Two weeks ago I sent the following letter to the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and England’s National Lead for Suicide Prevention. I have had no acknowledgment of the letter, let alone a reply.
On Tuesday next week, the mother of Antony (Tony) Schofield will travel from Redcar to Manchester for the funeral of her only child. It was Antony’s death by suicide that compelled me to write this letter. It is to my utmost dismay that no response has been received.
Thursday, 5th September 2019
Dear Wendy and Louis,
Whilst we have never met, I do hope that you may forgive me for addressing you by your Christian names.
Antony Schofield, who was born in 1967, took his life last weekend. Less than a week before he contacted me by e-mail to share his overwhelming, relentless, and distressing akathisia as a result of withdrawal from a prescribed drug: paroxetine. I was started on this selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor at the same time as Antony:- during the five-year, industry sponsored, ‘Defeat Depression Campaign’ which had the full support of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of General Practitioners. Two of the leading paid opinion leaders for this “Campaign” remain today in influential positions in terms of advising doctors, UK-wide, on prescribing [I refer to Professor David Nutt and Professor David Baldwin].
I was sorry to hear that Professor Baldwin had been left most distressed by some of what was said on social media. I do hope that he is now doing better. However, it is important to note that I have heard two extant members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists refer to paid opinion leaders as “promiscuous” and as “tarts”. In the wish for balanced consideration I feel it is important that you are made aware of this.
Professor Sir Simon Wessely, former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists has consistently argued, in the public domain, that dependence upon and withdrawal from prescribed psychiatric medications, including SSRIs, lacks evidence. The College position on this finally changed as a result of the shared stories of experience of prescribed harm from a very wide and diverse community. Recently there would appear to have been “efforts” made to discredit such experience [rather similar to those who have questioned the scientific method and conclusions in relation to the PACE Trial for CFS/ME]. Given establishment silence over issues such as prescribed drug dependence, withdrawal, and iatrogenic harm, it is hard not to feel worried about the loss of opportunities to learn by discrediting genuine, if often raw voices.
I wanted to share this recent post and film with you both. It is called ‘Kelly’s Cats’.
I also wanted to share [in confidence] my letter to my colleagues of earlier this year after the Vice-President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who I have never met, phoned my employers to question my mental health with the Medical Director. I have no idea why the Vice President would do this: but do wonder if it related to the fact that I have consistently raised ethical and philosophical aspects of psychiatry. I have always done my best to do so as politely as I can. It is interesting to note, that disrespectful and divisive online behaviour, by a small number of College members and fellows seems to have gone “unnoticed” by the College [despite these agreed College Core Values]
I do hope that you both will continue to do your best to ensure that ethics will remain at the very heart of all that psychiatry is about. My worry is that the “expanded” College Media Team has become ever closer to the seat of ‘narrative control’. Some of the statements by the College Media Manager would seem to exemplify my concerns about this.
Forgive me reiterating, but is a terrible indictment on the College that it has not been able to offer any public support for Sunshine legislation.
Please might I politely ask you to consider meaningfully engaging, on level terms and completely openly, with those who have had less than positive experiences of psychiatric interventions.
In terms of suicidality as a consequence of prescribed drugs – I have found that my experience, and the experience of others like me [who often do not live to share their narrative] – are considered to be less than credible by our profession. Is this stigma? My personal fear is that such an approach will only hinder learning of how we may address the many issues involved in suicide and its prevention and that more lives will be destroyed or lost.