Oregon Killer’s Mother Wrote of Troubled Son and Gun Rights — (The New York Times)

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The New York Times 

Q: Started taking anti-depressants but dont want to, they make me feel good but can I still feel this without em?

I have been going to a therapist for a month, they suggested to see my doctor since they cant pre-scribe anything.   My doctor put my on one anti-depressant 2 weeks ago and then assigned me a phyciatrist.  I went to the phyciatrist yesterday and he and I came to a conclusion that the one kind I have been taking has…

A: Best answer: (by Tweetybird, a.k.a. Laurel Harper) Whether you remain on antidepressant therapy for life greatly depends on the cause of your depression.   If it’s situational, you may resolve it with a combination of short-term anti-depressant use and psychological therapy. If it’s due to a medical condition, managing and controlling, if not resolvong, the condition may resolve the depression.   If the cause is a chronic. incurable condition or due to an abnormality in brain chemistry, life-long antidepressant therapy is the most effective way along with counselling to develop coping strategies.In any event, when you feel ready you may request that antidepressant tapering begin at any time.   In some cases, self-revelation and acquired coping skills can take the place of medication.  But bear in mind that it’s not shameful or a sign of weakness to rely on antidepressants for the rest of your life.  It can be a wise decision.I’m a nurse.

Testimony focuses on drug use in Buendia attempted murder trial — (Bay News 9)

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Bay News 9

By Dalia Dangerfield, Reporter

Last Updated: Monday, October 05, 2015, 5:05 PM

Testimony focuses on drug use in Buendia attempted murder trial

TAMPA –Drugs took center stage Monday in the attempted murder trial of Matthew Buendia.   Buendia is the former Marine who is accused of shooting a Hillsborough County deputy.Dr. Daniel Buffington testified Monday, listing 13 drugs that were prescribed to Buendia prior to Sept. 30. The medications were used for pain, panic attacks, depression, and skin conditions.

Those medications are: Dival Proex, Clonazapem, Mirtazapin, Ranitidine, Benzoyl peroxide, Clindamycin, Cyanocobalamin, Tramadol, Magnesium Oxide, Omeprazole, Meloxicam, Isotretinoin and Bupropion.

The list reveals the medication Buendia was supposed to be taking the day Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy Lyonelle De Veaux was shot.

Buffington, a pharmacologist at the University of South Florida, testified about the medications and some possible side effects that come from the drugs.

“Problem behavior, disturbance in thinking, confusion,” Buffington said.

Buendia’s attorneys said it points to a sick ex-Marine who wasn’t in his right mind when he shot the Hillsborough deputy, but prosecutors say they don’t buy it.

“Is it possible that none of these drugs were affecting him in the way that was listed up there,” prosecutor Justin Diaz said. “Is that possible?”

“Absolutely possible,” Buffington responded.

Buffington also testified that it is possible Buendia had not taken any of his prescription pills prior to the shooting.

Oxycodone and marijuana were found in Buendia’s system, and hours before, Buendia had been drinking.

Prosecutors said that was not prescribed by doctors.

Those drugs, prosecutors believe, are the perfect combination for attempted murder.

The trial continues Tuesday. If convicted, Buendia could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Data from Study 329, that Claimed to show Paroxetine is Safe and Effective for Adolescents, Actually Showed the Opposite — (Various)

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Restoring Study 329: efficacy and harms of paroxetine and imipramine in treatment of major depression in adolescence – BMJ

by Joanna Le Noury, John M Nardo, David Healy, Jon Jureidini, Melissa Raven, Catalin Tufanaru, and Elia Abi-Jaoude, published Sept. 16, 2015

Below is a selection of media stories on the BMJ Article Restoring Study 329, with the link, title and lead-off sentence of each:

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1. Antidepressant Paxil Is Unsafe for Teenagers, New Analysis Says, By Benedict Carey

The New York Times

Fourteen years ago, a leading drug maker published a study showing that the antidepressant Paxil was safe and effective for teenagers. On Wednesday, a major medical journal posted a new analysis of the same data concluding that the opposite is true…


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2. Re-analysis of controversial Paxil study shows drug “ineffective and unsafe” for teens

Retraction Watch

The antidepressant Paxil isn’t safe or effective for teens after all, says a re-analysis of a 2001 study published today in The BMJ.


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3.Antidepressant paroxetine tips young people into suicide: study, by John Ross

The Australian

An Australian-led study of a popular antidepressant has shown that it can tip young people­ into suicide.  In a rare re-analysis of a contro­versial clinical trial, the researchers­ found that the drug paroxetine — touted in 2001 as safe and effective for teenagers — was neither.


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4. Seroxat study under-reported harmful effects on young people, say scientists | Science, by Sarah Boseley

The Guardian

Experts who re-analysed data say study is still referred to in medical literature and needs to be retracted.  An influential study which claimed that an antidepressant drug was safe for children and adolescents failed to report the true numbers of young people who thought of killing themselves while on it, re-analysis of the trial has found.  Study 329, into the effects of GlaxoSmithKline’s drug paroxetine on under-18s, was published in 2001 and later found to be flawed.



