Australia Makes A Mistake

The Australian named Australian of the year for the year 2010 is psychiatrist Patrick McGorry, a sad choice if I’ve ever seen one but, of course, this is hardly the first time a poor choice has been made in the name of blind nationalism.

Why is McGorry a bad choice? Okay, let me go over a few reasons.

ON LINE opinion has an article on the subject, McGorry’s ‘early intervention’ in mental health: a prescription for disaster, from which I quote:

McGorry claims that it is possible to identify people who are at risk of developing a psychotic disorder (e.g. schizophrenia) before they actually develop sufficient symptoms to warrant a diagnosis. He calls the early symptoms – including unusual beliefs, lack of initiative, and social withdrawal – the “prodromal” phase of these disorders. The early intervention that he then calls for is medical intervention that typically includes antipsychotic medications.

The upcoming DSM V may have a ‘psychosis risk syndrome’ in it. Same sort of thing, but bad as it is, this kind of pre-possible-psychosis label would provide just another opportunity for psychiatrists to put people on drugs that have proven harmful.

We are experiencing an epidemic of iatrogenic disease in the mental health field at present; we don’t need to expand this epidemic. Treating people for the possibility of psychosis in the future is going to mean more people with a physician caused disease. There can be no doubt about that.

In the Not Only Department, predicting psychosis is a very dubious field at best right now.

Under McGorry’s proposed reform, large numbers of “false positives” – young Australians – would be caught by the wide early intervention net and exposed to serious risks from drugs that have not been proven to be effective.

Mental health screening is notorious for its high false positive rate. The popular Teen Screen program, for instance, has a 84% false positive rate. This means that these mental health tests used to catch people with ‘mental illness’ are much more likely to find a mentally healthy person ‘mentally ill’ than they are to find a ‘mentally ill’ person ‘mentally ill’. If these tests are so unreliable, how reliable can the sort of fortune telling conducted by a psychiatrist actually be?

Of course, it helps to have the game fixed from the beginning.

Further doubts must be raised about McGorry’s agenda when you see the substantial funding his organisation (Orygen Youth Health) receives from the pharmaceutical industry and also from the US Stanley Foundation, which is notorious for its particularly aggressive approach to the detention and mandatory treatment of people labelled with psychiatric disorders. Some details of this funding are available on the Orygen website (under Major Grants and Other Funding). However, McGorry, who has personally received funding from many manufacturers of antipsychotics, frequently reports no conflicts of interest, particularly in his many recent Medical Journal of Australia articles, including a supplement on early intervention that repeatedly advocates the use of antipsychotics. In the US, several of these antipsychotic manufacturers have been charged with illegal promotion practices.

The people in the US Stanley Foundation are the same people behind the Treatment Advocacy Center. The Treatment Advocacy Center is an organization that actively lobbies for, and promotes, more forced outpatient commitment. This generally means forced drugging.

You can’t forcibly drug a person without taking the right to liberty away from that person. When you take a person’s right to liberty away, assuming that this person is a citizen of the country taking that right away, usually this can only be done in violation of the laws of the land enacted to protect the rights of its citizenry, all of its citizenry.

A number of prominent psychiatrists in the USA have come under investigation by a Senate Committee headed by Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa. These psychiatrists are being investigated for having lied about the amount of money they have received from pharmaceutical companies. Revelation of the amount of these payments, when it is substantial, is required by law. Receiving money from a pharmaceutical company, engaged in the greedy business of trying to sell a drug, on the part of a psychiatrist whose primary concern should be the health of his or her patients, represents an obvious conflict of interest.

Physical ailments developed from such drugging are among the iatrogenic diseases I previously mentioned. These physical ills include a neurological disease–Tardive Dyskinesia, heart disease, organ failure, and other life threatening health conditions. These iatrogenic diseases are one of the reasons why studies have shown people in mental health treatment die on average 25 years earlier than the general population. We don’t need people developing any such lame excuses to injure other human beings. Australia would do better to relieve Dr. McGorry of his license to practice medicine than it would to select him Australian of the year for damaging its young people.