December 24 2015
Writing in today’s edition of the Irish Examiner, journalist Jennifer Hough reports that the family of 14-year-old Jake McGill Lynch (left) is calling on the health minister to place a “black box” warning on the SSRI Fluoxetine (Prozac), as is mandatory in the USA.
Jake took his life six weeks after being prescribed the drug. At his inquest, held in October, the coroner recorded an open verdict. Jake had been prescribed Fluoxetine after expressing anxiety about his forthcoming exams.
In an interview, Jake’s mother Stephanie (right) said that Jake had previously been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. She continued: “What happened to Jake was completely preventable. He was never diagnosed with depression but was given a drug because he said he was worried about his mock Junior Cert. What kid isn’t? Asperger’s is not a condition that can be treated with an antidepressant, nor should it be.”
In the USA in 2004, the FDA added a black-box warning to SSRI antidepressants on the increased risk of suicide among children taking these drugs. A spokesperson for the Irish counterpart, the HPRA, said Ireland does not use black-box warnings, but Prozac’s leaflet information gives the same warnings as in the USA.
The product information for Prozac states: “Patients under 18 have an increased risk of side-effects such as suicide attempt, suicidal thoughts and hostility (predominantly aggression, oppositional behaviour and anger) when they take this class of medicines.”
Further, it says Prozac “should only be used in children and adolescents aged 8 to 18 years for the treatment of moderate to severe major depressive episodes and it should not be used in other conditions”. And then only in conjunction with counselling. (In the UK, NICE states that, because of the risk of suicidal ideation, Fluoxetine should never be used with children unless a prolonged period of directed therapy has previously proven to be ineffective).
In 2012, renowned Irish psychiatrist Dr David Healy and retired assistant state pathologist Dr Declan Gilsenan met the Irish Mental Health Minister, Kathleen Lynch (left), to warn her about the dangers of SSRIs. Dr Healy told the minister that drug-induced death is probably the biggest killer within the field of mental health. Dr Gilsenan said he’d like to see all suicide verdicts from coroners investigated to see what medications people were on at the time of their deaths.
December 10 2015
An inquest in Stoke-on-Trent yesterday heard that, in October 2014, 27-year-old Marta Galikowska (right) stabbed her two daughters to death at their home, then cut her own throat. Their bodies of Marta, 5-year-old Maja and 20-month-old Olga were discovered by Marta’s husband Marcin when he returned from work.
Marta had become worried that that Maja had cancer after she found a lump under her jaw. A post-mortem revealed that this was, in fact, a benign cyst.
Marcin told the inquest: “Marta got herself into a state and convinced herself it was cancer. She started to talk about killing herself and the children. She talked about us all jumping off a bridge. I tried to reassure my wife and give her support. I believed she was depressed so I took her to see a doctor.”
Marta, who had no previous history of depression or other mental health problems, was prescribed antidepressants by a GP a week before her death.
The case was referred to social services but, after visiting the family, social workers said they did not have any immediate concerns about the children’s safety. Marcin told the inquest that his wife believed that their daughters were going to be taken away by social services.
Speaking after the inquest, Marcin said: “Marta was a fantastic wife and a loving mum who worshipped our daughters Maja and Olga. My wife was a very special person who lit up my life. Maja and Olga were wonderful children whose smiles still shine brightly.”
November 29 2015
Yesterday in Lincoln, 65-year-old Stewart Greene (right) was sentenced to life imprisonment after admitting the murder of his 9-year-old grandson Alex, whom he drowned in the bath.
Alex’s mother Joanne said that her father had a history of depression and had been admitted to a mental health unit earlier in the year. She explained how, a month before Alex’s death, she had pleaded with staff at a unit not to let him out. She said this was because he did not like living independently, outside of residential centres, and had attacked people before, including trying to strangle a doctor, in attempts to stay as an inpatient.
Earlier in the trial, a paramedic who examined Stewart after his arrest said in his evidence: “He told me ‘I have been taking a pill that tightens my brain’ – he said the pill was not doing anything and said he was mentally deranged at least twice. He said he had suffered with depression and ‘all-sorts’, that he did feel suicidal and two-years ago had self-harmed. He said he had suffered a hallucination that morning.”
A psychiatrist who interviewed Stewart later told the court that he “complained of tightness in the brain and general fatigue. He said he was stressed and depressed and not slept well for days. He believed his antidepressants caused his brain ‘to bubble’.”
In her summary, judge Kathryn Thirlwall(left) told Stewart: “The callousness cannot be overstated. During the course of this trial, you have sought to manipulate everyone in the court room. You manipulate people to get what you want. This was not the product of mental illness, it was wholly your responsibility.”
November 28 2015
In June this year, 57-year-old Michael England asked to take out a single seater K8 glider from the Cotswolds Gliding Club in Gloucester, where he was a member.
Today’s inquest was told that, having been launched, Michael’s glider (right) circled above the club seven or eight times before going into a nose dive and glancing off a hangar roof before striking the ground.
Police investigating the crash discovered medication in Michael’s car including Sertraline, Diazepam and paracetamol. At his home, they found a suicide note. Tests found no traces of drugs or alcohol in his system apart from the Sertraline that he had been prescribed.
A close friend of Michael’s told the inquest: “He came across as negative and generally having low esteem.”
Coroner Katy Skerrett concluded: “His near vertical descent was an intentional act, a clear mechanism to assist in ending his own life and therefore suicide is the appropriate conclusion.”
November 23 2015
An inquest yesterday heard that, on Friday March 6th this year, 18-year-old student Ben Stollery (left) went out with a friend to Manchester. During this time it is believed that he took the drug MDMA (Ecstasy). The following Monday morning, Ben asked his mother to phone Abbey College to tell them he felt unwell. During the afternoon he went out in his car. He was found hanged by a river bank near a canoe club.
Last year, Ben took cannabis at the Leeds Festival in August. The following month Ben went to see his GP and was referred to a mental health crisis team after confessing to thoughts of suicide. The crisis team put Ben on the antidepressant Fluoxetine and he was referred to other health professionals after he appeared to be responding well to the medication.
Toxicologist Julie Evans told the inquest that “a very low level” of MDMA was found in Ben’s system. She continued: “MDMA is a social drug and it increases energy but there is a term called ‘Suicide Tuesday’. A downside is that it can lead to depression, anxiety, tiredness and feeling hungry. Everyone is affected differently. His state of mind might have been affected … it’s usually a couple of days after taking it when depression is seen.”
I would have thought that the toxicologist would also have found Fluoxetine in Ben’s system, but I have found no report of her going into similar detail about how Fluoxetine is known to induce suicidal ideation, particularly in someone of Ben’s age.
Recording a verdict of suicide, coroner Joanne Kearsley (right) said: “On the balance of probabilities, I do believe his state of mind was influenced by MDMA and the comedown part of this drug.”
November 19 2015
Today’s inquest heard that substantial building work was being completed at Woodford Primary School in Plymouth to increase its population of students. The school was then subjected to an Ofsted inspection shortly before the end of term, after which the school was rated as “inadequate”.
The inquest was told that: “The chaotic environment this caused coupled with the pressures of the academic year and the timing of Ofsted’s inspection triggered an immense amount of pressure on Carol.”
Carol was prescribed antidepressants by her GP, whom she phoned two days before her death to tell her that she was struggling to sleep and that her medication had made her tongue feel swollen.
58-year-old Carol had been headteacher at Woodford Infants School since 1996. In 2006 she was named South west Primary Headteacher of the Year and was shortlisted for the national title. In 2007 her school was named in the top five per cent of the county and, in 2009, Woodford Infants and Junior Schools were singled out as among the best in the country following an Ofsted inspection and Carol was invited to a celebratory reception in London. Carol became head of the new Woodford Primary School when the junior and infant schools amalgamated in 2010.
He said that Carol described the school as “an extension of her own family” and that “she focused on the need of every child to make sure they were happy and safe.”
Recording a verdict of suicide, coroner Ian Arrow (right) said: “There is nothing suspicious about Carol’s tragic death, she just felt she was under so much pressure.”
November 17 2015
Today’s edition of the Daily Mirror reported that new research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) may have taken a serious toll on mental health.
The WCA is the test designed and used by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to determine whether disabled welfare claimants or those suffering from long-term illnesses are entitled to the main out-of-work sickness benefit.
Researchers from Oxford and Liverpool universities found 590 extra suicides, 279,000 extra cases of mental ill-health and 725,000 more prescriptions for antidepressants associated with the controversial WCAs in England between 2010 and 2013. They found that areas with the biggest use of WCA witnessed the sharpest rises in suicides, mental health issues and antidepressant prescribing.
The researchers concluded that: “This policy may have had serious adverse consequences for mental health in England, which could outweigh any benefits that arise from moving people off disability benefits.”
They added: “Although the explicit aim of welfare reform in the UK is to reduce ‘dependency,’ it is likely that targeting the people living in the most vulnerable conditions with policies that are harmful to health, will further marginalise already excluded groups, reducing, rather than increasing, their independence.”
It comes after a report in September featured the suicide of disabled man Michael O’Sullivan from North London. 60-year-old Michael had hanged himself after being prescribed antidepressants.
