Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Aussie parents could be forced to medicate kids (as has happened in some US states)

Whenever the WA ALP MP Martin Whitely gets a mention on the front page of The Australian, the story is sure to be one that I'll find interesting. In the editorial comment about this story the possible consequence of new NHMRC guidelines on the treatment of ADHD in which Australian parents could potentially be referred to child protection if they refuse to medicate a child diagnosed with ADHD has been compared to the world of Orwell's dystopian novel 1984.

Medicate ADHD kids or else, parents told.
by: Sue Dunlevy
The Australian
November 21, 2011

Commonsense deficit disorder
The Australian
November 21, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Another addition to the war of words over early psychosis

GP David Shiers and bipolar disorder expert Prof. Jan Scott, both from the UK, are both quoted in this report in the Weekend Australian, and they both lend support to the vision of early intervention in psychosis that has been promoted by Prof. Patrick McGorry. I have a few comments about the content of this article. Dr Shiers is quoted as claiming that new early intervention services, presumably in the UK, save money by lowering the rate of hospital readmissions. Where's the published study that demonstrates as much? There is no reference to any published study in this newspaper report, so I've got to assume that there isn't one.

Professor Scott's assertion that "...there is no medical disorder in which the outcome is better if you delay treatment" is presented in this article as a supporting argument for McGorry's early intervention program, but it fails, for two reasons. Firstly, it doesn't really address the previously expressed fears of Dr Allen Frances that McGorry's early intervention plans for a condition that is characterised as pre-psychosis will probably misdiagnose young patients who are not genuinely developing cases of psychosis. There is simply no value in intervening early with patients who are not geuninely ill. Secondly, Prof. Scott's assertion fails as a supporting argument because it simply isn't true. I can easily think of medical diseases, disorders and conditions in which the best medical practice is either watchful waiting or delaying treatment for a specified period. Some mild infections are best left untreated but with monitoring if it is not clear that antibiotics are necessary, and I know of at least one birth defect in which self-correction can happen in infancy, and therefore the best medical proctice is to delay surgery till the age at which the chances of spontaneous healing are negligible. I also believe that best medical practice for some cases of prostate cancer might be watchful waiting. Most cases of stuttering (a speech disorder) in early childhood remit spontaneously, and the last time I checked there was virtually nothing in way of credible published evidence that the treatment program used by most speech pathologists works better than no treatment, so the argument for doing nothing, at least in the early years, makes sense. When a medical doctor makes such a questionable and dogmatic statement I believe we should take that as a hint that an interventionist bias combined with an insufficient regard for all of the options and all of the evidence about outcomes could be operating, which is the last thing that we need in the vexed and heated dispute over how to treat Australian youths who may, or may not, be developing a serious mental illness.

At odds over early psychosis.
by: Sue Dunlevy
From:The Australian
November 12, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Words of wisdom about mental health from Jon Jureidini on the radio

I so much love the concept of the "unexplanation" in relation to mental illness labels which child psychiatrist Prof. Jon Jureidini has created and used in his talk which was recently broadcast on ABC radio, on the radio show All in the Mind on Radio National 810am. Prof. Jureidini cites depression and most mental health labels as "unexplanations", and I'd certainly agree with him on that point. We should never be satisfied with "unexplanations" from doctors or psychiatrists or psychologists or counsellors. We deserve so much more from highly paid and highly educated professionals who wield a lot of power in our society.

Prof. Jureidini is one of many critics (including myself) of Prof. Patrick McGorry who has had a great level of influence on federal government mental health policy, particularly under the Gillard Government, and this has concerned many people. Many thanks to Natasha Mitchell and the ABC's Radio National for giving airtime in two different radio shows to rational and science-based critics of "big pharma" such as Prof. Jureidini and the multi-award-winning Australian health journalist and author Ray Moynihan.

Juredini, Jon (2011) Sick, Screwed Up or Just Lazy? - 2011 Adelaide Festival of Ideas. All in the Mind. ABC Radio National. 22 October 2011.

Moynihan, Ray (2011) A noble cause. Background Briefing. October 16th 2011.

Healthy Skepticism.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A musical interlude

I love the sound of young people singing!

Refugee Rights Action Network protest at Perth immigration detention centre, June 2011.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Some bad publicity for Australian mental health organization Beyondblue

This petition was started only hours ago at the US-based political website, but already the petition apparently has nearly two and a half thousand signatures. How naive to expect that Jeff Kennett should behave like a nice fellow just because he is associated with an organization that is supposed to be about mental health advocacy. So much stuff that passes for mental health advocacy in Australia is really about careers and empires and imposing narrow definitions of normality onto the population in general. Professor Ian Hickie was once a Clinical Advisor and CEO of Beyondblue. I don't think much of Prof. Hickie, and I never thought much of Jeff Kennett, who is currently a director of the organization and was an inaugural chairperson.

Jeff Kennett: End discrimination & support mental health for gay and lesbian young people. (petition)

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Misrepresentation" is the polite word for it

In the last few months I've done quite a lot of writing about the work and public statements that have been made by two professors whose activities I've become concerned about. One of those professors is the former Australian of the Year and psychiatrist Prof. Patrick McGorry, who has already exercised a lot of influence on federal government policy in the area of mental health service funding, and has recently turned his attention to state governments. McGorry has his critics, and there are a number of points at which the professor and his critics differ. Many objections have been raised to a proposed mental disorder being accepted and diagnosed by the medical-scientific community, the "At risk mental state" also known as "schizophrenia prodrome", "Attenuated Psychotic Symptoms syndrome", "psychosis risk syndrome", "ultra-high risk" and "APS syndrome". Don't you think it's true that suspect things are often renamed? It's a rule that seems to apply to government departments, over-rated 80s pop stars and psychiatric labels. While McGorry's team of psychiatrists apparently do not advocate the inclusion of this frequently-named category into the next revision of the DSM, McGorry's advocacy of the concept is clear in the way that it has already been incorporated into educational material aimed at the general public which has been freely available from a website of one of the mental health services which McGorry leads. McGorry doesn't seem to be the kind of bloke who sits around waiting for the whole world to sign-off on an idea before he puts it into practice. Some of McGorry's critics have argued that if this new concept of a pre-psychotic state is applied in general clinical practice, the result will be many false-positive cases in which the full set of serious problems associated with psychiatric labelling and medication might be imposed on young people who would never have developed a mental disorder anyway. Allen Frances M.D. is a prominent professional who has written critically about this proposed new label.

A point of criticism of McGorry that I have highlighted in my writing has been what I believe is a failure to declare conflicting interests in many published medical journal papers written or co-authored by McGorry. In contrast I have been able to find a few published papers in which McGorry has disclosed a collection of conflicting interests. Why the inconsistency?

An important criticism of McGorry's work is that he has made important misrepresentations in his advocacy about mental health policy, to governments and to the public in general in media appearances. "Misrepresentation" is the polite word for what McGorry has been doing for quite some time. Melissa Raven, an Australian psychiatric epidemiologist, policy analyst and academic and Jon Jureidini, an Australian psychiatrist, head of a department in an Australian hospital and academic have written about misrepresentations that have been made by McGorry and Adjunct Professor John Mendoza. Jureidini and Raven are polite people, so they use polite language, but their arguments are made with clarity. I believe Raven and Jureidini are both members of Healthy Skepticism, an Australia-based organization which has the aim of "improving health by reducing harm from misleading health information".