Ghana records 1,500 suicide cases annually — (GhanaWaves)

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Sep 15  2015

Written by samuel

Ghana records 1,500 suicide cases annually

Ghana records about 1,500 suicide cases annually, the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Authority, Dr Akwasi Osei, has revealed.

That figure, he said, constituted about seven per cent loss of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but little attention was paid to suicide cases in the country.

According to him, in every single reported case of suicide, there were four unreported case of suicide, there were four unreported cases, bring the number of unreported cases to about 6,000 annually.

Leading cause of suicide

In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra Monday, Dr Osei said the leading cause of suicide was depression. He, therefore, called for a repeal of Sec 57 Clause 2 of the 1960 Criminal Code of Ghana which criminalises suicide.

Other causes, he said, were previous suicide attempts, substance abuse, mental disorders, incarceration, exposure to suicidal behaviour, taking antidepressant medications and a history of being abused or witnessing continued abuse. Men more likely to commit suicide. Dr Osei stated that men were more likely to attempt suicide than women. In addition, he said, older men and women were more likely to attempt suicide than young men and women. The chief psychiatrist named stigmatisation, traditional beliefs and the law as some of the hindrances to patients opting for early medical attention.

Nebraska man blames Zoloft in girlfriend’s 2002 killing — (Tri-City Herald)

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Tri-City Herald

September 15, 2015

The Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. — A Nebraska man convicted of killing his girlfriend in 2002 is blaming an antidepressant for his actions and requesting his case be re-examined by a judge.

Randall Robbins pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Brittany Eurek and was sentenced to 40 to 60 years in prison.

Robbins claims the antidepressant Zoloft, which was prescribed to him for depression in 2002 by a Lincoln doctor, played a key role in what was supposed to be a murder-suicide, the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1idyDj0 ) reported.

Attorney Rob Kortus of the Nebraska Commission of Public Advocacy, who’s representing Robbins, said DNA testing conducted this year shows genetics prevents Robbins from metabolizing Zoloft as intended by its manufacturer. Kortus contends that can lead to violent outbursts and suicidal behavior, something the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned of in 2007, in young adults between 18 and 24 during initial treatment.

In 2009, Robbins successfully sued drug manufacturer Pfizer and the doctor who prescribed Zoloft to him.

He requested DNA testing in 2011, without providing a reason, and the request initially was denied but came up again in a motion for post-conviction relief. Robbins then specifically sought DNA Drug Reaction Profile Testing, using the state’s DNA Testing Act, to determine whether he was among some 10 percent of people who are poor metabolizers of Zoloft.

Kortus plans to argue that the test results indicate that Robbins should be released from prison, granted a new trial or re-sentenced with the new evidence taken into consideration.

A judge could find that the evidence doesn’t rise to the level to warrant any of those steps.

Briefs are expected to be submitted in October and November.

Prescription pills are Britain’s third biggest killer: Side-effects of drugs taken for insomnia and anxiety kill thousands. Why do doctors hand them out like Smarties? — (Daily Mail)

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Daily Mail Online

By Professor Peter Gøtzsche As told to JEROME BURNE

  • 80 million prescriptions for psychiatric drugs are written in UK every year
  • Psychiatric drugs are the third major killer after heart disease and cancer
  • Professor Gøtzsche reveals the scale of the issue in a new book
  • Luke Montagu, 45, heir to the Earl of Sandwich, was wrongly prescribed anti-depressants which took him seven years to detox from

Soaring drug use, a growing number of addicts, far too few clinics to treat them and a rising death toll. This might sound like a scene from an impoverished country run by drug cartels – but it is, in fact, the day-to-day reality for NHS patients who are prescribed psychiatric drugs to treat anxiety, insomnia and depression.

More than 80 million prescriptions for psychiatric drugs are written in the UK every year. Not only are these drugs often entirely unnecessary and ineffective, but they can also turn patients into addicts, cause crippling side-effects – and kill.

For instance, antipsychotics, commonly given to dementia patients to keep them quiet, raise the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Psychiatric drugs also make falls more likely, and breaking a hip can shorten life significantly, while some antidepressants are linked to a potentially deadly irregular heartbeat.

And the death toll from these pills has been grossly underestimated. As I reveal in a new book, Deadly Psychiatry And Organised Denial, the true figure is terrifying: according to my calculations, based on data from published and unpublished sources, for psychiatric drugs are the third major killer after heart disease and cancer.

As an investigator for the independent Cochrane Collaboration – an international body that assesses medical research – my role is to look forensically at the evidence for treatments.

Previously this has led to me challenging widely-held assumptions about the benefits of breast cancer screening (I’ve calculated that every year in the UK, thousands of women undergo unnecessary treatment because of overdiagnosis), GP health MOTs, and the advice for cutting asthma attacks by using special mattress covers.

All these have certainly ruffled feathers, but what I’ve discovered about the damage caused by psychiatric drugs far outweighs anything else I’ve identified.

In fact, the data on all this is available if you know where to look, but I’m the first person to pull it all together – for instance, finding that the number of suicides among adults and children taking antidepressant drugs is actually 15 times greater than the number calculated by the U.S. drugs watchdog, the Food and Drug Administration.

Yet psychiatrists and GPs generally ignore or deny the appalling scale of this damage from drugs that are all too often used without medical justification.

