Today’s Star Tribune included 2 powerful articles that if read together provide an alarming insight into how misreported and mishandled the information about suicide, suicidal ideation, and psychotropic medications is (and people are dying every day because of it).
The first article by Professor Gordon Marino (who personally experienced suicidal ideation from psychotropics) and Director of the Center for Clinical and Cognitive Neuropharmacology Susan Marino, references the probable cause of depressive disorder and psychotropic medications in the Germanwings air crash and how critical it is for mental health professionals to understand and communicate the probability of homicidal & suicidal thoughts for patients using these drugs.
The second article about the removal of Dr Charles Schulz as the U of M’s Chief of Psychiatry because of the drug related suicidal death of Dan Markingson during clinical trials involving these drugs.
The point I’m making by connecting these articles is not that suicidal ideation delivered by psychotropic medications kills people.
It is the complicity of mental health experts in not speaking to this Fact loudly and clearly that disturbs me. Not only are mental health professionals not speaking to this Fact loudly and clearly, they repeatedly do just the opposite (if you read the aforementioned articles you will see this point demonstrated).
In the Schulz case, Dan Markingson’s mother’s pleas were ignored and in the Marino article Professor Marino makes the point powerfully and repeatedly.
These 2 articles represent one days worth of reporting in our daily newspaper about the Fact that suicidal ideation from psychotropic medications kills people, at least to some degree, because mental health professionals, the people in charge of distributing and regulating the use of these powerful drugs, don’t know what they are dealing with.
To add fuel to this fire, let me point out that the pharmaceutical industry has gone to great lengths to recommend off label usage of these drugs for other uses (Topamax prescribed for migraines as a personal example) and if my lawyer friends are right, these manufacturers show up in courtrooms in force when significant homicide tragedies occur to make sure that the defendant’s use of these medications is minimized or struck from the records.
The point I make by drawing the manufacturer into this conversation can best be made by comparing the tobacco company settlements and Dalkon Shield manufacturer settlements to big pharma today.
In both these examples the court discovered that these manufacturers had known for many years the depth and scope of the damage their products caused the misinformed / under-informed people that used them and that they (the manufacturers) had deliberately and for very long periods hidden (and destroyed) information that would have incriminated them and forced them to stop selling their products if that information had become public.
In the first case (the tobacco case) billions and billions of dollars are still being removed by the courts from cigarette manufacturers to fund state anti smoking campaigns, and in the second case (Dalkon Shield case) that company went bankrupt as a result of a 1.5 billion dollar settlement. In that case, the presiding judge (Miles Lord) went to the extraordinary measure of calling out the Dalkon corporate attorneys for lying and dishonorable behavior inside his courtroom.
As one who follows these cases, this should happen way more often than it does and no one ever goes to jail (even when thousands of people are horribly damaged or dead because their “corporate” malfeasance).
There are hundreds of similar cases, but these 2 make my point that giant companies sometimes go to great lengths to obfuscate, mislead, destroy and hide information that could incriminate their products and that it takes decades to get to the truth, the harm, and the fix. It is industry that has time and money on its side (not you and me).
I can personally attest to the trauma of suicidal ideation resulting from the off label use of Topamax (an anti seizure medication for epileptics) proscribed to me (over my objections) for migraine headaches by the Mayo Clinic.
Outside of a very frightening shark scuba diving incident at Cozumel, the trauma of fully formed thoughts of suicide visited upon me by Topamax as I sat having lunch in an outdoor restaurant with a banker, was the second time in my life that I was so traumatized that I could not sleep for days. There is no describing it, other than to say it was the most frightening thing I’ve ever experienced.
Now, to bring this conversation into Child Protection, the reason for this blog and Kids At Risk Action, consider this;
My first visit to a 4 year old CASA guardian ad-Litem case girl was at the suicide ward of Fairview hospital
Many of the very young children I represented in court were prescribed multiple psychotropic medications (at the same time) and I’m positive some of them experienced suicidal ideation but were too young and unable to articulate the horrors being visited upon them by these drugs.
I have been on multiple suicide watch and delivery trips for children in child protection & written about the 7 year old foster boy who hung himself and left a note about how he hated Prozac.
When 6 year old Kendrea Johnson suicided by hanging herself with a jump rope, professionals went to some length to obfuscate the event and even to print a quote by the Medical Examiner indicating that very young children are not capable of committing suicide. To date there has been no mention of psychotropic medications but I’m of the opinion they were involved because she had been in therapy and at least one person knew the depth of her mental health issues (her therapist). Mostly, I do not want to see this case disappear from the news. It defines the problems within child protection at this time.
As a long time volunteer Hennepin County guardian ad-Litem, I have many stories about the life threatening behaviors of traumatized children, some from my own caseload, many from others, and one from mayoral candidate Don Samuels (video interview) and a most disturbing letter from a Hennepin County Judge tracking the amount of psychotropic medications being consumed by the children in her courtroom over a one year period (some as young as 6 years old).
It seems to me that very few people appreciate the commonality of suicide and suicidal behavior driven by psychotropic medications and that both the pharmaceutical industry and the mental health profession are comfortable with things as they are. This disturbs me and should disturb you.
Distribute this article widely – something needs to change.