A recent addition to the debate and controversy which surrounds Prof. McGorry is a review by Melissa Raven of the published research about EPPIC (Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre), which is a network of centres devoted to the medical treatment of early psychosis in young people. I believe McGorry is a director of EPPIC. The longitudinal study was conducted primarily in the 1990s and has been used successfully in arguments for greatly increased funding for EPPIC centres from the federal government. A number of the points highlighted in Raven's review have left me feeling alarmed and disappointed about the current state of science, psychiatry and politics in Australia.

A major point made by Raven in her article/paper published at the website of the Alliance For Better Access is that the study of EPPIC did not demonstrate that the EPPIC program of early intervention in psychotic illness is superior to standard (late) intervention in the Australian public mental health system, because the standard type and level of intervention was not represented at all in the study, not in the treatment group nor in the control group, because the control group in the study were patients in the precursor of the EPPIC program which offered a specialised early intervention program. The aspect of this matter which I find disturbing is that Professor McGorry has misrepresented the EPPIC study as evidence showing superiority of his early intervention model for psychosis treatment over "...generic late intervention in the standard system". I'm quoting McGorry being interviewed by Tony Jones on the ABC's Lateline last year. Where, I ask, has the EPPIC model ever been trailed against "...generic late intervention in the standard system"? I'd really like to know where I might read of such a study in a peer-reviewed medical journal, and I think Ms Raven would also be interested.

Another aspect of McGorry's representations about the EPPIC study which concerns me is the way he has described the strength of the evidence from the EPPIC study: "The evidence is very, very strong now....". Strong evidence? The EPPIC study was so methodologically weak that it was simply excluded from the 2011 systematic review of early psychosis interventions which was done by the world-famous and highly respected Cochrane Collaboration. I'm not a doctor, but I know a thing or two about the Cochrane Collaboration, and I would have thought that any study that was formally considered and then rejected by that organization in the process of research for one of their reviews should be considered not evidence at all, let alone strong evidence.

My regular readers should know that I'm a jaded old dame who casts a cynical eye over the way that science is conducted, but even I am disappointed that McGorry and co-authors have done that shabby old trick of writing one thing in the abstract of a journal paper, while writing contradictory content in the body of the paper. It seems no accident that the case that is being pushed is found in the paper's abstract, and abstracts which are supposed to faithfully summarize the overall content of scientific papers have a wider readership than the whole papers. McGorry apparently isn't the only highly influential Australian psychiatrist mental health advocate to pull this trick. Melissa Raven has written about a similar meaningful discrepancy between the content of a journal paper's abstract and its main body of text in a comment that she made at the website of The Conversation about a paper published in The Lancet which was co-authored by Professor Ian Hickie of Beyondblue fame. Regardless of how complacent or disappointed you or I might feel about the practice of writing journal paper abstracts that differ in content from the paper, it's wrong, it's misleading and it also isn't the way that science is supposed to be done.

Melissa Raven has found that "Misrepresentations of EPPIC have been a feature of submissions to governments, and in some cases have been incorporated into government policy documents." and she gives examples in her article, which I highly recommend and link to below. Professors McGorry and Hickie have both already had a major influence on federal government mental health policy, and the federal government is reportedly going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the next few years on services such as McGorry's EPPIC and Headspace networks. How do you feel about that? If you are one of my Australian readers, you're paying the tab. Feeling depressed? I thought psychiatrists were supposed to make people feel less depressed.

Review of EPPIC research.
by Melissa Raven
Alliance For Better Access.
August 29th 2011.

Tackling depression and poor sleep with one drug.
by Sunanda Creagh
18 May 2011
The Conversation.
[see the full comments]

Misleading claims in the mental health reform debate.
by Melissa Raven and Jon Jureidini
On Line Opinion.
August 9th 2010.

Healthy Skepticism

Three cheers for ..... Janet Albrechtsen

I was keen to watch Q & A on the ABC tonight because the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing was one of the guests, and I was hoping that someone might throw a good question in his direction about the way that federal mental health policy is being dictated by a small group of psychiatrists with questionable ideas, or question the redirection of funding away from psychology to psychiatry. Pharmaceutical companies must be pretty pleased that resources are being funneled away from mental health professionals who do not have the qualifications or the legal right to prescribe drugs, while funding is being boosted for mental heath services aimed at young people (potential long-term customers) which include psychiatrists as administrators and staff, who are qualified and able to prescribe drugs. I'm not claiming that drug companies are directly involved in dictating policy directions, but they do have a widespread and often hidden influence, and the cards appear to be falling their way.

There was one fairly good question in the show, but I thought the highlight of the show was not any criticism of government policy from the Liberal Party member on the panel, nor any question from a member of the public, but it was a comment from the conservative commentator. I guess Janet Albrechtsen was invited onto the panel in the hope that she would liven up an evening which threatened to be as bland as cool porridge, with pollies and public figures falling over themselves look like the one most concerned about mental health, in an entirely uncritical manner. It's a good thing that Ms Albrechtsen has a fair quotient of assertiveness. Even the host of tonight's show, Virginia Trioloi, showed a clear bias against those who dissent from the popular McGorry view of mental health. Was Janet Albrechtsen the only person in the show who knew about the controversial nature of the aspirations of psychiatrists such as Prof. Pat McGorry and Prof. Ian Hickie? That certainly wouldn't be true, but it appears that she was the only person willing to talk about the subject. Go Janet!

Q & A

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Did you ever hear of a psychiatrist with a campaign manager?

I was recently perusing a document at the website of Professor Patrick McGorry, an Irish-Australian psychiatrist who has had a great amount of influence on federal government health policies in recent years. As I read the document it struck me that it seemed more like something that a politician would write than something that a man of science and/or medicine would write, focused as it was on the creation of policy rather than the search for evidence.

I later discovered an article from March this year in a paper for Irish Australians in which Prof. McGorry discussed the role of his Irish "campaign director" Matthew Hamilton, " He’s got a lot of political skill."

When a professional person whose primary occupation is supposed to be a scientist or a clinician-scientist whose main purpose is the pursuit of scientific truth and the care of patients which is based on the best available scientific evidence, also becomes deeply involved with the world of politics, or acts as a politican, in an occupation in which the primary aim is create versions of the truth that give one the greatest social advantage, I fear that the professional person will likely become less able to properly fulfil the role of a scientist. I'm not saying that scientists can have no role in politics. I'm completely happy with scientists and doctors extending their established roles as advocates for scientific truth and patient welfare into the public arena, but I have concerns when scientists start acting as politicians and appear more concerned with writing policy than their core professional roles. What do you think?

McGorry urges better access to mental health care.
Irish Echo.
15 March 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"I'm Captain Beefheart" - Rudd

"The original replacement was from a human donor, which has driven Mr Rudd to promote organ donation and set up the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplant Authority. This time a bovine valve was used. "So I'm now Captain Beef Heart ... I promise not to 'moo' in public," Mr Rudd joked."

Kevin Rudd says he's fit after heart surgery.
by Renee Viellaris
Sunday Herald Sun
August 21, 2011

If Rudd is actually familiar with the music of Captain Beefheart, I'd say he's got a pretty interesting taste in music. But I doubt it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Kevin Rudd, pointomaniac

Photo of Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd making an important point, in stereo.
Alan Porritt: AAP.
ABC News.
posted September 10th 2011.