Just this month, for instance, a study published in the BMJ found that thousands of people in England with learning difficulties are routinely prescribed antipsychotic drugs: these drugs do nothing to help these patients but are used as a chemical cosh.

I was alerted to the failings of psychiatric drugs eight years ago when one of my postgraduate students suggested an idea for her PhD thesis: ‘Why is history repeating itself? A study on benzodiazepines and antidepressants.’

She explained she’d discovered that popular tranquilisers such as Valium (a benzodiazepine drug more popularly known as ‘mother’s little helper’), and before that the barbiturates, had been described as very safe when first introduced, but then turned out to be highly addictive.

When selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (antidepressants known as SSRIs) came on the market 20 years ago, their big selling point was that they were non-addictive. That proved just as wrong.

I decided to dig deeply into this area, and currently have three PhD students investigating what psychiatric drugs really do to people.

More than 80 million prescriptions for psychiatric drugs are written in the UK every year

What we have found is truly astonishing. Doctors dispense them in large numbers because they believe drug trials show them to be effective, but the evidence is based on poor science.

The skeletons in this closet have been tumbling out at an alarming rate. Sleeping pills, for instance, stop being beneficial after a couple of weeks, yet patients are left on them for years, while antipsychotics are licensed if they show an effect in two placebo trials, no matter how small that effect is.

One reason why doctors have got it so wrong is a fatal flaw in the way the trials are done. No one is supposed to know which group is given the drug and which the placebo.

But in the trials it’s widely known who’s on a psychiatric drug because they cause definite side-effects such as nausea and dry mouth. The medics, whose account of how patients responded is used to judge how effective the treatment is, tend to report better results from the drug group, but these results are skewed by the fact that they knew the real drug had been given.

We know this happens because an analysis of trials by Cochrane Collaboration found that when the placebo was designed to cause similar side-effects to the drug, the psychiatrists reported just as good results from both groups.

In other words, the drug was found to be no more effective than the placebo.

1 IN 11

The proportion of adults thought to be taking an antidepressant.

Claims by psychiatrists that the drugs do work have to be taken with a pinch of salt, not only because good evidence suggests they don’t, but also because those who run the trials almost always receive funding from drug companies.

Based on the same sort of flawed trials, antidepressants are also being handed out for conditions such as binge eating, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and menopausal symptoms.

The claimed benefits can be ludicrously small, for instance: they cut the rate of hot flushes from ten to nine a day.

Yet despite the lack of good evidence for their benefits, 57 million prescriptions for antidepressants are handed out a year in England alone – and patients are left on them for years.

One reason why drug use is steadily expanding is that there is no chemical marker to diagnose depression or anxiety. So everyday changes in mood, such as feeling less happy or more anxious, can be a reason for treatment.

Most of us could get one or more psychiatric diagnoses if we consulted a psychiatrist or GP.

A successful treatment for depression would allow people to lead more normal lives – go back to work, salvage relationships. But in all the thousands of trials, I’ve never seen evidence that antidepressants can do this.

Some patients may become a little euphoric or even manic on them, but in patient surveys many report feeling worse, saying the pills change their personality, and not in a good way; they may show less interest in other people and report feeling emotionally numb. ‘Like living under a cheese dish cover,’ is a typical description patients use.

Sexual function fades; libido drops in half of patients and half can’t orgasm or ejaculate. So antidepressants are not likely to save intimate relationships – they are more likely to destroy them.

When I gave a talk to Australian child psychiatrists, one of them said he knew three teenagers taking antidepressants who had attempted suicide because they couldn’t get an erection the first time they tried to have sex.

A successful treatment for depression would allow people to lead more normal lives – go back to work, salvage relationships. But in all the thousands of trials, I’ve never seen evidence that antidepressants can do this

These boys didn’t know it was the pills – they thought there was something wrong with them. Although many psychiatrists still believe SSRIs cut the risk of suicide that can come with depression, it is well established that these drugs actually increase the risk in children and adolescents, and most likely in adults as well.

Despite the lack of a chemical marker for any psychiatric disorder, psychiatrists frequently claim the drugs work by correcting a chemical imbalance in the brain.

They say it’s like insulin and diabetes – patients can’t make enough serotonin. I’ve been told by a professor of psychiatry that stopping an antidepressant would be like taking insulin from a diabetic.

But it’s nonsense – no one has found that depressed people have less serotonin in their brains, for instance – in fact, some antidepressants actually lower serotonin.

This fairy tale has proved very damaging and can lead to patients becoming addicted. They are given more pills or a stronger dose in the hope that the ‘imbalance’ will be fixed, and can be on them for years.

When they try to come off the pills and experience very unpleasant side-effects, patients say they are told their symptoms are the result of their illness coming back.

This ignores the fact that the drugs’ withdrawal effects can mimic the symptoms of psychiatric disorders. It also doesn’t fit in with what happens when patients in desperation reach for the drugs again: within a few hours they can be feeling better. Real depression doesn’t fade that fast.

Doctors’ misconceptions about the drugs they prescribe are turning temporary problems into chronic ones.

More than one million people in the UK are addicted to sleeping pills and anti-anxiety drugs, according to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Involuntary Tranquiliser Addiction, even though for years official advice has been to not prescribe them for longer than four weeks.

