Friday, June 1, 2007


Hi all,

Hope you enjoyed the presentations yesterday - those of you who showed up! Perhaps I'll reveal my ruthless authoritarian streak to ensure better attendance in the Autumn (for we'll have no lectures on June 21st - in September things will kick off again!)

I had to go off myself for a clinic before Prof Malone and Seamus McGuinness' presentation - I'd hope to have something online from them before too long. I hope you found Joe Little's presentation stimulating - it was perhaps more an overview of a journalistic career and the intersection with mental illness in various stories that he covered, rather than a more didactic lecture.

There was lots to think about as a result of the presentation - in particular the realisation that in Ireland we are not all that far away, either in terms of time or distance, from a long-term ethnic conflict which rumbled on for centuries. We tend to forget how ingrained trauma can become. I remember being told (sorry I have no more reliable source than this) that many of the population of Belgrade are still on benzodiazapenes following the NATO bombings of 1999. I was also reminded of another thing I was told (clearly I'm not in evidence based medicine mode today!) that one of the consequences of the Famine and the century-and-a-half economic malaise which followed in Ireland was that Irish males tended to either emigrate of stay around doing very little, setting up a dynamic of Irish males being either hardworking but absent, or feckless but present - which has had knock-on effects on their interpersonal relationships to this day.

The other thing I took from Joe's presentation was this tension between protecting people and respecting their rights - for instance when he talked about the exposé of illegal moneylenders in the 1980s, and the reaction from some quarters that people should be allowed go to hell in a handcart if that's what they desire. This is the sort of tension we see in compulsory detention, for instance, and perhaps it goes to the heart of psychiatry. Unlike most psychiatrists (I reckon) I tend towards the libertarian end of the spectrum, but on the other hand no one can spend much time in psychiatry without realising that there are lots of people who are vulnerable to scams and frauds and do need protection. For instance, a lot of those fraudulent lotteries and get-rich-quick schemes that most of us just delete from our Inbox or go straight to the recycling bin, and read and taken up by people with cognitive impairment or learning disability.

I guess this tension is increasingly at the heart of politics too - we have gone from a left-right dichotomy to a more libertarian-authoritarian spectrum.

Anyway enjoy the weekend, see the current students next week and see the rest of you in September!


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