Rudd a changed man?

KRuddMP hits 1 million Twitter followers.
by AAP.
ABC News.
September 10th 2011

Annabel Crabb on Gillard, Rudd and personalities

"Politicians are people. Their insecurities and petty stubbornnesses dictate their behaviour just like anyone else's do. There is no other way to explain this Caucus's tolerance of judgment errors committed by this leader, in counterpoint to its ruthless punishment of the last chap, other than the differences in personality."

So, June 24th 2010 was about personalities? How pathetic. I understand that politicians are people, but I just wish that more of them were grown-up people.

Gillard, Rudd and Labor's personality tragedy.
by Annabel Crabb
The Drum.
ABC News.
September 9th 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Spill on?

The ABC's news channel is reporting that there is speculation about a plot to remove Gillard in the wake of the High Court decision crisis. I wonder what's behind this? She's out of the country, and Rudd appears to have recovered from his big op.

Fail, Julia, fail! Resign, Julia. Resign.

When the majority of Australians polled identify Kevin Rudd as their preferred PM, that can only mean that they would like to see the return of the nerd. Rudd's loyal friend Phillip Adams has the same dream. But who really cares about the wishes of the Australian voters? Clearly Julia Gillard had little regard for the will of the people when she chose to replace a PM who had not even three years earlier been swept to power on the crest of a tsunami of popularity.

Let Rudd resume rightful role.
Phillip Adams
The Australian.

September 06, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A nod of the head means yes

I couldn't help noticing, as it was a quite vigourous gesture, something most interesting in the battling Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's body language during a recent interview. Most Australians will be aware that the High Court's recent decision about the Gillard government's "Malaysian solution" to the issue of dealing with refugees in boats has dealt a heavy blow to the credibility of the government and the current PM, and questioning about Gillard's leadership now has an added gravity. I was just watching a recording of Friday night's Lateline, and at the beginning of the story some video of Gillard being interviewed for Sky News was shown. She was asked "Has anyone approached you about stepping down?" and Gillard replied with a clear "No", but as she said it she nodded her head (once). In my experience, when people are lying in a yes/no type statement, they often nod or shake their head in accordance with the truth, but in conflict with their verbal answer. A nod generally means "Yes" in Australian culture. If "yes" is the true answer, I wonder who did the approaching?

Just after Gillard's nod was shown there was another piece of video of government minister Nicola Roxon being asked "Can you envisage Kevin Rudd returning?" Roxon answered "No" then shook her head and then had a bet both ways with a quick nod. It seems a funny way to answer a simple-enough question.

At present video of this story doesn't appear to be on the Lateline website, but it should come up eventually. Gillard's nod was also shown towards the beginning of the Insiders show on the ABC broadcast on Sunday September 4th 2011.


Wikileaks hacked?

WikiLeaks Now Victim Of Its Own Leak.
by Tom Gjelten
September 3rd 2011

If Julian Assange walks free, he still faces arrest in Australia.
by AP
September 3rd 2011

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Could things possibly get any worse for the ALP?

Today, as Australia is coming to terms with the apparent collapse of the Gillard Government's "Malaysian solution" to the issue of refugees coming to Australia by sea, I'm wondering if the public image of this government could possibly look any worse. Even if the Malaysian deal can be resurrected, as an ANU professor has suggested, this policy still looks like a mistake and a prolonged drama. I think Australians have seen enough of long and draw-out stuff-ups in federal politics already. And now the Gillard Government's cooperation with psychiatry (not mental health) advocates such as Professors Ian Hickie and Patrick McGorry, which has won political popularity for the government is now starting to look more like a liability, as opposition to the recent mental health reforms grows organizes. Does anyone really believe, at this point in time, that Gillard was a better choice of PM than Rudd?

Seroquel XR / Quetiapine / Seroquel / Ketipinor: don't say you weren't warned!

This is an advertisement on YouTube from the US for a sustained-release version of the drug that was to be used in the aborted Australian NEURAPRO-Q trial on young patients. I'd normally never encourage my readers to access advertisements of pharmaceutical drugs, and the broadcasting of such material is, I believe, banned in Australia, but I think the listing of potential side effects in this ad might just have the effect of putting you off prescrition mind drugs for life. There is no need for the guys from The Chaser to do a spoof of this ad. This is an advertisement that satirizes itself. To quote one wag who left a comment on the video at YouTube "You may end up dead, but at least you won't commit suicide."

Julian Assange's tart retort to Robert McClelland, Attorney-General of Australia

"Australian Attorney-General Robert McClelland bemoans having his department being publicly caught out ratting out 23 Australians to the US embassy without due process. If Mr McClelland is unhappy about being caught out, perhaps he should consider cancelling my Australian passport again. It has not after all proven terribly useful to me the last 267 days of my detention without charge. Or perhaps he could do us all a favour - cancel his own passport and deport himself."

Nolan, Tanya (2011) Officials worry WikiLeaks could endanger lives. The World Today. ABC Radio National. August 31, 2011.

Popular blogger writes about McGorry and the prodromal controversy

The blogger The Neurocritic has recently written a piece in response to the closing down of the NEURAPRO-Q drug trial that was to be conducted by the famous Australian psychiatrist Prof. Pat. McGorry. Can psychosis really be predicted in individual patients?

Drug Trials in 'At Risk' Youth
The Neurocritic
August 27, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Julian Assange on giftedness

A quote from a blog written by Julian Assange quoted in an article by Barbara Gunnell in the Griffith Review:

"A lesson which many gifted persons never learn as long as they live is that human beings in general are inherently very different from themselves in thought, in action, in general intention, and in interests. Many a reformer has died at the hands of a mob, which he was trying to improve in the belief that other human beings can and should enjoy what he enjoys. This is one of the most painful and difficult lessons that each gifted child must learn, if personal development is to proceed successfully...Failure to learn how to tolerate in a reasonable fashion the foolishness of others leads to bitterness, disillusionment, and misanthropy."

Gunnell, Barbara (2011) Rebel, public nuisance and dreamer. Griffith Review. Edition 32: Wicked Problems, Exquisite Dilemmas. Autumn, 2011.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rudd interview coming up soon

Rudd's first interview since having heart surgery is apparently coming up this morning on Sunrise on the Seven.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Prof. McGorry and the cancelled NEURAPRO-Q Study - worst news in a bad week for former Australian of the Year

Professor Patrick McGorry just can't stay out of the news, for all of the wrong reasons. On Thursday night McGorry was being grilled on Lateline by Tony Jones, and today The Sunday Age and the ABC's news channel are reporting that a trial which was to be conducted by Prof. McGorry, given the title of the NEURAPRO-Q study, of the controversial psychiatric drug Seroquel with children and youths as subjects has been aborted as the result of ethical complaints from 13 "psychiatrists, psychologists and researchers from Australia, Britain and the US". AstraZeneca, the manufacturers of the drug used in the trial have reportedly last month been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in a lawsuit over the drug and diabetes. AstraZeneca is one of the many pharmaceutical companies from which Prof. McGorry "has received unrestricted research grant support". Is this peer review in action? I think it's a pity there wasn't much more of it a few years ago.