Patient surveys reveal that similarly large numbers are having problems withdrawing from antidepressants. The case of Luke Montagu, told below, is a vivid and horrifying example of the destruction antidepressants and benzodiazepines can cause.

He still suffers from the crippling effects of withdrawal seven years after coming off the drugs, which he should never have been prescribed in the first place.

Yet the NHS does almost nothing to help these victims. There are disgracefully few facilities to treat them – fewer than ten in the whole country, and all these are run by small charities, some of which are closing due to lack of funding.

We need to educate doctors so they know how these drugs really work, and show them how to help patients stop taking the pills (by very gently reducing the dose).

According to my calculations, if psychiatric drugs were only prescribed for a few weeks in acute situations, we would only need 2 per cent of the prescriptions written at the moment for insomnia, depression and anxiety. The saving in human and financial terms would be enormous.

Later this week, I will be speaking at a major conference on how we can reduce the use of these drugs, More Harm than Good: Confronting The Psychiatric Medication Epidemic, which has been arranged by the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry at the University of Roehampton in London.

My proposal is to start a campaign to Just Say No – it is time for a war on psychiatric drugs.

Peter Gøtzsche is a specialist in internal medicine and professor in clinical research design and analysis at the University of Copenhagen. His new book, Deadly Psychiatry And Organised Denial, is published by People’s Press. Visit deadlymedicines.dk. The Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry, cepuk.org

Luke Montagu’s Story

Luke Montagu, 45, pictured, is heir to the Earl of Sandwich and lives at Mapperton, in Dorset. Last year, the father-of-four founded the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry to highlight the risks from psychiatric drugs. Here, he describes the devastating effect the pills have had on his life.

When I was 19 I had a sinus operation that left me with headaches and a sense of distance from the world.

I saw my GP after a few weeks, who told me what I now realise is a medical myth – that I had a chemical imbalance in my brain.

The real problem was probably a reaction to the anaesthetic, which might have improved itself if left. But I was prescribed various antidepressants including Prozac. These didn’t help so I saw other doctors and psychiatrists, but no one really listened when I suggested it had begun with the operation.

All offered different diagnoses and all gave me drugs. I was prescribed nine different pills in four years.

Although the drugs never made me feel better for long, I reluctantly concluded that I did have something wrong with me – I’d tried to come off the drugs a couple of times but felt so awful that I went back to them.

I thought I needed the medication, but in fact I was going into withdrawal each time. In 1995, I was given the antidepressant Seroxat and took it for seven years.

When I tried to come off it I felt dizzy and couldn’t sleep. I was also in a state of extreme anxiety. These were withdrawal symptoms, but, thinking I was seriously ill, I saw a psychiatrist.

He gave me four new drugs, including the sleeping pill clonazepam. I quickly felt better, not realising I’d become as dependent as a junkie on heroin.

I functioned OK for a few years, but gradually became more and more tired and forgetful. So, in 2009, believing it was due to the drugs, I booked into an addiction clinic.

My psychiatrist advised me to come off the clonazepam right away and within three days I was hit by a tsunami of horrific symptoms – my brain felt like it had been torn in two, there was a high-pitched ringing in my ears and I couldn’t think.

I now know this was terrible advice: rapid withdrawal from long-term use of sleeping pills is nearly always a disaster. The detox was the start of nearly seven years of hell. It was as if parts of my brain had been erased.

About three years ago, I very slowly began to recover. I still have a burning pins and needles sensation throughout my body, loud tinnitus and a feeling of intense agitation.

But my mind is back, and I’m determined to try to help others avoid this terrible trap.

Common antidepressants ‘linked to increased risk of violent behaviour in young people’ — (Belfast Telegraph) Rx for violence? — (LA Times)

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Belfast Telegraph

By John von Radowitz

Published 15/09/2015

Common antidepressants have been linked to an increased risk of young people committing violent crimes.

A Swedish study found that taking the drugs, known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs,) raised the likelihood of someone aged 15 to 24 being convicted for an act of violence by 43%.No significant association was seen between SSRI use and violent crime in people aged 25 and older.

Previous research has found that children and young adults, but not older individuals, may be more prone to suicidal thoughts when taking the antidepressants.

A number of legal cases have linked the drugs with violent behaviour, but until now research evidence has been inconclusive.

Scientists conducting the new study used data from Swedish drug prescription and crime registries to compare conviction rates of around 850,000 individuals when they were on and off SSRI medication over a four-year period.

Among the four drugs included in the study were fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Seroxat), two of the most widely prescribed antidepressants.

The findings, published in the online journal Public Library of Science Medicine, showed that, overall, taking SSRIs increased the likelihood of a violent conviction by 19%.

When different age groups were analysed separately, the study found a 43% raised risk for people aged 15 to 24. For older participants, the association was not statistically significant.

Violent crimes included attempted or actual murders or acts of manslaughter, unlawful threats, harassment, robbery, arson, assault, kidnapping, stalking, coercion and all sexual offences.

The authors, led by Professor Seena Fazel, from Oxford University, stressed that their results did not prove a causal link between SSRIs and violent crime.

