Not Saussure

March 18, 2007

Skunk and schizophrenia

Filed under: Medicine, Mental Health, Stats — notsaussure @ 8:23 pm

Among the Sindy’s reasons for no longer wanting cannabis legalised (though they’re still in favour of decriminalisation):

25,000 schizophrenics could have avoided the illness if they had not used cannabis

Anyone got any ideas about how that figure’s arrived at? How can they say with any certainty that it’s nearer 25,000 rather than nearer 12,500 or 50,000?

I’m sure there is a good reason for using that figure, but any calculation, I’d have thought, must involve an awful lot of rather speculative assumptions about schizophrenia, what causes it and what triggers its onset.

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February 24, 2007

War on Terror: mad ideas and driving people mad

Filed under: Mental Health, Spin, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 1:37 am

Via El Reg, an interesting article about the Sky TV programme ‘24‘ (not Sky’s synopsis of the programme, I think) by one George Smith, a Senior Fellow at, a defense affairs think tank and public information group who writes the Dick Destiny blog, of which I was hitherto unaware. The article itself is an entertaining critique of the show, both for its technical lunacies — of the fact that the Bush administration supposedly ‘loves’ the show he writes,

Vexingly, that would seem to indicate some people in high places believe one can carry suitcase nukes under the arm and that computerized detonators for them are put in the trust of a teenager and stored in a shoebox hidden in a wall of a ranch house in the San Fernando Valley until needed. In this season’s story, terrorists have to go through a contortion to get one nuke to work, combining two separate parts, at which point it blows up Valencia. Despite that, in subsequent episodes no one really panics and the freeways and surface streets of LA are still clear for further high-speed chases

— and for its portrayal of torture. (more…)

February 21, 2007

What do you do with a recidivist?

Filed under: Law, Mental Health — notsaussure @ 9:59 pm

Chap in the Crown Court yesterday for shoplifting £13-odd worth of groceries from a large supermarket. He’d pleaded not guilty and elected for a trial, as is his right, despite being clearly guilty — two members of staff saw him sticking the goods into a carrier, walking out past an un-manned till and making no attempt to pay, and leaving the store. He claimed he’d paid, though he had, of course, no receipt and no idea who he paid (‘a lady… can’t remember what she looked like’).

Turns out the chap is clearly suffering from some sort of psychiatric problems and he’s a thoroughgoing nuisance. He’s of no fixed abode — from choice, since he’s had several places in hostels arranged and just not turned up to take them — and has no income whatsoever. He’s spent most of the last five years in prison, serving short terms (a few months at a time) for shoplifting and minor assaults.

Unusually, neither drink nor drugs seem to be much of an issue — he just supports himself by shoplifting for a few weeks after his release from prison until he’s arrested again, is either refused bail or breaks his bail conditions by refusing to stay at a bail hostel, and eventually turns up in court. He’s obviously twigged that maintaining a not-guilty plea is his best policy, since remand prisoners enjoy various privileges denied to serving prisoners and, despite losing the discount for a guilty plea, the time he spends on remand means he’s out again in a few weeks anyway since there’s a limit to how long a court will give someone for stealing £10 or £20’s worth of groceries.

He’s now been warned that his sentences will go up each time he re-appears, but prison’s clearly no deterrent (he seems to prefer it to life outside, if anything) and I’ve got visions of him eventually being given 10 years for stealing a few pounds’ worth of stuff.

What do with such a person, though? It’s easy to say he needs help, but he clearly doesn’t want it. You can’t leave him wandering around helping himself from shops, but prison clearly isn’t doing much good. Probably is the only place for him, but it seems an awfully expensive solution.

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February 18, 2007

Unicef study on childhood

Filed under: Mental Health — notsaussure @ 7:47 pm

Slightly puzzled by this; can anyone explain the apparent disjunction between the happy childhoods they seem to enjoy in the top five counties in the Unicef survey,  The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Spain and the likelihood that adults — at least adult males — in those countries will go on to kill themselves?

Male suicide for adult males  per 100,000 (for most recent year available): Netherlands:  13.0; Sweden: 19.7; Denmark 20.9; Finland 34.6; Spain 12.4.

The comparable rates for bottom-ranked countries when it comes to happy childhoods are:  Portugal 8.5; Austria 27.3; Hungary 47.1; USA 17.6; UK 11.8. 

I’d have thought that happier children would tend to grow up to become happy adults and that, by the same token, the stresses and unhappinesses that lead adults to take their own lives would tend to communicate themselves to the children.   But apparently not.   

September 10, 2006

There ought to be a law…

Filed under: civil liberties, Internet, Mental Health, Panic, Suicide — notsaussure @ 2:59 am

BBC NEWS | Health | Call to ban pro-suicide websites
Call to ban pro-suicide websites

The government should make it illegal for internet sites to incite or advise people on how to commit suicide, a charity says.

Papyrus, set up to tackle young suicide, said the risk posed by pro-suicide websites was not being taken seriously enough.

The charity said the 1961 Suicide Act should be amended to make it illegal to publish such material on the web.

The government said it was looking at how rules could be tightened.

At the moment, the law says it is illegal to aid, abet, counsel, procure or incite someone to commit suicide, but to be successfully prosecuted the individual has to have knowledge and participated in the suicide.

The charity said it was aware of nearly 20 internet-related suicides cases in the UK in the last five years.

Papyrus said typing “I want to kill myself” into an internet search engine offers access to 5m sites, many of which give information on how to commit suicide or were chat-rooms where techniques are discussed.

A spokeswoman added: “The sites take no responsibility for the advice they give, do not identify themselves and generally create an atmosphere where suicide is normal, acceptable and to be encouraged.

“The fact is that it is illegal to groom a child to have sex, but not to kill themselves.”

An unfortunate quote, there; I rather doubt that Papyrus want to make suicide a crime again — I hope they don’t, for it certainly wouldn’t help the young people about whom they’re concerned — and the article’s just explained that it is, in fact, illegal under the 1961 Suicide Act to ‘groom’ someone to kill himself.

The problem is that this doesn’t cover putting up a website to encourage unidentified people to kill themselves, and, even if it did, it’s difficult to see how you’d enforce such a law against a US-based website.

Fortunately, the government seem, for once, to be aware that “It is a very complex issue, as many of these sites are hosted abroad and UK law won’t apply there” (a polite way of saying it’s a non-starter), so it looks as if we’ll be spared a new offence of ‘glorification of suicide’ or whatever Papyrus might have in mind.

Papyrus are quoted as saying that ‘it was aware of nearly 20 internet-related suicides cases in the UK in the last five years’, which I suppose sounds more than ‘between three or four a year’, which — assuming they’re talking about young people committing suicide — means about 1% of suicides are ‘internet-related’, whatever that means; according to Mind, each year around 400 people aged between 15 and 24 kill themselves (girls are much more likely attempt suicide, seriously or not, but boys are considerably more likely actually to kill themselves).

Mind’s discussion of the causes of suicide among young people suggests that, perhaps not surprisingly, the groups most at risk include the homeless,  young lesbians and gay men (presumably because they’re worried and confused about their sexuality, or subject to bullying because of it), people with mental illness and drug and alcohol abusers.

Seems to me that Papyrus’s campaigning efforts would be much better directed towards helping these groups rather than getting up moral panics about the threats of the evil interwebs and asking government — who normally don’t need much encouragement — to pass unenforceable and unnecessary laws.

Miss Prism and Doghorse have a very apposite movie on a related topic at ecletech.

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