As is often the case with articles that I read about the professor, an opinion attributed to Prof. McGorry in this article has provoked my concern "Professor McGorry acknowledged the evidence suggested antipsychotics were not effective as a first-line treatment for the at-risk group. But he said the risks had been exaggerated and he would consider a similar trial on patients for whom other treatments had failed." One might consider that patients who still have symptoms after being given the "first-line" treatments might be suitable candidates for drugs, but consider that the professor is talking about a group of youths who don't meet the full criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis such as schizophrenia. I would think these patients are of doubtful status - not fully psychotic and individually possibly not in any pre-psychotic state. So I think it is a reasonable question to ask, of this group, what distinguishes a minority who do not respond to non-drug treatments that are supposed to be effective in treating those who are on the cusp of psychotic illness? Are these non-responding patients more psychotic, or are they non-psychotic patients whose identification as pre-psychotic was a complete mistake? If the latter is the case, they should never be put anywhere near a drug like Quetiapine/Seroquel.

Another quote from McGorry I found amusing: "A recently released literature review by The Cochrane Collaboration found there was insufficient evidence that early intervention could prevent psychosis and that any benefits were not long term. Professor McGorry said it used flawed methodology." Oh yes, those people over at the Cochrane Collaboration have a reputation for playing fast and loose with methodology!

Drug trial scrapped amid outcry
by Jill Stark
The Age.

August 21, 2011.

Links to images of the complaint letter:

in HTML at The Age:

PDF of document from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Journal paper with listing of Prof. McGorry's competing interests:

McGorry, Patrick (2008) Is early intervention in the major psychiatric disorders justified? Yes. British Medical Journal. August 4th 2008. 337:a695.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Always amusing - Clarke and Dawe on the telly

What is the name of Paul Howes' electorate?

Is it the magic faraway tree?

John Clarke and Bryan Dawe
broadcast August 18th 2011

McGorry on Lateline tonight

Tony Jones asked Prof. Patrick McGorry a lot of questions in an interview tonight, but the answers left me unimpressed. McGorry is now going after the states for support for his plans, not satisfied with what he's already got from the federal government. When is the professor going to stop?

Fitzsimmons, Hamish (2011) Mental health experts disagree on future of care.
Lateline. ABCTV. August 18th 2011.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Former ALP leader and foreign minister a flaming aspie with a cherry on top! And a synaesthete.

"His narcissism demanded he be the centre of attention. He demonstrated a schizoid indifference to others and lack of empathy. His paranoid defensiveness saw any criticism as a form of narcissistic injury emanating from a suspicious or conspiratorial source. His morbid suspicion of others, combined with his Machiavellianism, impulsivity, ruthlessness and mood disorders made his actions unpredictable. He had bizarre beliefs, including seeing days of the week in colours..... His rages reflected his incapacity to contain his mood states. His morbid suspicion bordered on paranoid delusion. He had no concept of “other minds”, and his inordinate self-reference and disdain for his appearance demonstrated schizotypal features."

I get the impression that the author doesn't like the man. The author has had articles published in Quadrant, and the man written about was a leader of the ALP, so I think my impression wouldn't be far from the mark.

I'm not the first reader to recognize Asperger syndrome in the characteristics described most negatively, not quite hidden among the absurd Freudian theorizing and the pseudoscientific jargon, in the article that the above quote was taken from. In the bad old days before there was any knowledge in the profesions of the typical traits and experiences of the adult autistic, and there was also a lack of public awareness of synaesthesia, adult autistic synaesthetes could expect to be given unflattering descriptions such as this (and there does appear to be some kind of link between autism and synaesthesia). The truth is that adult autistics are generally prickly characters who often aren't much liked on a personal level, despite strong positive traits such as genius and a deep concern for human rights (traits which this man apparently had). When autistics are unpopular they often get labelled with a whole bunch of unflattering Freudian terminology such as the guff in the quote above, terms which no longer have any scientific credibility. With the upcoming revision of the Diagnosic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM), which known as the bible of psychiatry, a number of personality disorders are expected to be abolished as distinct diagnoses, including schizoid PD and paranoid PD, which will cut down the repertiore of unpleasant labels that commentators will have at their disposal when describing leaders whose popularity has waned.

A current knowledge of psychology enables the well-informed to know what to make of a person who sees the days of the week in colours. This is not a "bizarre belief"; this is a harmless and quite common neurological variation known as synaesthesia. Coloured days of the week synaesthesia probably has a similar neurological basis as grapheme-colour synesthesia, a type of synaesthesia that is associated with greater connectivity in the brain's white matter. Synaesthesia is thought to be assocated with increased creativity and savant-like abilities. It is not considered to be a mental illness and is not associated with mental illness, but to the non-synaesthete the manifestations of our condition often seem very weird.

"Mood disorders" are mentioned in the quote above. It is important to check what behaviour is referred to as evidence of "mood disorders". It appears to me that the behaviour that is basis of this labelling are a bad temper of legendary proportions and very quick changes in the nature of the personality presented - a two-faced sort of person who can be charming one minute and rude and angry the next. I'm no psychiatrist, but I don't think genuine mood disorders such as bipolar really cause such rapid changes. My guess is that this could have been a person who had a fake, nice persona who let the mask slip rather often. As the man described in the above quote was a politician, who would be surprised to find this? Autistic people working in jobs that have high social demands often need to construct a fake, nice persona to present to the world, because a grouchy intense autistic personality can be not the most aesthetic thing to behold. Some autistics also genuinely seem to have a set of very different personalities according to mood, and I think this is a reflection of a genuinely unusual intensity of the experience of different moods and situations. Radiant one minute, ranting the next.

Did this man genuinely lack any concept of "other minds"? If he did he would certainly conform to the currently widely accepted idea of autism as "mindblindness". If this man did lack a concept of other minds one needs to ponder how he was able to outsmart two top officers from MI5, by picking apart a false story that they had made up to explain something without needing to divulge more of the truth than they had wanted to. The spies ended up giving more information than they had desired under the questioning of the man described in the above quotes. It was decided that he could be given access to information that was at the time being withheld from the President of the United States. Did he outsmart the spies using cold logic combined with an element of surprise due to the fact that people don't expect to be confronted with such a mind? If that is true, then I'd like to propose three cheers for mindblindness!

So, who is the man described? Dr H. V. Evatt, former leader of the ALP, past President of the UN General Assembly, former Attorney-General of Australia and Minister for External Affairs (Foreign Minister), co-drafter of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that's all. A pretty impressive list of achievements for a person who was supposedly as mad as a hatter, but I guess one can get a lot done on a schedule of two to three hours of sleep a night, especially with the aid of a razor-sharp intellect and a photographic memory. Will we ever see his like again?

Campbell, Andrew (2007) Dr H. V. Evatt - Part One: a question of sanity. National Observer. No. 73, Winter 2007, pages 25-39.
[Asperger syndrome cited as possible explanation for Evatt's personality in a comment on the article at The Free Library.]

Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2011) H. V. Evatt. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Wilson, Peter (2009) How Herbert 'Doc' Evatt outwitted MI5. Australian. October 08, 2009.
["I did not come across any other example in the history of MI5 when its representatives were so clearly out-argued by somebody." "They didn't like Evatt at all but they admitted to their own superiors that he had been too smart for them." "When the MI5 men met Chifley, Evatt, Shedden and defence minister John Dedman, it was the abrasive Evatt who poked holes in the cover story." ]

Bramston, Troy (2011) Espionage charge denied amid questions over Labor leader's mental health. Australian. April 16, 2011.

