Welcome to The Loony Bin

Dr David Bell, a retired psychiatrist, has written an engrossing account of events during the half century that he spent in the psychiatric services of New South Wales. A highly informative and moving account of some scandals in the mental health services and some of the efforts to improve them, written by a caring doctor committed to the welfare of patients in care.

The story began at Callan Park Hospital in the 1950s (now Rozelle Hospital) and Dr Bell’s first encounter with the charismatic and ultimately criminal Harry Bailey who achieved notoriety with the deaths of several patients in his Chelmsford Deep Sleep clinic.

Before he left the Department of Health to go into private practice he designed a comprehensive drug treatment system including provisions for diversion from the criminal justice system into treatment, an innovation that was introduced three decades later after the NSW Drug Summit in 2003.

Much of Dr Bell’s career was spent in court providing professional evidence on compensation cases, an experience which did not improve his opinion of the court system, the legal profession and the medical profession.

He also became involved in the RSI epidemic and helped to end the scam.

CONTENTS
FOREWORD
CHAPTER 1: THE ASYLUM
CALLAN PARK, THE BAILEY YEARS, ROYAL COMMISSION
CHAPTER 2: LIBERATING THE INSANE
THE SPLIT MIND, THE MAN IN THE GREEN HAT, TOXINS, SERUMS AND BAD MOTHERS
SHOCK AND COMA THERAPY
CHAPTER 3: BETWEEN BODY AND MIND
LONDON, PURGATORY, GROUP THERAPY, A REMARKABLE BOND
CHAPTER 4: ADDICTION
ADDICTION VS DEPENDENCE, THE SPREAD OF ADDICTION, MANAGING ADDICTION
CHAPTER 5: STIRRING LAW
THE DEMEANOUR DELUSION, DEEP SLEEP THERAPY ON TRIAL, THE DISADVANTAGE OF INNOCENCE, FORENSIC MALPRACTICE
CHAPTER 6: NEUROPSYCHIATRY IN COURT
A CASE OF REAL BRAIN DAMAGE, NEUROLEPTIC TOXICITY, A CASE OF MEDICAL POISONING
CHAPTER 7: MALINGERING
SIMULATED ILLNESS, HYSTERIA, MALINGERING, TRIAL BY VIDEO, MUNCHAUSEN’S SYNDROME
CHAPTER 8: EPIDEMIC PSEUDO-ILLNESS
REPETITIVE STRAIN INJURY, THE MAKING OF A PSEUDO-ILLNESS, PAIN
CHAPTER 9: THE STRESS MESS
CYCLE OF BELIEF, THE MENTAL RESPONSE TO CATASTROPHE, THE MAGIC OF NAMES, UNRELIABLE MEMORY
CHAPTER 10: CONSEQUENCES
HOW TO CREATE AN EPIDEMIC, A MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR SERIES, TREATMENT AS ENTERPRISE
CHAPTER 11: THE BREATH OF LIFE
CASE HISTORY: CONSTABLE JONES, THE HYPERVENTILATION DISORDER, A BRIEF HISTORY OF PANIC, SOLDIER’S HEART
CHAPTER 12: DEPRESSION
HEALTH OR ILLNESS? A CASE OF DEPRESSIVE PSYCHOSIS, MANIC-DEPRESSIVE PSYCHOSIS, SEARCHING FOR THE SILVER BULLET, ANTIDEPRESSANTS
CHAPTER 13: BIG PHARMA
MILTOWN, BENZOS AND MANY OTHERS, ANTICONVULSANTS, PHARMACOGENETIC VULNERABILITY, THE MEDICALISATION OF ADVERSITY, SUPERSENSITIVITY PSYCHOSIS
CHAPTER 14: MASTERY
THE LEGAL ARENA FROM FRYE TO DAUBERT, FALSIFIABILITY, SOLUTIONS, EPILOGUE, MEME TYRANNY, NATURE’S SOLUTION

DAVID BELL explores failures of Medicine and the Law to expose false, but treasured,beliefs. He describes the mythology that developed around epidemics of witchcraft and pseudo-illness, through the mass hysteria of repetitive strain injury (RSI), to the still popular post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The complaints promoted by a health and legal disaster-based industry contrast with the sad products of genuine disasters. The promotion of pseudo-illness by psychiatrists, the courts, media and the public seems unstoppable until the epidemic becomes as ludicrous as it is intolerable.

Psychiatry, despite its occasional success, comes off badly in this analysis. The failure to employ logic either in its diagnostics (DSMs) or its therapies (counselling, electrotherapy, sleep therapy, psychoactive drugs and psychosurgery) are well covered. The problems, and sometimes the solutions, are illustrated by the many detailed and fascinating case histories. The Law does a little better even though no less illogically. Too often prejudice determines the outcome of innocence or guilt.

