Public Image, Social and Professional Networking and Defying a ‘Schizophrenia’ Label

The PA Hospital psychiatrist Ghazala Watt has claimed, in a report for my upcoming Mental Health Review Tribunal hearing, that I have “paranoid schizophrenia” and that the only social support network I have is my 84-year-old mother. This essay proves her wrong.

The textbook characteristics of ‘schizophrenia’ include social awkwardness, social withdrawal and what was called, when I studied psychiatry in the 1980s, ‘downward social drift’. I have been labelled with schizophrenia, but I reject the diagnosis in myself for several reasons, including my social and professional networking ability and in others because it is a stigmatising misnomer. I do not satisfy diagnostic criteria for the label and the diagnostic criteria themselves are flawed. It is not scientific or rational to believe that people who have auditory hallucinations have the same incurable brain disease as people who are disorganised or socially withdrawn or who believe in telepathy or corporate and government conspiracies. I have never had hallucinations, of any sort, am well-organized in my thinking and actions, am sociable, and have never had telepathic experiences, but I admit to believing in certain conspiracies. These include my long-standing and well-founded conviction that my father conspired with others to have me silenced by getting me locked up and stigmatised me as a ‘mental patient’.

My father is blunt in his terminology when he speaks about me to my mother – “he’s bloody mad, he’s completely bananas” and other invectives. When he writes about me or phones people up he is more discreet, however, and says that I have a “serious psychotic disorder”, concealing his animosity towards me. He refuses to allow me to visit my mother at their house, though she wants me to do so, and he hangs up the phone on me if he answers it rather than my mother. Occasionally he abuses me first, but mostly he hangs up the phone silently or leaves it off the hook without answering my repeated “hellos?”

 

I have appealed to the Queensland Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT) for release from a “Treatment Authority” (T/A), previously called an Involuntary Treatment Order (ITO) prior to the change of terminology (but not practice) with the new Mental Health Act of 2017. The hearing is next week. I was put on an ITO a year ago by Dr Jumoke ‘Jumi’ Banjo of the Princess Alexandra Hospital. Dr Banjo, who had recently come to Australia from Nigeria, kept me locked up on three occasions over a few months in late 2016 and early 2017, following complaints to the hospital by my hostile father and next-door neighbour, Jeff Miller. She changed the diagnosis from ‘psychotic diagnosis – not otherwise specified (NOS)’ to ‘paranoid schizophrenia’ and dramatically increased the dose of the Paliperidone injection she ordered from 25 mg to 150 mg.

I contested this diagnosis at a MHRT hearing while I was still an inpatient, but, as I expected, I lost. Refusal to accept the disease label you have been given is routinely regarded as ‘lack of insight’ and further evidence of mental illness, necessitating involuntary treatment. This is despite Banjo writing, of my mental state:

“MSE [mental state examination]

Casually dressed, grey hair and beard, settled and polite with reasonable engagement, no psychomotor agitation.

Spontaneous speech, normal in rate, volume and tone.

Mood is euthymic and affect is reactive.

Thoughts are coherent, no disorder of thought form and does not currently appear preoccupied with previously described delusional content, no depressive cognitions, no suicidal or homicidal ideas.

No evidence of perceptual abnormality.”

This sounds like a normal, mentally healthy person. It is hard to explain, given this assessment, her statement that I have “limited insight into the nature and severity of [my] condition”, which she specified as “paranoid schizophrenia”. It is also hard to reconcile with her denying my liberty by keeping me locked up in the ward and her treatment plan to have me injected every month, indefinitely, with 150 mg of the antipsychotic drug Paliperidone. Her actions were illegal, according to the Mental Health Act, which states that patients can only be confined against their wills if they are and remain a risk to themselves or others. The legal loophole the psychiatric system in Australia uses, to get around these exclusion criteria, is to argue that the patients jeopardise their own health by refusal to take the prescribed drugs. It is also against the law to lock people up for their political or philosophical beliefs, but these laws are routinely violated too.

 

My 1995 theories

 

I had started theorising on the cause and management of schizophrenia before it was first suggested that I myself had the ‘disease’. This suggestion was made by my father, in a letter he wrote to the psychiatry registrar of the Junction Clinic in Melbourne, Noel Barrett, in March 1995:

“I’m not sure why, but I did remark to my wife that I thought his recent adventures into the unknown, the attempts to explain autism, the compulsive eating of obesity (which I’ve had an interest in), sleep, memory disturbances, Alzheimers, schizophrenia etc – was abnormal. I even said, ‘I don’t know whether this is the start of a schizophrenic illness.’ Why I said so (to my wife, of course, and not Romesh) I cannot quite remember but I did notice that the ego boundaries were no longer there.”

It is true that I was developing original ideas about the cause and management of autism, schizophrenia and memory disturbances and was also researching sleep. I was particularly interested in the role of the reticular activating system (RAS), the noradrenergic network of neurones connecting the brainstem with the midbrain and cortex that influences state of alertness and concentration as well as sleep. I hypothesised that the RAS is also involved with attention and mental focus, partly through its connections with the thalamus, which integrates and directs attention through the senses.

My theories on autism included the theory that lack of eye contact was related to lack of trust and fear of adults, which can be addressed by a gentle approach to building trust through play, music and art, with a conscious attempt to encourage eye contact with the child. My theories on schizophrenia, which have changed since then, related to the neurochemistry of dopamine, development of the limbic system and analysis of mental associations. These were only a few of the theories I was working on at the time; others related to the development of aesthetic appreciation in sight and hearing, integrative neuroscience, holistic approaches to health and theories about instincts. I was particularly fond of my insight that communication, curiosity and play are instincts which can be used to develop public health and individual health promotion strategies.

My theories on dementia were related to the relatively uncontroversial theory that curiosity is an instinct. It was based on the assumption that keeping the brain actively learning would help ward off dementia, something I thought was self-evident. I was interested in identifying social factors such as the beliefs that you are “too old to learn” or “too old to change” in contributing to dementia, and thought that encouraging curiosity and ongoing experiential (not necessarily formal) learning could mitigate against it. I later found, when I tried to discuss my ideas with Professor Colin Masters, in charge of Alzheimer’s Disease research at the Mental Health Research Institute in Melbourne, that not everyone thinks that keeping the brain active helps prevent or slow down the progress of dementia.

 

My Father’s Insanity

 

When he wrote to Noel Barrett and his consultant Rajan Thomas in March 1995, my father was clear that he wanted me committed, raising the possibility that I had both schizophrenia and hypomania. He also made it clear that he wouldn’t like to be committed himself. He wrote, in brackets, at the end of the long, handwritten letter:

“(I hope that the above dissertation does not result in someone certifying me!!!)

The preceding sentence in the letter, which was faxed to the Junction Clinic in Melbourne, refers to his activities in drawing attention to what he called “Third World conditions” at the Princess Alexandra (PA) Hospital, where he had worked as a visiting consultant physician since we came to Australia in 1976 (note his use of capital letters);

“ I am having a hectic job here handling a very busy practice and also Consultant Physician at a major hospital to add to this. I’ve recently become the major (in fact, one and only) spokesperson for the Hospital to represent the chaos in the Brisbane hospitals to the government. So I’ve got my work cut out. However, if you feel that I can be of any use in Melbourne – if only to provide the necessary family support – I’ll be delighted to hop on the next plane and head off there”.

This is a self-serving lie. My father did not represent the hospitals to the Queensland government. That was the job of hospital administrators, with whom he was mostly not on good terms. What he did was to agitate the junior staff and non-medical staff that the old hospital was like a “Third World” country like Sri Lanka and approached all the commercial TV stations to give interviews to make this charge. He didn’t mention that his main political activity was lobbying for the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) and the separatist cause in the war in Sri Lanka.

My father has written several letters to psychiatrists about me, but never mentioned Sri Lanka or his political activities in support of the separatist war. However, a review of his own blog (called ‘Brian Senewiratne pages’) and YouTube clips from his own site and the network of LTTE-supporting sites indicates what a serious omission this is. My father’s LinkedIn site, which reveals only that he is an ‘onsultant [sic] physician’, has no photo and no details of his medical work or qualifications but includes a list of his skills, all of which have been endorsed by his network of professional Tamil friends. He has 258 contacts, one of whom he shares with me.

His LinkedIn site also fails to mention what he calls elsewhere his “human rights work” and also his role, since the end of the war (May 2009) as a ‘senator’ of the ‘Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam’ (TGTE). Despite not speaking or understanding Tamil, he was appointed (not elected) as a ‘senator’ by Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, a Sri Lankan Tamil lawyer in New York who was the legal representative of the LTTE until their defeat in 2009, following which he established the TGTE with himself as “Prime Minister”. The TGTE flies the LTTE flags at its events and commemorates the “martyrdom” of the LTTE fighters including their leader Vellupillai Prabakaran, as well as the organizations many suicide bombers. My father has written recently (2017) that the Tamil people in Sri Lanka are missing the LTTE now that they are gone, and that what most people call a terrorist organization ran a “well functioning de-facto state”, selectively omitting the long list of crimes committed by LTTE against Tamil, Muslim and Singhalese citizens of Sri Lanka over the 30-year conflict.

