FROM THE WEB
Net Briefs 04-09
Card Check History
Bruce E. Levine
Oscar Winning Hope
Feminism & War
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Suicide Spike for U.S. Soldiers
Psychiatric or Political Solution?
In February 2009, Americans heard about a dramatic rise in suicides among U.S. soldiers. While treatment for emotionally troubled soldiers increasingly consists of antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, recent investigations show that these drugs are no more effective than placebos and can actually increase suicidality. In order to prevent even more suicides, both the research and basic common sense instruct us that we need less psychiatric drugs and more political courage.
Suicides in the U.S. Army rose for the fourth straight year in 2008. Army statistics, which include the Army Reserve and the National Guard, confirm 128 suicides (with 15 more deaths under investigation). Suicides for the Marines also have increased, with 41 in 2008, up from 33 in 2007 and 25 in 2006.
The number of soldiers who committed suicide during January 2009 actually surpassed the number of soldiers who were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan during that same time period. In January 2009, there were 16 U.S. combat deaths and, the Army believes, 24 suicides (the Army has confirmed 7 suicides and it believes that investigators will confirm an additional 17 other deaths as suicides). January 2009 suicide totals were more than five times higher than January 2008 totals.
Why are so many U.S. soldiers killing themselves? According to Colonel Kathy Platoni, chief clinical psychologist for the Army Reserve and National Guard, one major reason is multiple deployments. Army psychiatrist Colonel Charles Hoge reports that by early 2008, nearly 30 percent of troops were on their third deployment. Another reason appears to be more psychiatric drug use.
Increasing Antidepressant Use
For many mental health professionals, especially governmental ones, a "good treatment outcome" consists of a troubled person adapting to a miserable, dehumanizing environment in a way that causes the least problems for authorities. Too few mental health professionals tell authorities that the best "treatment" sometimes means helping a troubled person to exit from a miserable environment. Whether it is a troubled soldier in a horrifying war zone or a disruptive child in a boring school, mental health professionals are far less likely to recommend a radical altering of an environment than they are to recommend a chemical altering of the person suffering in it.
An increasing number of U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to "take the edge off" and calm nerves. According to the U.S. Army, based on an anonymous survey of troops taken in the fall of 2007, about 12 percent of combat troops in Iraq and 17 percent of those in Afghanistan were taking antidepressants or sleeping pills. Those percentages have likely increased, and Colonel Platoni noted that the excessive use of antidepressants for troubled soldiers may be another reason why so many of them are killing themselves.
How can a drug that is called an "antidepressant" result in more suicidal soldiers? According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "black box" warnings on Prozac and other so-called antidepressants, "Antidepressants increase the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults."
Grace Jackson, former staff psychiatrist at Bethesda Naval Hospital and author of Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs, is an outspoken critic of psychiatric drugs. Jackson states, "New reports about record-breaking numbers of Army suicides are alarming but not surprising." Jackson notes that there are several studies on military personnel, veterans, and the general public that show the suicidal effects of antidepressants.
One study, Jackson points out, is a 2007 investigation reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry ("Relationship Between Antidepressants and Suicide Attempts: An Analysis of the Veterans Health Administration Data Sets"), which examined veterans who received treatment for depression in either 2003 or 2004. Study findings were that antidepressant treatment was associated with a higher rate of suicide attempts relative to those who were not treated with drugs.
Especially damning for antidepressants is a 2009 Journal of Affective Disorders study ("Psychopharmacological Treatment Before Suicide Attempts Among Patients Admitted to a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit"). Investigators reported that patients who had attempted suicide were more likely to have received antidepressants (as well as benzodiazepines such as Xanax) than patients who did not attempt suicide, and this finding was not biased by differences between the groups in baseline severity of symptoms. Researchers concluded, "The results of this study suggest that the use of antidepressants in patients with mood disorders is not associated with a reduction of suicide attempt rate. Furthermore, from the present study, it is not possible to exclude that antidepressants or benzodiazepines may induce, worsen, or precipitate suicidal behaviors in some patients."
Can We Trust NIMH Studies?
U.S. government officials would like Americans to feel assured that the government is scientifically ascertaining the reasons why soldiers are increasingly killing themselves as well as how to prevent this. In November 2008, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) announced that it and the Army had entered into an agreement to conduct a $50 million study on suicide and suicidal behavior among soldiers.
Do we really need to give $50 million to NIMH psychiatrists and psychologists to discover that when one has been in, or is currently in, or is about to be deployed to a miserable, terrifying, traumatizing place, it is likely that one will feel suicidal? More importantly, should we trust the NIMH when it comes to treatment recommendations?
One disturbing example of NIMH scientific bankruptcy, and its corruption by drug companies, is the 2006 NIMH-funded Sequential Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D). This has become the most quoted study by antidepressant advocates. STAR*D researchers received consulting and speaker fees from the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the antidepressants studied, but NIMH did not report these conflicts of interest to the general public.
In STAR*D, paid for by U.S. taxpayers at the cost of $35 million, NIMH-funded researchers did not include a placebo control—an essential component of treatment effectiveness research. Yet, to the exasperation of legitimate scientists, NIMH claimed that STAR*D showed that antidepressants are highly effective. NIMH neglected to report that at each treatment step of STAR*D, remission occurred at lower than or equal to the customary placebo performance (routinely around 30 percent in other antidepressant studies that included placebo controls).
After the completion of the first two steps of STAR*D in March 2006, NIMH triumphantly announced a cumulative remission rate of 50 percent. But NIMH did not tell the press that in the same time it took to complete steps one and two of STAR*D—slightly over six months—previous research had shown that depressed people receiving no treatment at all have a spontaneous remission rate of 50 percent.
STAR*D researchers then offered a third and fourth treatment for patients who failed prior ones, but for each of these steps, remission rates plummeted to below 14 percent. This was reported, but it was not stated that this was far lower than customary placebo results.
Upon STAR*D's completion, in November 2006, STAR*D researchers again exasperated many scientists by failing to incorporate into their overall results both the high relapse rate (for patients who at previous steps were considered to have been successfully treated) and the high treatment dropout rate. NIMH claimed a 70 percent success rate, but independent scientists (who took into account STAR*D's extremely high relapse and dropout rates) estimated that the actual cumulative remission rate of the four treatment steps was no higher, and probably lower, than 43 percent.
With respect to the current $50 million U.S. Army-NIMH study, can we really trust that it won't be another sham? I certainly wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a U.S. Army-NIMH study to include this obvious recommendation: the best mental health treatment to prevent suicide in our soldiers is getting them the hell out of a war zone, especially if the vast majority of Americans believe that the war is unnecessary.
Bruce E. Levine, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and author of Surviving America's Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007).
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.