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70 Responses to Welcome to The Loony Bin

  1. Tintarella di Luna

    Hi POR

    If only Callan Park were STILL Rozelle Hospital they closed that magnificent site purpose built by a rudimentary colonial government in 1874 after the Master in Lunacy had travelled the world tasked by Sir Henry Parkes to build the best and most up-to-date mental health facility for the mentally ill of NSW. That’s what a rudimentary government did.

    What the modern NSW rootermentary Labor government over 16 years did was diminish by neglect and disrepair the magnificent health-giving site which is still today gone to rack and ruin with the modern building built in the 1990s by Peter Collins when he was health minister. As my sister said back in 2004 when she high-jacked Peter Debenhem’s press conference at the site (the other bastard never showed their faces for her to metaphorically spit in them) she said to the reporters: Look around you bit by bit and stone by stone you see the crumbling debacle that is mental health don’t-care in NSW”

    I will be buying Dr Bell’s book in fact two one for me and one for my sister.

    As for the Chelmsford Hospital/Deep Sleep Therapy travesty – the NSW Health Department knew all along what was going on — 31 healthy people died at Chelmsford Private Hospital they’d gone in for treatment of depression, 31 one people. The Sunbather ran the case of Hart -v- Herron where John Herron (Partner of the infamous and disgraced Harry Bailey) in a civil action against Herron — Ted St John was the barrister — it took 6 months but a victory in that case and the rolling and shocking stories that came out of that case saw the establishment of the Chelmsford Royal Commission — big fat hairy deal — nothing has effing well changed.

    Why? because mental illness is not treated like other illnesses, it’s still regarded as an illegitimate illness. Why else would a health system today release people at a point in their illness when 20 years ago they would be urgently admitted.

    Dr Jean Lennane was a terrier on this issue, she head of Mental Health at Callan Park/Rozelle was sacked by the then NSW government because she spoke out about the disgraceful cut-backs and lack of care for the mentally ill patients in NSW. I’ll stop now I’m high on lack of sleep.

  2. Tintarella di Luna

    Rozelle Hospital was closed on the 30th of April, 2008 on the same day when headlines in the SMH were shouting things like ” Nurses attacked in accident and emergency at Randwick Hospital” – thank you very much Morris Iemma. I was part of a fledgling group calling itself the Health Action Party and they had a die-in outside Iemma’s electoral office everyone in bandages daubed in conchineal and lying around the footpaths — very effective but of course the media with the attention-span of a gnat moves on.

    What replaced Rozelle Hospital? Well of course a “state-of-the-art” facility was built on the fringes of our city out in the boondocks where you can’t get transport – the place looks like a Stalag very little therapeutic green space for walking and peaceful respite – another quote of my dear sister was — “people with mental illness need hope but all they get is spin” –

  3. Dan

    You should mention it is a free e-book (so it appears at the link)

  4. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    My Sainted Mother was in and out of Rozelle hospital for long stays; it did her good and she liked it. There used to be a little bridge over a pond. I recall sitting together with her on a bench nearby, just holding her hand while she looked bleakly across to it; she seemed to get some comfort there.

    I used to call the gardens ‘The Land of the Lost’.

    Put your head down for ten whenever you can today, Tinta. I got six hours, which wasn’t too bad. We are all due to take a commercial (thus safe) boat trip where I can secretly close my eyes for a bit, looking out, while Da Hairy Ape is severely delegated to keep his eye on the children. Little tricks.

  5. Rafe

    The ebook is a “Beta” version, to be improved and published as a paper book. I will suggest that the Amazon ebook may be the way to go.

  6. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    The book, of course, sounds like a ‘must read’, Rafe.

  7. stackja

    Mention of Callan Park Hospital reminds me of Gladesville Hospital. Also how much of the violence of today is because of mental issues.

    Waterlow killings inquest sparks calls for reform to NSW Mental Health Act

  8. kae

    Up here they booted out all the patients in the 80s and have turned one mental health facility into a University campus.

    The nuts ARE running the asylum up here, and have been for some time!

  9. westie woman

    Remember the Richmond Report? The recommendations in that report covered closing mental health institutions and slowly and replacing them with vast networks of community care?

    The community care facilities are still woeful, many years after the implementation of the Richmond Report

    Prison wards are now full of people who would in past times be treated in a real hospital such as Gladesville or Callan Park

    If someone has private health insurance, that person can have great treatment at a number of private clinics, however most of these clinics do not accept patients in the acute stages of severe mental illness such as schizophrenia

    So even a person with private health insurance is still stuck trying to get acute care in a public hospital – and as mental illness is not fashionable at any time the public hospital system is usually overwhelmed by the demand because the facilities and specialised staff are just not enough to cope with the demand

    It’s a dreadful situation and unless you have someone close to you who has a severe mental illness, or you are a health professional you would never know about how bad things are

    As far as I know there is not a special widely publicised ribbon day for mental health awareness – too much stigma attached to mental illness

  10. Billy the Kidder

    Kae, they’ve done the same in Melbourne. Closed down a multi hospital site and sold off the land for (expensive) housing development and university campus extension (LaTrobe, which IMHO already had plenty of space).

