Preview to next week’s Blog (Wednesday 4 May 2011)
Next week’s blog details how 2010 Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry and his close colleagues have dominated the long overdue debate about the future of mental health services in Australia. It outlines how their claims of massive unmet need and proven 21st century solutions have been accepted almost without question by the Gillard Government, the Abbott Opposition, the independents, the media and therefore the public.
In March Professor McGorry and fellow members of the Independent Mental Health Reform Group released their blueprint for the future of Australian mental health. The blueprint, Including, Connecting, Contributing: A Blueprint to Transform Mental Health and Social Participation in Australia, outlines $3.5b expenditure over 5 years on ‘transformational’ programs that are identified as mental health ‘best buys’. However, serious questions remain unasked, including:
- How ‘independent’ was the Independent Mental Health Reform Group, and why didn’t participants disclose any potential conflicts of interest?
- Why didn’t the blueprint identify that the most expensive ($910 million) ‘best buy’ is based on a service delivery model developed by Orygen Youth Health, which is headed up by Professor McGorry?
- Why was the supposedly ‘evidence based’ blueprint unreferenced and devoid of supporting verifiable evidence?
- What is the evidence of EPPIC’s outcomes compared to other mental health services and to support the claim in the blueprint that EPPIC has ‘the largest international evidence base of any mental health model of care’ ?
- Why does Professor McGorry believe four million Australians, including one million young people, will need treatment for a psychiatric disorder in 2011? And exactly what are these ‘disorders’ and what should the treatments involve?
- Has Professor McGorry finished experimenting with antipsychotics on adolescents, most of whom he admits would probably never have become psychotic?
- Why does Professor McGorry continue to advocate for the recognition of ‘Psychosis Risk Syndrome’ as a new psychiatric disorder when even his close colleague, Professor Alison Yung, asks ‘why the need for a specific risk syndrome diagnosis? Is the agenda really to use antipsychotics?’
- Why do Professor McGorry and Headspace acknowledge and then ignore the clinical trial evidence, and FDA and TGA warnings, on the increased suicidality risk for young people using SSRI antidepressants and advocate the ‘off label’ use of SSRIs by even moderately depressed young people?
- When Professor McGorry ‘received unrestricted research grant support from Janssen-Cilag, Eli Lilly, Bristol Myer Squibb, Astra-Zeneca, Pfizer, and Novartis’ and ‘acted as a paid consultant for, and…received speaker’s fees and travel reimbursement from, all or most of these companies,‘ how much money did he get from each pharmaceutical company?
In next week’s blog I detail why I am most concerned with Professor McGorry and Headspace’s recommendation that SSRI antidepressants be used in even moderately depressed young people despite the clinical trial evidence and FDA and TGA warnings on the increased suicidality risk. Through the use of candle-light vigils Professor McGorry has mobilised well intentioned, vocal supporters including Get Up to highlight the tragedy of youth suicide to advocate for reform of mental health services for the young. However, if Australia follows Professor McGorry’s advice we risk there will be more, not fewer, candles at the next vigil.
Perhaps the answers to the questions above would reveal that Professor McGorry really does have insights that make him uniquely placed to design Australia’s 21st century mental health system. However, it appears that the Gillard Government, at the urging of the Opposition, is on the verge of committing massive resources to Professor McGorry’s mental health blueprint without ever asking these questions. Isn’t it time the Canberra politicians and the media got beyond his former Australian of the Year status and asked him a few challenging questions?
Note: Professor McGorry has been provided with these questions and with early access to the full transcript of next week’s blog and has been offered the unedited right of reply on the day the full blog is published (Wednesday 4 May 2011)
 Hetrick, Dr S. Purcell Dr R. (Clinical Consultants: McGorry, Prof P. Yung, Prof A. Chanen, Dr A.), ‘Evidence Summary – Using SSRI Antidepressants to Treat Depression in Young People: What are the Issues and what is the Evidence?’ Headspace: Evidence Summary,2009 <http://www.headspace.org.au/core/Handlers/MediaHandler.ashx?mediaId=4896> (accessed 26 April 2011)
 McGorry, Prof P. ‘Is early intervention in the major psychiatric disorders justified? Yes’, BMJ , Vol337:a695, 2008 <http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/337/aug04_1/a695> (accessed 3 August 2010)