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Sunday, July 26, 2020

Akathisia - The Taboo Terminology

Earlier this week the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) published an updated report on suicide prevention. The report was put together by a so-called 'Patient Safety Group' (see image above) and other 'contributors', one of whom is the current President of RCPsych, Dr Adrian James.

The report focuses on adult suicides and, according to RCPsych, "provides new, practice-focused guidance for psychiatrists and other mental health professionals on suicide and self‑harm that examines what interaction is now needed between these topics."

Woe Is Me

I found the following finding quite striking. It's a contradictory statement that, on one hand, highlights the failings of the psychiatric profession's choice of treatment, whilst on the other hand calls for more help for those prescribers who experience patients dying by suicide whilst under their care:

"There is evidence that most psychiatrists have experienced the death of a patient by suicide during their career, a large number of them more than once. Half of them described increased stress in the weeks following the suicide, and a sizeable minority reported a change in their practice, including more referrals to colleagues and requests for admission. The evidence suggests that there is a lack of structured support for psychiatrists and psychiatric trainees following a death by suicide."

It's remarkable isn't it. A report on the prevention of suicide highlighting the stress of prescribers who may have contributed to the suicide by prescribing antidepressants that increase the risk of suicide.

What RCPsych seem to be doing here is telling their members, "don't worry, we have your backs and we will help you through the tough times when one of your patients kill themselves whist on the 'life-saving' antidepressant you prescribed them."

Akathisia - The Taboo Terminology

Whilst the new report references the apparent safety and efficacy of antidepressants, it makes no mention of their role in inducing self-harm, suicidal thinking and suicide completion, all three of which that appear on current patient information leaflets as 'warnings'.

There is also no mention of the taboo word, 'akathisia', a condition caused by the very same drugs that RCPsych members prescribe to patients.

They Know About Akathisia 

Last July (2019) Wendy Dolin, founder of The Medication-Induced Suicide Prevention and Education Foundation in Memory of Stewart Dolin (MISSD), flew from Chicago to London to present suicide prevention information to the then President of RCPsych, Wendy Burn, and RCPsych audience members. The presentation highlighted akathisia and included a promotional video on how to spot signs of akathisia. Dolin wasn't the only safety advocate there that day who spoke about akathisia. Dr Lade Smith also spoke about this mind-crippling condition, she was even promoted by Burn who tweeted the following:

It seems a tad strange that the latest Suicide Prevention Report fails to mention akathisia, so I asked one of the 'Patient Safety Group members, Alys Cole-King, why. Cole-King had tweeted, back in March 2020, that "akathisia matters too."

Here's her reply to me (in two parts)

Appleby Ever After

The current UK Suicide Prevention expert is Prof Louis Appleby, he too is referenced throughout the new report although I am unsure of his input.

Appleby, to me at least, is a strange one. He has blocked many voices of the #PrescribedHarm community on Twitter (myself included) but back in October last year made a startling revelation regarding akathisia and the suicide prevention plan. According to Appleby he claimed, "When we came to update the strategy a few years ago, the Government wanted as few changes as possible. We were keen to add something about antidepressants after hearing from families who felt strongly about this."

What actually ended up the the suicide prevention strategy was "There are also risks in the early stages of drug treatment when some patients feel more agitated." (page 27).

Nothing about akathisia, surprising given Appleby's own personal thoughts that akathisia "can make people feel desperate and suicidal."

So, no suicide prevention warning about akathisia in a prevention strategy and no suicide prevention warning about akathisia in RCPsych's new Patient Safety Report.

Something is amiss here.

Why are Appleby and RCPsych, seemingly, afraid to address this elephant in the room?

Answers on a postcard please.

Bob Fiddaman

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