Lynch called on to explore causes of suicide

Suicide Aware, a Cork based voluntary organisation tackling the issues of mental health and suicide in Ireland, have launched a campaign in association with Cork’s Red FM and the Students’ Union of UCC and CIT.Emmet Curtin

News Posted on 13/09/2012 by Brian Hayes Curtin @BHayesCurtin

A mother whose son killed himself soon after starting a prescribed antidepressant has called on Cork TD Kathleen Lynch to investigate the link between psychiatric drugs and suicide.

Leonie Fennel had a meeting with Ms Lynch, the Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, Older People, Equality and Mental Health on 3 May. At the meeting, she and two healthcare professionals told the minister that antidepressants were causing vulnerable people to commit suicide and asked her to investigate the links.

“Professor David Healy told her that 'psychiatric drugs' were the leading cause of death within the mental health field,” according to Ms Fennel.

“Dr Gilsenan opined that the suicide statistics must be collated to determine if his suspicions were correct.

“They both offered their services to help in this regard. She has done nothing and has not contacted either. If she really cared about suicide victims and stopping future tragedies, she would have done something about this before now,” she added.

“I am extremely disappointed that Minister Lynch has done nothing to stop future deaths that will be caused by these dangerous drugs. She said she would talk to James Reilly in that regard.”

“It seems that a lot of suicides occur soon after people seek medical help and are prescribed psychiatric drugs.

“My son killed himself in 2009. The jury at his inquest decided to reject a suicide verdict because he had consumed the prescribed 'mind altering drug' Cipramil for 17 days.”

She said that a similar case occurred in Cork two years ago when Nicholas Maguire from Blackrock took his own life soon after taking anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs. 

“Drug induced death is the leading cause of death within the mental health field according to Prof. Healy,” she told the Cork Independent. 

Dr Declan Gilsenan described the situation as “an aberration that needs investigation”.

“It should be investigated. I’d like to see someone look at all suicide verdicts from coroners, see who had seen doctors and see what medication they had been on.

Dr Declan Gilsenan is a former assistant state pathologist with 30 years experience of carrying out post-mortems. He said that when he started conducting post-mortems in the midlands in the late 1970s there were five suicides a year, but that had ballooned to 25 – 30 suicides in 2008.

Ms Lynch was unavailable for comment. 

Pieta House

There were 65 people in Cork who took their lives in 2011, according to CSO stats. Pieta House is asking people to reach out within their communities and organise a fundraising event during Suicide Awareness Week which runs until 17 September.

Pieta House, the suicide and self-harm crisis centre, officially opened its doors in Lucan, Co. Dublin in January 2006. They are opening a centre in Cork early next year.

Fundraising packs are available at For further information and updates check

Suicide Aware

Suicide Aware, a Cork based voluntary organisation tackling the issues of mental health and suicide in Ireland, has launched a campaign in association with Cork’s Red FM and the Students’ Union of UCC and CIT. The initiative, aimed at students, urges people not to get left behind when on a night out.

According to Suicide Aware, extensive research into the incidence of suicide showed that almost 25 per cent suicides in 2009 – 2010 occurred when victims were separated from friends in a late night situation.

Donations to Suicide Aware can be made at the Suicide Aware Trust Account, Bank Of Ireland 32 South Mall, Cork. Sort Code 90-27-68 A/C No 27772561. Monday was World Suicide Prevention Day.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact Samaritans on  1850-609090  or seek help from a healthcare professional.

Dr. Thomas Szasz, Psychiatrist Who Led Movement Against His Field, Dies at 92


Published: September 11, 2012

Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist whose 1961 book “The Myth of Mental Illness” questioned the legitimacy of his field and provided the intellectual grounding for generations of critics, patient advocates and antipsychiatry activists, making enemies of many fellow doctors, died Saturday at his home in Manlius, N.Y. He was 92.

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Susan Kahn

Dr. Thomas Szasz in 2001.

He died after a fall, his daughter Dr. Margot Szasz Peters said.

Dr. Szasz (pronounced sahz) published his critique at a particularly vulnerable moment for psychiatry. With Freudian theorizing just beginning to fall out of favor, the field was trying to become more medically oriented and empirically based. Fresh from Freudian training himself, Dr. Szasz saw psychiatry’s medical foundation as shaky at best, and his book hammered away, placing the discipline “in the company of alchemy and astrology.”