They wrote: “The risk increase we report in young people is not insignificant, and hence warrants further examination. If our findings related to young people are validated in other designs, samples, and settings, warnings about an increased risk of violent behaviours while being treated with SSRIs may be needed.

“Any such changes to the advice given to young persons prescribed SSRIs will need to be carefully considered, as the public health benefit from decreases in violence following restrictions in SSRI use may be countered by increases in other adverse outcomes (such as more disability, re-hospitalisation, or suicides).”


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Rx for violence? Crime risk rises for young people on antidepressants, study says

Los Angeles Times

By Karen Kaplan                           This article is related to: Europe

September 15, 2015, 4:03 PM

Researchers have identified a troubling side effect of a widely prescribed class of antidepressants — they may make some patients more likely to commit violent crimes.

Data from Sweden show that young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 who had filled prescriptions for the drugs were more likely to be convicted of a homicide, assault, robbery, arson, kidnapping, sexual offense or other violent crime when they were taking the medications than when they weren’t. The researchers found no link between antidepressant use and criminal activity for older patients.


The findings, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, build on other evidence that the antidepressants – known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs – work differently in the brains of adolescents and adults. For instance, several studies have shown that the drugs actually boost the risk of suicidal thoughts in children, teens and young adults, but not in older adults.

The link between SSRIs and crime is less clear. One analysis of trends in the U.S. found that the “great American crime decline” that began in the 1990s coincided with the emergence of SSRIs, including Prozac, Celexa, Paxil and Zoloft. But reviews of safety data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration have found that SSRI use was associated with an increased risk of violent behavior.


SSRIs help cells in the brain communicate with one another by making better use of a chemical called serotonin. This chemical is necessary for sending a message from one brain cell to another. Scientists believe that with more available serotonin, the brain circuits that control mood stand a better chance of functioning properly.

To get a clearer picture of the potential risks associated with SSRIs, researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and the University of Oxford in England turned to national data from Sweden, where the government keeps track of prescriptions that are filled as well as convictions for crimes.

In Sweden, the criminal justice system treats people as adults once they turn 15. So the researchers examined records for nearly 8 million Swedes who were at least 15 years old in 2006. They found that more than 850,000 of them had been prescribed an SSRI sometime between 2006 and 2009. That amounted to 14.1% of all Swedish women and 7.5% of all Swedish men.

Among all of the people who got prescriptions for SSRIs, 1% of them were convicted of committing some type of violent crime between 2006 and 2009. The researchers focused on these 8,377 people and compared their criminal activity when they had an SSRI prescription to the periods when they did not.

The initial analysis found that the risk of a violent crime conviction was 19% higher when people were taking the antidepressants than when they weren’t. The increase in risk was essentially the same when the researchers factored in the influence of other psychotropic drugs.

When they broke down the numbers according to age, they found that the risk was concentrated among the youngest group of people. For adults between the ages of 15 and 24, the risk of being convicted of a violent crime was 43% greater when they were taking an SSRI than when they weren’t.

Then the researchers considered the men in this age group separately from the women. Among men, taking SSRIs was linked with a 40% increased risk of being convicted of a violent crime; among women, the risk increased by 75%, according to the study.

The study doesn’t prove that the SSRIs were responsible for the observed increase in criminal violence among teens and young adults, the researchers said. However, it does add to evidence that “the adolescent brain may be particularly sensitive to pharmacological interference,” they wrote.

Even if it turns out that the antidepressants do make young people more likely to commit violent crimes, does that mean doctors should stop prescribing them? The answer is not obvious, the researchers wrote. Dialing back on SSRIs may cause violence to go down, but then suicides may go up. “From a public health perspective,” they wrote, it may be better to keep on using the drugs “as long as potential risks are disclosed.”

Mom of boy found dead in swing indicted: manslaughter charge — (AP)

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September 14, 2015


LA PLATA, Md. (AP) — A Maryland woman who was found pushing her dead son in a playground swing earlier this year has been indicted and charged with manslaughter and child abuse, authorities announced Monday.At an arraignment Monday in Charles County Circuit Court, prosecutors said Romechia Simms, 24, of LaPlata, spent two entire days in a LaPlata playground pushing her 3-year-old son, Ji’Aire Donnell Lee. Authorities say Lee died of dehydration and low body temperature while he was in the swing.

Medical examiners ruled the death a homicide. At Monday’s arraignment, Simms objected when prosecutors declared her a danger and a flight risk, according to Kristen Ayers, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney. “I’m not a risk to anybody,” Simms said, before her public defender advised her to be quiet. “I didn’t even mean for this to happen.” Prosecutors said Simms’ mental state is in question and they wanted her to remain jailed. Sheriff’s deputies found the toddler dead in the swing the morning of May 22 after receiving a call that a woman had been pushing a child in the swing at odd hours. State’s Attorney Anthony Covington said Monday that police found Lee’s jacket in the trash, and his shoes off his feet, filled with rain water.

A judge ordered Simms held, with bond set at $150,000, and scheduled a January trial date. She faces up to 45 years in prison — 30 years on first-degree child abuse, 10 years on the manslaughter charge and 5 years on a charge of child neglect. Family members have said Simms was suffering from mental illness. She was hospitalized after her son’s death, and had been hospitalized for a brief period in the months beforehand. The public defender representing Simms did not return a call Monday seeking comment. Simms’ mother, Vontasha Simms, said she was “totally flabbergasted” by the decision to bring criminal charges. “No one in their right mind is going to sit out there for two days in the elements,” she said, noting that her daughter was exposed to the weather and had no food or water, either, during those two days.

