Toronto blog correspondent “Liz” has tipped me off to a new TV Ontario series on mental health. The series kicks off with a psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist (author of The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World) joining a debate with psychiatrist Norman Doidge (author of The Brain That Changes Itself) and Roger McIntyre, Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology, University of Toronto), discussing whether we are any closer to understanding the source of mental illness.
Here’s the link to the debate. It’s actually quite an interesting discussion, especially McGilchrist’s contribution. Read the promotion for the series (below). I think TVO should be looking for its better understanding of mental illness outside of the mental institution (CAMH) with which it is partnering. CAMH is notorious for retracting its job offer to David Healy in 2000 when Eli Lilly objected to his comments that Prozac and SSRIs can lead to suicide. (see footnote* about the Healy affair at the bottom of this page)
Institution are there to preserve the status quo, no more so than when they are psychiatric institutions. You may recall that Chris spent time in CAMH’s Early Psychosis Unit. I question whether anybody at CAMH now has a better understanding of mental health than when Chris was there in 2003. Nobody at CAMH talked to us about brain plasticity. In fact, they told us that if Chris didn’t take the drugs his brain would atrophy. (This was their way of panicking us to buy into the drugs.) The doctor labelled him “schizophrenic” after speaking with him for an hour – tops. We were told that he would probably need the medications for life.
No sirree, if I were TV Ontario and looking for ways to understand the source of “mental illness,” I wouldn’t go to institutions that, for self-serving reasons, fail to understand mental illness. I were TV Ontario, I’d be looking to writers, poets, ex-patients to explain.
Mental Health Matters
..by Sandra Gionas Tuesday March 6, 2012
When our Agenda on the Road series was winding down, and we began to rethink how we would engage our audience across the province, we envisioned leaving the studio, not spurred by geography, but rather by a cause or idea that resonates in people’s lives.
And there are few topics which affect as many people as mental health issues. Whether or not you are the one in five Canadians who will have a mental illness during your lifetime, you will certainly have a child, parent, sibling, relative, friend, colleague, or neighbour who will. While we’ve come a long way in understanding more about mental illness and the stigma that surrounds it, we still have far to go.
What we here at The Agenda, indeed TVO, hope to accomplish in the months ahead, is to engage our viewers and bring about a better understanding of mental health. To help us to that end, we have partnered with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). What this partnership will bring to our Agenda audience is access to the knowledge capital at CAMH, as well as engaging live chats, Q&As, and blog posts from the medical front line; from the community leaders at the world-renowned facility.
We even took our partnership to new heights in January, in a basketball challenge with CAMH clients at their Queen Street site.
The Agenda team after a spirited afternoon of basketball.
Aside from basketball, we’ve been engaging with CAMH professionals and clients since the beginning of this season, in order to enrich our own understanding of the issues, and the mental health community around CAMH.
To that effect, from today forward, we will be airing a mental health-themed discussion on The Agenda every other Tuesday. We will be launching our permanent Mental Health Matters microsite in mid-April, with a plethora of mental health stories, using the depth and richness of TVO’s archived content, along with additional resources. All this will culminate in Mental Health Matters week at TVO, which will coincide with Canadian Mental Health Week, May 7-13, 2012. Look for five nights of original programming, both in studio and with studio audiences (more information on how you can join us will come in the weeks ahead).
And the programming and web content won’t begin and end there, with us. Big Ideas, TVOKids, TVOParents, Allan Gregg in Conversation, Saturday Night at the Movies, and TVO Doc Studio will also focus on Mental Health Matters, both online — beginning in April — and on air during Mental Health Week.
Which brings us to tonight’s kick-off broadcast. Noted British psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist is the author of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, a book examining the relationship between the brain’s two hemispheres. He’ll sit down for an interview with Steve Paikin.
McGilchrist’s appearance on Monday night at the Gardiner Museum — which will air on Big Ideas during Mental Health Week — was standing room only.
After his feature interview with Steve, Dr. McGilchrist will join our roundtable for a discussion on where mental illness resides: Is it in our biology? Or does it occur because of social pressures? In other words, we’re starting small, with a simple debate on Nature versus Nurture!
We hope you join us in the weeks ahead, and of course tonight – by watching the program at either 8:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m., or by watching our live stream at 8:00 p.m., and joining our live chat, hosted by myself and producer Daniel Kitts. And please don’t forget to come back here to let us know what you thought of our programming, to share your own stories, and to join us on this very important journey.
Follow me on Twitter @sandragionas
*On December 7, 2000, shortly after Healy’s talk he received an email from Dr. Goldbloom, who was retracting his previously offered position at CAMH. The reason Goldbloom indicated was as follows: “Essentially, we believe that it is not a good fit between you and the role as leader of an academic program in mood and anxiety disorders at the Centre and in relation to the University. This view was solidified by your recent appearance at the Centre in the context of an academic lecture. While you are held in high regard as a scholar of the history of modern psychiatry, we do not feel your approach is compatible with the goals for development of the academic and clinical resource that we have.” However, Healy believes that his job offer was retracted because his critical views of the pharmaceutical industry and especially Eli Lilly. This has been denied by the then-President of the University of Toronto, Prof. Robert Birgeneau who stated in a letter to the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) that Healy’s contract was “not influenced in any way by Eli Lilly or by any other pharmaceutical company.”
Eli Lilly was a significant contributor to the University of Toronto. It supported 52 percent of the budget for the Mood and Anxiety Disorder Clinic that Healy would have headed up. In addition it gave a 1.5 million dollar gift to CAMH to help its fundraising campaign. Furthermore, there was precedent for Eli Lilly removing its financial support in response to anti-Prozac comments or publications. In March 2000, the Hasting Center published an article by Healy which indicated that Prozac induced suicide. Eli Lilly pulled their support of $25,000 per annum. The Hasting Center re-reviewed the article but stood behind its decision.