In a PFD Report to the DWP, coroner Mary Hassell (right) said that the “trigger” for Michael’s suicide was his fit for work assessment. He had been stripped of his employment support and shifted onto Jobseeker’s Allowance, despite three doctors stating that he had long-term depression and agoraphobia and was unable to work.
November 12 2015
23-year-old Charlotte van der Noot (left) worked as a recruitment consultant in London and had ambitions to carve out a career in the hospitality sector. She was also an accomplished yachtswoman who worked occasionally as an instructor at the Royal Bermuda Sailing Club.
In July this year, Charlotte jumped to her death in front of an underground train at Parsons Green Tube Station.
Yesterday’s inquest heard that Charlotte had been treated for depression since her school days and that “she endured psychological difficulties associated with medication and binge eating.” Last year she received treatment at Nightingale Hospital, a private psychiatric clinic in London, on a number of occasions after a relationship breakdown.
Toxicology tests found traces of prescribed medication and a small amount of alcohol. Coroner Jeremy Chipperfield recorded her death as suicide.
November 2 2015
An inquest in Southwark, London, last week heard that 13-year-old schoolgirl Francesca Candita-Simpkins (right), described as “academically gifted”, hanged herself at home in April of this year.
Francesca had been suspended from school for two days after removing a craft knife from a classroom to carry out a ‘blood sisters’ pact with a friend.
During the course of the inquest, it was revealed that Francesca had “received on and off treatment for anxiety since 2008”, when she would have been just 6 or 7 years old. At the time of her death, Francesca was “receiving treatment” from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. No details of any medication that may have been prescribed to her before she died or during the past 7 years were reported.
Francesca took an overdose of an unnamed drug six months before she died, after which she told a teacher at school that she had had suicidal thoughts since she was six, that she self-harmed and that she did not get on with her parents. She was subsequently placed on a ‘red flag’ list to indicate to teachers that she was vulnerable and needed to be treated sensitively.
In her judgement, coroner Lorna Tagliavini criticised the school for not considering the teenager’s situation before deciding to suspend her, but did not explore the nature of the treatment that may have contributed to that situation.
Recording a narrative verdict, she said: “This was an action of self harm contributed to by a failure to fully consider the implementation of their major behaviour policy and exclusion policy. I don’t find that there was a causative or contributive factor by the mental health trust but there were some gaps in the care.”
Footnote: A Serious Case Review published in 2018 revealed that Francesca “was seen at CAMHS in January 2015 to assess her difficulties sleeping and she was prescribed a 2 mg dose of Melatonin to be used in conjunction with other techniques…[Francesca] was seen by CAMHS for her medication review later that month and as it was helping her to fall asleep more easily, her melatonin2 prescription was increased from 2mgs to 3mgs.”
October 29 2015
7 years ago, at the age of 17, Nadia Menaz (left) married her husband Umar in an Islamic ceremony which was not recognised under UK law. They went on to have a daughter together, and Nadia worked as a model and wedding planner.
Nadia’s family never approved of her relationship and she feared that they would force her into an arranged marriage. In December last year, Nadia took out a Forced Marriage Protection Order, which protected her from her immediate family.
However, earlier this year, Nadia was allegedly assaulted by her brother, leading to her admitting herself to Royal Oldham Hospital for psychiatric treatment. She was later discharged on antidepressants under a home-visit programme.
On May 1st this year, Nadia hanged herself at her home in Oldham, Greater Manchester.
Yesterday’s inquest heard evidence from Nadia’s GP which revealed that she had previously tried and failed to hang herself, and had also overdosed on her medication on several occasions.
Dr Philip Taylor, trainee psychiatrist at Royal Oldham Hospital, told how Nadia frequently described feeling low and having feelings of self-harm. She was eventually diagnosed as having an emotionally unstable personality disorder and it was agreed that she was well enough to return home, despite being on medication for anxiety, depression and insomnia.
Concluding the inquest, coroner Simon Nelson (right) said: “Over the final months of her life, she had been expressing suicidal ideations.”
He recorded a verdict of “taking her own life while suffering from a depressive illness.”
October 14 2015
In June 2010, 57-year-old Stewart Dolin visited his family doctor in Chicago, where he was given a prescription for Paroxetine (aka Paxil & Seroxat) for “work-related anxiety and depression”. Stewart’s prescription was dispensed but he received the generic form of Paxil, manufactured by Mylan.
Six days after beginning his course of the drug, Stewart (right) left his office, walked to a nearby railway station and jumped in front of a train. Blood tests taken at Stewart’s autopsy were positive for Paroxetine.
Stewart’s widow Wendy subsequently filed suitagainst GSK.
GSK’s first move was to claim that they were not liable as Stewart had a generic version of the drug, but this was dismissed by a judge in March 4, 2014.
The next form of defence for GSK’s highly paid law team, King & Spalding, was to target Wendy Dolin (left).
GSK’s defence lawyers subpoenaed Wendy Dolin’s mobile phone and text message records, as well as those of her home phone and her Stewart’s company phone. They even showed Stewart’s confidential therapy notes to his children, despite their mother’s objections. Wendy states that GSK’s lawyers have also taken hours of deposition testimony from her, grilling her about her personal medical information and her social life since her husband’s death.
King & Spalding have now turned their attentions on those called to testify. One such expert witness is Dr David Healy (right), who with a group of psychiatrists published a report earlier this year showing that results of the infamous Study 329 had been falsified to show that Paxil was supposedly safe to use with children.
Lawyers have impugned the integrity of Dr Healy by accusing him of “extreme bias against GSK”. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that Dr Healy has, in the past, given his expert opinion in cases where actions against GSK were successful.
Dr Healy featured in 2001,when a jury found that Paxil was the proximate cause of the actions of Donald Schell, who shot dead three family members and himself. He also gave evidence in 2009 when Paxil was ruled as the cause of the birth defects suffered by Lyam Kilker.
Dr Healy’s deposition for the present case was supposed to be about science, but Bob tells us that GSK’s attorneys chose, for at least 90% of the 10 hours, to talk about his website, his financial accounts, and every other avenue that they could think of, rather than deal with the science.
If anything, these motions merely highlight the contemptible lengths that GSK and their legal representation, King & Spalding, will go in their attempt to defend the indefensible.
October 7 2015
Mark O’Brien was a 52-year-old civil servant from Dublin who worked as an executive officer with the Revenue Commissioners, the Irish Government agency responsible for taxation.
In his department, colleagues who left were not replaced, until Mr O’Brien became “overwhelmed with his workload.”
In January 2014, he took leave from his work and was prescribed Mirtazapine. His condition deteriorated, and, three months later, he was admitted to St Patrick’s Hospital (right). His medication was changed to Fluoxetine, until, after two weeks in the hospital, Mr O’Brien had what was described at yesterday’s inquest as “an episode of bizarre behaviour”. At this point, his antidepressant medication was withdrawn and replaced by the anti-psychotic Olanzapine.
Two days later, Mr O’Brien walked out of the hospital and took a taxi to Howth Head (left). There he walked up the cliff path and jumped from the summit.
Having been overwhelmed with work in the first place, Mr O’Brien was subsequently overwhelmed with psychotropic medication.
October 5 2015
In June of this year, 17-year-old Chantia Iruagha (right) went missing from her Cardiff home. CCTV showed her buying a tent and a disposable barbecue from a nearby shop, and 10 days later her body was found in local woodland. An inquest today concluded that Chantia had died by carbon monoxide poisoning.
In a statement, Chantia’s mother told how, 10 years ago, Chantia had been sexually abused by the man who was her step-father at the time, and who was subsequently sent to prison. Chantia spent time in various foster homes before returning to live with her mother.
A social worker said that she was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of two boyfriends, who were both convicted.
Child psychologist Dr Sabir described Chantia as “an emotionally traumatised and extremely vulnerable teenager”.
The inquest heard that she had been “suffering from depression and anxiety” and had been prescribed antidepressants.
Describing Chantia as “a young girl with a number of very serious emotional difficulties,” coroner Thomas Atherton concluded that Chantia had taken her own life.
September 19 2015
The Disability News Service revealed this week that a coroner has written to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), demanding that it takes action to prevent future deaths of disability benefit claimants, after concluding that a disabled man killed himself as a direct result of being found “fit for work”.
60-year-old Michael O’Sullivan died by hanging in North London in October 2013, and his inquest was held in January 2014. At the time of his death, Michael, who had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, was taking antidepressants and was apparently engaging with an employment support officer.
In her PFD Report, coroner Mary Hassell (right) wrote: “I found that the trigger for Mr O’Sullivan’s suicide was his recent assessment by a DWP doctor as being fit for work.”
She described as a Matter for Concern the fact that the DWP assessor, who was not medically qualified, “did not request and so did not see any reports or letters from Mr O’Sullivan’s GP (who has assessed him as not fit for work), his psychiatrist or his clinical psychologist.”
Disabled activists believe it could prove a huge breakthrough in the fight against the government’s welfare reforms, and the battle to scrap the loathed fitness-for-work test and replace it with a more humane and less dangerous assessment.
September 4 2015
The paragraph entitled Antidepressants states that there were 517 deaths involving antidepressants in 2014, the highest number since 1999. The majority of this increase is in people aged between 40 and 69.
Deaths involving Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs) showed an increase in 2014, with 253 deaths registered in 2014. The majority of the TCA deaths involved Amitriptyline where there was a 13% rise to 195 deaths.
