BBC Radio 4: The Life Scientific with Simon Wessely, 14th Feb 2017

AndyPR

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Not a recommendation, but better to know what he's up to than not.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely has spent his whole career arguing that mental and physical health are inseparable and that the Cinderella status of mental health funding is a national disgrace.
His current role, as President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has given him a platform to bang the drum for parity of funding, better training for doctors and the need to reduce stigma around mental health (and armchair psychiatrists who think it's OK to diagnose the new American President with a mental illness get short shrift as well).

Professor of Psychological Medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, part of King's College in London, Simon Wessely has always been fascinated by those puzzling symptoms and syndromes which can't easily be explained. So it was perhaps inevitable that he would find himself at the centre of research trying to explain the distressing and debilitating illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Threats and abuse finally led to him leave this particular research field, and he moved instead to military health and another complex illness which appeared after the first Gulf War in the early 90s, Gulf War Syndrome.
Years of detailed epidemiological studies about the health of British troops followed through the King's Centre for Military Health Research and many of the findings had a direct impact on policy within the armed forces.

Yet for somebody who has spent years as a psychiatrist treating patients with serious mental illness, Simon tells Jim Al-Khalili that people are tougher than many in authority give credit for and his research has had a major impact on the way we treat people after traumatic events. We used to think "better out than in" but studies showed after the London 7/7 Bombings for example, that jumping in and getting people to talk through the trauma straight away can actually do more harm than good.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08dnr3g - Broadcast won't be until 14th February.

He's still using the "threats and abuse" line. :rolleyes: Does make me think though that if he continually makes claims that can't be supported by any evidence then surely that counts as delusional behaviour???
 

trishrhymes

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Groan. I wonder whether it's worth writing to the BBC, and/or Jim Al-Khalili.

The Life Scientific series is one of my favourites on BBC radio, so I'm saddened to see it giving Wessely a platform to spread his lies.

Jim Al-Khalili is a physicist, so will be way out of his depth dealing with SW, sadly, and likely to be completely unaware of the controversy. Unfortunately, I suspect the program has already been pre-recorded, so no chance to prime him with difficult questions or evidence against SW.

If I'm feeling strong enough on the day, I guess I'll listen.

We might need some group CBT to help us deal with the trauma of hearing him dripping poison in the nation's ears.
 
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He's still using the "threats and abuse" line. :rolleyes: Does make me think though that if he continually makes claims that can't be supported by any evidence then surely that counts as delusional behaviour???
It is quite unbelievable that a psychiatrist should admit to stopping doing research on an illness because of 'threats and abuse'. Threats and abuse are a daily experience for all psychiatrists and not that uncommon for other medics trying to help people in distress. If you are a psychiatrist you are expected to handle paranoia, psychopathy, mania and all sorts of other conditions which include threats and abuse very often. Yet a psychiatrist with any respect for the patients would take this in their stride.

It is just incredible that a psychiatrist should think that they are justified to wimp out of their profession in this way. It is pretty terrifying that the British psychiatric establishment have enough respect for this behaviour to vote him in as their president. I have huge respect for those psychiatrists who handle serious mental health problems - including those who saved my wife's life. In comparison Wessely's behaviour seems demeaning to the medical profession as a whole.
 

Marco

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It always struck me as somewhat inexplicable that, if they really believed ME/CFS was primarily a mental illness and were genuinely concerned for their wellbeing, why they would so frequently and publicly denounce by association all ME/CFS patients as delusional, fanatical and prone to violence (sic).

Seems to me that those in the psychiatric profession generally are more prone to go out of their way in conditions where violent behaviour may be a small but genuine possibility (e.g. paranoid schizophrenia) to try to counter public perceptions that the relatively rare cases reported in the press are in any way representative.

Makes me question their motives.
 

TiredSam

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armchair psychiatrists who think it's OK to diagnose the new American President with a mental illness get short shrift
Oh the irony - this from an armchair scientist who thinks it's ok to diagnose ME patients with a mental illness. I don't think there's a shrift short enough for this guy.

Threats and abuse finally led to him leave this particular research field
Not only is he lying about threats and abuse, he's also lying about having left the research field. There isn't an honest word in that sentence.

:vomit::vomit::vomit:
 

Sasha

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BBC said:
Threats and abuse finally led to him leave this particular research field
But he hasn't left the field, as a quick search of PubMed shows:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=wessely+chronic+fatigue

He used to publish more often before 2011 but he's published almost every year since.

I think it would be helpful for our charities to contact the programme before it's broadcast and tackle any contentious issues. It would be wrong for the BBC to broadcast information that they can see for themselves is false.

What do you think, @charles shepherd?

I have the greatest respect for Jim Al-Khalili and I wouldn't want to see his programme damaged.
 