The book became a sensation in mental health circles, as well as a bible for those who felt misused by the mental health system.

Dr. Szasz argued against coercive treatments, like involuntary confinement, and the use of psychiatric diagnoses in the courts, calling both practices unscientific and unethical. He was soon placed in the company of other prominent critics of psychiatry, including the Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman and the French philosopher Michel Foucault.

Edward Shorter, the author of “A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac” (1997), called Dr. Szasz “the biggest of the antipsychiatry intellectuals.”

“Together,” he added, “they tried their hardest to keep people away from psychiatric treatment on the grounds that if patients did not have actual brain disease, their only real difficulties were ‘problems in living.’ ”

This attack had some merit in the 1950s, Dr. Shorter said, but not later on, when the field began developing more scientific approaches.

To those skeptical of modern psychiatry, however, Dr. Szasz was a foundational figure.

“We did not agree on everything, like his view that there is no such thing as mental illness,” said Vera Hassner Sharav, president and founder of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, a patient advocacy group, and a longtime critic of the field. “But his message that people get designated as ill, labeled and then shafted out of society and preyed on by an industry dominated by drugs — that’s where he was very valuable.”

After making his name, Dr. Szasz only turned up the heat. From his base in the psychiatry department of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, he wrote hundreds of articles and more than 30 books, including “Ideology and Insanity: Essays on the Psychiatric Dehumanization of Man” (1970) and “Psychiatric Slavery: When Confinement and Coercion Masquerade as Cure” (1977).

In 1969, in a move that damaged his credibility even among allies, he joined with the Church of Scientology to found the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, which portrays the field as abusive and regularly pickets psychiatric meetings.

Dr. Szasz was not a Scientologist himself, and he later distanced himself from the church, but he shared the religion’s critical view of psychiatry. His provocations were not without cost. In the 1960s, New York mental health officials, outraged at his attacks on the state system, blocked Dr. Szasz from teaching at a state hospital where residents trained, according to two former colleagues. Dr. Szasz bristled but had little recourse, and his teaching was curtailed.

Dr. Szasz opposed the American Psychiatric Association’s broadening of its diagnoses in its new manual.

“For the record, I will say that I admired him, even though I think he was dead wrong about the nature of schizophrenia,” said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va., which supports stronger laws to ensure treatment of people with severe mental disorders. “But he made a major contribution to the issue of the misuse of psychiatry. His message is important today.”

Thomas Stephen Szasz was born in Budapest on April 15, 1920, the second child of Julius Szasz, a lawyer, and the former Lily Wellisch. The family moved to Cincinnati in 1938, where the boy became a star student. He earned a degree in physics from the University of Cincinnati and graduated from the university’s medical school in 1944.

After an internship and residency, he enrolled at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, earning his diploma in 1950. He worked at the Chicago institute and served in the United States Naval Reserve before joining the faculty of SUNY Upstate.

He wife, Rosine, died in 1971. Beside his daughter Dr. Peters, he is survived by another daughter, Suzy Szasz Palmer; a brother, George; and a grandson.

Dr. Szasz was widely sought after as a speaker and presented with dozens of national and international awards. Until the end of his life he continued to discuss psychotherapy, the practice he was trained to perform and of which he became so skeptical.

“The goal is to assume more responsibility and therefore gain more liberty and more control over one’s own life,” he said of talk therapy in an interview in 2000 with the Web site “The issues or questions for the patient become to what extent is he willing to recognize his evasions of responsibility, often expressed as ‘symptoms.’ ”


OPINION: I HAVE A PhD in science (in a non-medical field) that was based on the premise that progress is achieved by data-based proof. If I had a heart attack or a stroke my life would be in imminent danger to the extent that I would have no difficulty with the appropriate medical professionals acting in my best interests. This is because these are conditions that are easily empirically defined in ways that can very rarely be argued with.

However, this would not be the case if I found myself being involuntarily detained in a psychiatric hospital. Prof Aiden Corvin seems to think otherwise (Irish Times, July 31st). He argued that, “If you have a heart attack or stroke and are too incapacitated to consent, you will receive medical care using the ‘best interests’ principle. Many people with serious mental illness don’t believe that being admitted to hospital is in their best interest.”

The unstated assumption underlying this statement is that psychiatrists operate to the same standards as cardiac surgeons or stroke specialists.