His public profiles as a doctor and as a political agitator have been kept separate, though he uses his qualification as a doctor to win the respect of his pro-LTTE audiences. My father has defended the fact that he only “preaches to the converted”, responding to this criticism in a YouTube clip where he says that “you have to preach to the converted to keep them converted; otherwise they become unconverted”. What he is intent on “converting” the Tamils to is the belief that they have been subjected to genocide by the Sri Lankan government and that the only solution to this is a separate state for Tamils and division of the country. He also tries to convince his Tamil audiences to support a boycott of Sri Lankan goods and services, as well as sport (cricket) and tourism, which he declares will “bring the Colombo government to its knees”. Back in 2006 he gave an interview in Canada where he said that what is needed, and could be achieved by such a boycott, is “economic exsanguination” of the country. Exsanguination is the act of draining all the blood out – he thought the LTTE could win the war by destroying Sri Lanka’s economy, disregarding the cost to the ordinary people of Sri Lanka, especially the poor.

My father makes it clear that he is not Tamil and makes a point of stressing that he is of Singhalese ethnicity and a “Christian”, whose mother was a “devout Buddhist”. In the same 2006 interview he claimed that he is a “genetic half-Buddhist” as if religion is inherited in the genes. He uses this claim to justify his criticism of the Buddhist clergy, whom he accuses of “ethno-religious chauvinism” and trying to make multicultural Sri Lanka into a “Sinhala-Buddhist” nation. He then says that he has no objection to this, but by the same token the Tamils need their own state – Tamil Eelam. This gained him the support of the separatists, but was a distortion of the actual situation in Sri Lanka, where though Buddhism is protected the State, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity are also respected and celebrated with public holidays. He has claimed that the Tamils were denied their language in 1956, when his uncle SWRD Bandaranaike made Singhalese the only official language, ignoring the fact that for many years the official policy has been to promote trilingualism in Singhala, Tamil and English, and Tamil has been a national language (in addition to Singhala, which was also the official language) since 1958 with the introduction of the Tamil Language Special Provisions Act.

There are many videos of my father on YouTube and also videos made by him. The videos of him include recordings of speeches he has given, always to Tamil Tiger-supporting audiences (in the USA, Canada, UK and Australia) as well as a few interviews he gave for Tamil cable TV channels. These have been uploaded by various supporters of the LTTE. The videos made by him have been uploaded by LTTE supporters and also, relatively recently (2 years ago) he uploaded 3 videos of him talking to the camera while seated at his dining room table. Though the talk was intended as an address to the TGTE, he posted it publicly on his own YouTube channel. These latter videos have had a few hundred views, a few likes and several dislikes (including by myself). The videos of his speeches, in which he shouts his support for the LTTE and “the Tamil Eelam struggle” have also had mainly negative ratings, and up to a few thousand views.

The videos made by my father, available for free on YouTube, but which he had originally hoped to make money out of, include his home-made propaganda videos. These were recorded unprofessionally with my mother turning the video camera on and off. He started making these in 2006, after he was invited to address the expatriate Ilankai Tamil Sangam organization in the USA and offered to make a video to “correct the disinformation campaign by the Sri Lankan government”. My father does not have video editing skills and very few computer skills, but he had access to the expertise of some of his ex-students, now doctors, who supported the LTTE. These took still photos and short video clips from the LTTE propaganda collection and inserted them into the videos, which he subsequently boasted were “a dozen DVDs I have produced on the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka”. These, he claimed, were a “major contribution” that had worried the Sri Lankan government.

Using his own terminology, my father is an egomaniac. He is also extremely manipulative, as is seen by the titles of his videos, one of the first being “The New Killing Fields of Asia”. He’d hoped to emulate and capitalise on the popularity of the successful and famous movie “The Killing Fields” about the genocide in Cambodia. He was trying to create a mental association to support his claim that the Sri Lankan Tamils were being subjected to a similar genocide. He is not a subtle man.

The ‘New Killing Fields of Asia’ made in 2007, was uploaded 3 years ago by a Tamil separatist and supporter of the Tamil Tigers. Since then it has had only 65 views, and rated 3 dislikes and no likes. Another of his videos, ‘SRI LANKA – THE ETHNIC CRISIS – WHAT THE WORLD MUST KNOW’ was uploaded 10 years ago by another separatist site. It has had 518 views since then (ratings not disclosed). Then there is ‘SRI LANKA GENOCIDE CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW BY BRIAN SENEWIRATNE’. This video has had 215 views in 5 years (one like and 3 dislikes). Despite this obvious lack of interest in and effect from his videos, my father continues to boast to Tamil audiences and members of the Socialist Alliance and Greens Party about his “dozen DVDs” being a “major contribution” he is proud of.

On YouTube there is another bizarre video, also amateur and home-made, of my father professing to be an expert on ‘AFFECTIVE DISORDERS’. This video was uploaded by one of his patients, who had been given the DVD by him. In this video slides have been crudely inserted that cover part of his face, and he slowly reads what is on the slides to reinforce his points. These include that the diagnosis of affective disorder is frequently missed by doctors less perceptive than himself (including psychiatrists), that adult doses of antidepressants should be used in children (saying that the only alternative is shock treatment) and that depression is caused by the neurones in the limbic system “not talking to each other”. He gets these videos copied, in small runs, by his local printer (a Vietnamese gentleman who has also printed his LTTE-supporting propaganda over the years) and hands them out free to his patients. He tells them, though, that the DVDs are in high demand and sell for “50 pounds each in the UK”. (I have heard him say this, when I called him while he was seeing a patient and left the phone off the hook so I couldn’t call back).

 

Yet my father admits elsewhere (when it suits him), that he is not trained in psychiatry. Earlier in the letter 1995 letter to Noel Barrett he has written:

“I’m not sure whether it is even worth recording the opinions of someone such as myself who has no background in psychiatry. My concerns are that he has decided to suddenly throw in his practice without really good reason. I’m also concerned that the ego boundaries seem to have been breached to the extent they are.”

 

Google provides this explanation of ‘ego boundaries’, a term I have never heard psychiatrists use any more, and don’t use myself:

“When the inner boundary is critically weakened or lost, the return of repressed egostates falsifies reality and can result in delusions and hallucinations. When the cathexis of the outer boundary is weakened or lost, the sense of reality is disturbed, and external objects are discerned as unknown, strange, and unreal.”

This is psycho-babble. I like to keep it real and use ordinary language. On a point of fact, I did not decide to “throw in” my medical practice in 1995. I told my parents that I was thinking of selling it to concentrate on research, music and writing. It was a carefully considered decision and not impulsive or indicative of mental illness in any way. After I was locked up, my family got the practice closed down and I lost it without selling it.

 

Ghazala Watt’s claim about my lack of a ‘Social Network’

 

I decided, when confronted with a recent report for the MHRT ‘authored’ by the MSAHMS psychiatrist Ghazala Watt, to prove her wrong. She has claimed, in the section on “Social Networks and the Capacity to Support the Patient”, that:

“Romesh’s only positive relationship was with his mother who supported him and accommodated him in a property which belonged to her. Romesh has a long-term conflict with his father who also antagonises with him. Father often prevents mother from supporting Romesh.”

That’s all Ghazala Watt has written, and to make matters worse, she has repeated it, word for word (along with the grammatical error), from the previous report to the Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT) from 20.9.2016. This time the person who claimed to be the author was Jumoke Banjo, a graduate of Ibadan University in Nigeria, and recently employed by the PA Hospital as a consultant psychiatrist. I had been relieved at first to have an African woman to discuss my freedom with, but before long I realised my optimism was unfounded. Let me correct the record, and explain why, though my father and I do not get on, this is not a consequence of mental illness on my part, and most certainly not a sign of ‘schizophrenia’, the serious mental illness label that both Ghazala Watt and Jumi Banjo are trying to pin on me.

The psychiatrists know full well that sociability and good social (and professional) networking skills go against this ‘diagnosis’. Making out that I have no friends is part of the process of pathologising me and stigmatising me. It makes a mockery of the stated values of ‘Metro South Health’, which includes the Metro South Addiction and Mental Health Services (MSAMHS). These, their website proclaims, are “caring for people, leadership, respect, integrity, teamwork and courage”. I think I deserve to be treated with more respect, and so do other patients of the ‘service’. They also show little evidence of integrity, leadership or courage, and what they call a “team” is a hierarchical system where the psychiatrist’s word is law.

