Now in its 8th year of operation, MindFreedom Ireland (MFI) continued its work on many levels during 2010. From its Cork base of dedicated members and drawing support from friends both nationally and abroad, MFI can look back on another year of substantial achievement.


SUPPORT GROUP.     At the core of MFI is the Wednesday support group ‘Stand By Me’.  Members come and go depending on circumstances but without fail, there was always a solid base group which provided practical and moral support to not just people from Cork but to others from further afield who had heard of its existence.  Standing by people in hospital or in their own homes, members gave generously of their time in accordance with our philosophy of mutual support.  MFI was also glad to support the ‘Free John Hunt’ campaign organised by Grainne Humphrys of Elemental Ireland which attracted  a lot of media attention.


MEDIA CAMPAIGN.  MFI received considerable media coverage throughout the year especially during the ‘ECT’ Debate in The Irish Times.  This included letters published and a special feature in The Health Plus supplement on one of our members Colette Ni Dhuinneacha who gave powerful testimony of her negative experience of ‘ECT’ which she repeated on the main news on TG4, the Irish language TV channel.  MFI members Kevin Foley and Mary Maddock also spoke of their ‘ECT’ experiences on the widely-listened to ‘Talk to Joe’ national radio phone-in while MFI also received widespread publicity for its anti-‘ECT’ stance in a special ‘Comment’ feature in the prestigious Sunday Times.  Our website - mindfreedomireland.com – was revamped and upgraded and for this ‘MFI’ is grateful to Edith Lawlor who gave freely of her time and expertise.  MFI also lobbied politicians in support of the ‘Delete 59b’ (of the Mental Health Act, 2001) campaign against involuntary’ ECT’ organised by John McCarthy and doctors Pat Bracken and the late Michael Corry.


DR. MICHAEL CORRY.      It was with great sadness MFI learned of Michael’s death on February 22nd.  A rare psychiatrist of the greatest humanity, humility, passion and courage, MFI were represented at his funeral service.  MFI had been privileged to work with him in his anti-‘ECT’ campaign and to participate in the making of his documentary film ‘Soul Interrupted’ which formed an integral part of his 2006 Burlington Hotel Conference.


CONFERENCES.        It was most fitting then that ‘The Dr. Michael Corry Memorial Conference – Critical Positions on and Beyond Recovery’ was held in University College Cork in November.  Organised by The School of Nursing and The School of Applied Social Science, Michael had been a keynote speaker at the 2009 conference.  MFI members Greg White and Mary Maddock presented workshops at both conferences, the second of which included the launch of The Irish Forum for Critical Voices in Mental Health.  MFI also participated in The Institute of Health Sciences ‘Food and Mood’Conference in Dublin in September while in May, MFI had an information and educational stand at the three day International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership conference in Killarney. Earlier in May MFI had presented a talk at The Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA) PsychOut Conference in Toronto organised by an international committee of activists, graduate students and shock survivors led by campaigners Don Weitz, Bonnie Burstow and Shaindl Diamond where David Oaks, Director of MindFreedom International, was a keynote speaker.  MFI was also proud to participate in the ‘Stop Shocking Our Mothers and Grandmothers’ public protest in front of the legislative building in Toronto.


ELECTROSHOCK  PROTEST.    MFI organised its own 4th annual ELECTROSHOCK  public protest on The Grand Parade in Cork in June and continued the campaign with a Facebook Cause which, in the course of the year, received over 7,000 signatures.


FINANCE/EVENTS.    MFI operates on a shoestring.  We receive no assistance from any government body or organization.  We depend on occasional small donations from members/supporters and on various fund-raising events held from time to time.  MFI would like to express special gratitude to Pam Walsh (and Amy) for organising our ‘Swimathon’ in December and also to Keith and the staff at Carrigaline Court Leisure Centre for facilitating us.  Thanks to the fundraiser, MFI was in a position to commence work on an event which promises to be one of the highlights of 2011.  This was to extend an invitation to Robert Whitaker, award-winning American journalist and author of ‘Mad in America – Bad Science, Bad Medicine and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill’ and the recently published ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic – Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America’, to speak in Cork next February, to which he readily agreed.  He will be joined on the night by Dr. Terry Lynch, author of the best-selling ‘Beyond Prozac – Healing Mental Distress’ and longstanding outspoken critic of bio-psychiatry.  The event is due to take place at The Carrigaline Court Hotel at 7.30pm on Monday February 28th, 2011.  Admission will be free with donations at the door.  Other events during the year which MFI attended were The Mad Pride Day in Fitzgerald ‘s Park in June and a meeting with The Catherine McCauley School of Nursing in UCC in March to contribute to their review of the syllabus content for their psychiatric nursing programme.


CONNECTIONS.         In the course of the year, MFI maintained its links with fellow organisations overseas including The European Network of ex-Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (thanks to Debra Shulkes for an excellent Newsletter and mention of MFI), Psychrights and Patients Advocacy. MFI members Dorothy Krien and Martin Hynes linked up with Dr. Bryan McElroy and his Food Healing group which meets every Tuesday evening at the South Presentation Convent, Douglas Street, Cork.  MFI were honored to host Tina Minkowitz (World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry) in Cork in April.  MFI would also like to register our appreciation of the support and encouragement we receive from David Oaks and all on the Board of MindFreedom International and finally to express our great sadness at the passing last January of another friend Judi Chamberlain, a woman often affectionately described as The Grandmother of the Movement and author of ‘On Our Own’.


