The Irish Times - Friday, December 2, 2011
Psychiatrist calls for lithium to be added to water
A consultant psychiatrist last night called on Government to add lithium salts to the public water supply in a bid to lower the suicide rate and depression among the general population.
At a mental health forum on “Depression in Rural Ireland” in Ennistymon, Co Clare, Dr Moosajee Bhamjee said that “there is growing scientific evidence that adding trace amounts of the drug lithium to a water supply can lower rates of suicide and depression”.
Lithium is used by doctors as a mood stabiliser in the treatment for depression.
Dr Bhamjee said: “A recent article in the British Journal of Psychiatry found the beneficial uses of lithium when it was added to the water supply in parts of Texas.”
He said the Government should consider a pilot project for a town in Ireland where lithium salts could be added to the water in very small doses and examine the results.” He said there was already strong precedent for governments intervening in the operation of public water supply for health benefits by adding fluoride.
Dr Bhamjee said that a community would not get “hooked” on lithium “because the doses would be so small”.
He said: “There are 200,000 people suffering from depression in Ireland and the Government must think of new ways of tackling the problem.”
Fine Gael TD and chairman of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Dan Neville, told the forum the average annual suicide rate in Ireland in the 1960s was 64-65.
He said: “Last year, 483 people died by suicide and if you add the 123 undetermined deaths, the suicide number is over 600.”
He said: “This compares to 212 who died by road accidents, which is itself unacceptable.
“Research shows during international recessions, the suicide rate increases by 25 per cent. Ireland has the fourth highest youth suicide rate in Europe.”
Mr Neville added: “Suicide is the most common death for 15 to 24-year-olds and accounts for more than those who die from cancer and road accidents combined.”
The Limerick West deputy said that the attitude in mental health service towards those with mental health problems should be recovery and not containment.
He said: “Early intervention, you have 90 per cent cure and late intervention you have difficulties for life.”
Mr Neville said that with the well-publicised suicide of footballer Gary Speed, it raised contagion or copycat suicide concerns.
Learn about lithium toxicity; about suicide and depression
As a survivor of Lithium, I think it is outrageous that Dr Bhamjee (Irish Times December 2nd) is seriously suggesting that we add Lithium to our water supply. Dr Bhamjee said that a community would not get “hooked” on lithium “because the doses would be so small”.
It is already a breach of our human rights that our water supply is contaminated with fluoride and now he is seriously suggesting that another toxic substance should be added to our water. In 1949 the FDA banned lithium because it was found to cause cardiovascular problems. I remember a young friend in his early twenties experienced heart problems when he was on lithium for only a short time. If lithium can work so well in low dosages, why do so many psychiatrists prescribe it in high dosages even when some people can die of lithium poisoning? Another psychiatrist Dr Joanna Moncrieff wrote about lithium’s efficacy in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 1997 “ There are indications that it is ineffective in the long-term outlook of bipolar disorders, and is known to be associated with various forms of harm”.
Surely a society like ours, which rarely looks for the causes and is always looking for quick fixes, is going to get into serious trouble. If as Mr Dan Neville says “ Suicide is the most common death for 15 to 24 – year-olds” then should we not try to find out the causes and provide real solutions instead of adding more poison to our already toxic water supply!
Mary Maddock, MindFreedom Ireland,
16 Manor Close,