    My mother was a nurse in one of the hospitals and I still remember the lovely collegiate atmosphere that whole property had with wide open spaces, trees and lawns.

    The government at the time couldn’t resist a quick $$$ so when the post modern psychosocial leftards came along telling them that mental illness was just a different form of reality and that treatment was best done in the community, the place was shut down and now we have the mentally ill causing havoc in society as a result.

  11. Paul

    You are absolutely right Tintarella. Where I am the Mental Health Unit is treated as a bizarre offshoot of mainstream medicine that no-one wants to talk about. Patients are in effect “warehoused” until the overflow means they physically can’t keep them in any longer, even after boarding them out on general wards (which can become ugly quickly for the non-psych nurses). The bulk of the patient population is there because of drug use (mostly marijuana that we are old told is so safe and should be legal), and the door just revolves because the resources needed for any kind of effective treatment are now just too great so it doesn’t happen. Maybe if all proceeds from drug busts were directed this way? Staff are ineffective therapeutically because they are so hamstrung now by paperwork, most of which has been generated by the legal potential liability industry and the demands of political operators. I still recall the Victorian Government closing the Union-strangled institutions, sanctimoniously proclaiming that some kind of liberation was occurring when in fact they were really signalling that Mental Health was going to be cut adrift and allowed to whither because of the desire for savings. It fell to Police and Corrections to pick up the pieces of course. As usual, every other State watched and copied, like they did Victoria’s lead on speed cameras. Its only ever about the money.

  12. Alfonso

    Psychiatry washes its hands of its history of ineffective repetitively unscientific industry advancing hubris. Comes up fresh, innocent and competent each new day.

  13. Paul

    I know the place you mean Billy. I worked in one of the Hospitals there, and even went to Tech School next door to the place.

  14. Tintarella di Luna

    Well of course they booted out the patients from the hospitals which were of course on waterfront locations because they were not allowed to be transported by land. Then latching onto the human rights movement that swept the world, no-one could be seen to have their rights infringed including the right to the proper care when they were insane at the time.

    So in effect by emptying out the hospitals under Richmond those beautiful tracts of very valuable land could be freed up for the real estate. Half of Gladesville is given over to an estate with six figure price tags – and then everyone was equal and everyone had the right to sleep under a bridge if that is what they wanted.

  15. Tintarella di Luna

    There used to be a little bridge over a pond.

    Lizzie I know that little bridge very well and it’s still there. Perhaps we could meet there one day in dark glasses and trenchcoats.

    Many people in the past spent time at that healing place. The way the advocates talk about it it is as though everyone/anyone who went in never came out. In the 1990s it was admitting and discharging thousands of people however, there were people whose illness was incurable, but unlike the body which eventually gives out the mind is a different prospect altogether. There were old soldiers from WWII who were still on the site in their late 80s and they wanted to kick them off the site as if they were some kind of vase that could be put anywhere. The inhumanity of man to man is beyond imagination, actually no, it holds true there is nothing new under the sun. It’s all be done before, it’s just that it keeps being done.

    My nephew spent much time at Rozelle, it’s the only place where he was healing — he is still very very ill and improvements are incremental but there are improvements so the abandon all hope has never been in contemplation.

  16. Tintarella di Luna

    Up here they booted out all the patients in the 80s and have turned one mental health facility into a University campus.

    Well fancy that – at Callan Park the magnificent old sandstone building built in the early 1870s have been re-furbished for…? The Sydney College of the Arts, the Writers Centre and various other educational and health NGOS and QUANGOs are on the site too. But of course the mentally ill are in the Staglag on the fringe of town.

  17. Walter Plinge

    The old mental asylums were often far from ideal but they served a worthwhile purpose. When the fad for closing then and integrating the mentally ill into the community the inevitable and predictable result was that the police became de-facto mental health workers. The afflicated frequently forgot or refused to medicate and the result they became involved in crime, ranging from having your underwear stolen off the line, to arson and more serious. The police merely recycled them through the criminal justice system, a waste of time and resources. They clog up emergency departments too.

    I was very familiar with this and it’s one reason I didn’t renew my department of justice accreditation in this area, after 20 years. I tired of having my time wasted too.

    The police term for these clients is, incidentally, ’nuffies’. No need to spell it out.

  18. Vicki

    The inimitable Theodore Dalrymple has written, in his usual pithy style, a wonderful critique of modern day psychiatric practice in the 2013 Autumn edition of City Journal (vol 23, No 4): “Everyone on the couch: Today’s psychiatry undermines self-reliance and morality”.

  19. Lem

    Great read, Rafe, I am partway into the ebook already. Highly recommended.

  20. Rabz

    My old man used to rail long and loud about the diabolical outcomes that would inevitably occur following the implementation of the recommendations of the Richmond Report.

