Monday, December 20, 2010

Canada's receptivity to progress and innovation

I just posted to Twitter an article from The National Post that raised once again doubts about how sophisticated Canadians are in understanding and treating so-called "serious mental health conditions." The article focuses on the oddity of University of Ottawa social work Professor Neree St-Amand's views being at odds with the mainstream. Professor St-Amand believes in "empowerment" and alternative therapies, which the article cluck clucks about as being at odds with the mainstream. Canadians hate being at odds with the mainstream. The article portrays Professor Armand's views as if they are stuck in the quaint time warp of the swinging sixties where "discredited" types like R.D. Laing held forth. There is no mention that St-Amand's views aren't even considered that radical these days for people who believe in mental health empowerment. Isn't there any other live academic in Canada with these views? Singling out St-Amand makes it look like there is not.

Unfortunately, I could only "like" this article on Facebook and not post my own rebuttal to it. I tried posting a comment. The comments section wasn't sophisticated enough to let me know if my word count exceeded its maximum. Well, I don't like this article. I think it's totally out-of-date and has an agenda. You be the judge.

Canadians (and I'm one) are infinitely less sophisticated than their closest neighbor, the Americans, certainly if this article and the comments to the article are any indication. I say this because Canada lacks an effective opposition in so many areas. There is simply not a critical enough mass of people in that geographically huge country to muster much effective opposition to a wide array of social, economic or political initiatives. Say what Canadians do say repeatedly about the ills of the United States, but when it comes to voices of dissent, well, the voices are few and far between in the country to the north. You need a critical mass of people and a political and economic climate that is fertile to innovation. Canada is historically very slow in this regard. This is not a good thing when it comes to innovative mental health treatment.

People who don't know their history may find it astonishing that what is now Ontario in the early 1800s was virtually ruled by an informal "Family Compact" made up of a closed oligarchy of landowners, administrators, churchmen and businessmen who virtually monopolized public office and controlled the economy. Canada has been suffering the effects of this and other British North American elitism in one form or another ever since. Canadians by and large are more trusting of authority than in other countries. They end up with mainstream policies that they accept unquestioningly, but that often are not in their best interests if they thought about it long enough, which they don't. The Family Compact mentality lives on in so many ways.

As a footnote to today's post, I wrote an earlier critique of Susan Inman's book that I also posted on Amazon.

Please feel free to send your own (short) comments on the article to the newspaper. Let's raise the collective IQ on display. Thanks!


  1. Very incisive analysis Rossa. I've never been to Canada, but I can kind of see what you're talking about.

    I wanted to let you and others know that I'd like to start a blog. The blog would NOT be like this one. It would be more selfish. I need help, and I'd like to open it up to others and just see if others' feedback might help in any way. I would be completely anonymous. You say you are, and yet when I was searching for links to your online book, I think I came across one or two sites with your photo. But mine would unquestionably be anonymous, not because of any particular reason other than I am extremely extremely private and sort of loathe revealing myself as myself. But that's neither here nor there. Just thought I'd post and let you and others know, in case there are any words of advice.

  2. I commented. Two things I didn't mention in my comment at the National Post:

    1. "To her [Conway_Beeby], the main danger of anti-psychiatry lies in its seductive claim, to the mentally ill, that this is not their fault, and so it must be society's, or industry's, or their parents'. The flaw with this message, Ms. Conway-Beeby said, is that it wrongly indulges a peculiar symptom that the seriously mentally ill often share with stroke victims: anosognosia, or the pathological belief that nothing is wrong." (my emphasis)

    This is really strange, taken into consideration that the medical model often is pushed as being guilt-reducing, also for the identified "patient" him-/herself. Conway-Beeby's statement says, more clearly than I usually see it said, that, yes, it is "their" fault.

    2. I haven't read Susan Inman's book, but to judge from the article her daughter tried one approach, psychoanalysis with one analyst, "Veronica", before she gained "insight", and went on drugs. So, obviously, analysis didn't work that well for her. Or maybe (probably) it was just this particular analyst who didn't work for her. Now, if somebody is put on, let's say, Seroquel, and it turns out it doesn't work that well for them, what's the conclusion? That drugs are not the answer? That maybe the problem isn't a medical one, after all? No. Of course, drugs are always the answer. Every imaginable drug, in every imaginable dosage, and every imaginable combo is tried, and if nothing works, the "patient" is declared "treatment-resistant", and nevertheless kept on, mostly, a cocktail of drugs in high dosages. But if one particular non-medical approach (if at all given a chance) doesn't work immediately, this is proof that the problem is a medical one, and that no non-medical approach will work. Hm...

    BTW, the Canadians are not alone. The Danish are just the same.

  3. Anonymous - If we want to help others, we must first help ourselves. If that's selfish, that's okay. You can see what others are doing on their blogs then take the best. My photo may be on the Internet, but my name is fictitious and I'm aging fast anyway, so the chances of anybody recognizing me are rather slim. Some more advice is to be open minded, diplomatic, stick to the topic and avoid getting into fights.

  4. Marian - Thanks for managing to post a comment at the National Post. I wasn't able to. The caliber of comments, with a couple of exceptions, was at an all-time low.

  5. Thanks, Mark. I think we overwhelmed the other commenters with the "sharpness" of our intellect. Our side is well-equipped to take on the challenges of the sloppy thinkers who comment.


I am no longer approving comments. All I ask is that you be respectful of others and refrain from using profanity.