The BBC, Harrow, and a Public Left in the Dark

“Martin Harrow and Thomas Jobe began their study, which was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, in the late 1970s. They enrolled 200 psychotic patients who had been treated conventionally in a mental hospital with antipsychotics and simply began periodically assessing how they were doing, and whether they were taking antipsychotic medication. In 2007, they reported that the long-term recovery rate for schizophrenia patients off antipsychotic medication was eight times higher than for those on the medication (40% versus 5%).”

This article by Robert Whitaker has been published by Mad in America. It begins:

“On February 18, BBC World aired a 26-minute broadcast on ‘drug-free treatment’ in Norway, and while it was encouraging to see that initiative get this attention, the broadcast, in the way it handled the story, was also a source of disappointment: couldn’t the media, I wondered, ever challenge the conventional wisdom regarding the merits of antipsychotics? Just once?

Then, two days later, I read the latest publication by Martin Harrow and Thomas Jobe on their findings from their long-term study of psychotic patients, which once more powerfully told of the negative long-term impact of antipsychotics, and I thought, couldn’t the mainstream media, just once, report on their study? Was that too much to ask?

First, the BBC report.

The opening eight minutes of the broadcast explored the political origins of the Norwegian effort and told of the drug-free unit in Tromsø, led by Magnus Hald. The final five minutes told of basal exposure therapy, a practice at a hospital near Oslo that has proven successful in helping chronic patients reduce their use of psychiatric medications, or withdraw altogether. Those two parts of the broadcast were fine, and well done.

However, in between those two segments, the BBC devoted 13 minutes to critics of the drug-free initiative, and this is where the broadcast, in terms of serving the public, failed miserably. The BBC gave air time to critics in the spirit of ‘let’s give both sides equal time,’ but in the process they let the critics reframe the initiative for listeners as one that was likely to harm patients, without pushing back on the critics’ assertions.

Here is what the listeners heard during this 13-minute interlude …”

You can read more from here.

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