    He was of course, completely correct.

    P.S. Callan Park is a magnificent site and it’s been interesting watching NSW pollies attempting to pull off any number of dodgy development deals in order to ‘redevelop’ the site. However, not to fear, it’s protected by an extremely vocal and well connected group of NIMBYs. Incidentally, we used to play cricket there on a Saturday, back in the early nineties, there were three ovals on the site, two with magnificent harbour vistas.

  21. blind freddy

    Rafe
    Thankyou for the reference
    As a medical graduate of the 60,s , I well record and identify , with Dr Bell,s account.
    I copped out of the arguments , by pursuing physical medicine—surgery!

  22. e-girl

    Most psychiatrists forget that they are medical doctors and utterly neglect any attention to physical methods of investigation and diagnosis, but perhaps they should look at those things.

    I was admitted for a manic episode, apparently ‘not on this planet’ according to my doctor (who never told me which planet I was on). Sure I’ve had a lifelong tendency toward feeling either melancholy and at times depressed, or like the Energiser Bunny, but not usually to a point where it causes a problem. It turns out that there was an oddity about my thyroid test results (amazingly, the shrink checked) which wasn’t dramatic, but which could have been the thing the tipped me over. So, now I avoid certain things and the situation hasn’t recurred.

    Someone on my Farcebook feed seems to have an obsessive interest in research linking behaviour and biochemistry, and it really does seem that there are many things that can cause mental disorders which no one every thinks to check for.

    I have a couple of questions. Firstly, why not use some of the older medications which really did work (such as lithium) rather than – oh silly me, they’re out of patent, cheap and no inducements.

    Secondly, why the proliferation of ‘disorders’ in the DSM? Technically, most of us have at least one, and I’m sure the addition of ODD (oxygen dependency disorder, featuring panic upon deprivation of it) to DSM VI will finally include all of humanity. It seems to me that much of the DSM concerns foibles and eccentricities rather than illnesses, if for no other reason that they don’t affect the ability of people to function. Normal human emotions, such as grief and frustration, are turned into trendy problems, especially when bogus statistics, those about depression, are used to turn them into the cause of the week, replete with public money being lavished upon them. (Again, silly me, the promotion of a no-fault society is the dream of the control freaks.)

    Meanwhile, support for the really serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, is diminished and no politician seems to want to so much as mention those problems or the people who endure them.

  23. stackja

    westie woman
    #1147196, posted on January 12, 2014 at 9:50 am
    Remember the Richmond Report?

    Yes!
    Gladesville Hospital was closed and the patient moved to public housing.
    I know one person with a mental problem. I believe the person is getting some help but probably not like the previous system.

  24. cohenite

    The good doc should cast his perceptive analysis to the psychology of AGW; he is already on track with chapter 10:

    CHAPTER 10: CONSEQUENCES
    HOW TO CREATE AN EPIDEMIC, A MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR SERIES, TREATMENT AS ENTERPRISE

  25. Jim Rose

    Is this guy another of the myth of mental illness crowd?

  26. Lem

    Jim, no, in short. It is an amazing memoir. The story of the incompetent neurosurgeon page 56 and Bell’s attempts at whistleblowing sounds so familiar to anyone in medicine it is spooky. These days they make incompetent guys like that associate professors!

  27. People who talk about the ‘myth of mental illness crowd’ usually have not read Thomas Szasz. I don’t blame them; much of the book The Myth of Mental Illness was largely unreadable with its overemphasis on semioitics.

    The earlier essay by Szasz that inspired the book is far, far better reading, and in this I think Szasz has made some very salient points. He was way ahead of his time.

  28. lem

    Very interesting essay, Philippa. With more than a nubbin of truth. The only problem is that it was written in 1960, and whilst at that time many mental illnesses had no KNOWN cause, as time goes along I suspect that will change, indeed it has. But he is right in saying that much of what passes for “mental illness” is really the distress of life’s arrrows.

    Psychosis however, I am sure he would agree is a different thing. Anyway, back to Bell’s memoir!

  29. I am the Walrus, koo koo k'choo

    P.S. Callan Park is a magnificent site and it’s been interesting watching NSW pollies attempting to pull off any number of dodgy development deals in order to ‘redevelop’ the site. However, not to fear, it’s protected by an extremely vocal and well connected group of NIMBYs. Incidentally, we used to play cricket there on a Saturday, back in the early nineties, there were three ovals on the site, two with magnificent harbour vistas.

    Agreed Rabz.

    Played there in the mid-to-late 90s. Most picturesque grounds I’ve ever played on.

    Completely missed by the yobbos I used to call team-mates LOL

  30. lem, I don’t agree. I don’t think we are really any closer to discovering the aetiology of many ‘mental illnesses’.