My Social Networks and their capacity to support me

 

I get all the support I need from my daughter, my friends and my social networks, especially from Facebook and the positive comments I get on my YouTube sites. Since I was told that Ghazala Watt was increasing the dose of the abusive injections she has ordered, I have also worked on my professional network on LinkedIn, increasing my list of contacts from 200 to over 800 in less than a week. Several of my new contacts are professors, including psychologists and psychiatrists, from many countries, but mainly in Australia, the USA and UK. I have found, over the years, that my scientific opinions are more likely to be accepted by psychologists than psychiatrists, especially the psychologists leaning towards holism, positive thinking, CBT, embracing change and promoting healthy motivation and activities, as well as mindfulness. I am looking out for progressive psychiatrists that will be prepared to countenance criticism of their doctrines without pathologising me. I have also had contact requests accepted by other medical doctors, by lawyers, journalists and authors, environmentalists, film-makers, musicians, engineers (especially sound engineers), art therapists, social workers, nurses, public servants and other professionals.

Unfortunately, increase in sociability and motivation are liable to be pathologised by the medical profession as signs of mental illness, namely ‘hypomania’ and ‘mania’. I was first locked up, in 1995 and again in 1996, following accusations by my father and my sister’s boyfriend Rob Purssey (then a psychiatry registrar) that I had mania.

Sudden change raises alarm bells in people looking out for mania and psychosis, so I have to be careful not to seem “over-sociable” or “overactive”. But I am a sociable man, which is why I have more than 2700 friends on Facebook. These include people living all over the world, and some whom I have known since my childhood in Sri Lanka. I can chat to them whenever I want, but most of the time I am busy working, not socialising.

It is true that not all my Facebook ‘friends’ are people that I know and like. I have accepted friend requests from people I don’t know, though I have refused others, if they were spam. I consciously set out to make friends with people of all the ethnic groups in Sri Lanka – traditionally classified as Singhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher and Veddha. I have no Veddha friends, since they are forest-living people, but I have over a thousand Sri Lankan friends on Facebook, including Singhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher and Chinese Sri Lankans. I went to school with some of these friends and have known them for more than 40 years. I have made a point of making friends with people of every major religion, though I no longer believe in the Anglican Christianity I was brought up with, and lean more towards Buddhism. I have friends who are both Protestant and Catholic Christians, but I have more friends who are Buddhist and Muslim, with a few who are Hindu or Jewish. I rarely ask people about their religion, unless they raise the subject themselves, but I am interested in finding common values in different religions and am interested in their different perspectives.

I also have many friends in the anti-psychiatry movement and the psychiatry reform movement, some of whom I have known for many years, though I have been actively making friends in these movements in recent weeks as well as joining some related groups.

Many of my Facebook friends are musicians, mainly in Australia and Sri Lanka. Some of my Australian friends are personal friends that I have played music with over the past 30 years and one is a guitarist who played with me in my first serious band, Strange Etiquette, back in 1986, who is now a well-connected psychiatric nurse educator and academic. I am also friends with other members of Strange Etiquette, as well as other Brisbane musicians, but I have musician friends all over Australia. This is not the situation of a person who is socially isolated.

I also have Google+ and Twitter accounts, and even an old MySpace site. I have uploaded about 40 documents, including several e-books to my Scribd site, which I have had for about 10 years. These include books I have written on eugenics, holistic health, schizophrenia and music, as well as books of my poetry. I have recently purchased a new WordPress site and am enjoying writing for it and watching the site grow. What I publish on my WordPress blog is automatically shared with my LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter pages, and I am also able to make links to my YouTube and Scribd sites. My YouTube site has 304 subscribers, which is not a lot, but more than my father (who has only two). My most viewed video has had 20,000 views, this being a documentary I made some years ago on my research into eugenics, biological warfare and AIDS. Though it has the most views and likes (44) it has also had the most dislikes (10). Other popular videos include footage I shot of mimicry by a Pied Butcherbird (7,490 views with 29 likes and 2 inexplicable dislikes) and a clip of me playing the piano and singing “Living in a Bubble”, one of my original songs. I have uploaded 241 videos over 10 years, including my musical compositions, a documentary on the neuroscience of music, my art (and that of my mother) and more clips of birds in my garden.  I have also uploaded some videos about the militarisation of psychiatry, the pineal organ and my research into it, as well as a monologue called “The Pseudoscience of Schizophrenia”. I work long hours on the Internet, but enjoy my work.

With the help of LinkedIn I have been able to compare the professional careers and profiles of the psychiatrists and medical family members who have called me mad with my own work output, networking and public profile. From memory, I have been diagnosed as mentally ill (with various labels) by the following Brisbane psychiatrists, none of whose assistance I sought: Rob Purssey (who was my sister’s boyfriend and a psychiatry registrar) who has a LinkedIn (with more than 500 contacts) and YouTube site (with only 4 subscribers) but no Facebook page; Ghazala Watt (LinkedIn with 353 contacts and Facebook with 200 friends but no YouTube); Jumoke Banjo (no LinkedIn or Facebook); Justin O’Brien (LinkedIn with 250 contacts and Facebook with 1000 friends); Joanna Loftus (LinkedIn with only 36 contacts and no information about her qualifications, experience or background) Daniel Varghese (LinkedIn with only 7 contacts and no Facebook); Subramanian Purushothaman (LinkedIn with 2 contacts and not filled out other than ‘Australia’); Monica Des Arts (no LinkedIn or Facebook) and Paul Schneider (no LinkedIn or Facebook).

I have also been seen by Dr Jill Schilling who said I was not mentally ill after a single visit to my home in July 2015 and took me off the ITO the hospital had put me on; by Ken Arthur, a private psychiatrist who examined me at the request of the MHRT (LinkedIn with only 16 contacts, no details and no photo); by Joan Lawrence (in 1995) who agreed that I should remain locked up at the Prince Charles Hospital under Dr John Bowles and by Brett Emmerson, who certified me in 1995 and got me locked up at Prince Charles Hospital at my father’s request, based on information provided by my father as well as a heated debate I had with him when my father brought him to my parents’ house in 1995 to certify me.

Brett Emmerson and my father now have both LinkedIn pages, but Joan Lawrence has neither. My father has a Facebook page but he doesn’t know how to use it, and has no friends at all. John Bowles has a LinkedIn page that says he is now retired but is an advisor to the MHRT. He has 111 contacts including 10 shared with me. I have also been seen, initially for an examination ordered by the Medical Board of Queensland, and later on my own volition, by Dr Frank New, who I have not seen for a while, but wrote to the Medical Board in 2002 that he was confident that I did not have a mental illness (after a 3 hour interrogation). My father, angered by this, told my mother that Frank New “is not highly regarded”. Frank, who I have considerable respect for, is in private practice. He doesn’t have a LinkedIn or Facebook page.

Brett Emmerson has 274 contacts on LinkedIn, and also features in a single video on YouTube. This was uploaded in 2014 by the Metro North PHN (Primary Health Network) and is of a lecture he gave to junior employees in an auditorium. He is currently the Director of the Metro North Hospital and Health Service, which covers the Royal Brisbane Hospital and the Prince Charles Hospital. I have watched this lecture and found it very boring. It has only had 56 views in 3 years, and rated 3 dislikes and 1 like.

The directors of the PA Hospital and Metro South Health also have LinkedIn pages, namely Michael Cleary (Executive Director of the PA), David Crompton (Director of Metro South) and Balaji Motamarri (Director of the MSAHMS). Professor Crompton’s LinkedIn page says that he is “Professor and Director of the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention” at Griffith University (since March 2017), “Professor School of Human Services and Social Work” (Griffith University, since December 2013) and “Executive Director Addiction and Mental Health Services” (Metro South Health) from September 2008 to the present. He was a rural general practitioner before he became a psychiatrist and then a medical administrator. He too has 111 contacts including 10 shared with myself.

The website of Metro South Health has a photo of Professor Crompton (OAM) listing his position as ‘Executive Director’ of the ‘Metro South Addiction and Mental Health Services Executive Team’. Dr Balaji Motamarri (with the space for his photo unfilled) is named as ‘Clinical Director of Psychosis Academic Clinical Unit’. The ‘Chief Executive’, who I had not heard of until I checked the website today, is Dr Stephen Ayre, a graduate like me of the University of Queensland who did general practice before getting a Masters in Health Administration from the University of New South Wales. He was previously Executive Director of Medical Services at Prince Charles Hospital (2008-2014) before being appointed ‘Executive Director’ of Princess Alexandra Hospital and QEII Jubilee Hospital Health Network in May 2014. He was appointed Chief Executive of Metro South Health in July 2017. Stephen Ayre, like Robert Purssey and myself (but unlike all the others mentioned) has over 500 LinkedIn contacts.