The Evatt Foundation (accessed 2011) Doc Evatt: a brilliant and controversial character. The Evatt Foundation.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thousands flock to political blog by bored housewife

I can now say that THOUSANDS of people have looked at this blog. Not many thousands, I'll admit, but thousands.

Are these the great opportunities for indigenous workers that Twiggy Forrest has been hyping to heaven?

It appears that there is one set of standards for white mining workers, and another quite different one for Aboriginal mining workers. This is not "the land of a fair go". Unions?

"Indigenous trainees recruited by the Fortescue Metals Group are suffering from low pay and scarce accommodation at Port Hedland in north-west WA."

Indigenous trainee mine workers report accommodation problems, low pay.
Jeff Waters
ABC News.
Updated August 17, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Headspace psychs Prof. Ian Hickie and Prof. Patrick McGorry under fire today from other professionals

A quote from one of the professionals in this article:

"The McGorry machine is distorting things in Australia. There's people in the UK who look at what's happening in adolescent and youth psychiatry here and think that it's completely mad."

McGorry accused of conflict of interest.
by Jill Stark
Sydney Morning Herald.
August 7th 2011

Doctors in different headspace on suicide.
by Jill Stark
Sydney Morning Herald.
August 7th 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

What a crock!

Today on the TV show Capital Hill on the ABC's news channel the Special Minister for State Gary Gray said that Western Australia is well served by news media outlets. What a crock!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Saturday July 23rd rally in Albany WA for justice for Rex Bellotti Junior

If I was driving on the wrong side of the road and I ran down a person who potentially had a sporting career in front of them and severely injured them, I'd be in big, big trouble. But if the driver is a police officer, and the victim is Aboriginal and male and a youth.....

It appears that the shocking and shameful story of what happened to the young footballer Rex Bellotti Junior is another horror story that wasn't covered by The West Australian, WA's daily newspaper, while this story was covered by The Sunday Times. The West Australian also appears to have failed to report on the shocking failure of ethics during the 2004 Curtin University study of the ADHD drug Strattera. Back in the 1990s when the archaeologist David Rindos was being persecuted by his employer, WA's most prestigious university, the University of Western Australia (UWA), because he investigated many bad things that had been happening there, he got support from The Sunday Times, a mere Sunday paper, while The West Australian gave the story little coverage until it took a pro-UWA position. It is such a pity that the people of Western Australia, many living in one of the world's most isolated capital cities, have had to suffer for so many years because they have only one daily newspaper that is crap.

The Bellotti Support Group have organized a public rally in Albany WA on Saturday, July 23. Please show your support.

Family of badly injured teen call for another inquiry.
ABC News.
June 21, 2011

Bellotti family fights for justice.
By Chris Jenkins
Green Left.
July 14, 2011

Bellotti Support Group

Rally in Albany in Support of Rex Bellotti Junior

Albany Rally for Rex Bellotti.
Socialist Alliance Western Australia.

CCC: Investigation into boy hit by police car 'flawed'
Paul Lampathakis
November 14, 2009

There's a pill for that....

I was watching the ABCTV science show Catalyst, and there was a story about the weird sleep habits of teenagers, and among the talking heads shown in the story was the Australian psychiatrist Professor Ian Hickie, who has had a long and happy professional relationship with a number of pharmaceutical companies, and I said he was sure to be there to mention some melatonin-based drug as a treatment. Was I wrong?

Staying Up Late.
21 July 2011


Prof. Hickie shares advice and some rather confused ideas about evolution and health in some extended interviews:

Not long after watching this episode of Catalyst I came across an article in The Conversation from May of this year that provided some interesting and rather concerning information about the professor's relationship with one melatonin-like drug, Agomelatine produced by Servier, a company which has supported Prof. Hickie's research. Take special note of the full content of the comments about this article:

Tackling depression and poor sleep with one drug.
by Sunanda Creagh
18 May 2011
The Conversation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rudd to have heart surgery

The Foreign Minister and former PM Kevin Rudd has reportedly announced in a speech at a Brisbane high school that he will need to undergo heart surgery next month. This should come as no surprise, as the type of heart valve surgery that Rudd has had in the past does not last forever, and typically needs to be re-done in later years.

It is interesting to speculate about the effect that a great amount of air travel, in pressurized cabins with variable air quality, might have had on the Foreign Minister who has apparently been living with a failing circulatory system.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Don't lecture me, Rupert!

Does the phone hacking scandal mean that the listeners of a publicly-funded Australian radio station will never again be presented with programming in which a disreputable media baron lectures everyone about how to live our lives?

A Golden Age of Freedom.
Rupert Murdoch
Boyer Lectures.
2 November 2008
ABC Radio National

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Eli Lilly making a mockery of Australian law

I thought it was illegal in Australia for pharmaceutical companies to advertise their products directly to consumers? If this is true, then what the hell are those very brief television advertisements that I've seen running on Australian free-to-air television in the last few days? They are clearly ads spruiking some kind of treatment for erection issues (is it just me, or are you also fed up to here with ads discussing adult issues all over the mass media?) and at the end of the ad the company logo of Eli Lilly is clearly shown. Is this advertisement campaign not in breach of Australian laws regarding the advertisement of prescription drugs?

I'm not the least surprised that Eli Lilly is behind this. One thing that I've noticed is that this drug company keeps coming up again and again like a dark thread in the many stories about the misdeeds of psychiatry, psychiatrists and the psychiatric drug industry that I have written about in this blog. Just click on the label for the company at this post to see what I mean. Eli Lilly are the manufacturers of the controversial drugs Strattera, which Martin Whitely MLA has written about and which has been the subject of an FDA "black box" warning and which has psychosis as well as many other serious problems as recognized side effects, and the very controversial and harmful neuroleptic psychiatric drug Zyprexa, which has been the subject of tens of thousands of lawsuits. Eli Lilly is among the various drug companies that have given support to the very powerful and influential Australian psychiatrists Patrick McGorry and Ian Hickie, who only disclose such conflicting interests when they feel like it.

Why is our government allowing a company with such a black reputation to advertise directly to Australian television viewers, apparently in breach of our laws that pertain to the advertisement of prescription drugs?

Further Reading

Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2011) Eli Lilly controversies. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.


Whitely, Martin (2011) Strattera’s sad story. Speed Up & Sit Still.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Some articles worth noting from The Conversation

Review finds limited evidence for early intervention in psychosis.
by Sunanda Creagh, News Editor
The Conversation.
June 30th 2011

This short editorial article (with comments) notes the lack of support for early intervention for psychosis, as advocated by Prof. Pat McGorry, from a recent Cochrane Collaboration review. I wrote about this at this blog on the 22nd of June. Remember, you read it first at Blond Ambition!

Early intervention for psychosis: not just popping pills.
by Alison Yung
The Conversation.
June 16th 2011

This article is by a professor who is "is Head of Psychosis Research at Orygen" among many other things. Orygen is a youth mental health centre that has Prof. Patrick McGorry as an executive director and a Director of Clinical Services, so Yung and McGorry have shared professional interests. I think this article in noteworthy for two reasons: the interesting discussion in the comments, and also the stuff that can't be found in this article's disclosure statement, such as the stuff about conflicting interests that can be found in these medical journal papers co-authored by Alison R. Yung:

Alison R Yung, Patrick D McGorry, Shona M Francey, Barnaby Nelson, Kathryn Baker, Lisa J Phillips, Gregor Berger and G Paul Amminger (2007) PACE: a specialised service for young people at risk of psychotic disorders. Medical Journal of Australia. 2007; 187 (7 Suppl): S43-S46.


