on to paint the false picture that schizophrenia was a disease that was never cured nor ever spontaneously remitted before the (McGorry's) concept of early intervention in psychosis came along. Perhaps this gloomy prognosis was an opinion held by many practitioners of modern psychiatry, but I don't think it was a reflection of the best scientific evidence. According to what I've read schizophrenia is a disorder that is characterized by waxing an waning of symptoms, and is apparently more likely to go into remission in patients in third-world countries where state-of-the-art psychiatric drugs are unavailable. McGorry kept on testing the limits of my credulity. At one point McGorry appeared to be asserting that psychosis or mental illness is the main health problem affecting young people in Australia - a claim that I find hard to believe. There are more mentally ill Aussie teens than obese teens, or teens with acne, or teens with asthma? Really?

Between McGorry, the Dalai Lama and the host Natasha Mitchell, the Dalai Lama's unfortunately difficult-to-understand words conveyed by far the most sensible idea of the whole discussion - that a new intervention with young people needs to be trialled at one location in a long-term study over a number of years with a "concrete sort of research" and then it can be tried out at multiple sites, and then the government should take up the intervention. It's a great pity Prof. McGorry and the Gillard Government have ignored this type of advice. McGorry's interventions aren't supported by solid research findings, despite whatever he might say. McGorry did not respond to the Dalai Lama's cautioning message, he took off on another rather autistic monologue, this one about positive psychology. And then the hostess laughably declared that a consensus had been reached!

The broadcast continued with discussion between McGorry, host Mitchell and mirror-neuron researcher Marco Iacoboni, who has an Italian accent that is even more soporific than the Dalai Lama's Tibetan accent. McGorry spoke out against the way asylum-seekers are treated in Australia - a statement that won him even more popularity with the Sydney audience.

My respect for His Holiness the Dalai Lama grows, while my respect for the other speakers at this forum shrinks to a size that can no longer be detected by the naked eye.

Dialogue with the Dalai Lama - Part 3 - Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry.
9 July 2011
All in the Mind.
ABC Radio National 810am

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