Deaths involving Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) have been steadily increasing over recent years. The majority of SSRI deaths involved Citalopram. The number of these deaths increased to 86 deaths.
Studies show that SSRIs are less toxic in overdose than TCAs, but SSRIs are prescribed more frequently.
Deaths involving other types of antidepressants have increased by 26% to 155 deaths. The majority of these deaths involved Venlafaxine or Mirtazapine. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Guidelines suggest that these drugs should not be used as a first-line treatment for depression, and should only be prescribed to people with moderate to severe depression who have not responded to SSRIs.
Venlafaxine in particular is associated with a greater risk of death from overdose. Prescriptions for Venlafaxine and Mirtazapine have increased in recent years, but still only accounted for only 16% of all antidepressant prescriptions in 2014 and yet they were responsible for 29% of deaths where antidepressants were mentioned.
It must be noted that the numbers quoted in the bulletin refer only to poisoning by antidepressants. They do not take into account the impulsive, violent self-inflicted deaths that may be induced by antidepressants. There does not seem to appear to be a source in the UK which can provide these statistics.
If percentages are similar to those in Sweden, where 56% of suicide victims had antidepressants in their blood at the time of their death, then over 3000 suicides in the UK each year could be linked to prescribed antidepressants.
August 26 2015
Yesterday’s online version of the Daily Mail included two reports of inquests held in London. Both of the victims were women, both of the deaths occurred at railway stations and, almost inevitably, both of the deaths followed the prescription of psychiatric medication.
The first inquest to be reported was that of 36-year-old Sarah Johnson (right), described as a “millionaire lawyer” who was “tortured by the guilt that she was not a good enough mother to her three young children.”
In January of this year, Sarah started to drink heavily and was prescribed antidepressants by her GP. One of the recognised side-effects of antidepressants is that they exacerbate cravings for alcohol.
She was then admitted twice to a branch of the Priory for “treatment”. After the second period, she was discharged in April, when “she was ‘chatty’ and her mindset had improved,” according to a psychiatrist.
Later that month, on April 26th, Sarah went to nearby Victoria Tube Station early in the morning, where she jumped in front of a train. A post-mortem examination showed that there was no alcohol in her blood.
Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe delivered a verdict of suicide.
The second inquest was that of 18-year-old drama student Veronica Romero-Lopez (left), known as Ronnie.
Ronnie was reported as having had “mental health problems from her early teens, after the death of her father in 2010.” Her brother Juan Romero said that: “She would self-harm and would cut her arms. She would able to go from being fairly normal and extremely happy to extremely angry in five minutes.”
Asked about her treatment, Juan said: “She didn’t take her medication regularly. She didn’t like the effect it had on her. She took it when she felt bad.”
After a suicide attempt in January 2014, Ronnie spent time at Springfield Hospital, and was then referred to her local mental health care team.
From February she was supervised by Croydon CAMHS, before she was moved to the adult team in June.
On September 22nd last year, Ronnie spent part of the evening comforting a friend who had recently lost her father to suicide. From there she went to Wimbledon Station, where she phoned another friend, telling her that she had been abused on Facebook and was going to kill herself. She then climbed a barrier, went on to the tracks, and was struck by a train.
Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox recorded a narrative conclusion, saying that Ronnie “was suffering a severe and enduring mental illness” when she died.
August 15 2015
The jury at her trial in South London accepted that Helen Doe (right), a 53-year-old police employee, was suffering from “non-insane automatism” – involuntary movements, for which she was not responsible, and which had been caused by her medication.
Helen’s brother Kenneth (64) suffered three wounds to his skull from the 18-inch (45 cm) metal bar as he lay in bed, as well as a broken finger as he tried to defend himself.
Immediately after the attack in July of last year, Helen rang 999, saying, “I’ve had an accident. I think I’ve killed my brother. I’ve hit him with an iron bar. Just now, I’ve been building up to it.” She added: “I was depressed and suicidal.”
Prosecutor Paul Cavin (left) told the court that Helen “woke in the early hours with an overwhelming hatred of her brother and she makes reference to muffled voices in her head. She describes a history of depression for which she was taking prescribed medication. She also said she was in the process of changing gender to that of a female and was having hormone therapy.”
In 2012, Helen had spoken in an interview of her struggles with changing gender, and said that she had been living as a woman since 2009.
The court heard that Helen had been prescribed a combination of beta blocker Propranolol and antidepressant Duloxetine (Cymbalta) by her GP three weeks before the attack. Four expert pharmacologists who gave evidence at the trial agreed that this drugs combination could have caused her violent behaviour.
August 3 2015
The first of these takes place on Wednesday Sept 16 in Copenhagen, and is hosted by Prof Peter Gøtzsche (right), director of The Nordic Cochrane Centre. Other speakers will include Dr Peter Breggin and Robert Whitaker, as well as a number of bereaved parents, including Sara Bostock, Leonie Fennell and Stephanie McGill Lynch.
Two days later, on Friday Sept 18, the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry (CEP) hosts a conference at Roehampton University, London. Peter Gøtzsche, Peter Breggin and Robert Whitaker will feature once more, along with Dr Joanna Moncrieff, Prof Peter Kinderman, Prof John Abraham and Dr James Davies.
AntiDepAware will be represented at both conferences.
July 27 2015
Rosemary Hilton died in January 2014, when she fell from the window of the third-floor flat where she lived in West London. In May of this year, an inquest was held, and coroner Chinyere Inyama recorded a narrative verdict in which he criticised aspects of her treatment.
Rosemary (left) had worked for the BBC in the 1970s, and may well have been connected to Jimmy Savile. When an enquiry began in 2012, Rosemary became obsessed with it. She went to see her GP, who referred her to the Priory Hospital in Roehampton.
Here, she was prescribed anti-psychotic medication, made an initial recovery, and was discharged. A while later, however, Rosemary relapsed into depression, and went into a private mental health facility in Harrow, where she tried twice to take her own life. When her private medical insurance ran out, Rosemary was transferred to Hillingdon Hospital.
In his detailed account of Rosemary’s inquest, Michael reveals that, by the time she was discharged from Hillingdon in July 2013, his sister had been diagnosed with delusional disorder and bipolar disorder. She had been prescribed, at one time or another, various anti-psychotics, the neuropathic painkiller Pregabalin, and the antidepressant Sertraline.
Upon release, Rosemary was placed in the care of a “recovery team” managed by the Central and North West London (CNWL) NHS Foundation Trust. She was taking Olanzapine, Risperidone and Venlafaxine, a combination described by the coroner as a “poly-cocktail of drugs.” However, the Risperidone was removed in September, and the Olanzapine at the end of October, because Rosemary was complaining of side-effects.
Rosemary continued to take Venlafaxine up to the time of her death. In the last two months of her life, she made several suicide attempts. In January 2014, Michael called the NHS Trust’s Crisis Line after Rosemary owned up to these. He was met with an answering machine, but, when the call was returned, the call-handler did not deem his sister to be in immediate danger. A further risk assessment two days later came to the same conclusion, but the following day Rosemary’s life was ended.
In the aftermath of the inquest, Michael wants to use his personal and professional experience to ensure lessons are learned. “I have no reason to believe Rosemary received anything other than the standard level of treatment,” he concluded, adding, “Our community mental health services are just not acceptable.”
July 23 2015
42-year-old Michelle McCann (right) died in hospital on New Year’s Day in 2014. She had jumped from the top floor of a multi-storey car park in Grimsby just five days earlier, landing on the roof of a car.
Michelle, who had been taking Seroxat for 20 years, had been admitted to a mental care facility as an informal patient following several attempts to self-harm and take her life. Two days after Christmas, Michelle was collected by her father Anthony, who said that he was surprised when nurses let her go out on her own without a carer with her.
Anthony told the inquest: “She was shaky and trembling.” He said he was surprised and told staff of his concern after a previous incident when she went out shopping on her own and later returned and cut herself.
Before taking his daughter into town, Anthony questioned staff as to whether she could go alone. He told the inquest a nurse had told him that Michelle was better after taking new medication and having had a good night’s sleep.
On Monday of this week, coroner Paul Kelly recorded a verdict of suicide.
July 19 2015
On July 12th 2012, James Holmes (left) shot dead 12 people and injured 70 others as they were watching a midnight showing of the film The Dark Knight Rises in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado. At the time of his arrest, James had no previous criminal record. He went on to attempt suicide on a number of occasions while in custody.
At the conclusion of James’s trial last Thursday, a jury rejected his plea of insanity and found him guilty of first-degree murder. He now faces the death penalty
In an article published yesterday, writer Chandra Bozelko (right) argues that James’s defence counsel should have entered a plea of involuntary intoxication because at the time of the shooting he had been prescribed, and was taking, the SSRI Zoloft (Sertraline) and the benzodiazepine Clonazepam.
Chandra writes: “There is ample objective evidence that these pills are what spurs violence, not unchecked mental illness. From 2004 to 2011, there were 11,000 reports to the FDA MedWatch System of psychiatric drug side effects linked to violence, including 300 homicides.”
She states that a study found that “virtually every mass murder of the last 15 years was committed by someone prescribed a psychiatric medication, usually an antidepressant.”
Chandra’s article concludes: “SSRI involuntary intoxication defense has worked in the past but it is not raised often enough given the statistics that link SSRI’s and extreme violence. Even in a case like Holmes’, a case that begs for someone to make connection between SSRI’s and violence, experienced, concerned attorneys have not pursued it because it hits us where our hearts often are: in our medicine cabinets. It is time to put these pills, and not the person who takes them properly, on trial.”
July 17 2015
Olive Cooke (left) lost her husband in World War II after just two years of marriage. Ever since that time, she had raised money for the British Legion, and at the age of 92 was presented with an award as “Britain’s Oldest Poppy Seller”.
Last year, she contacted her local newspaper in Bristol to raise concerns over the number of letters and calls she was receiving from charities asking for donations. At the time, she was receiving up to 250 letters each month, as well as numerous unsolicited phone-calls.
On May 6th this year, Olive’s body was found at the foot of the Avon Gorge (right). After her death, many of those who knew Olive spoke about the pressure placed on her by various charities, and Prime Minister David Cameron asked the Fundraising Standards Board to investigate the aggressive and intrusive tactics employed by some charities.
At yesterday’s inquest, however, it was revealed that Olive had been prescribed antidepressants in May 2009. Three months later, possibly as an adverse reaction to her medication, Olive made a “significant attempt” to take her own life. She was taken to hospital but, after being discharged, made another unsuccessful suicide attempt. She continued to take antidepressants, and was monitored by mental health teams in the following months.
In October 2013, Olive underwent surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer. She was prescribed sleeping tablets last year.
Five days before her death, Olive saw her doctor to renew her prescription. The GP told the inquest, ”She complained of ongoing fatigue. She got a few hours’ sleep if she had a sleeping tablet.” Coroner Thomas Moore said that a toxicology report found that Olive was still taking antidepressants at the time of her death, and a post-mortem examination revealed that she died from multiple injuries. He recorded a verdict of suicide.
July 7 2015
The Group will address the growing problem of dependency on prescribed medication. Increasing numbers of prescriptions for addictive, psychoactive drugs are being given to both adults and children, including benzodiazepines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, stimulants and painkillers.
While these drugs may help some people in the short term, there is growing evidence that long-term use leads to worse outcomes, and many patients report devastating persistent withdrawal and other negative effects.
The APPG will engage with this issue by demanding appropriate services for those affected, proper training for medical professionals, reduced prescribing through adherence to new and existing guidelines, better data regarding the prevalence of PDD and more research into long-term harms associated with PDD.
The APPG for PDD was launched at a meeting held in the House of Lords last week. The Group is chaired by Paul Flynn MP (right), with David Tredinnick MP, Lord Patel of Bradford, Baroness Masham of Ilton, and the Earl of Sandwich all elected as co-chairs.
The website for the APPG for PDD can be found at http://prescribeddrug.org/
July 1 2015
After yesterday’s inquest in Leeds, the family of 22-year-old Kyle Ellis (left) stated that they were “seeking to raise awareness of depression in young adults.”
Kyle’s mother Sara Johnson said: “Everybody loved him. He could go out and be the life and soul and then he would just get down again.”
Kyle’s aunt Zoe Lister added: “We are just trying to raise awareness, so that if it saves one person’s life then they don’t have to go through all this.”
Kyle hanged himself in his bedroom on March 26th, three weeks after he had been prescribed antidepressants by his GP.
Coroner David Hinchliff recorded a verdict of suicide.
After the inquest, a spokesperson for mental health charity Leeds Mind issued a statement on advice it would give to parents of young adults suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts: “We would encourage you to talk to your child but, if they won’t open up to you, encourage them to talk to someone else.”
June 21 2015
The summary of a Serious Case Review published by Pembrokeshire Council in April 2014 revealed that “Child M” had been designated as a “looked-after” child and placed with foster-parents 4 months before her death. Seren was already being treated by the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
The inquest highlighted several failures in communication about Seren between CAMHS and the local authority. However, coroner Paul Bennett (right) spoke in his conclusion about a recent break-up with an “on-off” boyfriend. “It is likely to have had a bearing on her emotional state,” said Mr Bennett.
The coroner concluded that, while there were communication problems between the agencies involved in her care, they ”did not in any way cause or act as a contributory factor in her death.”
There have been several recent inquests from other areas which revealed that children had taken their lives after being treated by CAMHS. These includeHarriet Walsh (17), Sara Green (17), Sian Armstrong (17); Elspeth McKendrick(16), Shannon Gee (16) and Taylor Smith (9).
Following Seren’s inquest, a representative of the authority said that they would “consider what lessons can be learned.” Perhaps lesson one should include not prescribing mind-altering psychiatric medication to children.
June 19 2015
A four-day inquest in Chelmsford this week heard that 73-year-old Iris Scott (left) hanged herself in March 2014 while she was a patient at the local Linden Centre, using a scarf tied over a bathroom door.
Iris was a former bookkeeper who, in her retirement, enjoyed dancing and foreign holidays, and spending time with her six grandchildren. She also worked voluntarily for a local hospice.
A year before her death, however, Iris was diagnosed with “anxiety and depression”, and was subsequently admitted to a mental health unit. The family told the inquest that, during her stay, they had raised concerns about her lack of improvement and her constantly changing medication.
The family also said that, six weeks before her death, she had attempted suicide by exactly the same method, after which she was left to roam the centre for four days with two huge black eyes, a missing tooth and marks across her face and nose – with no member of staff questioning her injuries.
During the inquest, keyworker Linda Stark, a registered mental health nurse, described the injuries (right) as “a bump on the side of her head.”
Iris’s daughter Dawn said that she told nurses her mother was at risk even before the first attempt, after Iris talked about suicide on the phone. She said: “I was referred to as the ‘paranoid daughter’ and that if I did not calm down then she would be treating me as well. I wish they would have taken her illness more seriously – rather than just throwing her in a bed and leaving her. That could have saved her life.”
Ms Stark told the inquest: “We were severely short staffed at the time. It was really difficult to work with all the staff shortages.”
The jury returned a verdict of suicide, with coroner Michelle Brown making no recommendations to the trust.
The family is considering a civil action against the trust.
June 9 2015
Local police officer Ghulam Shabir stated that: “Irshad Ahmed (left), a resident of Chak Jumra, strangled his four daughters, two sets of twins.” He said the victims were all aged between four and seven.
“The father was on antidepressants,” said the officer, adding that the mother had taken two other children to a wedding in a neighbouring town and left the girls with their father.
A later report confirmed the circumstances, but amended the number of daughters to three: 7-year-old twins Eman and Chashman (right), and 5-year-old Fiza. When the mother returned the next day she found the dead children in bed. The father had fled.
It is significant that the first thing that we are told about Irshad Ahmed is that he was on antidepressants. In the UK, Ireland or many other countries, that would have been the fact most likely to be concealed from the public.
Further details of the tragedy emerged today.
June 2 2015
As you’d expect, there were many comments on these articles on Twitter, but those made by Conor Cusack (below) are particularly thought-provoking. Conor was a renowned Cork hurler, who now devotes much of his time highlighting mental health issues.
Spread over 4 tweets, Conor [@Conor14Cusack] wrote:
“Lot of opinion pieces from Irish psychiatrists in papers today. Never been anti medication but 3 questions that a brave Irish journalist might ask someday is:
1) Why has psychiatry become the fastest growing medical specialism when it has one of the poorest curative success (rates)?
2) Why are psychiatric drugs now more widely prescribed that almost any other medical drugs in the history of time?
3) Why does psychiatry, without solid justification, keep expanding the number of mental ‘disorders’ it believes to exist – from 106 in 1952 to 374 today?”
May 21 2015
Last May, while staying at a house in Newport, South Wales, 28-year-old Sadie Jenkins (left) entered the bedroom of a 7-year-old boy and a 16-month-old girl while they slept. She attempted to cut their throats with a steak knife.
The house-owners heard the children’s screams, the children were rushed to hospital, and Sadie was charged with their attempted murder. Sadie told doctors that voices told her to do it, and that she thought she was saving the children from ‘a fate worse than death’ when she slashed their throats. This week a jury found Sadie not guilty by reason of insanity.
The court (right) was told that Sadie was a long-term user of cannabis and amphetamines. Prosecutor Paul Lewis said: ‘She has been seen by mental health professionals, and two consultant forensic psychiatrists have come to the conclusion that at the crucial time she was suffering from an amphetamine induced psychotic illness.”
However, the court was also told that Sadie had recently been placed onantidepressants by her doctor.
Under the headline Cannabis-plagued teenager left video suicide notes for parents before walking in front of train, theNorth Devon Journal reported that 18-year-old supermarket worker Luke Dadds (left) took his life on the railway tracks near Yate Station in South Gloucestershire in January of this year.
Luke’s parents said that they first noticed Luke’s cannabis problems two years previously when he was aged 16 and had started a plumbing course. Two months before his death, Luke’s mother arranged for him to see a doctor about his low moods.
In a statement read at the inquest, Dr Rachel Bayly (right) stated that Luke first attended Courtside Surgery on October 30 last year, saying he had been feeling low moods for a year and admitted to smoking cannabis most days. But he denied having suicidal thoughts and was prescribed antidepressants.