Yung, Alison R. et al (2008) Validation of “prodromal” criteria to detect individuals at ultra high risk of psychosis: 2 year follow-up. Schizophrenia Research. Volume 105, Issue 1. Pages 10-17, October 2008.

I wonder

I can't help wondering how much of this story originated from the Foreign Minister.

When nepotism is allowed to operate as freely as it has in the ALP, ineptitude like this is inevitable, I guess.

Ludwig's mess like a red rag to the Rudd bull
INSIDE STORY: Milanda Rout
The Australian
July 02, 2011.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Psychiatrists who advocate antipsychotic drugs for the young and who don't declare conflicting interests the United States

Harvard scientists disciplined for not declaring ties to drug companies.
Penny Sarchet.
July 04, 2011

ADHD review as US expert faces inquiry
Sue Dunlevy
The Australian.
July 05, 2011

"Australia's ADHD guidelines are being redeveloped as a US psychiatrist whose work is heavily cited in existing draft guidelines has been sanctioned by Harvard University for violating conflict-of-interest rules."

Researchers Fail to Reveal Full Drug Pay.
June 8, 2008
New York Times.

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

Friday, July 8, 2011

Article about Prof. McGorry in The Monthly

Views from a number of different authorities on the concept of early identification and early intervention of psychosis/schizophrenia, as advocated by Prof. Patrick McGorry, are covered in this interesting three and a half page article. As you might expect, opinions of WA ALP politician Martin Whitely and US psychiatry professor Allen Frances are included in this piece, which also features input from psychiatry professionals from the UK, Australia and the United States.

Professor Emeritus Allen Frances can only see three little problems with the idea of early intervention in psychosis:
"....there is simply no available way to accurately identify kids who are really at risk of later psychosis, no effective preventative treatment and the potential medications have extremely harmful side effects."

I am most disappointed and surprised that I could find no mention in Lisa Pryor's story of McGorry's past support from a number of pharmaceutical companies, or his failure to declare these competing interests in many of the medical journal papers that have been published over the years in which he has been an author or co-author. I have doubts that the journalist Pryor, with a law background, was the right person to write a critical article about McGorry's grand plans in experimental psychiatry. I believe she is the same Lisa Pryor who is the spouse of Julian Morrow of The Chaser fame.

Minds at Risk: Choosing the Right Path for Adolescent Mental Health.
by Lisa Pryor
The Monthly.

July 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sucked in Swannie!

".... the latest Newspoll data revealed most Labor MPs would lose their Queensland seats if an election were held today, including Mr Swan..."

"...there would only be two safe Labor seats left in Queensland, including Mr Rudd's seat of Griffith."

Wayne Swan gone, Kevin Rudd safe: Newspoll signals Queensland rout.
Rob Kidd, Dennis Shanahan
July 1st 2011

Making trouble on the Australian political scene - Robert Manne collection worth a look

If I had to cite an Australian whose profile most fits the job description of an intellectual, it would have to be Robert Manne. I've had a look at his recent collection of essays, and I've found it compelling reading. This collection covers some areas that I've written about in this blog, such as Kevin Rudd's term as a Prime Minister and that other fascinating Australian individual Julian Assange. The revised version of Manne's essay about Assange which was first published in The Monthly is included in this book. Shortly after the essay was published earlier this year, Manne made amendments "in light of a lengthy email exchange initiated by Julian Assange". I think this shows what kind of intellectual Manne is. For those interested in Kevin Rudd and the Rudd Government, there is a section of seven essays about "the rise and fall of Kevin Rudd". None of these essays are dated after the date of the coup that toppled Rudd as PM. One is dated June 16th 2010. It is nice for a change to read stuff about Rudd and his government that is not inspired by an irrational personal hatred of the man.

I was surprised that one essay that most grabbed and held my attention was the detailed account of "the strange case of Cornelia Rau". When government bodies and government employees act to strip a vulnerable individual so completely of their basic human rights and needs, we should all be most alarmed. I realised that the idea that her case was the result of institutional neglect was nonsense when I read the bit about Rau being hurriedly plucked out of a shower at Baxter Detention Centre and sent off to a mental institution as soon as it was known that the media had gotten onto the story. I'm pleased that Manne took such care to put names to the players (the good guys and the bad guys) in this disgusting episode of Australian history.

One thing about Rau's case that I hadn't known before was that she was a victim of the vile Australian Kenja aka Kenja Communication mind-control cult. I wrote about this exploitative and highly harmful cult way back in 2008 at my other blog Incorrect Pleasures. In 2008 the ABCTV show Compass broadcast a fascinating and disturbing story about Kenja. Why are our governments not doing more to stop or curtail mind-controlling cults and religious organizations that exercise an excessive degree of control over their members? If politicians took a few moments to reflect on the amount of social disruption and trouble that even the smallest of these sick-f***er groups can cause in Australian society, surely they'd do more. If we had no Kenja, the Cornelia Rau case might never have embarassed the Howard Government, because poor Rau might have been able to stay on the more functional side of the borderline between sanity and madness. If the childhood of Julian Asssange hadn't been so thoroughly insecure and unsettled due to his mother's fear of another dangerous Australian cult The Family, he might possibly not have grown up to be the international troublemaker outsider genius that he is.

I am sure you will find much in Robert Manne's new book of essays to provoke thought. I recommend.

Some quotes from the book:

"The distasteful and dangerous mood of complacency which was imported into Australia from right-wing American political culture during the period of the Howard government took the form of what I call populist conservatism."

"To compete with the Coalition, Labor did not oppose but rather absorbed and moderated the mood of populist conservatism."

"Interest in how this situation has come about explains both my deepening detestation for Rupert Murdoch and my admiration of and fascination with Julian Assange, the only person in recent times who has thought of a political means to discomfit the increasingly irresponsible and impudent Western elites."

"Whatever his faults, one thing that differentiated Latham from other political insiders was his unwillingness to play by the rules."

"John Howard is one of the most unscrupulous but effective politicians in our history."

"To judge by the initial response to the Rudd essay, among the Australian neo-liberal commentariat and political class that often painful process known as thought has not yet even begun."

Manne, Robert (2011) Making Trouble: Essays Against the New Australian Complacency.
Black Inc Agenda, 2011.

Manne, Robert (2011) The Cypherpunk Revolutionary: Julian Assange. The Monthly. March 2011.
[The full revised essay can be read here.]

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Speed Up & Sit Still by Martin Whitely – a review

I’d like to say “God bless Martin Whitely for writing this book”, but unfortunately I’m an atheist. The Western Australian politician and former school teacher clearly is most concerned about the thousands of Australian children who are being put onto psychiatric drugs because of their behaviour. I thought it was only sentimental oddballs like myself who cared about such issues. Consistent with Whitely's apparent committment to protecting children, in June 2011 he was one of the WA ALP MPs who opposed plans by the federal government to send unaccompanied children to Malaysia under an asylum seeker deal.

