Encouraged by its Managing Director Mark Scott, the ABC has promoted Professors Patrick McGorry and Ian Hickie as independent mental health experts and unquestioningly backed their plans for reforming mental health. However both have significant ties to the pharmaceutical industry and there has been prominent international criticism of their methods – and in Hickie’s case his integrity – which has been substantially ignored by the ABC.
MARTIN WHITELY (Trancript of speech in the Legislative Assembly, Parliament of Western Australia, 25 September 2012): I want to use this opportunity to talk about some very serious concerns I have about the direction of the mental health policy in Australia. My basic contention is that personalities, rhetoric and charisma are driving the direction of mental health rather than science and evidence.
“The bias in this paper is very disturbing…It is this kind of complicity that damages any hopes of a positive partnership between medicine and [the pharmaceutical] industry.” – Lancet Editor tweet on recent Hickie research
The following is an edited excerpt from a speech Martin Whitely MLA made in the Western Australian Legislative Assembly on Wednesday 25 May 2011
Mental Health was a centrepiece of the federal budget, with an additional $2.2 billion being identified over five years for mental health initiatives, of which $419.7 million was split between the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre (EPPIC), and Headspace. An additional $2.2 billion for mental health is a good thing and to the extent that people such as Professor Patrick McGorry, Professor Ian Hickie and Professor John Mendoza, have contributed to putting mental health on the agenda, they deserve praise. However, I am concerned that the devil is in the detail. My criticism is not about extra funding but about the lack of an evidence base for the decisions that have been made.
Former Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry, and to a lesser extent his close colleague Professor Ian Hickie, have dominated the long overdue debate about the future of mental health service delivery in Australia. Their claims of massive unmet need and proven 21st century solutions are being accepted almost without question by the Gillard Government, the Abbott Opposition, the independents, the media and the public.
No sensible person would argue against Australian of the Year, psychiatrist Patrick McGorry’s call for early intervention to prevent psychosis; unless of course you know the detail of what Professor McGorry has advocated as early intervention. Put bluntly, Professor McGorry has advocated the use of antipsychotics, with a host of serious potential adverse side effects, on the hunch that adolescents may later become psychotic.
Specifically Professor McGorry is a leading international advocate for the inclusion of Psychosis Risk Syndrome, otherwise known as Attenuated Psychotic Symptoms Syndrome, in the next edition of the clinically dominant Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) due for publication in 2013. He acknowledges that ‘the false positive rate may exceed 50-60%’ nonetheless has justified the use of pre-psychosis drugs by arguing ‘all those identified are by definition seeking help and need some form of care’.