18 November 2014

Open Letter to Aamir Khan

Dear Shri Aamir Khan,
    For a nation faced with a largely incompetent and irresponsible media, your production and presentation of Satyameva Jayate comes as a breath of fresh air. Indeed, I feel that the only three groups doing real journalism in the nation today are RTI activitists, Whistleblowers, and the Satyameva Jayate team.
    I write this letter mainly in response to the episode on mental disorders which was aired a few weeks ago. I feel that, unknowingly, you may have caused much harm to those suffering such illnesses. Let me elaborate.
    A key point that emerged during your discussion was the very persuasive advise to the viewers to go in for medication, with a strongly hinted assurance that mental illnesses could actually be cured with psychotropic drugs.
    Nothing can be further from the truth..
    Did you know that psychiatric drugs are being questioned worldwide for doing more harm than good? Please have a look at these points; they are a summary of the serious questions raised about the use of psychiatric medicines and the unethical role of pharma companies.
1. First, the definitions of psychiatric disorders are so vague that many healthy people are routinely diagnosed inappropriately. Unlike in physical illness, there is no test to show evidence of mental illness.
2. Second, there is no cure through psychiatric medicine. Instead, there is growing scientific evidence of increasing patient dependency on psychotropic drugs; users have great difficulty stopping even when they taper off the drugs slowly. Withdrawal symptoms are often misdiagnosed as a return of the disease or the start of a new mental disorder, for which more drugs are then prescribed.
3. The real shocking fact is that a large number of cases of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal and homicidal tendencies are actually caused by psychotropic drugs. There are at least 22 international drug regulatory warnings about psychiatric drugs causing such serious side effects. These are not told to the patient by either doctor or the drug company.
4. In the USA, which is the most drugged nation in the world, there is mounting evidence of psychiatric drugs causing violent homicidal incidents.
    Most of the horrific school-related acts of violence which we have seen or read on the media are commonly found to be under the influence of prescribed psychiatric drugs. More than 100 people have been killed in such incidents in the last few years alone.
5. Pharmaceutical firms have used dangerous tactics to drive sales, suppressing damaging health data and persuading doctors with lavish gifts to write their prescriptions.
    Since 2008, drug companies have had to pay more than $13 billion as penalty to the U.S. Department of Justice for fraudulent marketing practices. They paid this but quietly continued their marketing activities, because their sales are four times as much every year, and these fines only come once or twice a decade.
6. Over the past 20 years, pharmaceutical companies in the USA have been viewing children as a 'blockbuster profit center' and are aggresively targetting them. One in every ten American children is on these drugs.
    In Europe, too, antidepressants and ADHD drugs are being prescribed at a staggering rate. In the UK, more than 53 million prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in 2013 in England alone, a rise of 92 per cent since 2003. In Germany, the use of ADHD on children has increased 51 times in just ten years.
    The reason for this is a greed for profit with no concern for health at all. In 2013, in the USA alone, the pharma industry raked in over 50 billion dollars through sales of antipsychotics, antidepressants, antiseizure drugs and ADHD drugs.
7. Children as young as 5-years-old are being violated with such chemicals, simply because they are agitated, or hyperactive, or they don't listen to the adult. Very often, their problems are related to improper diet, emotional upset, and exposure to toxins. Imagine if the child in Taare Zameen Par had been put on long-term drugs, that woudn't have solved his problem, would it? What your movie showed is a fact - that it is understanding, counselling, love and affection that solves every mental illness.
    Incidentally, psychiatrist Leon Eisenberg, who is the 'scientific father of ADHD', admitted seven months before he died that 'ADHD is a prime example of a fictitious disease' (as quoted in German weekly Der Spiegel).
8. A fundamental question in this whole issue is that psychiatry has vague definitions about 'mind' and 'mental' and what is its connection with the biological or body. So while the disorder is termed 'mental', the medicine acts on the body. Can the body cure the mind?
    There is a revealing video clip where leading psychatrists attending an international symposium were asked two fundamental questions: a) Is there any biological/physical test which can reveal positively a mental ailment? b) Have you ever cured a patient of his mental disorder? Watch the video (link given in the list at the end).