Assistant coroner Terence Moore concluded that Luke’s death was suicide.
May 20 2015
On January 7th last year, I wrote a news item about the tragic death of a Danish naval student.
In 2011, 20-year-old Danilo Terrida (left) was prescribed Sertraline following a telephone conversation with a doctor. Danilo followed the doctor’s recommendations about how many pills he should take, and after 7 days he doubled his dose, as he had been told. Four days later, Danilo hanged himself.
The doctor had never arranged a follow-up appointment, and was found responsible for Danilo’s suicide by the National Agency for Patients’ Rights and Complaints.
Subsequently, Denmark’s health agency,Sundhedsstyrelsen, decided that patients between 18 and 24 years old would have to face an assessment and an in-depth conversation with a doctor before antidepressants could be prescribed.
Yesterday I was sent an email which originated from Danilo’s family:
After the death of our beloved Danilo in October 2011, we have been through many years of largely unfruitful fight against antidepressants (also known in Denmark as “happy pills”) and the Danish Health system, and our only hope left is now the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
Everything has been tried to increase the attention to how dangerous these pills are for children, adolescents and adults. Therefore, we have now chosen to publish all material in the case, in a readable format. This webpage is also a warning to all who have a family member, neighbor, friend or familiar, who unknowingly about the risks, takes antidepressants.
It is important to point out that this is not a complaint from us against anybody, but rather a description of the case as we have experienced it, since the death of Danilo in 2011.
The English version of the family’s website can be found here.
May 15 2015
An inquest in Poplar, East London, heard yesterday that Yuri Ito, a 29-year-old Japanese photographer who ran a local café, hanged herself in the bathroom of the home she shared with her partner and their 3-year-old daughter.
Yuri died on December 10th last year, six weeks after attending A&E at Homerton Hospital on October 30th. There she saw a psychiatrist who believed that Yuri was having difficultly adapting to life in the UK and was reacting to stress. As a consequence, “they agreed to proceed with SSRI antidepressant medication.”
On November 11th, Yuri went to see Dr Gary Marlowe (left) at the De Beauvoir Surgery, after suffering severe panic attacks. Dr Marlowe’s decision was to increase Yuri’s dosage of Sertraline, and to prescribe Zopiclone to help her sleep.
Yuri returned to see him on December 8th, two days before her death, because she had run out of sleeping tablets.
“She said she felt better and she could get out of bed, and take her daughter to school,” said Dr Marlowe. “It was a terrible shock and with a sad heart I found of her death. There were no obvious suggestions she had any suicidal thoughts. She has a three-year-old daughter and she was concerned for her and that she couldn’t care for her – I took this as a strong protective factor against any suicidal thoughts.”
Dr Marlowe then continued with an astonishing statement that one would not expect to hear from any medical practitioner, let alone one who cites as his special interests Mental Health & Drug Addiction.
He said: “There have been suggestions that SSRIs may aggravate suicidal ideation, I don’t believe this to be the case here, it tends to be in children and adolescents.”
Basic sources of information such as the NICE Guidelines and the British National Formulary warn prescribers of the dangers of suicidal ideation to patients of all ages, especially when, as in this case, not only was the SSRI prescribed for a condition other than moderate to serious depression, but the dosage was changed and another psychotropic drug was added.
The report in the Hackney Gazette does not record the reaction of Coroner William Dolman (right) to Dr Marlowe’s misleading statement. In his conclusion, the coroner said that there was no evidence that Yuri had deliberately intended to take her life, and he returned an open verdict.
May 15 2015
In Kemsing, Kent, Oliver Cavey (left) was found at home in March of this year. Described as “gifted, deep and thoughtful”, Oliver wrote a note to his family, telling them not to blame themselves and wishing them a “magical life”.
Last June, Alex Paylor died at the home of his foster-parents in Ripon, Yorkshire. The coroner said that he could not be sure that Alex understood that his actions would result in the end of his life.
In neither of the reports of the inquests was medication mentioned.
May 1 2015
Sara was originally under the care of North East Lincs CAMHS, but was admitted to a local hospital after taking an overdose of her medication. Because of a lack of available beds, Sara was placed in an adult ward before being transferred in July 2013 to Cheadle Royal Hospital, over 180 km from home.
Sara was considered for discharge from the Priory in October 2013, but was still in the Unit at the time of her death 5 months later.
Delivering a narrative verdict at the conclusion of the inquest this week, coroner Andrew Bridgman(left) criticised the “inadequate provision” for children with mental health problems in Lincolnshire, and said that the failure of those responsible for her care at the Priory to organise her discharge “was a contributory factor to her act of self-harm.”
George Werb (15) also took his life while being treated at a Priory Hospital a long way from home.
April 21 2015
If the reporting is correct and the inquest has in fact been concluded, this would be a highly unusual procedure, as Rachelle’s death occurred last Friday evening, less than 3 full days before the inquest was completed.
Rachelle had told her family about 9 o’clock that she was going for a walk. Almost half-an-hour later, she was struck by a train. The inquest was read an account by the train driver, and heard that British Transport Police (BTP) had found that “there was no third-party involvement.”
Liverpool’s coroner Andre Rebello (left) concluded: “Rachelle walked out in front of an oncoming train at the foot-crossing at Drummond Road in Hoylake. She sustained fatal multiple injuries. Given the evidence we have I am satisfied that Rachelle took her own life.” He added: “I prefer not to use the word suicide.”
At the end of February, Rachelle had learned of the death of her mother Kay Diamond (right), who had been found in a Liverpool flat. A man was later arrested for her murder. It is inevitable to conclude that the two deaths are linked inextricably.
However, neither of the two newspaper articles mention toxicology findings, or whether a medical report from Rachelle’s GP was sought. In all probability, therefore, we shall never discover whether or not Rachelle was prescribed psychiatric medication for her grief.
In February, Mr Rebello presided over the inquest of 15-year-old schoolgirl Jade Kosanlavit (left) who, like Rachelle, was struck by a train on the Wirral last November. On that occasion, he rejected claims by Jade’s family that her death may have been induced by prescribed Fluoxetine. Instead, he concluded that: “It happened in spite of the medication.”
April 10 2015
An article on the website of the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry (CEP) this morning revealed that over 57 million prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in England last year, enough for one for every man, woman and child. The latest prescription figures from theHealth & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) showed a 7.5% increase compared with the previous year.
Dr James Davies (left), a co-founder of theCEP, said: “More people are taking antidepressants for longer because these drugs cause dependency and people cannot get off. Withdrawal support charities report increasing numbers of people who are unable to withdraw without suffering severe symptoms which can sometimes last for months or even years after coming off. Urgent action is needed to reduce prescribing levels and to provide proper services for those who wish to come off.”
The HSCIC also reported significant rises in other types of psychiatric drugs. For example, prescriptions for anti-psychotics rose by 8% last year to 10.5 million, while prescriptions for stimulants such as Ritalin went up by 8% to almost 1.2 million.
Dr Davies continued: “It is very worrying that each year prescription rates rise at a much faster rate than the population, with a total of around 85 million prescriptions for psychiatric drugs last year in England alone. The evidence clearly shows that long-term use of these medications often leads to worse outcomes for patients, with higher rates of mortality and disability. These drugs should be used much more cautiously, only for short periods and always with a clear plan for tapering off.”
April 4 2015
The survey looked at 20 adverse effects, 8 of which were reported by over half of the participants. The most common were Sexual Difficulties (reported by 62%) and Feeling Emotionally Numb (60%). Percentages for other effects included: Feeling Not Like Myself (52%), Agitation (47%),Reduction In Positive Feelings (42%), Caring Less About Others (39%),Suicidality (39%) and Feeling Aggressive (28%).
In an implicit reference to the recent Germanwings tragedy, Professor Read (left) wrote: “If one had to imagine a combination of feelings most likely to increase the chances of a tragedy involving the loss of multiple lives it would be hard to do better than emotional numbing, agitation, aggression, suicidality and caring less about others.
“Although we cannot know whether these findings are relevant to the recent tragedy, it certainly seems that antidepressants do have a broad array of adverse emotional and interpersonal effects and that these effects are far more common than previously thought.”
Professor Read also reported that participants were given 10 possible reasons why prescription rates of antidepressants are so high. Among the more commonly endorsed explanations were: ‘Drug companies have successfully marketed their drugs’ (61%), ‘Drug companies have successfully promoted a medical illness view of depression’ (57%), ‘GPs don’t have enough time to talk with patients’ (59%), and ‘Other types of treatments are not funded or are too expensive’ (56%). The least endorsed explanation for high prescribing rates was ‘Antidepressants are the best treatment’ (20%).
April 4 2015
An article by Madlen Davies (right) for the online version of today’s Daily Mail stated that 69% of those prescribed SSRI antidepressants in the US did not actually meet the criteria of “major depressive disorder” as laid down by the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). In other words, they are not actually suffering from what, in the UK, is termed “clinical depression“.
In the US, SSRIs are also prescribed for other psychiatric disorders, but the researchers found that 38% of those taking the drugs did not meet the criteria for obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia or generalised anxiety disorder either.
The report was published originally in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, where the researchers concluded: “Many individuals prescribed antidepressants may not have met the criteria for mental disorders. Our data indicates that antidepressants are commonly used in the absence of clear evidence-based indications.”