This assumption is wishful thinking. Why? Because psychiatric diagnoses are based on the subjective interpretation of behaviour by third parties. A psychiatrist may be highly trained but their diagnosis is still subjective.

How often do they get it wrong? Unlike in most other areas of medicine, where misdiagnosis is taken seriously, nobody knows very much about the extent of it in psychiatry. It has been very poorly studied.

If I suffered a heart attack, lots of empirical data would be generated from an arsenal of equipment and this would largely inform the diagnosis and treatment.

Were I to survive it, I doubt very much that I would be anything other than eternally grateful to those who had saved me.

Imagine if, overnight, a third of the beds in cardiac or stroke units were closed? There would be an outcry. Heart attack and stroke victims would be left to die on the streets, in front of our eyes. Yet something very similar to this occurred in psychiatry in Ireland in 2006 and nobody blinked.

With the introduction of the Mental Health Act that year, involuntary detentions in psychiatric hospitals were reduced by a third. Our national body of psychiatrists was opposed to this legislation, but there is not a shred of evidence to show that patient outcomes were any worse because of it.

It can be inferred from this that, before the introduction of this law, at least a third of those who were incarcerated did not need to be.

Any suggestion that psychiatry is just like any other branch of medicine collapses when this is considered. And the argument that these decisions are always made in the patients’ best interests collapses with it.

Thankfully, I have never had a heart attack, or a stroke. But three years ago I was involuntarily detained in a psychiatric hospital in another jurisdiction, at the hands of mainstream psychiatrists.

My incarceration was by far the most barbaric, dehumanising and debasing experience of my life. The distress that caused this was hugely exacerbated by the experience, rather than relieved. This, it seems to me, was because those responsible for what I was subjected to believed that they were scientists.

Once there I became a faulty object in need of treatment. Not a cure. According to them I had an incurable “disease” that they, and they alone, were entrusted to “treat” – one that I would be afflicted with for the rest of my life, apparently in the same way as if I had suffered a heart attack or a stroke.

However, unlike any other established medical profession, they had no empirical test results to back this up with. Not a single one.

Even more extraordinary, compared to any other profession on earth, they could incarcerate me for as long as they deemed necessary until I agreed with their point of view.

To have done so would have broken my spirit, a not uncommon occurrence in psychiatric patients. After human beings become enmeshed in the mental health system many emerge as shadows. Luckily for me I escaped and got back home before this occurred.

I know what my heart is and, indeed, other organs in my body. But what exactly is the human spirit? What is the soul (psychiatry means the healing of the mind or soul)?

Great minds have considered these questions for millennia and we are still unable to define what these qualities are, even though they are so essential to defining what it is to be human.

The scientific method fails us when we enter these domains. It can, at best, only scratch the surface of these things.

This is why psychiatry is not a science. Psychiatrists who believe otherwise are deluding themselves.

The way forward is to recognise and acknowledge this. As consultant psychiatrist Dr Pat Bracken has pointed out (Irish Times, July 6th), it includes introducing far more checks and balances to protect patients.

Psychiatry has far too much power and we all know what that does. A good psychiatrist can be a life-saver, but bad ones are killers of that elusive, but core, quality of what it is to be human: the spirit. As a profession it needs to be knocked off its pedestal, reformed and humbled.

I had a lucky escape from the spirit-killing hands of mainstream psychiatrists three years ago. According to the scientific method that mainstream psychiatrists slavishly adhere to, since the human spirit cannot be measured, it does not exist.

They have forgotten that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Consequently, psychiatry has become desensitised, worshipping at the altar of science to the extent that it has lost its way and can treat people as mere faulty objects with chemically imbalanced brains.

This is an unproven hypothesis and, although it has been good for psychiatry, it has not been good for its patients.

According to Prof David Healy of Cardiff University school of medicine (based on international studies over the past half-century) compulsory detention for mental illness has risen threefold, admissions for serious mental illness have risen sevenfold, admissions overall have risen 15-fold, suicide rates among those with schizophrenia have gone up 20-fold, and diseases such as diabetes have increased exponentially among those who are mentally ill. There has also been a dramatic drop in life expectancy in people with a mental illness in the US. This is the bigger picture, and a very disturbing one.

In Ireland more than 800 people subscribe to the Critical Voices Network. The opposite to this organisation (which is seeking changes in Ireland’s mental health system) – let’s call it the “Leave psychiatry alone it’s doing a great job network” – does not exist. But then shadows are generally quiet, unobtrusive and docile. I count myself very lucky not to be one.