The psychiatrist in charge of the MSAHMS “psychosis unit” and the man who is responsible for the hospital’s atrocious, negligent and disrespectful treatment of me is Balaji Motamarri, who has refused to speak to me, even on the phone, though I have been locked up several times under his authority. His LinkedIn and Facebook pages do not suggest a man with academic skills or computer literacy, which are essential for a man in his position in this day and age. He clearly does not know how to use Facebook, which 13-year-old kids can handle. Not knowing how to have a private chat with his friend Manju, he has written on his wall, for all to see:

“Hi Manju My apologies for not replying earlier. As you can understand we are “recovering” from our trip – the trip of “Telangana Bandhs.” Hyderabad has become a city of uncertain nightmares. And to add to the issue, our daughter’s school is starting in 2 days time and you know the dramas associated with this – just imagine ‘school after 10 weeks of holidays’ – what a nightmare to the parents.”

This was posted in January 2010 and he hasn’t posted anything since.

Academia is competitive, business is competitive and medicine is competitive too. I have opted to compete with my detractors on an uneven playing field, in which I was at a disadvantage, with the stigma of having been, as my father puts it, “in and out of mental hospitals”. I think I have won the competition for social and professional networking, as well as work output and public response to that work. I have also disproved the allegation that I have schizophrenia.

Romesh Senewiratne-Alagaratnam Arya Chakravarti

HUB Forensics

25.2.2018

Retrospective Diagnosis (protest song)

I ask as I read

Your diagnoses of the dead

Of the madness of artists

And the ravings of poets –

Do you consider what’s said?

Do you think ANY poet sane?

How can you understand such a brain

When you treat metaphor with disdain?

 

I ask as I read

When you speak of Van Gogh

Diagnoses are made

And his brilliance fades –

Viewed as a freak

Diseased imagination

That glorified sunflowers

And saw beauty in the mundane

 

I ask as I read

The criteria you make

To call artists mad

Synonymous with bad

Prejudiced rules

Constructed by fools

With stupid textbooks

Created by crooks

With hidden agendas

Arrogant and friendless

 

Do you consider any poet “chemically balanced”?

Do you consider any artist “appropriately behaved”?

Or are poetry and art the very diseases

That you would rid the human race of?

The human race, tired of running

Round in circles

Driven ever faster, the human race

Sick of competing and climbing the ladder

Deeper into the sewer Of greedy profiteering

Relentless careering

Artists exploited, poets tortured

The victims cry out, but fear to be clear

They speak in metaphor

To hide their horror

They have seen the world as poets

As sensitive people

Not “schizophrenics”.

 

(words and music by Romesh Senewiratne-Alagaratnam Arya Chakravarti, 1999)

Guitars, bass and vocals by Romesh)

 

The Pseudoscience of Schizophrenia

The Pseudoscience of Schizophrenia looks in detail at the theory that schizophrenia is primarily an iatrogenic problem which is worsened by the current disease model in psychiatry.

The term “schizophrenia” was coined by a Swiss psychiatry professor named Bleuler who declared that the young people whom his rival the German psychiatry professor Emil Kraepelin had classified as “suffering from dementia praecox” had, in fact, a “split mind”. This was later discussed ad nauseum – was there, in fact, a split between “thought” and “affect” as the Eugen Bleuler has postulated in 1911, or is it a misnomer but still a valid label?

When I studied medicine at the University of Queensland in the early 1980s we were taught that though the term “schizophrenia” is a misnomer, it is, in fact, a “real illness”. This was said to be a developmental disorder that was partly inherited and characterized by “chemical imbalances” in the brains of people, many young people, who heard voices, had hallucinations, and held delusional beliefs. These beliefs, we were told, included such things as belief in magic, UFOs and that thoughts can be put into ones head by remote means (with no mention of the TV’s potential to do so).

This book questions this and associated jargon and doctrines of the medical branch of the mind sciences – the doctors who profess to have expertise in “mind treatment” (psyche+iatros=psychiatry) rather than “mind knowledge” (psyche+logos=psychology).

Talk therapies and words that are used in therapy (and by the media and wider society) have profound effects on the health of individuals and nations. The use of pseudo-scientific terms that rapidly become terms of abuse has a long history in medicine – take the terms idiot, moron, cretin and mongol, for example.

Nowadays people are abused as “schizos” and “being mental”. Yet the entire focus for what passes as “mental health promotion” is centred on convincing more people that they are mentally unhealthy and need to consult their doctor. The doctors themselves are groomed to prescribe at the drop of a hat.

Though there is a growing market in “antipsychotic” drugs the biggest money-spinners are the “anti-depressants”, especially the SSRI drugs. Depression is also amenable to talk therapies and non-drug approaches such as music, creative activity, building interests and social activity. Strategies for promotion of mental health without the use of drugs (or ECT) are explored in later chapters of this book.

 

https://www.scribd.com/document/71008178/The-Pseudoscience-of-Schizophrenia-by-Dr-Romesh-Senewiratne-2011

 

My debate with Brett Emmerson turns out badly

 

I had visited Prince Charles Hospital in Chermside as a medical student and later worked there as a paediatric registrar on placement from the Royal Children’s Hospital back in 1986. My responsibility was to look after babies, infants and children recovering from and preparing for open heart surgery, which was performed by adult cardiac surgeons, there not being any dedicated paediatric cardiac surgeons in Brisbane at the time. It was very demanding work, and as the only “paed”, much responsibility was placed on my 25-year-old shoulders. My reward was that I was treated with respect by the staff. It was very different when, on 7 June 1995, I was admitted as an involuntary patient to the Winston Noble Unit, the hospital’s psychiatry unit.

I was referred to the hospital by Brett Emmerson, then Director of Mental Health at the Logan Hospital. Emmerson is currently Director of Psychiatry at the Royal Brisbane Hospital and the Metro North Addiction and Mental Health Services. He was previously the Chief Psychiatrist of Queensland, and before that the Director of Psychiatry at the PA Hospital (where his father, Bryan, had been a medical professor when Brett and I studied at the University of Queensland).

Brett and I go back a long way. It is he who drove my family from the Brisbane airport to the house of his parents, Bryan and Elva, in January 1976, when Bryan had supported my father’s application as a consultant physician at the Princess Alexandra (PA) hospital. Brett was then 18 and about to enter the medical course at Queensland Uni. His younger brother Stephen, who was a talented musician was friendly to me, more so than Brett.

I saw Brett occasionally when we were at Uni and spoke to him when I did, and when my father brought him to my parents’ house to certify me as insane on a Sunday night in June 1995 I greeted him amicably and extended my hand:
“It’s good to see an old friend”
“Let’s get this clear – I did not come here as a friend”, he replied, refusing my handshake.

“Oh”, I said, “I see”.

 

I then debated with Brett for 3 hours, while he became more and more irate. I criticised the psychiatry disease model and challenged his knowledge of the criteria for a diagnosis of mania, which he was accusing me of having. He was very defensive about his profession, as I expected him to be, but didn’t care about. I also tried explaining to him my theories about the pineal, the mysterious gland in the brain that secretes melatonin (which he knew nothing about). I had read that the pineal may function as a magneto-sensory organ (a theory popularised by Robert Becker in the 1980s) and told him about this, as well as my theories on the causation of autism and schizophrenia. In his intake referral form Emmerson claimed that I had “delusional beliefs about the pineal and the causation of schizophrenia and autism”. Meanwhile my father sat silently in the next room recording the debate on a dictophone. I enjoyed the debate, Brett didn’t.

 

After 3 hours of increasingly heated debate, Brett told me that he was certifying me and that I would have to go into hospital. At this stage I rang one of my friends, who was a doctor I was staying with after coming back to Brisbane following my escape from Melbourne’s Royal Park Hospital. At this stage I didn’t understand the role my father had played in the Melbourne incarceration, and had come to Brisbane seeking my parents’ support for my sanity. I was allowed to go home with my friends, but the order had been made by Emmerson and my father, and the police picked me up the next day when I refused to go to the hospital.

 

I was then locked up for 6 weeks at the Prince Charles Hospital. Emmerson did not visit me nor did my father, and nobody asked me about my theories about the pineal, schizophrenia and autism, which I would have been happy to discuss, and were the supposed subject of my ‘delusions’. Instead, I was drugged with antipsychotic drugs, first by mouth and then by injection, under the authority of Dr John Bowles and his registrar Philip Bird. The diagnosis they made was one of “paranoid psychosis”, having been unable to confirm Emmerson’s claim that I had mania by direct observations of my behaviour (I slept, ate and talked normally in their estimate and did not have an elevated mood). I was said to be “paranoid” that my father wanted me locked up for his and not my interests and had conspired with other family members against me to get me certified and vilified.

 

My weeks at Prince Charles Hospital were very traumatic, especially the first 3 weeks when I was held in the locked ward and forced to take oral haloperidol syrup. The consultant John Bowles was rude and dismissive and told me that I would be treated “the same as the other patients” and that he was not interested in discussing my theories with me.