Commenting on the study, Dr Howard Forman(left), medical director of the Addiction Consultation Service at Montefiore Medical Center, said that clinical depression is distinct from temporary feelings of sadness. He toldMedical Daily: “We all experience periods of stress, periods of sadness, and periods of self-doubt. These don’t make us mentally ill, they define us as human.”
In the UK, similar criteria for the prescription of SSRIs have been established.Guideline CG90 published by NICE states that patients should attain the threshold of “moderate to severe depression” before antidepressants should be considered. Moreover, NICE warns: “Do not use antidepressants routinely to treat persistent subthreshold depressive symptoms or mild depression because the risk benefit ratio is poor.”
April 2 2015
According to yesterday’s online edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune, bereaved parent Bob Cranmer described US military suicide rates as “outrageous”, and raised questions about the side effects of the antidepressants that the Veterans Administration is prescribing to former service members.
Bob’s 28-year-old son David Cranmer (right), a former Marine who took part in the Iraq war, had no previous history of suicidal tendencies when he took his life 3 weeks ago. He had been prescribed antidepressants the previous month, after being diagnosed with PTSD.
Bob is demanding an inquiry into the link between antidepressants and the high suicide rates among veterans. Federal estimates suggest that the total of veterans who take their lives might reach 22 a day, a figure which would account for around 20 per cent of suicides nationwide.
Hundreds more service members on active duty take their lives each year, according to the US Department of Defense. It recorded 268 confirmed suicides among active enlistees in 2014. That does not include suicides among men and women in the Reserve units and National Guard.
April 1 2015
A report in yesterday’s Western Daily Presstold the story of 17-year-old Lauren Searle(left) from Somerset, who visited Egypt with her family over the Christmas period. While she was there, she used the mobile phone that her mother had bought for her to keep in touch with her friends on Facebook.
Unfortunately, Lauren misunderstood the terms of the contract with provider O2, and did not realise that the cap on her data limit had been removed. Consequently, her mother Sharon was later faced with a bill of almost £5000. Sharon has said that she cannot afford to repay the bill, even at the rate of £100 per month requested by O2.
The report states that Lauren “felt so guilty about the bill she went to the doctors and was prescribed antidepressants.” To be precise, she was given the SSRICitalopram.
Sharon told a reporter: “You don’t expect your 17-year-old daughter to be on antidepressants.” However, Sharon does not realise just how accurate her statement is.
- Even for adults, NICE Clinical Guideline 90 states that SSRI antidepressants are to be prescribed only for “moderate to severe depression”; for lesser conditions like the anxiety suffered by Lauren, they are not recommended because of the risk of suicidal thoughts and other unpleasant side effects.
- NICE Clinical Guideline 28 deemed Citalopram (and every other SSRI apart from Fluoxetine) as completely unsuitable for use with anybody under 18, because, once again, of the risk of suicidal thoughts and other unpleasant side effects.
- NICE regards Fluoxetine a something as a “last resort” for anybody under 18, as it should be prescribed only after 3 months of therapy for “moderate to severe depression” has proven unsuccessful. There is no report of Lauren’s receiving any therapy at all.
By prescribing Citalopram, Lauren’s doctor appears to have disregarded these important guidelines, acting in a manner that may be considered negligent and unprofessional.
March 26 2015
An inquest this week heard that, last September, 20-year-old Chloe Carey (right) from Crawley, Sussex, put a note through her neighbour’s door saying she intended to take her own life before she hanged herself in her flat.
Two years previously, Chloe had made news locally when she had her head shaved to raise money for charity, after clumps of her hair had started to fall out: “I cried a lot when it started happening,” she said. “My hair is one of the things I’ve always spent a lot of time on. But you can either sit there and cry about it or turn it into something positive.”
Chloe’s hair loss was attributed to unnamed “long-term medication” that she had been prescribed.
The inquest heard, however, that despite her positivity, Chloe had sought “treatment for depression”. Toxicology results showed that the “treatment” included two SSRI antidepressants, Sertraline and Citalopram.
It would appear that neither Coroner Dr David Skipp (left) nor anybody else at the inquest showed any concern as to why a slight 20-year-old woman came to be taking not one, but two powerful prescription drugs with recognised links to suicide, both of which have been considered totally unsuitable for use with patients slightly younger than Chloe.
Dr Skipp recorded a verdict of suicide.
March 23 2015
A recent report by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) found that more than a quarter of dog owners leave their pet alone in the house for five hours or more during a weekday and that 250,000 dogs in the UK are never walked.
Long periods of separation from their owners can lead to anxiety, and many irresponsible dog owners are turning to drugs in a bid to counter the animal’s sense of loneliness, either feeding them their own supplies of human antidepressants, or obtaining a prescription from their vet.
Several licensed antidepressants specifically for animals are available, including Clomipramine and Selegiline. Another product, Reconcile, is made by Eli Lilly, the company responsible the human antidepressant Fluoxetine. The article does not mention whether the many unpleasant side-effects of Fluoxetine reported by humans have also been apparent in dogs.
“Instead of attempting to calm or even sedate our stressed pets with pharmaceuticals, it’s about time we started giving our pets the care and attention they really deserve. Only then might we truly be eligible to call ourselves a nation of animal lovers.
He continued: “Dogs need to be walked every day, yet too many are left at home with little to do while owners go to work. It’s hardly surprising that many resort to barking and demolishing the furniture, in their desperation for attention and stimulation.”
March 19 2015
Yesterday’s inquest heard that 59-year-old Mr Stephenson, a former solicitor, had been under considerable political stress after attempting to introduce new parking charges in the county. He had also been “deeply distressed” by personal online attacks.
Mr Stephenson’s wife Hilary (right) told the inquest that: “He was terrified, sleep-deprived and affected by medication at the time.”
Coroner Alan Sharpe delivered a narrative verdict, stating that although Mr Stephenson had told paramedics that he had intended to take his own life, it was not certain that he had been thinking clearly at the time.
March 13 2015
This week, an independent report was published by Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) Nigel Newcomen (left) into 84 of the 89 self-inflicted deaths of prisoners which occurred in England & Wales during the past two years.
One of the major findings in the report was that, in several cases, inconsistency in the prescription of antidepressants was a factor. Two of the case studies in the report showed this.
Mr D had a history of self-harm and a dependence on alcohol. When he arrived at prison, he told staff he wanted to kill himself. He was placed on an Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT) plan, which included “appropriately prescribed antidepressants.” After two weeks, the ACCT plan was closed, without monitoring by the mental health team. A week later, Mr D hanged himself.
Mr E had recently been discharged from a secure mental hospital but didn’t receive his antidepressant medication, was not seen by the psychiatrist as he should have been, and had his antipsychotic medication reduced without close monitoring. Mr E suffocated himself.
One of the Ombudsman’s “lessons to be learned” states: “Continuity and responsiveness in mental health care is essential. Mental health referrals need to be made and acted on promptly. Care should be taken to ensure continuity of care from the community. Attention must be paid to potential increased risk when medication is changed, ended or otherwise disrupted.”
March 12 2015
An inquest in Birmingham this week heard how 23-year-old mental health campaigner Rebecca (Becki) Luscombe (right) died by hanging at a psychiatric unit in Sparkhill. She had been admitted to the unit after taking an overdose of her medication.
Becki, a former student at the University of Birmingham, became known throughout the country in 2013 when she campaigned successfully on Twitter to have a range of offensive Hallowe’en costumes removed from the shelves of supermarkets. The costumes (left) were marketed under names such as Psycho Ward and Mental Patient. After withdrawing the costumes, Asda and Tesco made substantial contributions to mental health charities.
Following her death last September, Becki was given a posthumous award of Mental Health Hero, which was presented to her parents by the Deputy Prime Minister.
March 11 2015
Today’s edition of Torbay’s Herald Express reports that, in a full council meeting, Cllr Julien Parrott (right) asked health authorities to confirm how many children in Torbay have been prescribed the antidepressant Prozac (Fluoxetine).
He described Prozac as “a strong drug which can have shocking effects on a healthy adult male,” and told the meeting: “If, and I stress the if, our GPs and hospital are prescribing Prozac to five year olds and above in large numbers, what does that say about the state of our other mental health support for them?”
Cllr Parrott warned: “Children grow up fast. They need our help now or they will be the involuntary tranquilliser addicts of future decades.”
Mayor Gordon Oliver (left) agreed to the review, saying there was concern nationally on the use of antidepressants, particularly for the under 18s.
He said: “Naturally we are asking questions such as whether it is necessary and whether there is an alternative. The first step is to find out the situation in the Bay, then we can then decide what the extent of the problem is here.”
He said they would liaise with the health organisations to access what information is available, adding: “There will be a proper and deep investigation.”
A full transcript of Cllr Parrott’s speech can be seen on his website.
March 6 2015
Despite the increased risk of suicidal ideation which can occur after a change of dosage, it was another four weeks before Ryan was next seen by his GP. At the follow-up appointment, Ryan told his GP that, four days earlier, he had visited Beachy Head with the intention of taking his life. Five days after the appointment, Ryan jumped to his death from a block of flats in Ashford.
This week’s inquest heard that the local mental health team had classed Ryan as medium to low risk after an assessment, so he was kept on a waiting list. The team leader agreed that Ryan should have been classed as high risk, which would have meant that he would have been monitored more closely.
