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