    We know more about apparent aggravating factors for psychosis in schizophrenia from large population-based studies. These have turned up possible links with drug use, migration, stress, pre-natal experiences, low birth weight, and a possible genetic link (which gets seems to get smaller with every large population-based study!)

    But as to the actual causes – we’re still very much in the dark. (I’ve spent most of the last six years working at a research centre specialising in exactly this, and the more we learn nationally and internationally, the more we realise we know very, very little about it all).

    We still can’t predict reliably who will develop psychosis and who won’t, although we can be very certain after the fact. This is why ‘early intervention’ programs that try to get people before they become psychotic are a waste of time and money. Treating people experiencing early psychosis – regardless of Patrick McGorry’s high media profile – may also be a no-brainer. Professor David Castle has been very critical of this, and he’s got the data to back him up.

    One of the more interesting theories about the cause of much depression is that it’s an immunological response to a low-grade physical illness. Michael Maes is a major proponent of this school of thought.

  31. But he is right in saying that much of what passes for “mental illness” is really the distress of life’s arrrows.

    Yes, absolutely. ‘Problems in living’. That simple phrase sums up a huge range of factors, and it does answer a lot of nagging questions.

    But ‘problems in living’ need to be addressed in a much more painful way than just giving someone a drug. The drug route is quicker, cheaper and easier for all concerned, and if it’s tied to disability benefits, it’s also profitable for all concerned.

    If we re-thought the system and tied disability benefits to a clear program of recovery/rehabilitation that faced ‘problems in living’ honestly and coached the person to develop the necessary resilience to manage or even eliminate these problems, we might get better results.

    I’m not saying anything new here; in WA the organisation Ruah recently produced a very helpful guide that offered different approaches to recovery, called Secret Squirrel Business. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.

    I forgot to mention – sleep deprivation is a huge and easily overlooked factor in the possible aetiology of ‘mental illnesses’ like psychosis/schizophrenia and depression. Sleep disturbance is very common in the early stages, and if you treat the sleep disturbance, you can often forestall the development of further problems.

  32. lem

    Well, Philippa, one things for sure in brain research, it is bloody difficult to take the things out, poke around in them, then put them back again! Yes, you are right, we have little real knowledge of aetiology, my natural optomism in the future has gotten ahead of me again.

    It’s not a bad personality trait, all things considered…

  33. Jim Rose

    see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Szasz#Criticism for a nice summary of why szasz is out of date.

    the difference between extreme preferences and mental disorder is not sharp as bryan caplan has shown.

    Szasz over played is hand is focusing on lesions as his standard for a disease.

    the ability of the state of administer mental health laws is separate from whether there are mental illnesses.

  34. candy

    It is bloody difficult to take the things out, poke around in them, then put them back again!

    Well, the neurosurgeons did try frontal lobotomies for a while, apparently, so they did poke around in them.

  35. Szasz over played is hand is focusing on lesions as his standard for a disease.

    Yes. That’s because he was writing in the 1960s. But what he’s NOT wrong about is the option of ‘problems in living’ as a very reasonable explanation for many purported ‘mental illness’ diagnoses that distort our data collection.

    the ability of the state of administer mental health laws is separate from whether there are mental illnesses.

    Can the state really decide who is sane, and who isn’t? Do you think they should have that power?

  36. Jim Rose

    I agree that many people have prolbems with living rather than disorders, but as Still tilting at windmills Commentary on… The myth of mental illness by Edward Shorter 2011 shows at http://pb.rcpsych.org/content/35/5/183.full that ‘there are solid biological findings in psychiatry’.

  37. I have visited and read both your links.

    In the first piece, Edward Shorter has simply indicated that medical science has made some advances in medical knowledge since the 1960s. I won’t dispute that. But he hasn’t actually proved anything about the causes of ‘mental illness’:

    “Several psychiatric disorders do indeed have a brain basis. Melancholic depression may not be caused by a dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis but HPA dysregulation reliably accompanies melancholia.”

    Yes. Depression and schizophrenia may show accompanying brain changes. But this doesn’t prove causality.

    In fact, Norman Doidge has had excellent results by reversing the equation and arguing that emotional regulation can and does produce changes in the physical brain. He’s used this successfully with PTSD, strokes and other conditions, and it offers great hope for developing really effective non-drug therapies for confusing disorders like schizophrenia. I’d strongly recommend you and anyone else interested in this topic read his book The Brain That Changes Itself.

    The second link you provided is an article which rehashes a critique by Clarke, but I think you missed two key points in the conclusion:

    Szasz’s key arguments can be found in his considerable body of writing from the past 50 years. Like many other critics Clarke established his critique upon what he believed Szasz had said, or what he thought Szasz meant or intended, rather than upon actual cited work, revealing more about Clarke, his values and beliefs, than Szasz or his work.

    If the human community could seriously address the origins, meaning and significance of the problems in living variously diagnosed as ‘mental illness’, then it might begin to explore some serious alternatives to the history of obfuscation, colonialism and paternalism, associated with traditional psychiatry. We, the people, deserve such an alternative. Szasz has, for over 50 years, signalled that
    alternative.