This book is an authoritative account of the politics, the history, the science and the players in the story of ADHD and ADHD drugs in the US and Australia, most specifically in Perth, Western Australia. The author is an ALP member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly. Western Australia is the Australian state which had the nation’s highest rate of amphetamine prescription during the 1990s to the early 2000s, with a corresponding highest rate of amphetamine abuse. In 2004 there was a Western Australian parliamentary inquiry into ADHD. Rates of prescribing of ADHD drugs to children in WA have fallen, but have apparently risen in NSW in recent years. Whitely reports two very concerning findings of the Western Australian Ministerial Implementation Committee on ADHD Raine Study Review (MICADHD). The Raine Study from Perth provided the world’s first independent data on the long term effects of psycho-stimulant medication.

A number of Australian politicians from both major parties are mentioned in this book, and not for good reasons. Those names include Nicola Roxon, Tony Abbott, Nicola Roxon, Christopher Pyne, Kevin Rudd and Nicola Roxon. Whitely has been ignored or fobbed-off by an impressive list of big names in Australian politics. To be fair to Rudd, Whitely’s April 2010 letter to Kevin Rudd was badly timed, just a couple of months in advance of the coup that removed Rudd from the position of Prime Minister. The commercial ties to pharmaceutical companies of Professor Ian Hickie from the Brain and Mind Research Institute are noted in this book and detailed in the notes section.

While the ADHD controversies are covered in a fair amount of detail in this book, the importance of this book certainly isn’t limited to questions about the ADHD label, the drugs prescribed as treatments for ADHD, or the broader controversies surrounding the psychiatric labelling of children. Anyone considering using any of the newer psychiatric drugs should be interested in this book , because it exposes the crooked tricks of major drug companies and the lack of effective government control of their activities, and the failings of the TGA (Therapeutic Drugs Administration, Australia's regulatory authority for medicines). Flaws and failings of medical research are exposed, and the issue of influential or powerful medical professionals having conflicts of interest involving drug companies is also explored. Taxpayers should be interested to know that their taxes are used for drug research that is very likely to be biased and influenced by drug companies, and some apparently dodgy drugs are subsidized by the PBS. The lack of openness of the process behind the PBAC researching taxpayer subsidies for drugs is also worth reading about. Western Australian readers might be interested to read about the ethical concerns associated with the 2004 Curtin University study of the ADHD drug Strattera with child subjects, which had Associate Professor Heather Jenkins as the principal investigator. The Children’s Hospital Education Research Institute in Sydney withdrew from this study due to objections from their ethics committee. A question about this sorry episode that interests me is why was this story covered by The Australian but apparently not WA’s local daily The West Australian?

I was a little disappointed that some topics were not covered or barely covered in this book: the controversial diagnosis of juvenile bipolar that has become very popular in the United States with accompanying prescription of psychiatric drugs for children, and the huge international upswing in diagnosis rates of autistic spectrum conditions including Asperger syndrome. The very scientifically suspect concept of childhood schizophrenia even appears to be gaining a higher profile in the US, a trend that I hope never spreads to Australia. While he probably doesn’t have the first-hand knowledge of these matters that he evidently has about ADHD, I would still be interested in Martin Whitely’s views on these events, and this would place the ADHD history into context. My only objection to this book is that there isn’t more of it.

Some quotes from the book:

“It is extremely worrying that old, specious, discredited research can be recycled by the highest levels of government and the medical profession.”

Jon Jureidini quoted in the book:

“When you have got a kid with ADHD and oppositional defiance disorder and depression and anxiety disorder...what this says is not that he has got four disorders, but that there is something wrong with the kid and people haven’t properly understood what it is yet.”

“The most startling finding was that past stimulant use increased the probability of an ADHD child falling behind at school by a massive 950 percent.”

“Roxon has allowed the response to concerns about misdiagnosis and over-prescription to remain delegated to the ADHD industry.”

“Sceptics are generally not motivated to specialise or become ‘expert’ in conditions they don’t believe in.”

“All of the participants declared their connections to drug manufacturers, but astonishingly claimed there were no conflicts of interest.”

“If the history of the stimulants is any guide, we can expect to receive the first meaningful data in relation to the long-term safety and efficacy of Strattera in about 2080.”

Speed Up & Sit Still (website by Martin Whitely MLA)

Whitely, Martin (2010) Speed Up and Sit Still: The Controversies of ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment. UWA Publishing, 2010.

Labor MPs oppose Malaysian deal.
by Alisha O'Flaherty
June 3rd 2011
ABC News

Curtin University misled about ADHD drug.
Julie-Anne Davies
The Australian
January 10, 2009

Monday, June 27, 2011

I really shouldn't laugh.....

Julia Gillard vows to plough ahead despite polls.
From: AAP
Herald Sun.
June 28, 2011.

"She is now the most unpopular modern prime minister since Paul Keating at his worst."

Julia Gillard now leads 'most unpopular Australian government in past 40 years'.
Alison Rourke
18 June 2011

"With her personal approval rating collapsing (nearly 60% of those polled disapprove of her), Kevin Rudd is now the preferred Labor leader by a margin of two to one."

Labor would win election under Rudd: poll
By Jeremy Thompson
Updated Mon Jun 27, 2011.
ABC News.

"Fifty-one per cent of those polled believe Australia has become a "worse place" since Ms Gillard became Prime Minister."

Secret behind Blanche d'Alpuget and Sue Pieters-Hawke airport scuffle.
Annette Sharp and Clementine Cuneo
The Daily Telegraph
June 28, 2011.

"Federal police were called after an altercation between the two women in the Qantas chairman's lounge at Brisbane Airport on Thursday. Witnesses said one of the women slapped the other four times."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rudd soon to meet Aung San Suu Kyi

Australia's Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd will be making an official visit to Burma this week, and will meet Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. This will be the first visit to Burma by an Australian foreign minister since 2002. I expect we will see lots of photos and media coverage.

Suu Kyi to press Rudd on Burma inquiry.
Ron Corben
Sydney Morning Herald.
June 25, 2011.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Another quote to ponder

(this post has been edited a number of times for clarification)

"We're trying to say that some who have failed psycho-social therapy but are severely unwell in a pre-psychosis stage, maybe some of them do need anti-psychotics and that needs to be studied before it's ever advocated for of course," he says."

This is what I believe is a revealing quote attributed to Professor Patrick McGorry from an article in The Australian newspaper from only ten days ago. I believe this quote is revealing for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it shows that the professor is indeed prepared to consider prescribing highly problematic anti-psychotic drugs to a patient who does not meet the full diagnostic criteria for a psychotic mental illness, a situation which is just the type of scenario that professor emeritus Allen J.Frances MD from the US has repeatedly expressed much concern about.

The second thing that I find interesting about this quote is the apparently confused thinking that it betrays. If a patient is in "a pre-psychosis stage" then presumably they are not fully psychotic. Commentators have claimed that McGorry's new diagnosis of "pre-psychosis" has a huge false-positive rate, with most of the youth that it identifies as potential cases of psychosis or schizophrenia not being genuine early cases at all. So I've got to wonder how these patients can be "severely unwell". If they are "severely unwell", why don't they qualify for a full diagnosis of a psychotic mental illness?

According to what Prof. McGorry himself has said about the new psychiatric disease category of "Psychosis Risk Syndrome", which Prof. McGorry has strongly advocated for, a huge 70% of the patients who meet the criteria for this proposed new "pre-psychotic" mental illness and are given only non-drug intervention will NOT proceed to becoming genuinely psychotic:

"Six studies around the world now show 30 per cent of patients given supportive care only went on to develop psychosis but 10 per cent of those given drugs and cognitive behavioural therapy went on to psychosis, McGorry says."

