Friday, January 04, 2013

Headspace fact-sheet gives too little and too much info

I don't see anything in the fact-sheet from Headspace at the link above, aimed at professionals, to help differentiate between synaesthesia and psychosis, or epilepsy sensory auras and psychosis, or the many other types of non-psychotic atypical sensory experiences and psychosis, in fact the bit at the end of the info page widens the definition of psychosis but offers no guidance at all in differential diagnosis to help narrow things down again appropriately. I was also unable to find anything at all at the entire Headspace website to help differentiate schizophrenia or psychotic hallucinations from synaesthesia or other non-psychotic conditions and experiences. Synesthesia researchers have written about cases in which synaesthesia has been disastrously misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. I have argued in detail that this is what has happened in the very unfortunate case of Jani Schofield, and at least one other American young child. It happens. It shouldn't happen. It is a tragedy. There is no excuse for it happening, and there is no excuse for failing to try to prevent it from happening, especially a government-funded organization like Headspace.

The online information page at the link is published by Headspace, an Australian government-funded service that has been and still is aggressively promoted and offered to "youths", including children unaccompanied by parents. It is given huge amounts of money by the Gillard Government, and it is also given unquestioning support by many organizations and individuals in the community. Youth mental health services are a very fashionable cause in Australia today, often promoted in a way that appeals more to the emotions than thought by Headspace board member Prof Pat McGorry and many other public figures and celebrities. Many organizations and businesses sponsor, support or promote Headspace and related services, including some that market goods or services to youth. We should all expect much, much more from services like Headspace. They are funded by us, you and me who are compelled to pay taxes but have no say in how they are spent, except at election time. Services like Headspace have a huge potential to do harm in the community. This was made very clear when Prof McGorry's planned trial of Seroquel on youth patients at one site of the Orygen Youth Health service was closed down in 2011 following complaints by local and international mental health experts. That trial was known as the NEURAPRO-Q trial. 

Headspace is being promoted to teenagers and young Australians as places where youths can go to talk about issues in a friendly atmosphere. In fact, Headspace centres are funded as mental health services, and that is a euphemism for psychiatry. A Headspace centre could be a lone child client's first ever contact with the world of psychiatry, and there are definite risks associated with that. So the next time you see a rock star or a sporting hero or a kindly professor talking up the profile of Headspace, if you are able to contact that public figure in person or by other means, perhaps you might like to ask them how the many risks involved in providing a psychiatric service like Headspace are managed. I'm sure you will have a most interesting conversation. 

No comments: