Tag Archives: Mad in America

Psychiatry and Suicide Prevention: A 30-year Failed Experiment

There’s an interesting article on Mad in America dated September 17, 2013.  It’s titled Psychiatry & Suicide Prevention: A 30-year Failed Experiment, and was written by Maria Bradshaw.

Maria Bradshaw is the founder of CASPER, an organization that rejects the medical model of suicide prevention in favor of a sociological model.  Ms. Bradshaw founded CASPER after her son’s antidepressant-induced suicide.

Here’s the gist of Ms. Bradshaw article:

Roger Mulder, MD, is head of psychiatry at Otago University in New Zealand.  For at least the last 15 years, he has supported the notion of psychiatric intervention as a suicide-prevention measure.  For instance, here’s something he wrote in 2008 in an article published in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica:

“Suicide behaviours are common in depressed out-patients.  Antidepressant treatment is associated with a rapid and significant reduction in suicidal behaviours. The rate of emergent suicidal behaviour was low and the risk benefit ratio for antidepressants appears to favour their use.”

However, at a conference in Auckland, New Zealand, two weeks ago, he stated that the psychiatric model of screening people for suicide risk was not effective.  The conference was covered by Simon Collins of the New Zealand Herald.  Here’s a quote from Dr. Mulder:

“‘We’ve had a 20- or 30-year experiment which hasn’t worked.'”

In her article, Ms. Bradshaw compliments Dr. Mulder on having the integrity to alter his stance in the light of the evidence.  In his conference presentation, Dr. Mulder had pointed out that targeting groups deemed to be at high risk with psychological/pharmacological interventions has failed to impact actual suicide rates.

Ms. Bradshaw herself argues that not only has the psychiatric paradigm failed to lower suicide rates, it has actually caused them to increase.

In support of this position, she points out that the suicide rate for people who have used mental health services in the past year is 137.6 per 100,000, but only 7.6 per 100,000 for those who have not had a mental health contact.  Ms. Bradshaw doesn’t cite a source for these figures, but the study is almost certainly not a randomized controlled trial.  So to some extent, we may be comparing apples to oranges.  But the numbers are sobering nonetheless, especially since the “life-saving” aspect of antidepressants is frequently touted by psychiatrists in response to various criticisms.

Another interesting statistic that Dr. Mulder reportedly mentioned at the conference is that “only 3 percent of those labeled as ‘high risk’ actually killed themselves, while 60 per cent of actual suicides had been categorized as ‘low risk.'”  [Quoted from the Simon Collins article in the New Zealand Herald.]


It has long been recognized that a person’s risk for suicide increases in the first few weeks (months?) of taking an antidepressant.  The psychiatric explanation of this was that the putative therapeutic action of the drug gave the individual sufficient motivation to do what he had been wanting to do previously – namely to take his own life.

I’ve never been impressed with this argument, and in my view, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the so-called antidepressants do in fact induce or strengthen suicidal urges in some people.

Maria Bradshaw’s article is well worth reading.  CASPER, the organization she founded after her son’s suicide, is also worth watching.  One of the ideas they are developing is the training of potential natural helpers in how to respond to people who mention suicide.  The New Zealand Herald article describes how Ms. Bradshaw provided training in these matters to a group of hairdressers.

It’s too early to say how successful these kinds of endeavors will be, but the idea of natural helpers has, in my view, enormous potential, not only with regards to suicide prevention, but also in helping people cope with problems generally, and develop new skills.


SSRI’s Impair Learning.

There’s an interesting article on Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience.  It’s called Learning from Negative Feedback in Patients with Major Depressive Disorder is Attenuated by SSRI Antidepressants.

The researchers evaluated learning ability in three groups:

  • medication-naïve individuals who met the criteria for Major Depressive Disorder
  • individuals who met the criteria for MDD and were receiving the SSRI paroxetine (Paxil)
  • “healthy” controls

All subjects were given a learning task that allowed the researchers to distinguish learning from positive feedback versus learning from negative feedback

The results were:

  • the “healthy” controls learned better from positive feedback than either of the depressed groups
  • the individuals taking the SSRI learned less from negative feedback than either of the other groups

To quote from the authors:

“This suggests that SSRI antidepressants impair learning from negative feedback…”

Learning from negative consequences is a very important component of navigating our way through the social and other complexities of life.  Any impairment in this area is not trivial, and this may well be a contributing factor to poor long-term outcome that is associated with the use of antidepressants.

Thanks to Mad in America for the link to this article.


“Mental Illness” Under Fire

There’s a very interesting article by Paris Williams on Mad in America, The “Mental Illness” Paradigm: An “Illness” That is out of Control.  You can see it here.

The author gives us a compelling critique of the “mental illness” model, and also presents us with an alternative paradigm.

The alternative is:

“… to see those conditions we generally refer to as ‘mental illnesses’ as instead the natural manifestations of an individual’s struggles with the fundamental dilemmas inherent in simply being alive.”

Here are some more quotes:

“So we flood an individual’s brain with an array of highly toxic chemicals designed to make it through the brain’s natural blood-brain barrier and impact this extraordinarily complex and fragile organ in a ridiculously blunt and haphazard manner, and we call this ‘treatment.'”

“The terrible irony is that while it seems very likely that such crises are not the manifestation of a lifelong brain disease, the standard ‘treatment’ actually ensures that this fantasy becomes a reality.”

“I find it interesting to turn the ‘medical model’ language of ‘mental illness’ back onto itself and consider this entire ‘mental illness’ paradigm as acting like an insidious cancer…”

It’s an excellent article.  Please take a look.

Do We Need More Mental Health Services?

In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, there were a great many calls for “more mental health services” or “better access to mental health services.”

Many of us on this side of the fence groaned, because we knew that any official or private response to this call would be on the lines of more of the same.  The same spurious concepts; the same pseudo-illnesses; the same destructive drugging; the same destructive electric shock “treatment”; the same involuntary confinement; and the same stigmatization and loss of empowerment.

Many of us spoke out, of course, but we were the voices in the wilderness, and our pleas were drowned by the psychiatry/pharma-inspired clamor for more.

There’s an excellent post on Mad in America this week by Deron Drumm which addresses this matter from a survivor’s point of view.  It’s called Family Members – Allies or AdversariesHere are some quotes:

“I will point out flaws in the system.  I will become emotional when I see the medical model rearing its ugly head.  I will also speak out on the mechanisms that humans have used to deal with troubling experiences for hundreds of years;”

“We can better encourage parents who are currently screaming for more access to the status quo – to be angry that the status quo is not good enough and needs to do better than just prescribing drugs.”

It’s an important article – well worth a read.