Barry53

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I can't believe that this guy is appearing on a well respected scientific program. Surely this isn't appropriate for this program? Most of British psychiatry seems more akin to the humanities than real science? perhaps get him on that Melvyn Bragg or Joan bakewell program and I can avoid listening to it. I would be well narked if I had appeared on this show previously (for something like molecular biology, theoretical physics or a medical breakthrough) and realised that my achievements in science were being compared to his. Shame on you BBC!
 

Keith Geraghty

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eh not to mention his publications on Gulf War syndrome being a form of hysteria (a script he took from his CFS work) - yet teams in the US including at Boston found clear biological markers for GWS and refuted the hysteria hyothesis

did you know Peter White was given some job on the Army compensation board - I believe for those wounded vets that have claims for lost limbs and the like - wonder who put him foward for that role. - God help those vets.

Wessely was intially tunred down by the UK MoD who he approached to do work on GWS - he then went to the US Army and then came back to the UK MoD by all accounts. This I find interesting because he also approached the DSS in the UK in the 1990s, now the DWP and he raised the problem of potiential claims flood by ME patients (he was welcomed in to make a presentation and advise)

his dropping CFS work because of threats is a joke and yet he pops up everwhere eg PACE trial recruting patients, his Blog on the PACE trial defending the trial team -

his prize for standing up for science was beyond something I can comprehend - wrong on ME/CF, wrong on Gulf War and look at the mess mental health is in right now while White and Sharpe and the like want and have spent millions on trying to push mental health interventions on patients with CFS/ME and medically unexplained symptoms, while patients with clear mental health needs have been neglected by an over-stretched NHS. All this while Wessely was President of the Royal College of Psychiatry - doesnt the captain of the ship take responsibility for it sinking.

I dont have the words really
 
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Sasha

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Wessely also wrote that massive pro-PACE piece in November 2015 for the National Elf Service website:

http://www.nationalelfservice.net/o...syndrome-choppy-seas-but-a-prosperous-voyage/

Writing this kind of thing just doesn't appear to be consistent with this claim that fear of patients has caused him to leave the field. Most patients won't read academic papers but they will read a piece aimed at a popular audience, as on the National Elf Service, so it's the last place where anyone who wanted to avoid drawing patients' attention to his involvement in CFS should have been publishing his thoughts (all 4,500 words of them).

@charles shepherd - if you're going to contact Jim Al-Khalili and the BBC, that would be worth mentioning.

My license fees are paying for this! I expect a high standard of journalism from the BBC and if a magazine programme wanders into a contentious area, its director/producers need to get help from their more news-oriented colleagues to make sure they're getting the facts straight.
 

Sidereal

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There is clearly an organised media campaign against ME/CFS patients. The BBC would never lace every news report about schizophrenia or bipolar disorder with anecdotes of patients in the throes of a mania or psychosis abusing, threatening etc. mental health staff. Yet this happens every day all day. If anything, the increased risk of violent behaviour by people with some diagnoses documented in the peer-reviewed literature is underreported to the general public. Staff get physically assaulted sometimes too. I know somebody who almost died after an assault by a psychiatric patient. Imagine if an ME patient ever did such a thing--we'd never hear the end of it. Huge bias.
 

trishrhymes

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Jim al-Khalili is the presenter of the program. I doubt that he has much input in who gets chosen to be guests on it. Much better to contact the science editor of the BBC or the editor of the particular program.

I think I'll wait until after it's broadcast, then put in a complaint if I see fit. Perhaps with a suggestion that in order to provide 'balance' that the BBC seems so fond of, they could invite someone doing real biomedical research. Unfortunately all the guests on the series are employed in Britain, I think, so we couldn't suggest Fluge, Davis, etc.

Perhaps we could point them in the direction of their own BBC coverage of the Norwich meeting and Fluge's talk.
 

AndyPR

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Jim al-Khalili is the presenter of the program. I doubt that he has much input in who gets chosen to be guests on it. Much better to contact the science editor of the BBC or the editor of the particular program.

I think I'll wait until after it's broadcast, then put in a complaint if I see fit. Perhaps with a suggestion that in order to provide 'balance' that the BBC seems so fond of, they could invite someone doing real biomedical research. Unfortunately all the guests on the series are employed in Britain, I think, so we couldn't suggest Fluge, Davis, etc.

Perhaps we could point them in the direction of their own BBC coverage of the Norwich meeting and Fluge's talk.
Prof Simon Carding?
 

Cinders66

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Omits to say that he got it wrong in CFS and that the resistance from patients was that which he would have got from PWMS or any other illness if he psycho/behViouralised away their devastating illness to "reversible unpleasant signs and sensations largely caused and perpetuated by people themselves " to paraphrase his CBT CFS writing. But Simon his happy to spin his narrative and will cling on to it till he retires in 5 years.

Simon never treated the CFS population with compassion or respect - he knew better , we as patients were a problem group that shouldn't be trusted and listened to, I hope that doesn't apply to his other patient groups too. I've not seen much worthy science from him
 
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