Consequently, the report written by John Bowles to the Patient Review Tribunal (PRT, the Queensland equivalent of the MHRB in Victoria) does not mention my theories on schizophrenia, autism, the pineal and other scientific matters that Brett Emmerson had claimed were ‘delusions” and evidence of mania. Instead, he wrote, on 18 July 1995:

“Romesh (R.S.) was sent to T.P.C.H. after regulation 21(1) by Dr B. Emmerson because as a doctor who had previously worked in S.E.Qld Romesh was known in other hospitals. [I had, in fact, worked at the Prince Charles Hospital, too]. He believes the 21(1) order was ill founded and illegal and has sought legal opinion to contest his admission as an involuntary patient. Dr Emmerson had in fact spent an extensive period of time making an evaluation on both direct and co-lateral evidence and sought admission and treatment for R.S. on the basis of a psychotic illness.

“In brief R.S. claims that many and several opinions of doctors both here and in Victoria are incorrect, biased by misinformation from R.S.’ family (mother, father, sister and wife) and as such he is/was the victim of an elaborate and extensive conspiracy to denigrate and incarcerate him. He proclaims that the primary adversary is his father who is intolerant of R.S’ preferred lifestyle, philosophy, attitude toward conventional medicine and intellectual independence. R.S. then contends that Dr Senewiratne (snr) has had inordinate influence over those psychiatrists and others who have been put in a position to make judgements and decisions about R.S. his ideas, behaviour and reactions to the circumstances that surround him.”

In this three-paged report Bowles wrote that he was not able to confirm the previous diagnosis of hypomania, but he believed there was “sufficient evidence of a paranoid psychosis” on the basis of:

  1. Manifest paranoia – his insistent belief that he was a victim of contrived persecution from multiple sources.
  2. An unrealistic appraisal of his present circumstances especially in view of his deregistration [I had not been deregistered] and prospects of re-instatement as a medical practitioner.
  3. A persistent drive for litigation against those who sought to help him but opposed his point of view.
  4. A propensity to misinterpret information in his own end and distort information given to various people.
  5. His insistence that he had a special means of idiosyncratic communication with his daughter in Victoria. This was of a such a degree that it alarmed his mother as being bizarre and incomprehensible. (She may report this independently to the Tribunal).

Interestingly, given subsequent events, Bowles did not mention the key role of Robert Purssey in spreading rumours about me and getting me locked up. This may be because Robert’s father, Brian Purssey, was the Director of the Greenslopes Repatriation (Veteran’s) Hospital in Brisbane and known to him. Later Robert Purssey moved up from Melbourne with my sister and was employed by the Prince Charles Hospital as a psychiatry registrar under John Bowles himself. A curious omission indeed.

The truth is that I believed, with good reason, that my family were persecuting me and conspiring against me in order to get me locked up. They were maintaining that I was psychotic and had “mania”, as is evidenced by the numerous letters they wrote behind my back, with requests that the letters not be disclosed to me (they weren’t at first but were some were later under FOI). Bowles himself confirmed that this was a misdiagnosis and that despite observing me for six weeks I did not show evidence of mania (an elevated, expansive or irritable mood, reduced need for sleep, grandiosity, flight of ideas and other such symptoms). Yet this was the diagnosis made by Brett Emmerson when I was admitted to the hospital and by Robert Purssey and my father in their letters to the psychiatrists. It was also the provisional diagnosis made before I was admitted to the Royal Park Hospital, but downgraded to a non-psychotic “hypomania” diagnosis in the discharge summary. I was justified in refusing treatment for “hypomania”, and the justification comes from no less an authority that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) that stated in its then current DSM IV that hypomania is not associated with psychosis, that it does not require hospitalisation or drug treatment and can, in some individuals lead to an increase in accomplishments, creativity and efficiency.

The reference to an “special means of idiosyncratic communication” with my daughter stems from my mother telling John Bowles that I said I could sense that my daughter was being hit by her mother. This was understandable concern and I rang my sister as asked her if Ruby was being hit. “I don’t think she’s hit enough”, was her cruel response. It made me very worried about her, but I did not say that I had a “special means of idiosyncratic communication” with her.

 

While I was in Prince Charles I made many friends, including Mark, who had been locked up for mania, too. Mark actually had gone mad, after ingesting large quantities of amphetamine and developing delusions about X and Y chromosomes. He thought if he swallowed extra Y chromosomes in the form of semen he could become a superman. He also convinced one of his friends to do the same, but when he went to Mt Cootha, where the TV stations are located and demanded to be put on air, he was arrested and subsequently certified into the Winston Noble Unit. I explained to Mark the scientific facts about X and Y chromosomes and why his theory was delusional, and he accepted what I said. It confirmed my view that delusions can be cured with reasonable, fact-based debate.

Due to the drugs I found it hard to write, but I persevered and wrote several essays on my developing health model for the neurosciences, which I showed to Mark’s mother Kay, who was a teacher. She said. “You’re just a New Age philosopher, I don’t know what you are doing here.” Kay then offered for me to stay, rent free, at a house she owned, allowing for me to be discharged from Prince Charles Hospital, an act of kindness to a stranger that I will be eternally grateful for.

I stayed in this house for a month, during which time I wrote many poems and did line drawings of my experience as a catharsis. I was very lonely, and didn’t have access to the phone or a car. I had written to the State Trustees asking that my car be sent up to me from Melbourne but the State Trustee Peter Sier wrote back that after paying the lawyers and accountant there were “insufficient funds” to do so. He also said that my practice company, studio and Groove-On Records had been closed and my house was to be put up for sale, and that he had consented for my ex-wife Susan to have custody of our daughter, Ruby. I was furious, but unable to do anything about it other than write poems and draw. I didn’t have access to a guitar, and anyway I was too Parkinsonian to play.

In August 1995 I was allowed by Bowles to return to Melbourne on the proviso that I agree to see Norman James at the Royal Park Hospital on my return. My mother insisted on coming with me, first to Melbourne and then to see Norman James. It was very stressful with Sue, who had been informed by phone, during her holiday in Spain with Ruby and my mother, that I had gone mad and needed to “go” into hospital.” I didn’t need to go there”, I tried to explain,” I was taken there by force by the police”, but Sue wasn’t interested. She thought that this was the new me. I had been transformed from a kind, jolly, considerate husband to an angry madman who sat there and stared without moving. She didn’t understand that my anger was justified and I sat there immobile because I was still partially paralysed from the flupenthixol injections. She told my mother, “I can’t have him here.  He’ll have to leave”. I went and stayed a night with Michael Butera in St Kilda and the next day I rented a house at 4 Eastgate Street, Oakleigh, where I slowly recovered from my ordeal.

After she helped me escape, Sara was questioned by the police. She was stressed by this and went overseas to Europe, visiting relatives in Italy and Spain. In October 1995 she returned to Melbourne and found that I was well, living alone in Oakleigh and preparing my first book “Alpha State : A State of Mind for the New Age” for publication. This book was a collection of my writings while I was locked up, which my mother agreed to pay for the typing of. With a single typed copy of the manuscript I contacted Channel 7’s Today Tonight program. They asked me for an interview, which was recorded in my house at Oakleigh, but never went to air.  I also gave a radio interview for the PBS station which was aired in October 1995. Robert recorded this interview and sent it to Bill Robinson in support of his allegation that I had mania and needed treatment.

I spent a lot of time with Sara during the months that followed and she was at my house when the CAT team from Monash appeared on my doorstep with police on the night of 29 February the next year (1996).

My First Mental Health Review Board Hearing (May 1995)

Some of the nurses at Royal Park were sympathetic. I remember one telling me, “I know, Romesh, that there’s nothing wrong with you, but you have to play the game if you want to get out of here”. Playing the game meant admitting that you were ill when you were first admitted and swallowing the tablets you were given without protest. The nurses also told me that I could apply for a Mental Health Review Board hearing, which was supposedly “independent of the hospital”, though held on the hospital premises. I was told I could have legal representation and, knowing no other lawyers, I asked the solicitor who had done the Groove-On contracts, David Hancock (who was a friend of Anthony Dymke), to represent me. I asked Sara to come to the hearing too, as my support person. I was confident that I would released, but my optimism was unfounded.

The lawyer David was out of his depth. He did a poor job of refuting Owen’s arguments. He asked if I was a risk to others or myself. Owen admitted that I was not a risk to others, but could damage my own professional reputation. This is ironic indeed. What damaged my professional career was the hospital writing to the Medical Board saying that I was mentally ill, and my family spreading the rumour that I was in and out of mental hospitals.

The Board consisted of a lawyer (in charge), a psychiatrist and a ‘community member’. Tony Owen represented the hospital.  I didn’t know at this stage that less than 5% of appeals to get off CTOs are successful. Owen also told an anecdote that I could see swayed the board members, especially the community member, who nodded in agreement with him. He said that he once had a young patient who was pleasant and intelligent (“like Romesh”) but hypomanic. He said the patient escaped from hospital and drove at high speed, killing a pedestrian. The fact that this was merely an anecdote and I have always been a careful driver (I haven’t ever had a serious accident) escaped the board, and I sensed that I might not win my discharge after all. Indeed I did not. I lost the appeal and was returned to the locked ward. I begged Owen not to send me back there. “Don’t you have any compassion?” I asked. His answer was callous. “I once had a bit of compassion, but it has shrivelled right up”.