Coroner Christine Freedman recorded a verdict of suicide, but said that Ryan should have had more help.
Speaking after the inquest, Ryan’s foster mother Tracy Roberts said: “I’d like to be clear on my concerns about Ryan’s lack of care and how this may still be impacting on other people in a similar situation … I urge anyone who has cared for, or who is still caring for someone, with mental health problems, who believes their loved one has been incorrectly assessed as low, medium or no risk, to contact a local advocacy service who will help you get the help needed.
“Ninety people a week in England and Wales take their own life and I find this shameful. With the right support it has been proven it can be successfully reduced … In Ryan’s name I will be looking at what further action to take to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
March 3 2015
A recent article, written by Dr Murali Doraiswamy and published in The Wall Street Journal, asked: Why are so many toddlers taking psychiatric drugs?
An analysis of 2013 IMS Data found that over 274,000 infants (0-1 yrs) and 370,000 toddlers (1-3 yrs) in the USA were on anti-anxiety and/or antidepressant drugs. This report also found that there had been increases in prescriptions for ADHD medication and powerful antipsychotics such as Risperdal for infants and very young children.
Dr Doraiswamy (right) said that toddlers in the welfare system and in foster homes are particularly vulnerable to receive drugs for behaviour control. Had he lived today in a foster home, Dennis the Menace would probably have met criteria for Oppositional Disorder, Temper Dysregulation Disorder, ADHD and/or Bipolar, and forced to take multiple drugs.
He added that most use in such young children is “off-label,” posing safety concerns as children are being prescribed medication outside guidelines. He blamed a culture of “a pill for every temper tantrum,” and said that there was a need to invest more in building resilience in children.
February 27 2015
The lists of antidepressant-related self-inflicted deaths on this site have, thus far, been taken exclusively from online reports. A few have been found in Serious Case Reviews, and others from online Prevention of Future Deaths (PFD) reports. The great majority of these, however, are from the online versions of local or national newspapers.
I cannot be certain what proportion of the actual number of deaths of this nature this year have appeared so far on the Inquests 2015 page. In many cases, a death may appear to have all the hallmarks of being linked to antidepressants but not enough information is provided: these are listed on the “Treated for Depression” – 2015 page. Many inquests into self-inflicted deaths, particularly in larger cities, are not reported at all.
Today, however, I was sent scans of two reports of inquests from the Shropshire Star that appeared this week in the actual newspaper, but not online.
The first (above left) concerned 29-year-old Anthony Roberts from Telford, who took his life by hanging. Coroner John Ellery decided to record a narrative verdict, as Anthony may have been “suffering a psychotic episode” after having been prescribed Mirtazapine.
The other (right) referred to 54-year-old Wendy Gibbons from Wellington, whose death was caused by an overdose of the tricyclic antidepressant Clomipramine that had been prescribed for her. In this instance, Mr Ellery delivered a verdict of suicide.
February 24 2015
An article on the Mental Health Today (MHT) website referred to a recent study, led by the University of Nottingham and published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which found that rates of suicide and self-harm were highest in the first 28 days after starting antidepressants and remained increased in the first 28 days after stopping treatment.
Project leader Dr Carol Coupland said: “The results of our study indicate that more research into these potential links is warranted, but do suggest that the benefits and risks of different antidepressant treatments should be considered when antidepressants are prescribed and also that GPs should monitor patients carefully in the first four weeks of starting and stopping antidepressant treatment.”
The study also found that rates of suicide were higher if patients were taking a range of antidepressants including Venlafaxine, Trazodone and Mirtazapine. Dr Coupland said: “Our study found that rates of suicide and self-harm were similar for patients prescribed SSRIs and tricyclic and related antidepressants, but were higher for some other types of antidepressants.”
Although antidepressants have been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression, there is concern that the rates of suicide and self-harm may actually be increased by antidepressant use, particularly in younger people.
Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox, co-author on the research paper and a GP, said: “While some patients currently taking these drugs may find these results concerning, stopping these medications without seeking medical advice could be dangerous. Anyone with any concerns should discuss them with their GP at their next appointment.”
February 18 2015
The authors of a recent paper, published in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews (left) are challenging the existing theory, promoted by Pharmaceutical companies, that depression is related to low levels of serotonin in the gaps between cells in the brain.
The low-serotonin theory is the basis for commonly prescribed antidepressants called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which keep the neurotransmitter’s levels high by blocking its re-absorption into the cells that release it.
Lead author Paul Andrews (right), an assistant professor of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, claims that SSRIs actually make it harder for patients to recover, especially in the short term.
“It’s time we rethink what we are doing,” said Paul. “We are taking people who are suffering from the most common forms of depression, and instead of helping them, it appears we are putting an obstacle in their path to recovery.”
When depressed patients on SSRI medication do show improvement, it appears that their brains are actually overcoming the effects of antidepressant medications, rather than being assisted directly by them. Instead of helping, the medications appear to be interfering with the brain’s own mechanisms of recovery.
“We’ve seen that people report feeling worse, not better, for their first two weeks on antidepressants,” said Paul. “This could explain why.”
The authors found that the best available evidence appeared to show that there is more serotonin being released and used during depressive episodes, not less. Their paper suggests that serotonin helps the brain adapt to depression by re-allocating its resources, giving more to conscious thought and less to areas such as growth, development, reproduction, immune function, and the stress response.
Paul, an evolutionary psychologist, has argued in previous research that SSRI antidepressants leave patients in worse shape after they stop using them, and that most forms of depression, though painful, are natural and beneficial adaptations to stress.
February 9 2015
Last Friday, a retired army officer was sentenced to be detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act (MHA) after stabbing his wife Doreen at their home in Durrington, Wiltshire.
While 69-year-old Leonard Webb (left) was in the army, he contracted malaria, and suffered recurring bouts of depression from then onwards. He left the army in 1994. and went on to run a stall on the antiques market in Devizes, selling military memorabilia.
Last April, Leonard and Doreen reported to their GP their concerns over Leonard’s deteriorating mood, and the local mental heath team visited the couple every day from April 14 to April 18, which was Good Friday. Leonard had told the care staff that he had wanted to “end it all,” although he had made no suggestion of wanting to harm Doreen.
He then called the police and said: “I’ve just killed my wife,” later telling a police officer that he didn’t know why he had done it and that he was on antidepressants.
In a statement, the family said: “They were happily married for over 44 years and shared so many precious moments together, travelling the world and being around for their family.”
February 3 2015
At a hearing last week in Winnipeg, Canada, 24-year-old Gordon Mackintosh asked a judge to find him not criminally responsible for robbing a bank in the town. Gordon is the son of prominent Manitoba politician Gord Mackintosh.
In April 2012, Gordon entered the bank wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses, and a fake moustache. He approached a teller with a note demanding money and indicated that he had a bomb in his briefcase. Gordon was given $100, approached another staff member for a phone number, then left the bank.
Gordon’s defence is that, at the time, he was withdrawing from the antidepressant Effexor, marketed in the UK as Venlafaxine.
Gordon’s mother Barbara, told the court that her son picked her up from work later that day and did not appear himself. “Gordie wasn’t really saying anything,” she said. “He was pale … almost ghost-like. His eyes were glazed.”
Barbara later recognised Gordon from a CCTV photo (above) in the newspaper, and persuaded him to turn himself into the police.
Gordon told the court that he remembered putting on his disguise and going to the bank but had no recollection of robbing it.
Gordon’s lawyer said that, in the weeks prior to the bank robbery, Gordon, at his doctor’s direction, had been withdrawing from Effexor. “This was delirium brought on by the reduction in Effexor; it is a documented side-effect.”
In a report submitted to the court, a psychiatrist wrote that Gordon was reducing his drug dosage at the same time as he was preparing for university exams, possibly compounding the withdrawal symptoms.
The prosecutor is not opposing Gordon’s plea, saying: “I can’t provide any explanation other than a disease of the mind. If there was some other logical explanation, I would be pleased to present it to the court.”
The judge will announce his decision later this month.
(Update: 3 weeks later, the judge found Gordon “not criminally responsible” for robbing the bank)
February 2 2015
Matthew Dunham (right), a 25-year-old web designer, was prescribed Citalopram approximately 3 months before he jumped from the fifth floor of the Castle Mall Shopping Centre in Norwich on May 9th 2013.
Lawyers revealed today that his family have settled a claim out of court with the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) after the trust admitted failures that “materially contributed to the deceased taking his own life.”
An inquest in September 2013 heard that Matthew was not happy with his accommodation or his job, and that a friend convinced him to visit a doctor who prescribed Citalopram. Two weeks later, on March 27, he was assessed as suffering with severe low mood and mild anxiety and was advised to attend stress control sessions.
On April 8 Matthew attended an assessment, where a clinician recorded evidence of depressive symptoms and a sense of hopelessness. Matthew disclosed that he felt suicidal at times and, on the previous evening, he had set up a noose in his flat and stood in front of it for 20 minutes. He was rated as a 7/10 suicide risk.
He was then referred to the recovery team of the NSFT, but two weeks later the team had still not contacted him. Instead, they held a meeting among themselves but not including Matthew, at which he was allocated a social worker. He was then sent a letter on May 2 suggesting an appointment for May 23.