She said her daughter had just begun taking medication for her mental-health problems a couple of months before, and wondered whether there were problems getting the right medication or dosage. She said her daughter had been complaining of headaches before Ji’Aire’s death. “Somehow, somewhere within that episode, time stopped for her,” Vontasha Simms said. Vontasha Simms said she hopes to retain a private attorney to represent her daughter, but worries that she can’t afford it. Christopher Slobogin, a professor at Vanderbilt University’s law school and an expert in mental health law, said prosecutors have leeway in deciding whether to bring criminal charges in cases like this. How much Simms’ apparent mental illness affects the case depends on how strong the defense’s argument is that she is ill, Slobogin said. “If she’s pushing her dead child in a swing that’s pretty good evidence of serious impairment,” Slobogin said.

After Monday’s arraignment, Covington said he didn’t know whether he might revisit the criminal charges if subsequent mental-health evaluations raise questions about Simms’ sanity or competency. While he acknowledged that mental-health issues are part of the case, he said it would be up to the defense to bring forward a mental-illness defense. He said he could not discuss specific facts of the case, including whether Simms had offered an explanation of her behavior to the authorities. Earlier this year, the boy’s father petitioned a District of Columbia court for custody of his son, saying Simms was behaving erratically and jumped out of a moving taxicab with Ji’Aire. In court papers, Simms acknowledged she had had a mental breakdown but insisted she was doing better.

“This breakdown that I had was the first that I have ever had in my life and I truly believe it was from an extreme amount of stress weighing heavy on me. I am now in a much better productive space,” she wrote in a letter to the judge. In May, just days before Ji’Aire’s death, a judge ordered the parents to share custody, and court records indicate both Simms and the boy’s father agreed to the arrangement.


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Boy had been on park swing two days when he was found dead, officials say

The Washington Post

June 30, 2015

The story was chilling and heartbreaking: A 3-year-old boy was found dead in a Southern Maryland park, his mother pushing him on the swing.

More than a month after Ji’Aire Donnell Lee’s death, the Charles County Sheriff’s Office revealed more terrible details: Ji’Aire was alive when his mother put him on the swing. He stayed on it for almost two days.

A medical examiner’s office has ruled that Ji’Aire’s death was a homicide, and the sheriff’s office said Tuesday that he died of hypothermia and dehydration during his long time on the swing. The autopsy report will be sent to the county state’s attorney’s office, which will decide whether to file charges against Ji’Aire’s mother, Romechia Simms.

Kristen Ayers, of the state’s attorney’s office, said that because prosecutors had not received the autopsy report, they cannot say whether they will file charges.

Ji’Aire was dead when police found his mother pushing him in Wills Memorial Park the morning of May 22. At the time, police were unsure when and how he died.

Death of boy found in park swing ruled a homicide

An autopsy report has revealed that 3-year-old Ji’Aire Donnell Lee, who was found dead on a park swing as his mother pushed in May, died due to hypothermia and dehydration after spending two nights in the Maryland park. (WUSA9)

On Tuesday, the sheriff’s office said its investigation revealed that Simms, 24, arrived at the park in La Plata with her son about 11:15 a.m. May 20.

Simms, who had previously experienced a mental breakdown, stayed in the park for nearly 44 hours, pushing Ji’Aire on the swing. Early on the morning of May 22, someone who had spotted the pair at the park the day before called police to say that it was unusual that they were still there.

At 6:55 a.m., after a night during which the temperature fell to 51 degrees, police found the dead child and his mother in the park.

[She’d recovered from a breakdown, she said. Then her son was found dead.]

The police account differs from the timeline previously offered to The Washington Post by Simms’s mother, Vontasha Simms, who was living with her daughter and grandson at a motel in La Plata, Md.

Vontasha Simms said that Ji’Aire, a chubby-cheeked preschooler nicknamed “Sumo,” had gone to the Dollar Store and Burger King with his mother May 21 before leaving for the park that evening. When they didn’t return, Vontasha Simms said she grew worried and at 12:30 a.m. May 22 called her daughter. Romechia Simms assured her mother that they were on their way home.

Diane Richardson, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said that Vontasha Simms’s account was incorrect and that the mother and son spent two nights in the park. “It’s definitely Wednesday — that we know for a fact,” Richardson said. “There were witnesses there. There’s no indication that she left.”

Pallbearers carry the casket of 3-year-old Ji’Aire Lee at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton, Md., on June 5. (J. Lawler Duggan/For The Washington Post)

In an interview Tuesday night, Vontasha Simms declined to discuss the discrepancy, saying only that Romechia Simms has been suffering so much from mental illness that “she doesn’t realize herself that she was there for that long of a time.”

Vontasha Simms said that when she and Romechia Simms were told that authorities ruled Ji’Aire’s death a homicide, they were devastated.

