I stumbled across a very interesting article today in the Irish Times regarding the startling increase in suicides of children and adolescents in Ireland. The article is intriguingly and disturbingly titled ‘ Teen suicide almost doubled in one decade‘.
The article is thought provoking to me for two main reasons.
First of all, the increase of suicides in under-18’s could perhaps correlate also with the increase of psychiatric drug prescribing in Ireland? If this is the case, then it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the obvious link between them. Prescribe more drugs and you get more problems, yet Kevin Malone chooses not to explore this possibility. I wonder why?
Research finds two children a month are taking their lives, writes JOANNE HUNT
SUICIDE AMONG Irish children has almost doubled in a decade, a new survey has found.
The Suicide in Ireland survey, conducted by UCD professor of psychiatry Kevin Malone, included speaking to the families of 83 people aged under 35 who died by suicide, 14 of whom were children younger than 18.
The SSRI class of drugs have black box warnings for under-18’s in America. The SSRI Seroxat was banned in this age group, and GSK were found to have concealed negative data in regards to Seroxat’s propensity to induce suicidal thoughts in children. Seroxat may indeed be a highly dangerous SSRI, but the whole class of anti-depressants are just as dangerous.
There is also the current fashion in Psychiatry of prescribing anti-psychotics to children and teenagers. This has been happening for a few years now. How many drug cocktails are being dished out to Irish teenagers and children by psychiatrists and GP’s? And how many of these individuals end up being driven to suicide from psychiatric drug side effects? Side effects ranging from aggression, homicidal and suicidal thoughts, akathisia and drug induced psychosis.
The rate of suicide among children under 15 has also doubled, he found.
“You’re talking about almost two children a month taking their lives in Ireland,” said Prof Malone. He said of those children who had contact with mental health services, “their mental-health issues were being shoehorned into an adult service environment”.
With a minority of the children having “a definable mental illness”, he said the problem of child suicide was not just one for the Department of Health but for society as a whole.
Although it is recognized that psychiatric drugs are extremely harmful to children and adolescents, a GP or psychiatrist can prescribe them ‘off label’. This means it is at their ‘professional’ discretion to prescribe.
What I would like to find out is, how many under-18’s are being prescribed psychiatric drugs in Ireland?
Also, how many of these Under-18 suicide cases have involved the use of psychiatric drugs? And how many of them do not?
Are suicide cases with a psychiatric drug context usually ruled now, by Irish coroners, as ‘open verdicts’? and are suicide cases not involving the use of psychiatric drugs more likely to be ruled as ‘suicide’?
These are important questions that Kevin Malone does not even touch upon in this article…
Which brings me to my second point….
Professor Malone seems to have a big problem with Irish coroners, particularly when they rule an ‘open verdict’ instead of his preferred , death by ‘suicide’ conclusion. One would have to ask, why does Kevin Malone have a problem with this?
Prof Malone also said increasing numbers of open verdicts recorded by coroners was “compromising” our understanding of suicide. “The number of open verdicts reported through the 1990s was between 10 and 15 deaths a year. For the last three years it’s been between 150 and 180.”
While acknowledging the high burden of proof borne by coroners, Prof Malone said “previously we’ve identified that a number of open verdicts will have a suicide note and will still be declared an open verdict. Coroners err on the side of caution, and of course that suits society – suicide on a death cert is difficult for any family to deal with.”
The most high profile ‘open verdict’ suicide in Ireland recently involved Shane Clancy. Shane was prescribed the SSRI Cipramil and tragically took his own life and the life of another while under the influence of this potent and powerful drug. After Irish television coverage of Shane’s death, the Irish college of psychiatrists issued a statement reiterating their ideologically (and pharmaceutically) driven ‘belief’:
“namely that antidepressants cause homicide, which we wish to rebut.
There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that antidepressants cause homicide, as has been so definitively stated. This contention is not only inaccurate but it is also potentially dangerous and irresponsible.“
Irish Psychiatry seems to think that it is irresponsible to warn of the dangers of SSRI’s, particularly in regards to homicide. The (very real) possibility of SSRI induced homicide has been studied and flagged by Dr David Healy, Dr Peter Breggin, Dr Joseph Glenmullen and Dr Yolanda Lucire (amongst others). All of these people are very well respected in their field (they are also practicing psychiatrists) Yet, Irish psychiatry still denies the link? These denials by Irish psychiatry are bordering on the ridiculous, yet with the many lives at stake, rebuttals such as these- are very serious indeed. Kevin Malone is amongst this group of SSRI-problem deniers, and he seems to think that it’s dangerous to warn of the risks of SSRI’s. Surely informed consent is paramount when it comes to medications? Does Kevin Malone not believe in the notion of informed consent? What is irresponsible about warning of the risks involved with SSRI’s? David Healy has stated that these risks of homicide are small, but they still can happen. Yet Irish psychiatrists like Kevin Malone refuse to even consider the possibility. Is this scientific? Is this reasonable?
