MonthMarch 2015

Reading of the Week: Paying Pregnant Women to Stop Smoking

This cigarette-package warning label is short, thoughtful, and completely backed by science.

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Unfortunately, many Canadian women – statistically, 1 in 10 – ignore it and so much other health information, continuing to smoke when pregnant.

What can be done?

Corporate boards give CEOs bonuses when their companies are profitable. Governments (like Canada’s) award athletes with money when they win Olympic medals. Universities give scholarships for academic achievements. So, should we give financial incentives to pregnant women who stop smoking? A recently published British Medical Journal paper suggests that we should. And this controversial paper is the Reading of the Week. Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Dr. Lieberman’s Shrinks

A few years ago, a well-known celebrity — let’s call him Mr. Conway — reluctantly brought his twenty-two-year-old daughter to see me. Elena had taken a leave of absence from Yale, Mr. Conway explained, because of issues surrounding a mysterious drop in her grades. Mrs. Conway nodded assent and added that Elena’s slacking off stemmed from “a lack of motivation and low self-confidence.”
In response to their daughter’s perceived troubles, the Conways had hired a parade of motivational experts, life coaches, and tutors. Despite this pricey coterie of handlers, her behavior failed to improve. In fact, one tutor even volunteered (rather hesitantly, given Mr. Conway’s celebrity) that “something is wrong with Elena.” The Conways dismissed the tutor’s concern as an excuse for his own incompetence and continued to look for ways to help their daughter “snap out of her funk.”

They turned to naturopathic agents and meditation, and when those didn’t help, they shelled out more money for hypnosis and acupuncture. In fact, they had done everything possible to avoid seeing a psychiatrist until “the incident.”

So begins Dr. Jeffrey A. Lieberman’s new book, Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry. Written with Ogi Ogas, the volume has just been published by Little, Brown and Company.

Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Ending Chronic Homelessness

Can we end chronic homelessness?

Just a few years ago, that question would have seemed absurd. Chronic homelessness was, well, chronic. Today, a re-think of an old problem is yielding incredible results. And here’s the best part: Canadian researchers and the Mental Health Commission of Canada are playing crucial roles.

Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Recession and Suicide

This is all I have left.

My patient, faced with significant financial issues, reached into his pocket and pulled out some change. “Everything else is gone,” he said.

The year was 2010. My patient had spent decades managing a GM dealership but, with widespread company problems, he lost his job and the dealership closed. He described to me walking out one evening with an appointment book filled with future meetings only to realize the next day that he had nothing to do. “I’m an adrenalin junkie.” The long 12-hour work days were replaced by the uncomfortable monotony of unemployment. My patient was lost — and depressed and suicidal. Continue reading