Robert Whitaker's cure for an epidemic

By Rob Wipond, May 2011

Award-winning science writer and author of "Anatomy of an Epidemic" comes to Victoria to discuss North America’s skyrocketing psychiatric drug use.

Why has the number of people who are severely disabled by mental illness in North America tripled in the last 20 years? Why are we experiencing a mental health epidemic of such proportions that over a thousand more of us are falling ill every single day? 

These are the questions that launch Robert Whitaker’s new book, Anatomy of an Epidemic. And the answers he unearths turn out to be even more provocative and disturbing than the questions themselves.

His findings can’t be taken lightly. Whitaker is a dogged investigative journalist, a thorough scientific researcher, and a probing thinker. His previous investigations into mental illness and psychiatry have received the George Polk award for medical writing, a National Association of Science Writers award, and a Pulitzer nomination. His exposé of the ragged, dubious history of our treatments for mental illnesses, Mad in America, was one of Discover Magazine’s Best Science Books of 2002. And Anatomy of an Epidemic itself recently won the award for best book of 2010 from the prestigious US-based organization, Investigative Reporters and Editors. 

So what do Whitaker’s latest investigations reveal? Back in the 1980s, the medical literature was filled with studies showing that psychiatric medications like antipsychotics and antidepressants didn’t heal chemical imbalances in the brain, but in fact created such imbalances. Essentially, the weight of scientific evidence was exposing that, in long-term use, psychiatric drugs were actually making people become sicker, and stay sick indefinitely. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization was finding that the Western World’s record for curing people of mental illnesses was plummeting when measured against Third World countries that had little or no access to modern psychiatric medications.

However, something else happened around that same time. A clever mass-marketing campaign virtually overnight turned an obscure antidepressant being taken by a tiny percentage of people into a social trend, a popular icon, and a multibillion-dollar cash cow. That drug was called Prozac, and for profit-driven multinational pharmaceutical companies, and therefore the rest of the world, mental illness would never look the same. Suddenly, mental illnesses, and treatments for them, were big business. 

On May 17 in Victoria, Robert Whitaker will make a presentation and engage in a question-and-answer session concerning these and other important findings revealed in Anatomy of an Epidemic, about the astounding spread of mental illnesses, the dangers of psychiatric medications, and alternative approaches to healing serious psychological problems. 

Following the presentation, there will also be discussion of the current situation in BC.


Focus Magazine and South Island Health Coalition present:

(Hosted by Rob Wipond)
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 7 p.m.
St. John the Divine Hall, 925 Balmoral Road, Victoria, BC (map)
Admission Free (Donations welcome)

(also sponsored by Scientific Victoria and the Unitarian Church of Vancouver)


For more information, contact rob (at) robwipond (dot) com or see