“We’re all upset by it, because that’s not what we’re about. It doesn’t shine a good light,” Vontasha Simms said. “We know she was in a terrible situation, and I know she didn’t do anything purposefully to harm him. But I am not going to contradict anything [investigators] are saying. I don’t want to muddy the waters.”

The family has not hired an attorney but is “looking into it,” Vontasha Simms said. “Right now, we’re waiting to see what happens. It’s just a tough pill to swallow. I don’t know what [the prosecutors] are going to do, but our main concern is keeping [Romechia Simms] emotionally stable. She’s at a fragile point. She goes a few times a week to a mental health facility.”

Last month, Vontasha Simms said that her daughter suffers from depression and bipolar disorder. Romechia Simms was hospitalized after her son was found dead but released in time for his funeral.

[Mother wipes away tears at funeral for boy found dead on park swing]

Romechia Simms had been hospitalized twice before her son’s death for erratic behavior. In an interview last month, Ji’Aire’s father, James “Donnell” Lee, said she thought someone was trying to kill him in February. Not long after that, she jumped out of a moving cab with their son in tow.

Lee, who could not be reached to comment Tuesday, said he found his ex-girlfriend and child on the side of Branch Avenue after midnight. “He was walking with no socks, jacket open, in his pajamas. She left her diaper bag two blocks away,” Lee said.

‘Evil,’ antidepressants blamed in killing of Winnipeg girlfriend, then wife;  Crown attorney: ‘When he tires of his girlfriend or his wife, rather than leave the situation, he kills them’ — (Winnipeg Sun)

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Winnipeg Sun

By Dean Pritchard

Myrna Letandre, who was 37 and originally from the Fairford First Nation, was reported missing by her sister in 2006. Her remains were found in a Winnipeg rooming house seven years later.   Traigo Andretti was given a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 25 years in 2014 for the first-degree murder of his wife, Jennifer McPherson, who was also a longtime Winnipeg resident. Traigo Andretti pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Myrna Letandre as her family members wept in a Winnipeg court Aug. 25, 2015.

Traigo Andretti, 40, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the August 2006 killing of 36-year-old Myrna Letandre.

Police found Letandre’s skull in May 2013, hidden in a basement crawlspace of the Lorne Avenue home she and Andretti shared for a short time before her death.

“This is by all measures a brutal and senseless murder,” said Justice Chris Martin before sentencing Andretti to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years. “It’s a despicable, vile crime … I question whether the evil that you did has really sunk in.”

Andretti had known Letandre for just a few weeks when he strangled her with a nylon cord, dragged her to the bathroom shower stall and slit her throat. In the hours that followed, Andretti dismembered Letandre’s body and flushed several small pieces down the toilet. Others he discarded in a garbage dumpster.

Andretti wrapped Letandre’s head in plastic and buried it in the basement crawlspace.

When Letandre’s sister Lorna Sinclair came to Andretti looking for her, Andretti claimed she had met a man at the bar and left with him for Vancouver.

“I wish I knew why he did this,” Sinclair told court. “My sister was harmless, she deserved to live … I hope Mr. Andretti burns in hell. God will judge him one day.”

Sinclair criticized police for not questioning Andretti at the time, arguing if they had, his wife Jennifer McPherson — who he killed in 2013 — might still be alive.

Family members described Letandre as quiet, gentle and loving.

“Coming here today, hearing all the things done to her, it’s unbearable,” said cousin Patty Sinclair. “We have to forgive this beast who took her away from us … The only consolation is one day he will stand before God and have our sister’s blood on his hands.”

It would be more than six years before police questioned Andretti in the killing. Andretti was living in British Columbia in May 2013 when he admitted to killing McPherson.

Andretti and McPherson had been working together on Hanson Island when he killed and dismembered her. Andretti told police he tied McPherson to a tree before strangling her and burning her body. Andretti said he recorded the killing and placed some of McPherson’s body parts in lobster traps.

Andretti also admitted to “doing something similar” to Letandre years earlier, Crown attorney Sheila Leinburd told court.

“When he tires of his girlfriend or his wife, rather than leave the situation, he kills them,” Leinburd said.

A psychiatric report concluded Andretti did not suffer from a mental illness and is criminally responsible for his actions.

Andretti was not represented by a lawyer and made little in the way of submissions to the court, except to say he deserved to be sentenced to life in prison.

Andretti’s sentence will run concurrent to the life sentence he is already serving for killing McPherson.

Thought he was doing victim a favour?

Prodded by a judge, Traigo Andretti provided a court with a brief look inside the mind of a dangerous — and in his own words “evil” — killer.  “It was happy,” Andretti said of his relationship with Myrna Letandre, the woman he would kill just weeks after meeting her. “We had fun just walking around town … She was real patient and gentle.”

Andretti initially offered no explanation for killing Letandre, then blamed his actions on his use of antidepressants.  “I didn’t recognize … the effect of taking a high dosage and then not taking it,” he said.

Andretti said he convinced himself he was easing Letandre’s pain by killing her. Court heard she walked with the aid of leg braces after a failed suicide attempt.

“I tried to justify to myself after the fact she was in pain, but I’m not sure there was anything more than evil involved,” he said. “I thought I loved her, and the day before I had no idea it was going to happen.”