He was also amongst the list of psychiatrists who signed this statement.
Prof PATRICIA CASEY,
Mater Misericordiae University Hospital/UCD;
Prof TIMOTHY DINAN, UCC;
Prof MICHAEL GILL, TCD;
Prof BRIAN LAWLOR,
Saint James’s Hospital, Dublin;
Prof JAMES V LUCEY,
St Patrick’s Hospital Dublin;
Prof KEVIN MALONE,
St Vincent’s University Hospital/UCD;
Prof DAVID MEAGHER,
University of Limerick;
Prof COLM McDONALD,
National University of Ireland Galway.
The inquest of the Clancy case resulted in an ‘open verdict‘ and a rejection of a ‘suicide’ verdict. . Basically, an ‘open verdict’ is given when the facts of a suicide case are not cut and dry. In Clancy’s case, this was because he had a toxic to fatal level of Cipramil in his system, therefore it could not be established if he had actually intended to commit the act of suicide. The evidence of David Healy in regards to the dangers of SSRI’s , and Shane’s mother’s moving defense of her son, also had an impact on the jury’s opinion that this case was far from a cut and dry suicide…
These SSRI’s are extremely powerful drugs, even on the recommended dosage, so one can only imagine how altered Shane’s mind must have been in an SSRI-overdose state.
Quite simply, because of Ciprmail, and the high levels of this drug in his system, Shane was not in his ‘right mind’, therefore, an open verdict was delivered by the jury. Interestingly also, (and quite tellingly too) the coroner at Shane Clancy’s inquest also refused to let the college of Irish psychiatrists issue a statement.
Kevin Malone seems to take serious issue with the phenomenal increase in ‘open verdicts’ in Irish suicide cases. He states that : “increasing numbers of open verdicts recorded by coroners was “compromising” our understanding of suicide.”
Why does Kevin Malone perceive ‘open verdicts’ as such a threat to the understanding of suicide? Could it be perhaps because ‘open verdicts’ cast shadows of doubt? Or could it be perhaps because ‘open verdicts’ instill a sense of ambiguity to the notion of suicide?
Does an ‘open verdict’ really undermine our understanding of suicide? or does it pose more of a threat to the psychiatric paradigm, psychiatric power structure and psychiatric ideology?
It would be interesting to find out how many of these coroners ‘open verdicts’ involved the prescribing of psychiatric drugs, it would also be intriguing to find out how many ‘suicide’ verdicts do not…
As Mr Malone says: “Coroners err on the side of caution’, but surely this is a positive thing, why does Kevin Malone view it as a negative?
Suicide cases , particularly involving powerful medications, should always be approached with caution. In a drug induced state, how is it possible to know for sure the actual intent of someone who commits suicide? It simply is not possible, therefore, in my opinion coroners are doing the right thing by returning open verdicts. Irish coroners are not undermining the public understanding of suicide, they are approaching suicide cases in a progressive, cautious and objective manner. This is progression and evolution of understanding- something Irish psychiatry seems to find threatening? Suicide is not as simple as Irish psychiatry would like us to think it is, and suicide involving psychiatric medications as a contextual factor further increases the complexity of individual suicide cases.
In 2003, UK Coroner Geraint Williams, called for an inquiry into Seroxat after he returned an open verdict in the suicide case of Colin Whitfield. He also called for a withdrawal of Seroxat until the facts of its dangers could be fully established. This withdrawal of Seroxat did not happen, and it begs us to ask the question, why are coroners not being listened to?
He said “I have grave concerns that this is a dangerous drug that should be withdrawn until at least detailed national studies are undertaken,” “It is my intention to write to the Department of Health and to the secretary of state to ask him to hold an urgent inquiry into Seroxat and consider whether it should be withdrawn from sale in the UK”.
“I am profoundly disturbed by the effect this drug had on Colin Whitfield.”
Coroners know there are huge problems with these drugs, patients know there are huge problems with these drugs, yet…the majority of mainstream psychiatric mouth-pieces continually attempt to quell any dissent or perceived threat to their ideology. The continuation of a paradigm and dogma seems to be more important to psychiatry than patients dying because of drug side effects. This is profoundly disturbing.
Nobody can determine intent in a suicide case when that intent itself is skewed and warped from the ingestion of powerful mind-altering psychiatric medications…
“Open Verdicts” bring shadows of doubt, uncertainty, objectivity and ambiguity into psychiatric prescribing habits and psychiatric diagnoses.
“Open Verdicts” also cast a light upon the influence of those psychiatric prescribing habits on increasing suicide rates.
These are important issues.. and although I disagree with Kevin Malone’s agenda, I am certainly glad that he has unintentionally raised them…