    Clarke’s views may be interesting, but we hope that readers would consult the primary sources (http://www.szasz.com) and make their own decisions as to the validity and value of Szasz’s writing for contemporary society and their chosen discipline.

    The article is actually highly favourable to Szasz on the whole.

    I heartily agree.

  38. Jim Rose

    thanks for your long and consider post. dinner time. I will get back to you.

  39. No worries, Jim. I am well aware of the critiques of Szasz, so you’re not telling me anything I don’t already know, and as I said, I think the book he wrote is almost unreadable.

    But the essay hit on some very telling points – the problem-in-living question, as well as the hand-in-glove relationship of medicine, higher education, drug companies, and hospital management and funding – and they haven’t yet been disproven by anyone. I think this is because they are fundamentally correct.

    But DO go and look at Norman Doidge’s work - it’s amazing.

  40. one old bruce

    Meanwhile in France, present time:

    ‘Only about 20 percent of autistic children in France attend school, with most remaining at home or placed in psychiatric hospitals where they can be subjected to abusive treatment including a “therapy” called “Le Packing,” which involves wrapping children in refrigerated wet towels while psychiatrically-trained staff talk to them about their feelings.

    … mothers of autistic children in France feel no choice but to accept a psychiatric disgnosis for a child out of fear of losing social services. “If you refuse psychoanalysis for your child, they say: ‘You’re refusing care,’ and they can put the kid in an asylum if they want,” Robert explained.’

    http://www.care2.com/causes/autism-in-france.html

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17583123

    http://shamefuldocumentary.com/about.html

  41. one old bruce

    I should mention I’ve worked in a NSW school where maybe a third of students are autistic and they were treated with dignity, not as ‘patients’ but as students like other young people of similar age, working closely with parents to improve their skills where possible. I am almost as contemptuous of American claims of ‘cures’ as I am of the French Freudian nonsense.

  42. … mothers of autistic children in France feel no choice but to accept a psychiatric disgnosis for a child out of fear of losing social services.

    Whereas if you could pay for it yourself, this problem would vanish.

    We had the reverse situation here with a centre called L.E.A.R.N., in East Fremantle, where the State government twice offered them funding via the Disability Services Commission. Some of LEARN’s techniques are unorthodox but effective, but state funding – and state OSH and other regulations – would have probably put a stop to this.

    So the centre closed due to lack of funds. I believe it then secured some kind of private funding and reopened a couple of weeks later.

  43. working closely with parents to improve their skills where possible

    Yes. Genuinely person-centred care, based on an individual’s own strengths and weaknesses. One size usually doesn’t fit all.

  44. one old bruce

    “Whereas if you could pay for it yourself, this problem would vanish.”

    Hmmm, the Americans fall for a lot of snake-oil quackery though Phillipa. Out of the frying pan…

  45. one old bruce

    Sorry: Philippa.

  46. Hmmm, the Americans fall for a lot of snake-oil quackery though Phillipa. Out of the frying pan…

    But if they’re choosing to pay for it themselves, is there a problem?

    What I object to is being asked, as a taxpayer, to subsidise other people’s snake-oil choices, like those poor French women and their autistic kids.

    And anyway, who decides what’s the snake-oil, and what isn’t? There’s no consensus on treatments for autism or for a host of other puzzling conditions, even within the medical fraternity.

  47. Rabz

    a “therapy” called “Le Packing,” which involves wrapping children in refrigerated wet towels while psychiatrically-trained staff talk to them about their feelings.

    :x

  48. a “therapy” called “Le Packing,” which involves wrapping children in refrigerated wet towels while psychiatrically-trained staff talk to them about their feelings.

    Sometimes quite unconventional therapies can work wonders with autism. Wet towels can and have been used to help children learn better body coordination, eg. they have to ‘fight’ against the heavy feeling of the wet towel to ‘escape’ and obtain a reward.

    As it is – and if these allegations are correct - I’d like to wrap the staff in refrigerated wet towels and ask them how it felt.

  49. candy

    Le Packing is child abuse, methinks. Wet towels make a child emotionally understand communication signals better?

    Is there a rise in autism all around the world, Philippa, do you think, and why?

  50. mizaris

    I wonder how much of the current epidemic of depression is caused by people’s addiction to social media and the cult of celebrity. Letting themselves believe that they are not important enough because they don’t have the requisite followers or friends, or hairstyle, or technology, or vehicle etc.

    Envy/jealousy/covetousness is a vicious spectrum of emotions which can play havoc with sanity and reason when left to fester. I really believe farcebook and other social media have a great deal to answer for in this regard.

    And so do some parents and schools who do not encourage or foster a spirit of self reliance, self discipline and some self denial, as healthy traits in their charges. Ego, inflated and revered self esteem, pride and the cult of self is damaging and destructive to children’s developing minds as much as fat and sugar in excess are damaging their bodies.

