Juurlink, a drug safety expert at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and an expert witness at the inquest into the Paxil-related suicide of 18-year-old Sara Carlin of Oakville, says ‘there’s a widespread perception that [antidepressants] are very safe, but that’s not always the case.’ ”http://www.torontosun.com/life/2010/10/08/15635721.html
October 9, 2010
Living with mental illness
By JOANNE RICHARD, Special to QMI Agency
Last Updated: October 9, 2010 2:00am
David Carmichael lives with loss, sorrow and stigma like no other.
In 2004, he strangled his 11-year-old son, Ian. While severely depressed and taking Paxil, Carmichael became acutely psychotic and delusional – he thought Ian had suffered brain damage because of epileptic seizures and would harm others.
Charged with first-degree murder, Carmichael was found not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder. Any link between the antidepressant and his violent behaviour was never explored in court. A year earlier, Health Canada had advised of stronger warnings that antidepressants called SSRIs can trigger increased risk of harming oneself and others.
“I would have liked to have known I was playing a lethal lottery,” says Carmichael, 52, who’s speaking out about his incomprehensible family tragedy during Mental Illness Awareness Week to increase awareness about the rare dangerous side effects of antidepressants.
“I’m speaking out about prescription drugs, not against them,” says Carmichael, from his home in Huntsville, Ontario, which he shares with his wife of 22 years and his 20-year-old daughter.
The former national fitness guru strongly advises people seek treatment for mental illness but to ask doctors questions about prescription drug safety before making treatment decisions.
“The pain has been excruciating and basically we’ve lost everything, but that’s nothing compared to losing a son,” says Carmichael. “I feel Ian’s death was out of my ignorance, rather than my negligence.”
In the brutal aftermath of psychosis, he’s focused on rebuilding his family life and sport consulting career. “The stigma of mental illness has destroyed careers. The stigma that I’m carrying is off the charts,” he says, adding that the “fear of association” has made finding work very difficult.
Carmichael is the managing director of Huntsville Sports; he holds a masters in physical education and was the former director of national projects at Participaction.
He’s taking charge of his physical and mental health and advises others to do the same. Carmichael hosts seminars about drug safety and promotes exercise as effective treatment intervention for mild and moderate depression (more information at davidcarmichael.com).
According to scientist Dr. David Juurlink, for a very small number of patients, taking SSRIs can trigger suicidal behaviour and “it’s not much of a stretch to think it might rarely trigger homicidal behaviour too.”
Juurlink, a drug safety expert at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and an expert witness at the inquest into the Paxil-related suicide of 18-year-old Sara Carlin of Oakville, says “there’s a widespread perception that [antidepressants] are very safe, but that’s not always the case.”
Meanwhile, Carmichael was first put on Paxil in July 2003 for major depression – “the doctor didn’t tell me about any of the possible side effects.”
He weaned himself off the drug but then suffered a catastrophic depression the following year. “I put myself back on Paxil and then increased my dosage a week later after I started having suicidal thoughts.” He went from 40mg to 60mg.