Twitter is a firestorm at the best of times. It’s a veritable inferno filled with opinions, trolls and cranks. But it’s also the primary PR tool of our times. It’s where current opinions pulsate and the zeitgeist resonates. It’s where consensus builds, and movements cause social change. It’s where the news becomes news in real time. A tweet can ruin, or make, a celebrities career, or it can start world war III; even the US president Trump loves twitter and his tweets cause global media storms daily. It’s not for the fainthearted though- that’s for sure, particularly if you want to get a message across, or if you are trying to represent an organization or ideology (or maintain the status quo). That’s why I was surprised to see Wendy Burn, the president of the Royal college of UK psychiatrists (no less), enter the fray, when she was passed the top job baton by previous president, Simon Wessely, not too long ago.
Whereas Simon was aloof, impersonal, detached, and would block any critical tweeters quicker than you could say lobotomy-Wendy (it has to be said)- has been trying her best to engage with the twitter-verse. Truthfully though, I feel that it can’t be easy for her, particularly when you have a constant avalanche of criticism coming from people who have been harmed by her profession (psychiatry), and particularly also when you have experienced bloggers, such as Bob Fiddaman and others (including myself) putting her on the spot with awkward questions about side effects, conflicts of interest, and the various other gripes us (peeved off) bloggers, tweeters and activists have been brewing on (and researching about) for years.
I never thought I would say this about a senior psychiatrist (considering it is psychiatry that harmed me in so many ways), but I genuinely feel sorry for Wendy. As I said, it can’t be easy entering such a hostile technological social media space like Twitter, particularly for a lady in her position and with her status to defend. However, it also has to be said, that psychiatry has a lot to answer for, and perhaps who better to give answers for psychiatry than the actual president of UK psychiatry?
Personally I have found engaging with Wendy fascinating. I am honestly intrigued to know her opinion on all the stuff that I have been blogging about. For instance, I’d love to know what she thinks of Seroxat/Paxil study 329? or GSK in general as a corporation. I’d like to know what she thinks of the data on psychiatric drugs, does she think it’s reliable? does she think that we can trust drug companies, considering that they have paid tens of billions in fines over the last few years. Fines resulting from misrepresenting data, corrupting doctors and psychiatrists, committing fraud and harming patients etc.
I have tried to engage Wendy with some of these topics. For instance, I asked her several times what she thought of the well documented scandal of Seroxat harming teenagers, or Zyprexa causing diabetes, or Risperdal causing breasts to grow in young men. All of these side effects have been well documented; there have been 18,000 cases settled in regards to Johnson and Johnson’s Risperdal causing breasts in boys, and Ely Lilly also settled a similar amount of legal claims in regards to Zyprexa causing diabetes. Seroxat is still under the spotlight, with a case won recently in regards to Seroxat side effects causing harm to a man (during his youth) in the Netherlands (see here). I’d love to hear Wendy’s opinions on these cases, and others, however, she has not been forthcoming as of yet.
I’d also love for her to read though my blog because I genuinely feel that she is grossly misinformed about the many topics in the arena of mental health that she works in. I feel that she is blinded by ideology and caught up in a reductionist ideological gaze (of psychiatric mindsets) which leaves little room for openness to differing experiences and opinions. For example, she didn’t know that Seroxat can cause bleeding, even though this is a common enough side effect on SSRI’s like Seroxat. In my case, my nose bled regularly, and also blood was in my stool a lot. I literally felt like my stomach lining was on fire whilst on Seroxat; it seemed to be poisoning and burning my entire digestive tract. The nose bleeds stopped when I came off it and I have no idea what kind of damage in my brain happened with Seroxat, and I’m not sure I even want to. However, what is worrying is Wendy doesn’t seem to know what side effects to expect with SSRI’s. Seroxat has a litany of side effects, that seems to grow with its PIL every couple of years (see here). As the head of the royal college of psychiatry, (and a virulent promoter, believer and prescriber of these drugs) Wendy should surely know the full side effect profiles of them?
There are many other concerns I have, and which I would like to discuss with Wendy, however so far it seems, she engages and then disengages just as quick, leaving topics unexplored, questions hanging in the air, and discussions left unsettled. At this rate, it seems that the maelstrom of tweets in the various topics unresolved will likely tangent off into something else, or just hang there. I understand that Wendy is a very busy lady, with a very busy role, but I really feel that if she is going to engage with us (the public) that she should at least address things properly.
I’d appreciate if Wendy would give her opinion on Zyprexa (an anti-psychotic) causing diabetes. In particular I’d like to ask her what she would say to those harmed by Zyprexa, or to the manufacturers Eli- Lilly, who suppressed these side effects for years?
“…..Eli Lilly and Co. announced last month that it has entered into settlement agreements with attorneys representing thousands of patients who claim they were harmed by the company’s second-generation antipsychotic medication, Zyprexa (olanzapine). All told, the settlements could amount to payouts equaling $1.2 billion…”
I’d also be interested to know what Wendy thinks of Seroxat/Paxil harming teens. GSK were caught lying about Seroxat side effects too, in particular in relation to suppression of data about suicidal side effects in teens, young people and children. What would Wendy say to the families of these young people prescribed Seroxat? What would she advise others worried about these side effects?
“…..An influential study which claimed that an antidepressant drug was safe for children and adolescents failed to report the true numbers of young people who thought of killing themselves while on it, re-analysis of the trial has found
Study 329, into the effects of GlaxoSmithKline’s drug paroxetine on under-18s, was published in 2001 and later found to be flawed. In 2003, the UK drug regulator instructed doctors not to prescribe paroxetine – sold as Seroxat in the UK and Paxil in the US – to adolescents….”
Furthermore, I’d like to ask Wendy what she thinks of Risperdal causing breasts to grow in young boys, surely this horrible side effect would be extremely distressing for already vulnerable young men under psychiatric care? What does she think of drug companies that put profits before patients? surely the ‘mentally ill’ demographic are the most easily exploitable cohort of consumers? and if so, doesn’t this make it worse that they are treated with such callous disregard by Pharma (the main sponsors of psychiatry and individual psychiatrists)?
“….Johnson & Johnson has been fined over $3 billion for marketing the antipsychotic drug Risperdal to children. Over 18,000 boys and young men are now suing the company over a side effect of the drug called gynecomastia, which causes adolescent boys to develop female breasts….”
There are many debates currently brewing (or burning -whichever way you see it yourself) with Wendy Burn on Twitter.
I sincerely hope Wendy continues to engage on Twitter, because I feel these are very valuable debates to have, and her contribution is also very much valued and appreciated too.
But I hope also that she genuinely addresses our concerns and questions, and doesn’t just stick her head in the sand, ignore and deny, like so many psychiatrists tend to do.
Maybe Wendy will appreciate the music below. They are extremely emotional pieces of music, and perhaps that’s what is missing about how psychiatrists perceive the world, and the people in it. Emotions are the driving force for people, not brain chemistry. Attempting to modify emotions through prescribing chemicals does not fix emotional distress. We don’t love with our brains, we love with our hearts, our minds and our feelings. We don’t grieve from our brains, we grieve from our entire beings; we long from our mysterious souls, from undefinable depths in our psyches.
If an emotion triggers brain chemistry it’s still the emotion (which is unquantifiable) that comes first. Psychiatry needs to recognize emotions more not less. All this focus on the brain has not progressed our understanding of the human condition.
In fact, it has hindered it- a lot.
Maybe Wendy will enlighten psychiatry out of its darkness? Or maybe not?