Andretti told court he grew up in Fergus, Ont., and had a happy childhood with friends. Asked if he was a “loner,” Andretti said “I’m not sure.”

Andretti said he was working as a bike courier years ago when he was hit by a truck and suffered a head injury. He spent just a few hours in hospital.  Justice Chris Martin asked Andretti “Do you think you changed as a result or are you the same person?”

“I can’t say,” Andretti replied.

Andretti said he fantasized about killing his wife Jennifer McPherson for five years. He said he stopped taking antidepressants three weeks earlier “in the hopes that I would follow through with killing her.”

First win for missing-murdered task force

Winnipeg police touted a life sentence given to a two-time killer as a win for its missing-and-murdered task force, and hoped it would provide comfort to the family of one of the victims.

Andretti was arrested last year as part of Project Devote, a joint task force between the WPS and RCMP launched in 2012 to work cases of missing and murdered exploited persons.

Winnipeg police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said he’s optimistic more arrests in other cases will follow.

“Investigators have been, and continue to sift through thousands of pieces of information that comes through tips from the public,” Michalyshen said.

“… We are very hopeful and optimistic that we’re going to be in this position again and again, where we will be sharing good news for families with respect to outcomes. We’re working very hard behind the scenes, I assure you.”

Andretti’s arrest was the first for Project Devote, which is tasked with 28 missing-and-murdered cases.

Michalyshen said he hopes Tuesday’s news provides some comfort to Letandre’s loved ones.

“I acknowledge that there is a frustration and I think frustration is even a mild word,” Michalyshen said. “There’s nothing that I can say today that is necessarily going to make the family feel better. We hope that there is some level of comfort … to the Letandre family. We are committed to all outstanding investigations. We were committed to this investigation from the day she was reported missing to here we stand (today).”

— David Larkins

Mom desperate to get help for son, Makes multiple attempts to get mental health assessment — (The New Glasgow News)

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The New Glasgow News

Sueann Musick

Published on August 24, 2015

NEW GLASGOW – A mother’s guilt is running deep for one Pictou County mother.

Shawna – not her real name but being used to protect the identity of her and her son – said she was so desperate to get her son help for his mental illness that having him arrested seemed the only answer.
“I tried to get medical help for my son and now he might end up with a criminal record,” she said.

Shawna’s story began this spring. Her 20-something son, who was always extremely shy, had just had his first serious relationship end.

In April, he spiralled into a deep, dark depression that saw him in his unlit room, unable to sleep, eat or perform even day-to-day tasks.

Scared and at her wit’s end, she took him to the Aberdeen Hospital and he was prescribed the anti-depressant Paxil which she was told would help alleviate his depression, but instead it made things worse.

Shawna said the side effects of the drug were probably more devastating than his symptoms of depression. He started to threaten to kill him himself, sending her “goodbye texts” and wandering off without any contact for hours and hours.

“It was just crazy thinking,” she said. “You couldn’t get him to do anything. She said the final straw was when he spent 32 hours straight on the rocks at a local beach, contemplating whether he wanted to take his own life.

After this he was admitted to the Aberdeen Hospital’s mental health unit where she hoped he would finally get the help he needed on an inpatient basis, but after more than three days of seeing him sitting in a room without a visit by any psychiatrist, she knew she needed to speak out.

After complaining loud enough and even being told she should leave the unit at one point, Shawna said her son first saw a psychiatrist five days after he was admitted and they were told he needed to be kept on the drug Paxil because it takes 30 days to work properly, despite the side effects. He was released from the unit a week after he was admitted and back in her care.

For the next month, she said, things were going from bad to worse.  He was in and out of Aberdeen’s mental health unit as well as Kentville and Antigonish’s units for short three-day stays. After being released from the units each time, she would have to call the police to help search for him because the suicidal thoughts kept coming and the wandering continued.

Finally, Shawna said she was told by a police officer that maybe the only way to get him the medical treatment he needed was to have him arrested because then he would be in the court system and sent to Dartmouth for a 30-day mental health assessment.

This opportunity came a few months later when he was charged with assault.

“So now I am thinking, ‘great, we will get him the help he needs,’” Shawna said. “We got him a lawyer and the first thing the lawyer told us was that he won’t be doing 30 days in a hospital but 30 days in Burnside. That’s when I said I would look after him.”

Shawna said he returned to the court system a few times since his first arrest because he breached conditions of an undertaking. Now he is on house arrest, under her care, and without the help of any psychiatric counseling.

Her own family doctor is slowing weaning him off the Paxil and he was going for 20-minute sessions for mental health counselling in New Glasgow with a psychologist once every two weeks, but she said those appointments have been so irregular because of rescheduling issues that he probably only gets to 20 minutes once a month.

“He was such a good kid up until this point, never even raised his voice at me,” she said. “I thought I would be able to get him help, but even outpatients won’t return your calls. It’s a horrible system. I know they are understaffed, but it’s failing people.”

Shawna said it was suggested that she also attend mental health counselling to talk to someone about her issues, but her three calls to book her first appointment have not been returned.

“We are basically doing it on our own now because we have no faith in the system at all,” she said. “I go to work and I come home. I feel guilty for putting him in the court system, but I thought I was going to get him a longer assessment of 30 days. Thirty days in a hospital is exactly what we need.”