9. Most of the above research is of the USA, and a few of Europe. The reason for this is that the USA is the most drugged state, and its citizens, especially children, are battling a trauma created by unnecessary psychotropic drugs. A similar trend has begun in Europe.
    We should learn from them and not repeat their mistakes. An aggressive campaign to push these drugs is now being globalised, and is also seen in India. This is being done through programmes called, quite bluntly, the 'Great Push for Mental Health' and the 'Movement for Global Mental Health' (MGMH). The drug companies spend large amounts of money in funding UN campaigns and also as 'gift' and 'bonus' to doctors. They also use pay PR companies to influence media to create a false image about their treatment.
    Detailed information on all the above points can be seen in the links given at the end. I understand that your episode was focused on highlighting the plight of those with mental illnesses, and how as a society, we ought to be helping them. That part indeed was dealt with sensitively.
    What I want to reveal to you is the deeper game of modernity, a game so unimaginably insensitive and cruel that everything is now subservient to big business. Politics, Bureaucracy, Education, Health, Science & Technology - they are all being corrupted to serve business interests. In the USA, even the Judiciary has to face elections, and judges are openly influenced with corporate money. We needn't blindly copy everything the West does, need we?
    But no newspaper or television is able to bring out the deeper, more fundamental questions. Nobody it seems wants to disturb the status quo. Imagine, it took 20 years for us to question the widespread poisoning through chemical fertilizers - and it was Satyameva Jayate which did it.
    Actually, toxic fertilizers to the earth and toxic drugs to the body are part of a larger, common story - that of an exploitative modern mindset. Behavioural problems have a direct relationship with the modern social and economic systems. More than 210,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide in the last ten years alone. Without correcting our cruel agricultural economic system of forcing the farmer to take loans for chemical fertilizers and genetically tampered seeds, can psychiatric drugs 'cure' the farmer?
    And in the cities, can we resolve the tragic cases of stress, loneliness, depression and suicidal ideation without addressing issues of the competitive school & examination system, the cut-throat work culture in offices, the fragmentation of families, the misery of slum settlements, and of course pollution and adulteration which are physical causes? How can we cure this, without understanding the human need for a humane society?
    Aamirji, your programme is unique because it has you. For a cynical nation with no trust of the politician, or the bureaucrat, or academic or journalist, your sincerity and sensitivity are opening the doors to a national introspection on a scale not seen since Anna Hazare's fast.
    Your episodes on chemical fertilizers and criminalization of politics show that you want to go deeper and not just become a superficial-liberal-urban Oprah type of show. If this is true, then you must be aware that to challenge the deep and strong vested interests in today's society will not be easy. Government and corporations will oppose and try to derail you. But the viewers, the public, will welcome the truth. They will be on your side, once they are woken up.
    You can be the One to make this awakening happen. If you are interested, follow the blue links. I am not saying that what will be revealed is a pleasant story. But if we have to start somewhere, it has to be the Truth.
- - - - - - -
1. 'Psychiatric drugs are doing us more harm than good':
2. 'Psychiatric Drugs—Regulatory Warnings on Violence, Mania, Psychosis, Homicide':
3. 'Drug firms have used dangerous tactics to drive sales to treat kids':
4. 'U.S. Kids Represent Psychiatric Goldmine':
5. 'Inventor of ADHD's Deathbed Confession: ADHD is a Fictitious Disease':
6. 'Psychiatrists: the drug pushers':
7. 'In bed together at the market: Psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry':
8. 'Alternatives to Drugs for Behavioral and Emotional Challenges in Children'
9. Video: 'Psychiatrists on psychiatry':
10. 'Lost Voices, Lost Stories' - by Maitreyi Misra
11. Books:
- The Antidepressant Fact Book by Peter R. Breggin, M.D.
- Reclaiming Our Children by Peter R. Breggin, M.D.
- Therapy's Delusions by Ethan Watters & Richard Ofshe
- Psyched Out: How Psychiatry Sells Mental Illness and Pushes Pills That Kill by Kelly Patricia O'Meara