Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gillard makes a predictable choice

You are the Prime Minister. You note that there is a lack of Aboriginal representation in your political party in federal parliament. Do you initiate in inquiry to find out why there is a lack of Aboriginal representation in your political party in federal parliament? Do you reform the party's preselection process? Do you consider changing party or government policies with the aim of making the party more popular with indigenous Australians? Or do you walk all over everyone and everything and parachute an Aboriginal celebrity into parliament? 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

You thought the Gillard Govt had mental health all sorted?


Australia needs Better Access to psychological treatment
a petition to the Hon Julia Gillard MP initiated by
Dr Ben Mullings

Alliance for Better Access

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Prof McGorry's pet theory loses battle with reality

I've only just found out about the online publication in late November of last year of a study by former Australian of the Year and influential psychiatrist Prof. Patrick McGorry and his research team, which tested the prof's pet theory that elevated risk for developing psychosis can be identified in young people and treated in an early intervention to prevent a conversion to mental illness.The subjects of the trial were 115 young clients of a PACE clinic in Melbourne. Two supposedly effective forms of intervention were tested: the neuroleptic antipsychotic drug risperidone and cognitive therapy. McGorry's team had planned a couple of years ago to trial a different antipsychotic drug, but that trial was abandoned after complaints from other mental health experts. In this trial only a low dose of the drug risperidone was trialed. Three different combinations of drug or placebo and talking interventions were trialed (check the details for yourself), one being only placebo with "supportive therapy". No significant difference in results was found between the three groups. The supposedly effective interventions apparently weren't found to be any more effective than placebo and a nice chat, and as any true expert in the field of trying to predict risk for developing psychosis could have predicted, a large majority of the youths that had been labelled as being at "ultra-high risk for psychosis" did not become psychotic within the year that the trial was run. Call that ultra-high risk? I certainly don't! The sky isn't falling Henny Penny, and your interventions don't work!

Patrick D. McGorry, MD, PhD; Barnaby Nelson, PhD; Lisa J. Phillips, PhD; Hok Pan Yuen, MSc; Shona M. Francey, PhD; Annette Thampi, MRCPsych; Gregor E. Berger, MD; G. Paul Amminger, MD; Magenta B. Simmons, BA; Daniel Kelly, Grad Dip (Psych); Andrew D. Thompson, MD; and Alison R. Yung, MD (2012) Randomized Controlled Trial of Interventions for Young People at Ultra-High Risk of Psychosis: Twelve-Month Outcome. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Submitted: March 16, 2012; accepted September 13, 2012. Online ahead of print: November 27, 2012 (doi:10.4088/JCP.12m07785).

Thank you Neuroskeptic for the interesting blog post about the trial:

Neuroskeptic (2012) Neither Drugs Nor Therapy Prevent Psychosis. Neuroskeptic. December 15th 2012.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The high price of Julia

According to demographer and former Labor senator John Black, by the middle of 2012, with most polls showing Labor's primary vote stuck at 30 per cent, Julia Gillard had cost her party two million votes.

- Maxine McKew, page three in her recent book Tales from the Political Trenches published by Melbourne University Press

This book is my pick as a summer read for Australian readers with an interest in politics. The book is part autobiography, blending with commentary and reporting on the events before, during and after the winter of 2010 when a highly popular Aussie PM in his first term was deposed by lesser beings, throwing the ALP into an abyss of voter unpopularity, pretty much the same abyss that Rudd had only two and a half years earlier pulled the ALP out of. In case you didn't know, McKew had a long and respected career in journalism at a public broadcaster before retiring and successfully later running for the ALP in the 2007 Rudd landslide federal election, and in doing so unseating the Liberal Prime Minister John Howard who till then had appeared to be unassailable. McKew was later unseated in the 2010 federal election which was a choice between political leaders that could be summed up as "dumb and dumber". So, Maxine has heaps and heaps to write about, and she's got the skill in spades to write in a clear and engaging manner. This is probably why this book drew me in, even to read stuff that I'd not otherwise find of interest. The main attraction for me in this book is McKew's debunking of many of the points in the official ALP/Gillard and Swan account of why Rudd had to be removed, and also McKew's general arguments against the integrity and competence of Gillard and Swan. Many anonymous but apparently very senior ALP sources are quoted by McKew regretting the coup of winter 2010. I can completely understand why such sources would insist on anonymity. There's also a quote from Rudd. Two and a half years later, many Australians are still feeling outrage at Gillard and Swan's disloyal grab for power. It must surely go down in Australian political history as the stupidest decision ever.