  51. Rabz

    eg. they have to ‘fight’ against the heavy feeling of the wet towel to ‘escape’ and obtain a reward.

    Un biscuit de chien, peut-être?

  52. mizaris

    Is there a rise in autism all around the world, Philippa, do you think, and why?

    Is there a link between marijuana smoking and autism??

    Anecdotally, in my circle, there definitely seems to be.

  53. candy

    I wonder how much of the current epidemic of depression is caused by people’s addiction to social media and the cult of celebrity.

    mizaris, I reckon if you took the phone away from a lot of young people, even for say 3 days, they would spiral into some form of depression.

  54. Is there a rise in autism all around the world, Philippa, do you think, and why?

    Dunno. Could be improved diagnosis. Could be cannabis use in the father. Could be inadequate parenting in some cases. Could be red cordial. Could be nuclear testing. Could be eating tomatoes. Could be, could be, could be. The jury is well and truly out.

    And so do some parents and schools who do not encourage or foster a spirit of self reliance, self discipline and some self denial, as healthy traits in their charges. Ego, inflated and revered self esteem, pride and the cult of self is damaging and destructive to children’s developing minds as much as fat and sugar in excess are damaging their bodies.

    Sad but true. But it’s very hard to get those things valued without reintroducing a Judeo-Christian framework to our community in general. Rotary and the Freemasons are great, I’m sure, but they can’t take the place of a widespread acceptance of Judeo-Christian principles, no matter how poorly lived.

    Un biscuit de chien, peut-être?

    Possiblement, mon cher. Possiblement.

  55. mizaris

    mizaris, I reckon if you took the phone away from a lot of young people, even for say 3 days, they would spiral into some form of depression.

    Because they lack the skills to live normally. They would definitely suffer withdrawal, but that too would pass. Several people and families of my acquaintance have done this and found that after the first 3 days (which were fairly nasty) their kids started to be kids again. To communicate with each other and their parents. And did things outdoors, and walked and actually survived and enjoyed their time away from the phone, computer, video game console. And appreciated what their parents were trying to do for them. And realised that there was a whole lot more to life than all that socially isolating technology.

  56. Several people and families of my acquaintance have done this and found that after the first 3 days (which were fairly nasty) their kids started to be kids again. To communicate with each other and their parents.

    We did this with the ManChild. Within a week, he was a different person, and a much more pleasant one, and a happier one.

    He now reads voraciously, and will sit round and talk about all sorts of things. TV is now strictly limited; movies are carefully chosen and not overdone. There is nothing else by way of electronic entertainment – no more computer games, especially, as these did huge damage and turned him into a surly little shit.

    Ditto the earphones and the iPod with music – he would retreat, and it would take ages to get him to come back to civilisation. So that’s gone too. If we listen to music, we listen on the iPod speakers and we have it as background music only, and NOT if there’s anything else going on, eg. TV or reading.

    Onward and upward.

  57. Gary Brown

    I think there was a movie made about Bailey & deep sleep in 1992.
    Starred Tony Bonner & Linda Blair called “Dead Sleep”.
    The names have been changed to protect the guilty,of course.

  58. Alfonso

    ”which involves wrapping children in refrigerated wet towels while psychiatrically-trained staff talk to them about their feelings”.
    A remarkable breakthrough from the French section of the industry.
    I told David: “Mate”, I said, “leeches are a better option, more colour and movement for the Courts.”

  59. Bons

    Surprising that the all-knowing Numbers, Monts etc have not contributed to this debate about which they are no doubt sensitive and frightfully aware!

  60. one old bruce

    There are always problems with every type of approach, Philippa. For example, if you remember the classic movie The Music Man with Robert Preston – small towns can be idyllic in so many ways, but clever crooks were able to take advantage, skipping out just before they were caught and trying the same thing in another town. Medieval towns used to have gallows near their entrance roads for just this reason, preferably with a few recent hanging bodies to let wandering strangers know the risks.

    Then there are the fanatics who believe totally that their cure works right up till someone dies from it (themselves if they are sincere). See: both these types of what I will call Quacks take advantage of time frames – the time it takes to find out if their promise works. When that lag is large enough, say half a lifetime, then ordinary people can be fooled over and over, till some kinder more powerful person, or Church or government, steps in and says ‘enough!’. ( Meanwhile the aggrieved may have a lynching of the latest Quack, but that doesn’t stop the next one, for long).

    I might meet you in the middle and agree that when victims of Quacks form a support group this can be very effective without need for outside help. (I studied cults, and I can tell you the Internet was a great gift to many cult-abused people who were finally able to meet similar victims. Even so a support group can turn into a cult too!). Round and round: C’est La Bête Humaine?

  61. one old bruce

    Oops! I meant to write, C’est La Condition Humaine!

  62. candy

    Could be, could be, could be.

