The latest measles outbreak in the U.S. and Canada has again focused attention on the dangers of ignoring science for the uninformed views of the anti-vaxxers. Even the entertainment columnist for the Toronto Star has jumped in with a column entitled Measles and an Outbreak of Celebrity Stupidity.
Regrettably, the Mental Health Commission of Canada seems to take the view that allowing anyone to post alternative treatment views for mental illness on their webpage is perfectly acceptable. To my mind, that's like allowing a homeopath to write about homeopathic cures for Ebola on the webpage of the World Health Organization or having a proponent of laetrile as a treatment for cancer posting on the Canadian Cancer Society website.
I recently came across a post on the Collaborative Space of the Commission by someone called Fixmentalhealth. This individual was to write a series about alternatives to schizophrenia treatment dealing with the real cause of schizophrenia, what the worst anti-psychotics are and on "Healing foods and natural alternatives that can cure mild Schizopherania (sic)". I asked Mr Fixmentalhealth what his credentials are and he responded that he has studied psychology and that he has over 13 years of coaching and counselling natural strategies to people with mental illness.
According to Glenn Johnson, the senior media relations person for the Commission in an e-mail to me, the webpage is moderated to ensure that no unproved theories are posted and any that are deemed harmful are removed. But my question to Fixmentalhealth on what were natural strategies for the treatment of schizophrenia and exactly what his qualifications were, was not answered by him but by the moderator, Dave Walker.
Mr Walker said that he was personally looking forward to this series although "there may be some push-back on alternative treatments as many of the participants are science-oriented and evidence-driven." Of course, I am science-oriented and evidence-driven.
Fixmentalhealth has posted the first of his schizophrenia series and he states that "Medications are an option, but not necessary as a number of what I call "healing foods" may be the more logical route to take." He then quotes Dr. Ahmed who he describes as "a longtime psychiatrist here in Toronto for over 40-years" who "indicated the importance of mental and physical stimulation and how the balance of nutrition, exercise and social engagement is simply none-existent with people suffering from schizophrenia."
The use of medications is a matter between a patient and his/her doctor and, for schizophrenia, is considered to be the cornerstone of treatment. Peter Buckley, MD, a psychiatrist and expert in schizophrenia, and dean of the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University described it as the "bedrock of managing schizophrenia". Fixmentalhealth disagrees but provides no evidence or qualifications.
As for Dr Ahmed, we don't really know what he or she actually said and in what context. In fact, I can only find two psychiatrists in Toronto with that name based on the doctor search of the College of Physicians and Surgeons or Ontario website. One is Dr Iram Ahmed who graduated in psychiatry in 2014 from the University of Toronto. She was awarded the Paul Garfinkel Caversham book-sellers Prize for excellence in resident leadership in 2011-2012.
The other Dr Ahmed received his psychiatric credentials in 1971 but his license to practice was revoked by the discipline committee in 2002 for sexually abusing a patient. I'm not sure which Dr Ahmed Fixmentalhealth is quoting but I suspect the latter as he was practising for about 40 years before he lost his license.
This first of a series by Fixmentalhealth was praised by a poster who provided the link to a scientific paper supporting this nutrition position. That was a paper published in 1975 by Dr Abram Hoffer. Well, science has moved on a bit since 1975 and Dr Hoffer is the well known scientist who proposed vitamin therapy for schizophrenia. Hoffer's theories are quite controversial and have never been scientifically verified despite numerous attempts.
Now the Mental Health Commission does stipulate "The opinions and views expressed in the Collaborative Spaces are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Mental Health Commission of Canada." That is in very small type at the bottom of the page and, in my opinion, does not absolve them of any blame. It does not stop people from saying I read X on the Commission website which, for many, would give it legitimacy.
The mandate of the Commission is to be "a catalyst for improving the mental health system and changing the attitudes and behaviours of Canadians around mental health issues." And, they are funded by us, the taxpayers. Their mandate is not or should not be to provide a forum for people to share their own personal ideas of science. To do that is a waste of scarce resources that could be put to better use providing hospital beds for those who need it or to increase community services.
But I am not surprised. After all, a previous member of the Commission was a University of Ottawa social work professor, Neree St-Amand, who believed that untreated schizophrenia can be a gift, and that in other cultures, hearing voices is revered as a bridge to the spirit world.MORE ON HUFFPOST:
Your newborn should get this shot even before leaving the hospital, and receive another dose at one to two months and a third at six to 18 months. The vaccine protects against an incurable, liver-infecting virus, hepatitis B, which can be passed to a baby during childbirth if the mother is infected. This virus spreads through contact with blood or other body fluids (sharing toothbrushes and utensils can put you at risk). Soreness at the site of the shot, or a slight fever, is the most common side effect, according to Gabrielle Gold-von Simson, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.