Dr Ciarán Crummey is on the board of the National Service Users Executive and is active in other areas of mental health, including with Amnesty, the College of Psychiatry and the HSE. He has written this article in a personal capacity.

Letter to the Pat Kenny show: Dear Myles/Pat, Bio psychiatrists like Veronica O' Keane believe that 'mental illness' is a disease. Yet, and I quote from another psychiatrist Dr Thomas Szasz from his book 'Insanity' who says " Psychiatry insists that schizophrenia and manic-depressive psychosis are brain diseases. Textbooks of pathology describe and discuss all known bodily diseases, including brain diseases. Accordingly, one way to verify whether schizophrenia and manic-depressive psychosis are brain diseases is to see what the authors of textbooks of pathology say about them. Well, the answer is that they do not say anything at all about these alleged diseases: they do not mention them, as the simply do not recognise mental illnesses as (bodily) diseases." Isn't it interesting then than I heard Professor O' Keane say that Dr Pat Bracken was unscientific when he dared to question the biomedical model on your programme. Yes, " doctors differ and patients die." When people are in distress they are not worried about science. They need love and kindness. They need to be encouraged to find and love themselves again or even maybe for the first time! I know Dr Pat Bracken to be a man who listens to others with a open mind. He values the opinion of those who have experience of bio psychiatry and have not found it helpful. He knows there needs to be a change of mindset. After the second Vatican council the church eventually began to value the opinion of the laity but because of their hierarchical structure even they continue after nearly 50 years to struggle with this and we are witnessing the consequences today. Where there is equality, there is love and healing. If the person who wants to help and the person who needs help are equal, they will support each other and find positive solutions. Yours sincerely, Mary Maddock, MindFreedom Ireland

Psychiatric survivor activist and author Mary Maddock, co-founder of MindFreedom Ireland, may get one of the last words in a debate in one of Ireland's main newspapers about the psychiatric industry. Mary had a letter published about her personal decision to successfully quit psychiatric drugs. Said Mary, "It is very difficult to get a letter published in the Irish Times. I couldn't believe they even included MindFreedom Ireland!"

Debate About Mental Health in Irish Times: Mary Maddock May Get a Last Word

Date Published:

Aug 03, 2012 12:00 AM

Author: Mary Maddock, MindFreedom Ireland

Source: Irish Times

3 August 2012 

Psychiatric Survivor Leader Joins Debate in Irish Times about Psychiatric System

CORK, IRELAND: Looks like MindFreedom Ireland co-founder Mary Maddock of Cork, Ireland (right) may get one of the last words today in a debate that has played out about the mental health system in the pages of the influential newspaper, Irish Times. Mary shows us all, once more, the power of a letter to the editor. 

The debate started on 6 July 2012, with a provocative opinion piece in the Irish Times by psychiatrist Pat Bracken, who supported empowerment in the mental health system, and was highly critical of the current mental health industry approach, such as unscientific over-drugging and forced electroshock:

On 31 July 2012, psychiatrist Aiden Corvin replied, pretty much endorsing the current mental health system:

On 3 August 2012, our own Mary Maddock, co-founder of MindFreedom Ireland and MFI board member, weighed in with the BELOW letter-to-the-editor, and you can find the original here:

Text of Mary's letter:

The Irish Times - Friday, August 3, 2012

Dealing with mental health

Sir, – In response to Aiden Corvin’s article (Opinion, July 31st). I am an example of a person who would be dead today if I did not eventually become drug free and see through the fact that psychotropic drugs were causing my problems. I was diagnosed “bi-polar”. It is very clear to me now with 20/20 vision that the drugs did indeed cause the very problems many psychiatrists were trying to alleviate. They all would sing from the same hymn sheet as Mr Corvin. 

I am in touch, through various groups and websites, with many people worldwide with similar stories. Renowned author Robert Whitaker has compiled the data and evidence in his book Anatomy of an Epidemic that it is psychotropic drugs which shorten people’s lives not the fictitious, non-scientific diagnoses many of us have received

The solution is found in facing up to the truth and providing people help to help themselves if that is their choice

"Of all Tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive." – CS Lewis. – 

Yours, etc,


MindFreedom Ireland,

Thornbury Heights,