I went into my room, threw myself down on the bed and wept for the first time since my admission. I then decided to escape. I phoned Sara and asked her to come and collect my wallet. She did so. I then rang her back and asked me to come and visit me again. This time I asked the nurses, who were sympathetic, if I could go for a brief stroll on the grounds and have a cigarette with Sara. They allowed me to do so. Once I was out of the doors I told Sara to keep walking. We hastened our pace as a nurses came out calling for me to return. We walked quickly to the carpark and got in Sara’s car. She was as white as a ghost. I was shaking with fear too.

Sara then dropped me off in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy where my studio was located and went home. She was later visited by police, asking if she’d helped me escape. Shortly afterwards she left the country and went to Europe.

Finding the studio locked, I walked around to Anthony Dymke’s place. I was shaken and my legs wouldn’t stop trembling. I discussed my situation with Anthony and his wife and they suggested that I leave the state. I didn’t have any money, since the State Trustees had frozen my back accounts, so Anthony bought me a ticket for a coach to Queensland the next day. I headed up to Brisbane thinking my ordeal was over. It had only just begun.

 

How My Family Framed Me as Mad

Royal Park Hospital

 

On the night of 7th April 1995, Robert Purssey rang up the after-hours psychiatric services claiming that I was “smoking lots of dope”, had “smashed up my flat” and “manhandled” my flat mate. These were false claims, repeating hearsay from my flatmate Adrian Deakin. Deakin and I had an argument about his not paying his share of the rent and his appalling hygiene and I had asked him to leave, but I did not “manhandle” him. I also did not smash up my flat or damage it in the least. I was smoking no more ganga than I had for many years, and considerably less than Robert himself (who also abused alcohol, which he later went into rehab for, before reinventing himself as an “ACT therapist”).

Robert’s role in misinforming the psychiatrists at the Royal Park Hospital, after I was taken there by police on the request of a psychologist by the name of Mark Salter, is evident from the discharge summary from the hospital, written by the registrar Jan Theobald in May 1995, after I escaped from Royal Park the second time and caught a bus up to Queensland with the help of friends.

In Jan Theobald’s discharge summary numerous false and misleading claims are made about me. She wrote that I referred to a complex series of ideas that made no sense to relatives, naming these as “the bioblos” and the “chaotic theory of time”. This was a reference to the palaeontology theory known as the “Four-Dimensional Bioblob” that I read in a book on fossil discoveries in Australia (Riversleigh) that boasts a foreword by no less than Sir David Attenborough. It was not an original theory and I first read about it and tried to explain it to my family in 1993. Robert Purssey, who was my sister’s boyfriend, evidently did not understand the theory, despite its simplicity and elegance. The 4-D Bioblob hypothesis profoundly observes that we are physically part of our parents as a single organism in the fourth dimension (time) and they are part of their parents and so on through the tree of life. It conceives of this “bioblob” as constantly changing and growing as a single interdependent organism travelling through space and time, and illustrates the interconnectivity of living species. When I read about it this concept resonated with me, and I tried explaining it to many people, most of whom understood it. Robert did not, and failing to understand it, pathologised it as evidence of ‘mental illness’

The ‘chaotic theory of time’ refers to none other than Chaos Theory, about which I was reading and which is a well known theory in Western physics. Inspired by the famous fractal pictures, I was exploring the connections between chaotic patterns and development of the aesthetic, with particular reference to the organic shapes and forms of the natural world and perception of beauty, and how these change with time. This was original, but not insane and certainly did no harm to myself and others (which is a necessary condition for involuntary detention in Australia).

Jan Theobald also wrote that I claimed to be able to diagnose people instantly on sight, without the need for a proper history and examination. Again, this came from my family, and not from conversations I had with Theobald (who never spoke to me, though I was locked up under her consultant Tony Owens for 3 weeks and she wrote the discharge summary). This was a very damaging claim and was untrue. All competent doctors are able to make what are called “spot diagnoses”, and I have made many over the years. However, it is important to confirm the diagnosis by the history and examination as well as relevant tests. I have never departed from these principles; the allegation was very damaging and understandably raised the concerns of the medical establishment. What’s more, Theobald’s discharge summary was copied and sent to both the Queensland and Victorian Medical Boards, during efforts to stop me from practising medicine (though there were no complaints from the people who mattered – my patients).

Theobald also wrote that I “stated to relatives” that I’d had a “revelation like Buddha” in which I became aware of the “oneness of all living things” and began “haranguing friends and relatives about this incessantly”. She also wrote that I was brought up a Christian but had a “recent conversion to Buddhism”. Again Theobald got it wrong. I had converted to Buddhism and had many insights by reading and comprehending the truth of certain Buddhist writings, but that is not where I developed concepts of the “oneness of all living things”. This came from my understanding of the 4-dimensional bioblob, which, as I have said, I read in a palaeontology book. From Buddhism I became more aware of the ubiquitous nature of change, which includes personal change and raises doubts about the psychiatric concepts of fixed personality and “premorbid personality”. I didn’t discuss Buddhism with many people, but Robert was one of the people I did. I told him, to his annoyance, that Buddhism provides a better model for psychotherapy than the Western psychiatry he was studying. He evidently regarded our debates as me “haranguing him”. He has a thin skin.

Then there was the claim by Theobald that I attempted to give my practice away gratis to my locum. This is again not true. I did say that I wanted to sell the practice to concentrate on my music, research and writing. This never eventuated. I lost the practice, which was closed down by the State Trustees on the instigation of Robert and my sister Shireen, who had organized for me to lose my financial and legal rights by application to the Guardianship and Administration Board while I was locked up at Royal Park. I had never heard of the Guardianship and Administration Board and was so drugged hat I could barely stay awake and had difficulty talking. From my sketchy recollections of the event, I just begged to be allowed to go home and consented to whatever was asked of me. I didn’t know they’d use the system to deprive me of my daughter, my medical practice and recording company, my legal and financial rights and my family home. Robert knew the system, I didn’t.

Years later, in 2002, the registrars at the Alfred Hospital repeated in their discharge summaries all the false and misleading claims made in the Royal Park discharge summary including the ‘bioblos’ and ‘chaotic theory of time’ but never thought to discuss them with me. They also claimed that I tried to give “practice grants” to my locums (having misread gratis as grants) and that I claimed to be able to diagnose people on sight without the need for a proper history and examination. Mud sticks.

Theobald continues, with the “history of present illness” to write:

“He failed to pay his employees in the weeks leading up to his admission and had omitted to pay his rent, taxation and superannuation commitments. He was spending uncharacteristically large amounts of money on books. Thought his flat mate was spying on him and that people were tapping into his telephone, Referred to Inner South CMHC and CATT by family. Refused community Rx [treatment]”

In truth I had only two employees, my receptionist Pam and locum, Dr Ganesh. I did not neglect to pay them and neither did I fail to pay my rent, superannuation or tax. This was made up by Robert Purssey to support his claim that I had ‘mania’. I spent $600 on books for my cross-disciplinary research, which I could well afford. Regarding my flat-mate Adrian Deakin: he had been convinced by Robert to run a second phone line into his bedroom and listen in on my phone conversations, so as to report on my behaviour to him. Later, Robert convinced other friends to collect answer phone messages from me and copied them and sent them to psychiatrists, as well as a radio interview I gave in 1995 after I’d been discharged. In this interview I stridently criticised the psychiatric system, and Robert thought it would convince the psychiatrists that I had “chronic mania”. He continued his campaign for several years, until he and my sister separated.

IMG_0178

 

The intake referral taken by ‘Damian’ names ‘Robert Percy’ (Purssey) as the person making the referral and my “Brother”, and also the “treating GP/psychiatrist”. Rajan Thomas is named as the “case manager”. My surname is misspelt ‘Senewiratna” (as it was by Tobie Sacks). It claims that I was “not sleeping”, which was untrue and an attempt to frame me as having “mania”, of which reduced need for sleep is a classical symptom.

Being a psychiatric registrar, Robert knew the classical signs of mania and crafted his reports of my behaviour to fit this. He “framed” me as mad, in other words.