CONCLUSION.  In what was a trying year on many fronts in Ireland, MFI can look back at its record and be proud of its contribution.  Thanks to all our members, supporters and friends for all their efforts throughout the year.  Our focus for the future will be as before namely, to educate the public, to oppose forced treatment and to strive for humane and effective alternatives.  MFI is pleased to be part of the recently formed Critical Voices Network and looks forward to contributing to its evolution.  With a general election due early in the New Year, further opportunities should arise to promote our aim of a non-violent revolution in the ‘mental health’ system.



Jim  Maddock.

31st December, 2010.

Inspectors seek review of high use of sedatives in mental units


Are drugs replacing care in our mental health facilities? | 04/01/2011

CARL O'BRIEN, Chief reporter

MENTAL HEALTH inspectors have expressed concern over the high use of sedatives in psychiatric hospitals and have called for an “urgent review” of drug use in some facilities.

The inspector of Mental Health Services has found in some hospitals that as many as 80 per cent of long-term patients were being prescribed sedatives, also known as benzodiazepines.

Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs used to treat a range of conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and seizures. While they are considered safe for short-term use, the risk of overuse, abuse and dependence has been well documented.

Mental health campaigners also claim the drugs are being used to control the behaviour of vulnerable patients in the absence of access to activities, stimulation or therapeutic intervention.

Inspectors have been collecting detailed information on drug prescription patterns in mental health facilities for the first time. So far they have published reports for one-third of all mental health facilities inspected during 2010.

Of the 22 hospitals or care facilities visited, inspectors expressed concern over sedative use or called for an audit of drug-use in half of them.

Former inspector of mental hospitals Dr Dermot Walsh yesterday said he had long-standing concerns regarding the over-use of these drugs.

“The therapeutic misuse of benzodiazepines in medicine generally is a problem. These drugs are successful for short-term control of anxiety and so on, but should not be used in the medium or long term,” he said.

There are good practice guidelines – issued in 2002 by the Department of Health – but the inspector’s findings raise question marks as to whether they are being adequately implemented.

They state that the need for long-term prescribing should be reviewed regularly. It says “the only clinical justification for continuing use is dependence. Planned withdrawal from patients dependant on benzodiazepines should be considered”.

They also state that “attempts should be made to improve levels of mental stimulation and physical activity on long-stay wards”.

The inspectors’ reports so far show that benzodiazepines and night-time sedation is particularly high across a number of hospitals.

At St Joseph’s Hospital in Limerick, inspectors found 80 per cent of residents had a prescription for a benzodiazepine, many of whom were elderly. Over half were using them on a regular basis, prompting inspectors to recommend an “urgent review” of all drug use.

At An Coillin in Co Mayo, a 29-bed unit, inspectors found 78 per cent of patients on benzodiazepines, while 33 per cent were on more than one.

At St Edmundsbury Hospital, Co Dublin – a private facility – inspectors found high numbers of people on night sedation (82 per cent), as well as on benzodiazepines (73 per cent). Inspectors said these figures were “very high” and noted that medication sheets were of poor quality.

A previous report by the Mental Health Commission in 2009 raised concerns that patients at two psychiatric hospitals in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, were being inappropriately administered sedatives to control their behaviour.

It found a majority of residents at St Michael’s Unit, South Tipperary General Hospital, and St Luke’s Hospital, both in Clonmel, were receiving benzodiazepines on a long-term basis. This, inspectors said, appeared to be the result of a lack of activities and alternative treatment options.

These concerns have since been addressed by the Health Service Executive and no issues have arisen in more recent inspection reports.

John Saunders, director of the Shine support group for people affected by mental ill-health, said the high rate of benzodiazepine use tended to reflect under-staffing.

“Where you don’t have adequate staff, you have this kind of medication, but where there is sufficient staffing, adequate activities, there is far less reliance on medication.”

The Mental Health Commission has declined to comment until it has published all of its inspection reports.


  Mary Maddock, Nuria O Mahony and Orla O Donavan. Nuria O Mahony led the Irish campaign

  'We deserve to know the truth about prescription drugs'. 

 Letter to Joe in response to the above article.

 Dear Joe

While welcoming today's report on the overuse of sedatives in our psychiatric hospitals, MindFreedom Ireland would like to point out this is too little too late, having been common knowledge for decades.  What the report failed to mention was the evidence that SSRI's and neuroleptics are also overused with serious brain damage as a longterm effect. An Oireachtas report of 2006 highlighted the dangers of these drugs but received little media attention at the time.

Frequently the lack of spending on mental health is criticised but in fact when the cost of prescription drugs is taken into consideration, the figure is enormous. The debate should be about diverting this money to more effective and beneficial alternative methods of healing.

If you wish to discuss this matter on air my phone no. is 021 4894303

Yours sincerely,

Mary Maddock, Director, MindFreedom Ireland.