If this is true, the intervention does help some people, but it also needlessly labels a large proportion of patients. Given what I've read about the large false-positive rate and the apparent lack of need for drug therapy of the majority of the people who have been given this "pre-psychosis" label, I frankly find it hard to believe that so-called "pre-psychotic" patients can be "severely unwell" due to psychosis, as Prof. McGorry claims they could be in the quote from The Australian. I'm very much tempted to consider whether, if these patients do indeed have severe problems, are their problems due to some issue or illness other than psychosis? This raises the spectre of psychiatric misdiagnosis, an issue that one can find throughout the entire history of psychiatry as a medical specialty, and a problem that has ruined many lives. The more that I read about the expensive federal government funded plans of the former Australian of the year Professor Patrick McGorry, the more concerned I feel.

Just to put into perspective the issue of incorrectly prescribing antipsychotic drugs to young people who don't really need them, I'd like to point out that these drugs, also known as neuroleptic drugs, have many serious problems as acknowledged side effects, including obesity, diabetes and a number of different forms of permanent brain damage that cause disturbing-looking facial tics. Tardive dyskinesia is one of these drug-induced tic syndromes. It is a tragic fact that the drugs themselves can mask the underlying brain damage and tics that can be caused by the use of these drugs, so that the patient and the prescribing doctor may be unaware of the damage being done by these drugs until the patient is taken off the drugs, and then the hideous tics become obvious. The patient can then look forward to a life blighted with bizarre involuntary tics that make then look crazier than they ever were before.

It appears that Professor McGorry is so obsessed about the supposedly 20% of patients who might be saved from developing full psychosis by being given drugs and therapy early that he has overlooked the majority of patients who would be identified with the proposed new diagnosis, the false-positives, who would be falsely diagnosed and permanently stigmatized as having a pre-psychosis mental illness, and who risk being given drugs that can ruin lives. It also appears that McGorry is so over-focused on potential benefits of his new vision of adolescent mental health that he doesn't realise that at least some people are going to notice the definite hazard of causing harm, and might identify this as a bigger thing than the potential pluses. I believe that I see a clinician who has no proper perspective on the issue.

Dunleavy, Sue (2011) Schism opens over ills of the mind. Australian. June 16th 2011.

A political quote to ponder, from a Boganville resident

A recent quote from the Prime Minister in parliament:

".... and I'm finding...ah...his...uh...sense of high dungeon...uh...very very interesting indeed."

Go back to Fountain Lakes, Julia.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I’d like to dedicate this lovely tune, by the legendary and not-gutless Courtney Love, to the Australian Labor Party,

the party who have never had the guts to challenge or to educate voters who misguidedly view refugees as a threat to our nation

the party who swiftly respond to popular outrage over animal cruelty while not swerving from policies which cause cruelty to human refugees

the party that has leaders who stuffed up the live cattle trade with Indonesia and endangered the relationship between Australia and Indonesia, leaving the great big mess for their outcast Foreign Minister to sort out

the party who can’t bring themselves to catch up with the twentieth century and end the embarrassment of our backwards nation still not allowing same-sex marriage

the party who has caved in to the expensive and questionable demands of a professor psychiatrist who has a flair for self-promotion, who lacks scientific credibility, has many conflicting interests and has routinely broken the rules of professional conduct by failing to declare conflicting interests in published journal papers

the party that has a long history of political dynasties (the less polite term for this is nepotism)

the party who were happy to sit in opposition for many years under an internally popular but shockingly useless leader

the party who still revere a past leader who was a drunken womanizer who ruled during times of high unemployment and high interest rates, and has been a vocal advocate of the brutal regime of “Myanmar”

the party who still revere a past leader who was a smug smartarse despite the shockingly high rates of unemployment and interest rates during the times when he was a treasurer and a Prime Minister, and who appointed an obese predatory paedophile as a federal government minister

the party who were happy to allow a hardworking individual to pull them out of the wilderness of opposition, and later pull the nation through the international global financial crisis using great judgement and decisiveness, while all the time reserving the right to knock him down and replace him should he become less useful

the party who failed to support their leader when he took on the might of Australia’s mining companies with a new tax

the party who failed to confront that leader when all that power went to his head, preferring instead to simply wipe him out and start with someone else

the party who allowed an unelected union leader to publicly announce the outcome of the most controversial leadership coup in Australian political history

the party who caved in to the demands of mining company billionaires who don’t like to pay tax

the party who kiss-up to and obey the US government, and who have prominent members who inform on other members to the US embassy, and who trot along to the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue every year, and munch hot dogs at baseball matches like the aspiring yankee doodle dandy suckholes that they are

the party who has a leader who will soon be going to Western Australia for a conference, perhaps in the hope that the mining state will be the least hostile place to be a year after the political assassination of their former leader, and months after the party caved in to the threats and demands of mining billionaires who like to avoid paying tax

you’re gutless!

The Prime Minister's Speech

I don't know why it is that some people have an irresistible impulse to imitate funny accents and funny voices the very instant after they've heard a novel way of speaking. It was during one of these childish moments that I stumbled across an explanation for the the strikingly gauche way that Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks. Her supposedly broad Australian accent has been much celebrated and hated, and is as much a part of her personal mythology as her famous but no longer authentic red hair. I have for a long time wondered about her accent. I have travelled through all of the states of Australia, with the exception of Tasmania, and there are definitely many subtle regional variations of the Australian accent, some from rural Victoria being particularly different, but I don't recall running into anyone with an accent reminiscent of Gillard's. When I watched the story about Julia Gillard's personal background on Australian Story on ABC television which was broadcast only days before Gillard's political assassination of the then-PM Kevin Rudd in 2010, I was fascinated to note that none of her family members shown on that show seemed to have the same strange accent as Julia's. So where did this accent come from? My best guess was that Gillard's accent is not a regional variation, but something peculiar to some union or some political group that Gillard has at one time been a member of.

By some unknown neurological mechanism I find that I have the gift of perfectly imitating any weird accent immediately after hearing it, but not if I delay the imitation for more than a second or two. So there I was speaking like a Julia, and I was surprised at how easy it was. I was really on a roll. I simply pushed my chin in a particular direction as I spoke, as though I had some type of fine motor defect that skewed my perception of the position of my chin. It felt much more like a speech impediment than an accent, so simple was the genesis of this odd mode of speech. The famous Gillard accent isn't an accent, it's a speech disorder. I guess I shouldn't complain that we have a PM who can't speak properly. I do sincerely believe that disabled people have as much of a right to a place in society as anyone, but by cripes, I wish she'd get some speech therapy.

She who waits.
Australian Story.
June 21 2010

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What does an Australian psychiatrist professor need to do?

Is Louise Milligan the only Australian journalist who is interested in investigating issues associated with Australian psychiatrist professors and drug company influence? It appears that an Aussie shrink boffin with conflicts of interest has got to draw attention to himself by playing a part in a controversial matter (such as testifying in a trial about a horrible crime) and also have a following of seriously unhappy ex-patients, before he need fear attracting the scrutiny of Australian journalists.

Two TV news reports about the misdeeds of Melbourne psychiatrist Professor Graham Burrows:

Medical scandal uncovered.
Louise Milligan
Seven News.

More complaints against Burrows.
Louise Milligan
Seven News.