My experience at the old Royal Park Hospital traumatised me for several years. I still have nightmares about it. The worst aspects were the boredom and the effects of the haloperidol and clonazepam that I was drugged with. This was for a diagnosis of “hypomania” which is described in the DSM IV as a mental state that is not characterised by psychosis (unlike mania) and can, in some individuals, result In improvement of efficiency and achievements. Hypomania is defined as an “elevated, irritable or expansive mood” that is not the effect of drugs and lasts for more than 5 days. It is accompanied by other symptoms characteristic of both hypomania and mania (hypomania means less than mania) including increase in goal-directed activities, increased sociability and talkativeness, increased use of puns and humour, ‘flight of ideas’, grandiosity and reduced need for sleep. The DSM also states that hypomania, unlike mania, is not characterised by problems in social and occupational functioning and does not require hospitalisation. Despite its positive features, suggestive of improved mental health, hypomania is regarded as a precursor of mania, and in Australia is treated in the same way as full-blown mania with incarceration and dopamine-blocking antipsychotic drugs. This is what was done to me when I got too happy, independent and positive for the system and my family who worked for the system, with whom the system sided against me. The system remains on their side.1995 RPH discharge summary 01

My 1995 Theory of Motivation

This is the diagram I drew when I was trying to explain my theory of motivation to Rajan Thomas in March 1995, shortly before I was first “sectioned” (as Thomas called it). BG stands for basal ganglia, and my theory was that satisfaction of instincts for communication, curiosity and play resulted in release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the midbrain. This is now accepted to be the case in the ‘pleasure circuits’ and dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens.

At the time I had not heard of the nucleus accumbens, but was developing integrative theories about the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline (NA in the diagram) and serotonin and the function of the reticular activating system (RAS) which is a noradrenergic network involved in sleep and consciousness. I postulated that our motivation is a balance between not just instincts and conditioning as I had learned at medical school, but by free will, which I regarded important both psychologically and legally as well as spiritually. I suggested to Rajan Thomas that free will is influenced by our memories and experiences. I also acknowledged drives for food, shelter and sex, but was more interested in developing theories about the instincts that could be used to promote mental health, like communication, curiosity and play. I subsequently presented my theory of motivation at the physiology department of Monash University (October 1995), Theosophical Society (1996) and the Australian College of Mind-Body Medicine (1998) to a much more receptive response.

Rajan Thomas gathered only that my theory of motivation was that “movement causes improvement in mental health”. The theory evidently went over his head, and I realised this at the time when I asked him what he thought motivated people.

1995 theory of motivation explanation to Rajan Thomas

The Lead-up to my First Incarceration

I believe that humans have an instinct to seek freedom. This instinct was called “drapetomania” when expressed by Black slaves in the USA, who tried to escape. The “treatment’ was to catch them, lock them up and whip them. Whipping was a favourite treatment in the early Australian lunatic asylums too, as well as physical restraints and chemical restraints with an increasing range of toxic drugs. When insulin was discovered in 1921, the first thing they tried was to “treat schizophrenics” by sending them into a coma by injecting them with insulin in 1922. Labouring under the delusion that fevers may cure schizophrenia they tried giving people typhoid and malaria – as a treatment – along with injecting turpentine into the abdomen to cause an abscess, which needed to be drained in theatre. This was all on purpose, with a supposedly “scientific” rationale. Prior to that they tried spinning beds and chairs, convinced that mental illness was caused by too much or little blood flow to the brain, and also developed various methods of immobilization of ‘manic’ or ‘excited’ patients.

During the 1930s and 40s the Nazis subjected people labelled with schizophrenia, manic depression and personality disorder to what they called ‘euthanasia’ or mercy killing under the notorious Aktion T4 program. This was before the mass killing of Jews and Gypsies. Prior to that, several American states established eugenics laws prohibiting the marriage of ‘mentally ill’ people and allowing for the castration of mentally ill and “feeble-minded” boys. Eugenics, initially developed at Cambridge in the 1880s, was also embraced in Australia, where it formed the “scientific” basis for the genocide of Aboriginal people and “breeding out the Black” to create a “White Australia”.

 

They also used to cause convulsions on purpose, using chemical toxins, as an alternative to electrical shocks, which were given without anaesthetic at first. This resulted in fractures, but was declared to be a successful treatment by its enthusiasts, as were the notorious “ice-pick lobotomies” popularised in the 1940s by Walter Freeman and his followers. There were other atrocities committed under the notorious but still rarely mentioned MK programs of the 1950s and 60s , where the CIA enlisted numerous well-known universities in the USA, Canada and UK to assist in brain-washing and mind control programs, supposedly to counter the “Communist menace”. These included “deep-sleep therapy” and insulin comas, combined with such frequent electric shocks to the brain that the victim was rendered incontinent and unable to talk or walk. They were then “reprogrammed” through various methods including playing repeated loops of audio tapes and other such then modern technology.

The age of lobotomies ended in 1950 with the discovery of the first “liquid lobotomy”, the dopamine-blocking drug chlorpromazine in France. This was the first of the phenothiazines, marketed as Thorazine in the USA and Largactil elsewhere (including Australia). Largactil is credited with ending the era of asylums and allowing mentally ill people diagnosed with “schizophrenia” and previously confined for years to be to be discharged from hospital and treated in the “community”. However, Largactil and the other dopamine-blocking “neuroleptics” or “antipsychotics” (also called ‘major tranquillisers’) were found to have serious side-effects, including irreversible brain damage in the form of “tardive dyskinesia” (TD). TD is characterised by uncontrollable facial, tongue and limb movements; it is hard to imagine a more stigmatising condition, since the limbs writhe uncontrollably, the tongue protrudes in and out, with puffing of the cheeks and facial grimaces. A person with TD looks mad, and this is worsened by the uncontrollable urge to pace up and down and inability to sit still known as “akathesia”, which is also caused by these drugs, presumably due to the blockade of dopamine receptors in the basal ganglia of the brain. They also cause anhedonia (lack of pleasure), reduced creativity and flattened emotions. Cruelly, these side-effects are frequently blamed on the “illness” itself.

Wikipedia says:

Chlorpromazine largely replaced electroconvulsive therapyhydrotherapy,[40] psychosurgery, and insulin shock therapy.[36] By 1964, about 50 million people worldwide had taken it.[41] Chlorpromazine, in widespread use for 50 years, remains a “benchmark” drug in the treatment of schizophrenia, an effective drug although not a perfect one.[17] The relative strengths or potencies of other antipsychotics are often ranked or measured against chlorpromazine in aliquots of 100 mg, termed chlorpromazine equivalents or CPZE.[42]

According to Wikipedia, chlorpromazine is a “low potency” antipsychotic and less likely to cause tardive dyskinesia than the “high potency” antipsychotics like haloperidol (Haldol) and fluphenazine (Stelazine). I have never had fluphenzine (notorious for causing the ‘Stelazine shuffle’) forced on me, but I have been forced to take haloperidol by mouth and also been injected with long-acting “depot” preparations of the drug. The side effects I developed traumatised me for years after, and long after the actual effects had worn off. This trauma was because of the memory of the incarceration and drugging.

 

I haven’t yet developed TD, but the condition may develop many years after treatment starts and increases in likelihood the longer it is continued. It may also worsen despite stopping treatment and is itself untreatable. I dread getting this horrible iatrogenic (treatment-induced) condition. I have experienced the other common neurological problems caused by dopamine blockade, namely akathesia and Parkinsonism, with similar symptoms to Parkinson’s Disease, but caused by dopamine receptor-blocking drugs rather than degeneration of the dopamine-producing nerve cells in the basal ganglia (the known cause of Parkinson’s Disease).

 

I came to the attention of the psychiatric system because of my family, namely my father Brian Senewiratne, sister Shireen Senewiratne and her boyfriend at the time, Robert Purssey. All were doctors working in the public system and my father also got his friend, Dr Chelvarayan Barr-Kumarakulasinghe, to make another referral, in addition to those of Robert and Shireen. My father then wrote a series of letters to the psychiatrist Rajan Thomas and his registrar Noel Barrett, purporting to provide “collateral history”. I have received these letters and Thomas’s own notes when they were provided as evidence against me at the Queensland Health Practitioner’s Tribunal in 2003, but had already obtained some of them in Freedom of Information (FOI) requests I made myself from the Alfred Hospital and Monash Medical Centre and before that from the Formal Hearing of the Medical Practitioners’ Board of Victoria, held in July and August 1996. These documents have helped me piece together the roles that my various family members played in my initial incarceration and subsequent ones. I have long grappled over their motives.

In his first letter ‘framing letter’ to Rajan Thomas, which was hand-written, long and rambling, my father ended it with the revealing line:

“I hope this long dissertation doesn’t result in someone certifying me!!!!”

He evidently knew that being certified as insane is a traumatic experience, which he didn’t want for himself, but was advocating for his much saner son.

Though my sister made a referral to the Junction Clinic in St Kilda on May 18, 1995, she left it to her boyfriend Robert, who was a psychiatry registrar, to make the phone calls to get me locked up. Robert also went through all my things after I’d been locked up at RPH, looking for evidence to substantiate his claim that I had “mania”. When I escaped the first time from Royal Park it was Robert who tracked me down, a task for which he took “compassionate leave” from work! When I escaped a second time and travelled up to Brisbane, not realising my father’s role in my incarceration, Robert flew up from Melbourne, got a mutual friend, Margie Ruddy to invite me out and then stalked me in a nightclub, all the while refusing to talk with me directly. Instead he followed me around and asked the people I spoke to what I had said, warning them that I was mad and could not be believed.