Recording a narrative verdict, Norfolk coroner William Armstrong (left) said that there were “fundamental deficiencies” in the trust’s care for Matthew.
After the inquest, Matthew’s family said in a statement: “We are heartbroken to know that Matthew went from a wonderful person to this in the space of nine weeks. Our son was an intelligent, caring person who sought professional help as soon as he realised he was depressed.” Matthew’s mother Donna was appalled by Matthew’s lack of treatment and took the case to law.
Donna’s lawyer Ben Ward (right), a medical negligence specialist with Ashton KCJ, said: “Matthew’s family feel passionately that the mental health service let Matthew down. The details of Matthew’s case reveal a hopelessly bureaucratic mental health service, which completely betrayed him. I dread to think of the turmoil that Matthew was experiencing at the time. It may be that the fatal flaws revealed by this case are due to lack of money and resources or it may be management structure.”
The lawyer said his team had worked on 20 cases in the past three years involving patients in East Anglia who had taken their own lives.
January 28 2015
In Olympia, Washington, a woman is at present in custody, having been charged with the attempted murder of her 3 daughters (6-month-old twins and a 2-year-old), who remain in a critical condition.
On Sunday, 29-year-old Christina Booth (left) used a kitchen knife to cut the children’s throats before calling 911. She told the police that their crying annoyed her husband, and that: “They will be quiet now.”
Christina had spent the evening with her husband Thomas, an Army sergeant, and they had each drunk two glasses of wine. Thomas didn’t witness the incident, but helped to provide medical aid before paramedics arrived.
Thomas told police that Christine had been “very stressed out” raising the children and was on medication for post-partum depression.
A recent inquest at Hatfield coroners’ court (right) heard that the body 64-year-old John Keen was discovered with a bag over his head at his St Albans home.
John was a retired chartered mechanical engineer who was described as a perfectionist who could become upset should things go wrong. A typed and signed note was found near John’s body, addressed to the coroners, stating that it was his intention to end his life.
What was unusual about this case, and something that is rarely reported, was that medical records from John’s doctor did not show anything of relevance, and there was no indication of any treatment for depression.
Recording a verdict of suicide, coroner Edward Solomons said the cause of death was asphyxiation and that John had intended “concluding his life during an episode of untreated depression.”
January 26 2015
In June last year, 30-year-old IT consultant Ross Buggins (left) went to see his GP in Norwich complaining of a variety of problems. Blood tests came back clear and he was prescribed antidepressants and given a leaflet on anxiety management.
Soon after, while visiting his parents in Canterbury, Ross suffered an extreme panic attack.
He said: “My head felt as if it was burning and my muscles locked up. I couldn’t breathe properly but was screaming.”
Ross was rushed to the local hospital by ambulance, where he had blood tests, a chest X-ray and a CT scan before doctors declared the problem was “truly psychological” and discharged him.
“I thought I was having a mental breakdown, which felt awful as it was so unlike me,” said Ross.
His parents were equally alarmed because their son had never had mental health issues in the past and had been fit and healthy.
After another panic attack, Ross was taken back to hospital. This time mental health services were called and he was given stronger antidepressants. Weeks later, Ross tried to hang himself. He is only alive today because the belt that he had put around his neck snapped, saving his life.
In August, he headed to Crete on holiday with his girlfriend Emma to try to help his illness, but the trip ended on the way to the airport when he tried to climb out of the car. “I was so paranoid, I thought we were going to die in a plane crash,” said Ross. The police escorted him to his home and his family decided to call the crisis team, which led to him being sectioned.
In the mental health unit in Norwich, Ross was treated for insomnia by a sleep expert who was the first to recognise something else was wrong and urged his doctors to revisit his case.
A week later, his sodium levels plummeted and he went into a coma-like state.
Finally, he was seen by a neurologist for the first time and, in November, after a series of tests, he was finally diagnosed with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, for which he could be treated with the right medication.
Ross said: “After treatment, it was incredible how normal I felt and I was discharged five days later. It’s scary that there are probably other people in the mental health system who are not really psychotic and have a physical cause for their symptoms that they aren’t being treated for.”
His father Brian added: “The whole episode took quite a toll on the family. It was an immensely stressful time and it was fortunate that I am retired and could dedicate so much time to Ross. But it also highlights the need to link neurology departments with psychology so that this kind of diagnosis is not missed.”
January 15 2015
An inquest at Avon Coroner’s Court yesterday heard that 17-year-old Sian Armstrong (right), a student at the City of Bristol College, was found hanged at home in June last year.
Sian told her GP that she had been having problems in her relationship with her boyfriend and was not enjoying her time at college. Sian then began self-harming and took an overdose of her medication in March, after which she started attending NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
Giving evidence, mental health nurse Joanne Orchard said she had no cause for serious concern when dealing with Sian. She said she had seemed “polite, pleasant and engaging” during face-to-face visits, and was working through techniques to help stop self-harming.
Sian was referred by CAMHS to the mental health support charity Off The Record for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). However, between March and her death in June she was never seen by the organisation, despite calling to make an appointment.
“Sian needed to receive CBT and this was to be provided by Off The Record. I have concerns that there was a delay in Sian receiving CBT, and I will be writing to North Bristol NHS Trust to ensure steps will be taken to make sure this therapy is given to children who need it in a timely manner.”
January 8 2015
He was helped to cope with his post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), diagnosed in November 2011, using the Rewind Technique which aims to give the sufferer control of his or her traumatic memories, freeing them from involuntary recall.
However, Dr David Muss, director at the PTSD Unit at the BMI Edgbaston Hospital in Birmingham, who developed the technique, said that the charity Combat Stress had prohibited the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) from referring veterans to him because they claim his treatment does not work.
In yesterday’s Worcester News, 45-year-old Mr McClay defended the Rewind Technique and said it worked for him, helping him after the army and the NHS failed him. He has even recommended Dr Muss’s technique to other soldiers, such was his faith in its success. He maintains that conventional treatments, including antidepressants, do not work on PTSD.
Mr McClay said of the Rewind Technique: “It has been two years and I have had no problems. PTSD is in your short term memory which is in the front of your head – that is why you’re still living the incident. The Rewind Technique puts it back in your long term memory so you’re not reliving it.
“Rewind eradicates the problem. It pushes those things which are permanently on your mind to the back and it works – it worked for me … I am now in a different place, a better place. You have a technique, like this, which works and they are spending millions on techniques which don’t work.”
Dr Muss (left) said: “Combat Stress suddenly prohibited SSAFA Worcester from referring vets to me now, saying my treatment doesn’t work. I have, including John McClay, treated eight vets for Worcester SSAFA, ranging from the Falklands to Afghanistan.”
Dr Muss now wants to organise a meeting to let veterans and their families know what the Rewind Treatment can do to help them bring about closure from the nightmares, flashbacks, irritable behaviour etc.
He said: “No details of the deployment or the horrors that they witnessed or were on the receiving end of, need to be disclosed. The treatment takes under two minutes to undertake once they are clear what to do. I want to do this entirely for free.”
January 7 2015
The first reported inquest this year into a death linked to antidepressants took place in Gloucester earlier this week, where the court heard that 27-year-old nail technician and beauty therapist Louise Chapman (right) hanged herself at her home in September.
Although no diagnosis of depression was reported, Louise was said to have been “struggling to come to terms with a catalogue of tragedies.” Prior to her death, she had had to cope with her father’s death the previous year, an ectopic pregnancy and a breakdown in a long-term relationship. She went to see her GP and was prescribed antidepressants a few weeks before her death.
The day before she died, Louise sent text messages to her former long-term partner, describing her “upset and heartbreak” at their split.
Louise’s mother described her as “a lovely, beautiful, bubbly daughter with a wicked sense of humour… She was just adorable and was loved by everyone she met.”
Coroner Katy Skerrett said that “it was clear she was trying to battle and deal with the tragedies in her life.” She recorded an open verdict as she could not rule out the fact that Louise’s death may have been a cry for help.
January 5 2015
Last week I was contacted and interviewed by Nick McDermott, health editor of The Sun, the UK’s best-selling newspaper. He has been working on an investigation into antidepressants, which covered a two-page spread in today’s newspaper. An edited online version is still available.
Under the headline Red, White and Feeling Blue, the first paragraph read: “More Brits than ever before are taking powerful antidepressants, with GP prescriptions for the drugs almost doubling in the past ten years.”
The article contained a number of statistics from YouGov, including the fact that 8% of patients remain on antidepressants for more that 10 years, and that 34% are offered only pills by way of help from their GPs.
Citalopram was found to be the most-prescribed antidepressant, followed by Amitriptyline, Sertraline, Fluoxetine & Mirtazapine.
Among those asked to contribute was Dr David Healy (left), who said that: “… They should be taken for a few months at most. And in many cases, if you didn’t prescribe anything, patients would improve after a few months anyway … People are being numbed, not cured. Doctors should be helping patients to get back to their old selves, not turning them into zombies.”
Dr James Davies (right), from the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry, (CEP) said; “Too many people are being medicated unnecessarily. They work no better than a pretend pill in more than 80% of patients.”
Spokespersons for mental health charities criticised the lack of access to more effective treatments such as counselling and cognitive behaviour therapy.