    I agree Philippa. It’s just inexplicable, at this stage. I hope one day it can be sorted, because the terrible affliction of not being able to understand normal communication signals is dreadful, for the person and for the parents. I just think it’s a terrible ordeal for parents on how to manage. When they expect hugs and warmth, the autistic child doesn’t recognise that need …. Heartbreaking. (I understand there are different degrees on the spectrum, of course).

  63. See: both these types of what I will call Quacks take advantage of time frames – the time it takes to find out if their promise works.

    Someone wrote a book in 2002 called Paradise of Quacks: an alternative history of medicine in Australia. It needs updating now, of course, but it set out to discuss this kind of thing in some detail.

  64. deiseal

    One thing which was interesting to me was the problems associated with anticonvulsants.

  65. Abraham

    Philippa …

    I have thoroughly enjoyed this discussion. Thank you for your extremely insightful comments and explanations. It is appreciated by some such as myself who aren’t as familiar with the sad history of mental illness in NSW.

  66. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    Plus one from me for your comments here, Philippa. I’ve read fairly widely in and around these issues, biological, bio-social and just plain loony. I’ve also lived them in my family.

    So – a Welsh maternal grandmother who came from a long line of ‘seers’ and ‘psychics’, who integrated this well into her community and social life; a sensible woman in all respects, and a clever one, who understood patiently how and why my coal-mining grandpa ‘liked a drink’. A very clever but totally uneducated mother who was ‘a spiritualist’ like Nana, except that mum said she didn’t have what she called ‘the gift’. She suffered from a series of very serious psychotic episodes during her menopause though (didn’t know who I was for months at a time; visited some ‘beautiful places’ she would announce during these psychoses), and was always a bit ‘fey’, which I think now was a sort of long-term depression because she lived in a dreadful situation with a very over-bearing man, my father, who coped badly with life’s trials when they thwarted his misdirected ambitions. He ended up having a ‘nervous breakdown’ and was hospitalised for eight weeks. They had driven each other around the twist. I quit when I was fourteen.

    My mother was often of a miserable rather than optimistic nature, which didn’t help. My Welsh auntie, in England, was the opposite; cheerful and optimistic – a very strong supporter of Mrs. Thatcher, whereas everyone else was Labor to the bootstraps, which were never pulled up. I hope I take after her (genes, genes, genes). My sister is very forthright but has, up and down, had a few episodes of psychosis, quickly managed (hah! by moi again), and she has done well in life, although a little ‘mad’ in the opinion of most bourgeois folk (peoples, I am only a bit mad on the Cat, she is a bit mad in a different way). My mother recovered quite well post-menopause, but never got ‘off the (disability) pension’. She was terrified of losing it. She died. One day Tinta I’ll meet up and tell you her full story, but not yet.

    I won’t go into the male side of it, but mild autism (Aspberger’s?) and some serious drug use feature in my genetic family of origin and in my ex-husband’s too (he was logically and mathematically tremendously gifted and did well with it) and at university was a considerable pothead and LSD user. I hated slimy passed-round reefers, dropped LSD once to my regret (got some idea of what it must have been like to be my mother), and eschewed all drug use except alcohol. My ex came up from the respectable working class. I came from the non-respectable one. We were both a little in awe of the confident private school group we mixed with at uni (which I came to via ‘mature age’ when I was 21), allowed in because of our smarts. Da Hairy Irish Ape comes from a very different social class, the madrigal-singing type, in Ireland and England. He has never seen anything like my family, with its constant crises and chaos and multi-ethnic links, although he was a bit of a wild man himself, in his youth, as his brother tells me.

    So – this is just one family. A mix of genes and experiences. Good luck with sorting out the aetiologies of some of that. :)

  67. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    That’s a bit ambiguous – we weren’t ‘allowed in’ to university on any sort of special consideration; both my ex and I got in on our marks alone (I did my matric at tech). I was referring there to being ‘allowed in’ to the private school arty-left clique, usually fairly closed to ‘outsiders’ like us.

  68. blogstrop

    Is this guy another of the myth of mental illness crowd?

    Jim, you do sometimes come across as well-read fucking idiot.

  69. Tintarella di Luna

    One day Tinta I’ll meet up and tell you her full story, but not yet.

    Hi Lizzie
    I look forward to it, I’m quite close by

    This thread has been very interesting and informative – your vignette offered a fascinating peep through your genealogy window

    Vis a vis the anti-convulsives I am interest in the anti-psychotics that are used to stop epileptic convulsions. My son suffers episodic epilepsy and the when they were trying to find the right medication to stop his convulsions he was put on Frisium which is an anti-psychotic medication – it worked – go figure –

    He’s been off all meds now for almost 7 years – at the time he was about 10 and when I read the MIMS about the drug it had in big letters DO NOT GIVE TO CHILDREN. Well the fits stopped but what else did I have to worry about. He wasn’t on it for long thank goodness.

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