In response to the initial referral by my family the Junction Clinic sent a psychiatry registrar by the name of Noel Barrett to my flat. I had moved in there in January 1995 after separating from my wife Susan the day she arrived from Brisbane after spending two weeks there with our two-year-old daughter Ruby. Sue was furious after being told by Shireen and Robert that I was having an affair with Sara Di Genova, whom they had invited to mind their house in North Fitzroy while they too holidayed in Brisbane (where our parents live). This was untrue. I was infatuated with Sara, something Shireen knew, but we were not having a romantic relationship, though later we did, and ended up living together and having a daughter, Zoe, many years later. Zoe was born on 30th August 2009 at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane, by which time Shireen and Robert had two children but had separated, and Robert had remarried. He has since had two more children and is working as a psychiatrist in Brisbane. He refuses contact with me, and has done since he stopped trying to get me locked up. My father has never stopped trying and is trying to get me locked up again right now.

I thought the registrar Noel Barrett was a strange man. I had no rapport with him. He asked me to come to clinic, which was nearby, the next week to see the psychiatrist Rajan Thomas, who my mother had told me was an expert in autism and known to my uncle Chelvarayan Barr Kumarakulasinghe, who was working as a de-facto psychiatrist (his qualification was a surgeon and he had been professor of surgery in Kandy before coming out to Australia after spending some years in the Middle-East) and is married to my mother’s cousin Nirma, who was my piano teacher when I was a child. Rajan Thomas was a strange man too and not an expert in autism at all. This had merely been a ruse to get me to see him. He saw his task not to discuss my evolving theories with me but to see if I could be “sectioned”, meaning certified as mentally ill and involuntarily confined. He wrote in his notes that “the family wants him sectioned” but that he did not think it could be done legally, and sought a second opinion from the director of the clinic, Tobie Sacks, who I was delighted to hear was a nephew of the famous British neurologist and author Oliver Sacks.

I liked Tobie and was able to develop more rapport with him than I could with Rajan Thomas or the registrar Noel Barrett. After interviewing me for an hour he wrote:

“Review”
Thank you for asking me to review Dr Senewiratna. A 30+ yr old separated medical practitioner, he presents with mildly elevated mood, slight grandiosity with pseudophilosophical overvalued ideas regarding mental illness, behaviour and motivation.”…

.
“While it seems very probable, from the recent history, that Dr Senewiratna has been hypomanic, exhibiting elevated mood, grandiosity, flight of ideas and increasingly dysfunctional, uncharacteristic behaviours, and while he is now still mildly elevated in his mood and has several unrealistic, possibly overvalued ideas (his hypothesis) I do not find him to be certifiable/detainable under MHA [Mental Health Act].
There is currently no evidence of flight of ideas, pressure of speech, risk-taking behaviour or impulsivity in his activities. Throughout the interview he remained calm, cooperative and were able to establish good rapport. Affect was reactive and generally appropriate. The overvalued ideas/hypothesis about behaviours/mood etc are fairly firmly held, but not to delusional intensity”.

My hypothesis was that humans have a number of neglected instincts, including communication, curiosity and play, and that these instincts could be used to develop therapeutic strategies individually and as public health programs. I also developed theories about the development of aesthetic appreciation in what we see and hear, that again had practical applications, but the psychiatrists were not interested in my theories other than to determine whether how strongly I held them (and not whether they were justified and rational).


Rajan Thomas has recently been charged with sexually assaulting one of his long-term patients in his rooms and in a Melbourne psychiatric hospital. This came as no surprise to me after his explanation of what motivates people – meaning himself – in March 1995. I asked him, in good faith, what motivated people, something I was developing theories about. His answer is in keeping with the recent charges against him for sexual assault. He said “well, if you see a woman walking down the street (and he put his hands on his chest, simulating breasts) you want to jump on her but you don’t because of the people who are there”.  It was a bizarre answer that I was not expecting – my theory was that we are motivated by instincts for communication, curiosity and play!

My Psychiatric Experiences

©2018 Dr Romesh Senewiratne-Alagaratnam

According to the statistics, at the age of 57 I am getting to the end of my expected life. This is because psychiatric patients in Australia have twenty years less life to expect than the rest of the population that haven’t been branded with the label of “mental illness”.

Before I became a reluctant patient of the Australian psychiatric system, I had graduated and worked as a doctor, specialising in what was called ‘family medicine’, but better known as ‘general practice’. General practice, conducted by General Practitioners (GPs) is contrasted with medical and surgical care provided by specialists, recognised experts in various ‘medical specialties’. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) established its Family Medicine Program (FMP) to establish general practice as a specialty of its own, devoted to family medicine, an important part of which is preventive medicine. It also includes counselling and a great deal of psychiatry, provided as primary care for people of all ages. I entered the Family Medicine Program as a second year resident, and in 1990 I was granted vocational registration by the RACGP. I was not a member of the college, but received vocational registration when it was introduced because I had already been in general practice for more than 5 years.

I entered the University of Queensland to study medicine in 1978, when I was 17 and straight out of high school. I had attended “Churchie”, a boy’s school that has changed its formal name from “The Church of England Grammar School” to the “Anglican Boy’s Grammar School” and slipped down the comparative academic ranking of Brisbane schools. When I entered the university it was with 17 other boys from Churchie, including the two boys who had shared the Tyrwitt Cup with me for the best academic students in Year 12 (1977). I never actually saw the cup I had won and it was taken home by one of the other victors. I wasn’t much interested in it, to tell the truth, but I was proud of my academic success. It reinforced the belief that my mother had instilled in my sister and I that we came from an “intelligent family”. But intelligence and academic success are not the same; many intelligent people do poorly in the academic system, and many people do well academically by repeating, without questioning it, everything they are told by their teachers. Exams favour people with good memories, and “retentive brains”. It favours students who can apply equations and laws but not necessarily understand how the equations and laws they apply were derived.

From a young age I was expected to “study hard” to “come first in every subject” with the notable exception of Singhala, which I was only expected to pass. This pressure to “come first” came from my father and was transmitted to me by my mother. My father rarely spoke to me, even when I was living in his home. I did, however, have long and varied conversations with my mother and my older sister Shireen, in whom I foolishly confided my innermost thoughts and fears. Foolishly, because she used to knowledge to manipulate, dominate and control me, which she delighted in.

Shireen was also expected to come first in class and the pressure on her continued to her years at university, while my father gave up on my doing well, though he insisted that I sit at my desk and “study”, rather than play the guitar. He was outraged when I first started busking to get around the fact that he tried to control me financially. At the time one of his registrars had seen me and asked if he didn’t give me any money. My father came home furious and demanded that I stop busking. But he didn’t expect me to “win a First Class in Medicine”, which he demanded of my sister. Years later she confessed to me, in tears, that she felt huge pressure to avoid his disapproval.

Though she did well in medicine, and got a First Class, my father and sister had a tumultuous relationship when she was at Uni, mainly because he accused her of “fooling around” with her boyfriend Channa. Channa was the son of Basil and Erangani Seneviratne, who were family friends of my parents and had lived in the same block of flats in England before returning to work as doctors in the hill city of Kandy (Mahanuwara) in Sri Lanka’s central mountainous region. Basil was a cardiologist and Erangani, who had gone to school with my mother, Kamalini, was a pathologist. They moved to Brisbane from Christchurch (New Zealand) in 1978 after sending their oldest children ahead of them, first Arjuna (MIkka) who stayed with us in 1977 till his older brother Channa arrived. Both Mikka and Channa were romantically interested in Shireen, and Mikka was disappointed but not surprised by her decision to go out with Channa, whom she eventually married, but later divorced without children.

Basil and Erangani’s third child and older daughter was Dammi (Damayantha) who I had an adolescent crush on, though I found her hard to communicate with. I took her to the school formal, when Shireen was taken by Mikka, in year 12. I hired a flared white suit for the occasion with no insight into how incongruous I looked, and didn’t have a clue how to start a conversation or sustain one. When, the next year, Dammi invited me to the Somerville House formal as her date, again I didn’t know what to say to her. I was a shy guy.

When I was first locked up, supposedly for an elevated mood and increased talkativeness, Dammi was the only member of her family who visited me, the others having been warned that I had “changed” and was no longer nice. She even offered for me to stay in her flat with her sister Amanda when I was discharged from hospital. This was in the Woden Valley Hospital in Canberra, where I was locked up for three days over Easter, 1995, after escaping from the Royal Park Hospital in Melbourne (RPH). I had been locked up at the RPH on 7th April, 1995, in an event that disrupted and changed the course of my life. This is when I was transformed from being a respected doctor to being a stigmatised madman, a maniac, a ‘mental patient’.