Last night Deb and I arrived back at my place after three and a half weeks on tour around the North Island. During that time we delivered 8 free community information presentations, did three radio interviews, put up displays in three libraries and ran an information booth at a hospital.
Our message is simple - suicide is a social, not a mental health issue. Its prevention requires a change to the social environment not treatment of mentally ill individuals. Sociology not psychiatry is the key to suicide prevention.
Last night I spent time with one of our Casper mums who is studying sociology at university. We spent the evening discussing the difference between empirical theoretical and applied approaches to sociology. On the drive from Wellington to New Plymouth today, my thoughts turned to the differences between what happens in research studies and in the real world and the frustration so many of us feel when the real life suicides of our loved ones are discounted as being inconsistent with the results of randomised controlled trials on the drugs that we know caused their deaths.
Remember the days when a child who ran excitedly between the playdough table, the sandpit and the dress up corner was seen as a curious, interessted learner who was participating in all the learning experiences made available to him or her? That child is now ADHD and at risk of teen pregnancy, incarceration, illegal drug use and a host of other harms.
Remember when the young adult who held alternative views and had a strong vision of an alternative future was seen as original, forward thinking and gifted? That young person is now schizophrenic and a danger to him/her self and others.
Deb and I are sitting in McDonalds in Taumarunui using the free wi-fi. Casper now has 1,055 members. Many of them are people like those we have met over the past week in Whakatane,Rotorua and Taupo. People for whom holidays like Easter are times of sadness and grief due to the absence of a loved one who suicided.
Deb and I set off on Friday for a tour of the North Island, taking the facts about suicide to the community. We have booked a series of free community presentations around the Island which present NZ's suicide statistics, the research showing why New Zealand's suicide prevention strategy is such a failure and what the research says about what an effective strategy would look like.
A new study on the effectiveness of antidepressants has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It backs up two previous studies which show antidepressants have little or no effectiveness in treating mild, moderate…or even severe depression. (see the research tab for the full study by Fournier et al.)
For everyone who says
But antidepressants help millions of people…
Antidepressants saved my life…
There are side effects with every drug but the benefits of antidepressants outweigh the risks for most people…
I returned a couple of days ago from the United States where I got to meet a group of other parents whose children had killed themselves as a result of antidepressant or antipsychotic drug use. My son's suicide left me with a feeling of belonging to nothing and fitting nowhere which persists to this day. Being with these families allowed me to feel there is a group to which I belong (despite wishing I didn't) and that I fit within the growing international army of angry mums and dads demanding an end to the fatal practice of labelling and drugging of children.
On the front cover of USA today on Wednesday was a graph which showed that for 39% of people, dying was their greatest fear while for 61% of people their greatest fear was outliving their money. In our society, those without financial resources face homelessness, hunger and the inability to participate in their communities. They are also vilified as evidenced by the comments of our Prime Minister who said recently that those who use foodbanks do so because of their own poor choices.
I will never forget the shock I felt the day I learned that the antidepressant given to Toran 15 days before he died is not approved by the NZ government for children under the age of 18. I couldn't understand how a doctor could give a child a drug that Medsafe (the medicines regulator) has not approved on the grounds the risks (including suicide) outweigh any benefits.
At 5am on Saturday morning one of our CASPER families and I hit the road for Kawerau. The community has been rocked by a number of youth suicides in the past year and asked us to come and give them some information about effective suicide prevention.