The DTaP vaccine protects against diphtheria (a germ that can form a gray or black film in the throat), tetanus (an infection that can cause muscle spasms so strong they can break bones), and pertussis (a highly contagious disease that causes a severe, uncontrollable cough, known as whooping cough). Five vaccine doses are given to children at two months, four months, six months, 15 to 18 months and four to six years. (And boosters at age 11 or 12 and then every 10 years.) DTaP may be combined with other vaccinations to reduce the number of shots needed. "Now, it's DTaP with hepatitis B and the polio vaccine. So, it's five in one," Dr. Gold-von Simson says.
This combo shot protects against three viruses: measles (which causes high fever and a body-wide rash); mumps (which causes face pain, swelling of the salivary glands, and sometimes scrotal swelling in boys); and rubella or German measles (which can cause birth defects if the infection occurs during pregnancy). The first shot is given at 12 to 15 months of age and once again between the ages of four and six. MMR is sometimes combined with the chickenpox vaccine into one shot (brand name ProQuad). "All these different preparations are designed to reduce the amount of shots the pediatrician has to give," says Dr. Gold-von Simson.
Chickenpox, a highly contagious rash that many people remember from childhood, is caused by the varicella virus. A varicella vaccine was first licensed in 1995 and now spares future generations this itchy misery. Chickenpox infections can be especially dangerous in adults who don't have immunity from the vaccine or haven't had it in childhood, and can also lead to shingles, an extremely painful blistering rash. The shot is given to children at 12 to 15 months and again between four and six years. The vaccine can cause soreness at the site of the shot, fever, and, in some cases, a mild rash.
"Haemophilus influenza type b is the bacterium that causes meningitis," says Dr. Gold-von Simson. Meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, is particularly dangerous for kids under the age of five. Hib vaccines are generally given at two, four, six, and 12 to 15 months of age. Depending on the vaccine used, the six-month shot may not be needed. Fever, swelling, and redness at the site of the shot are potential side effects.
Polio vaccine is "such a success," says Dr. Gold-von Simson. "Because of the vaccine, there are no more cases (of polio)." There are no more in the United States that is. The virus hasn't been eradicated worldwide, so kids still get the IPV, or inactivated polio vaccine, which is a shot containing killed virus. Polio is bad news, and can cause paralysis and even death. Children are given the IPV at two months, four months, between six to 18 months, and then again between the ages of four and six years.
This vaccine, known as PCV13 (brand name Prevnar), protects against 13 types of Streptococcus pneumoniae, which are bacteria that can cause all sorts of mayhem, including meningitis, pneumonia, ear infections, blood infections, and even death. A total of four shots are given to kids (at two, four, six, and 12 to 15 months of age) to protect them against the germs, known collectively as pneumococcal bacteria. The most common side effects of the vaccine include drowsiness, swelling at the site of the shot, mild fever, and irritability.
Flu vaccinations are given each year starting in the fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends them for kids ages six months or older, although they aren't required for school attendance. (Connecticut and New Jersey require the vaccine for attending child-care centers and preschool.) Common side effects from the vaccine include soreness, redness, or swelling at the site of the shot. Fever and aches may occur too. "If you have an egg allergy, you shouldn't have the influenza vaccine," says Dr. Gold-von Simson.
The rotavirus vaccine (RV) (brand names RotaTeq, Rotarix) is given to children at two and four months of age. (RotaTeq is also given at six months.) The vaccine protects against a virus that is the most common cause of severe diarrhea and vomiting in young kids worldwide. About 55,000 children in the U.S. were hospitalized each year due to rotavirus before the vaccine was licensed in 2006. It is not required for school attendance. The vaccine is in liquid form and given by mouth to babies. It may make them a bit more irritable and can also cause mild diarrhea or vomiting.
Kids can catch hepatitis A from sharing food or drinks or by putting contaminated food or objects in their mouths. It's a viral infection that affects the liver, and can cause a number of symptoms, including fever, tiredness, jaundice, and loss of appetite. Children ages 12 through 23 months generally get two doses of the Hep A vaccine, with a minimum interval of six months between shots. Some states require the vaccine for school attendance. Soreness where the shot was given, headache, and loss of appetite are the most common side effects of the vaccine.
This vaccine, known as MCV4 (brand name Menactra), protects against meningococcal bacteria, which can infect the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. MCV4 is recommended for kids at 11 or 12 years of age, and anyone between ages two and 55 who is at increased risk of infection (people with certain health conditions, military recruits). Teens starting college should be vaccinated with MCV4 before going to school if they didn't previously get the shot. (Freshman living in dorms are at increased risk of infection.) A little pain at the site of the shot is the most common side effect.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine (brand names Gardasil, Cervarix) is given in three doses over a six-month period, and is approved for girls between ages nine and 26. While there are over a hundred types of HPV, this vaccine protects against two sexually transmitted types that are the most common causes of cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against two types that cause genital warts and is approved for boys between nine and 26 as well. The vaccine works only if given before an infection, so doctors recommend it for kids well before they could become sexually active. Although most states don't require HPV vaccination, many are considering mandating it for preteen girls.
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