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Letters to the editor

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Letters

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Dangerous diagnoses

I was dismayed upon reading claims that the new psychiatric guidelines in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders are overdiagnosing (“Is she a brat or is she sick?” Society, March 25). Perhaps the increase in mental health issues may stem from the fact that North American society has undergone immense negative economic and social changes since the postwar boom, leaving people overworked to maintain high-level jobs, young people with the highest unemployment and underemployment levels in decades and more single-family homes in history. Stress has increased in all facets of our lives. No wonder kids and their parents are stressed out and overburdened.

Joanna Kovats, Toronto

Psychiatry has long had a checkered history. It’s no surprise that so many more so-called mental illnesses are added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders than are removed. It’s called job security.

Gerold Becker, Thunder Bay, Ont.

The answer to the question on your March 25 cover—“Is she a brat or is she sick?”—is that she is neither. Both labels suggest there is something wrong with young children expressing strong and irrational emotions, when in fact nothing could be more normal. Unlike (most) adults, children have not yet learned how to manage the strong emotions they experience in response to situations that appear unfair or arbitrary. Children are asked to follow rules and schedules that do not necessarily please them and that they cannot grasp but may be in their best interest. A tantrum seems to me the most natural and understandable response. In all but the most extreme situations, a bit of compassion, patience and imagination is all that’s needed to help a child through a tantrum.

Carrie Snyder, Waterloo, Ont.

Most people with life-interfering mental health symptoms that don’t fit into a current DSM category are still being diagnosed right now with NOS (not otherwise specified) disorders. For example, those who may fall under the new “binge-eating disorder” are currently being diagnosed with “eating disorder NOS.” The new diagnostic categories don’t pathologize any more than current categories. In fact, they provide some sense of comfort in assuring the patient that others share their experience. There should not be a fear that with a broadening of diagnostic categories everyone can potentially have a mental disorder. People get diagnosed because their symptoms are truly interfering with their lives and they need help. The problem of family doctors over-prescribing psychotropic drugs indicates the need for more accountability on the family doctors’ parts, as well as the outrageous shortage of psychiatrists in this country. Patients spend months on a waiting list and resort to family doctors for psychiatric assistance.

Meng Simone Si, Toronto

Seeds of deception

It is great to see environmental activist Mark Lynas (Interview, March 18) had the insight to realize that the science of genetic modification (GM) is safe and is an important tool in feeding the world. I grow these crops and have found the science most helpful. I would like to see David Suzuki, who led many anti-GM programs, own up to the fact that his science on this topic was very questionable. To feed the planet’s expanding population, advanced genetic science is essential.

Murray Lovering, Coldwater, Ont.

Mark Lynas didn’t touch at all on the social costs of GM foods. His scientific opinion on the ecological and biological facts on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is laudable. However, GM opponents are also fighting against the power given to the multinational biotechnology companies that control the patents of GM foods. In India, peasant farmers have seen a huge rise in their production costs because they are not permitted to save patented seeds for next season. This is an example of why a scientific, evidence-based world view also needs to include evidence from beyond the realm of science.

Christine Anderson,

Peterborough, Ont. Mark Lynas’s blanket statements of the benefits of GMOs are highly suspect. I have been in the organic industry for many years and have seen many anti-GMO studies being ridiculed and/or suppressed as left-wing hysteria. The only benefit of GMOs is to the companies and shareholders of the companies purveying these products. Governments, farmers and consumers are being lobbied, bullied and forced into accepting GMOs. The argument that GMOs are needed to feed the world when more than a third of the North American corn crop is used to make fuel for vehicles is patently ridiculous.

Tom Cassan, Arthur, Ont.

Fault lines

Barbara Amiel’s comments on the Ohio rape case (“Land mines in our sexual landscape,” Opinion, April 1) are classic blame-the-victim. No, the victim should not have gotten drunk. But being drunk is not an invitation to sexual assault. Despite Amiel’s own apparently happy university memories of witnessing drunken assaults at the nearby frat house, would she be as dismissive of the damage if she had been the one whose body had been violated? She says, “You cannot end a disease by arresting the infected.” Yes you can. It’s call “quarantine” and it has the benefits of allowing the ill to be treated and preventing the infection from spreading.

Heather Harper, Mississauga, Ont.

Reading Barbara Amiel’s column felt as if I had found an article from the 1940s. Amiel insinuated the rape victim was at least partially responsible for the horrendous ordeal, because “she wasn’t wearing much to begin with.” No one leaves the house, in any outfit, planning to be sexually assaulted. Victim-blaming should be a thing of the past and yet we still teach women that they should not get raped, rather than teach men not to rape. The boys-will-be-boys mentality is offensive to both men and women, positing that men are animals and a bit of alcohol is all it takes for them to unleash their feral side. Andrea Kuntz, Toronto The common link between the Steubenville rape case, the Rob Ford/Sarah Thomson controversy and Tom Flanagan’s remarks is that they all revolve around sexual acts that are non-consensual. A young women being drunk does not give anyone licence to assault her. Being mayor does not make someone else’s rear end your property. Children legally cannot give consent, so if you’re looking at child porn, you’re looking at the direct result of a heinous sexual assault against a child.

Meredith Whitmore, Washington, D.C.

Tom Flanagan’s free speech

As a student at the University of Lethbridge, where Tom Flanagan made the controversial comments about child pornography (Interview, March 18), I feel his comments were justified. University professors and academics often make controversial comments. These statements force students to question things that otherwise would not even cross their minds. They are imperative to university education and inspire critical thinking. The backlash to Flanagan’s comments may discourage people from making controversial statements in order to spark critical thinking.

Letha McAulay, Lethbridge, Alta.

Eastern bastards no longer freezing

Paul Wells writes about the premiers of Quebec and Alberta considering having the latter province’s oil processed in the former’s refineries and I wondered what rabbit hole I’d fallen into (“Good for Alberta, good for Marois,” Opinion, March 18). Hadn’t a former Alberta premier threatened Ottawa over a policy that would see become Canada self-sufficient by moving the province’s oil, priced at lower than world prices, eastward to replace expensive imports? Was this not the same policy that destroyed the Liberal party’s electoral chances for decades across most of Western Canada? What would Peter Lougheed and Pierre Trudeau have made of this turn of events?

David Balcon, Toronto

It’s time to ‘woman up’

Women should step up to their full potential, but they don’t need to be like men (“Time to man up,” Society, March 18). We’re women: we endure periods and labours. We embody multi-tasking. Women need to believe that what female executives are doing is not crazy or unattainable for an average woman. We are all capable of doing amazing things. We don’t need to “man up”—we need to “woman up.” We need to believe that the universe provides, and that whatever path we choose, our lovely partners will support us, just as we support them equally.

Monika Leeder, Surrey, B.C.

“Women should be more like men if they want to get ahead”—so, what are men like? Whom do male business executives admire? Your March 11 edition answers this question when talking about Bob Nazarian, the owner of the collapsed mall in Elliot Lake, Ont. (“Cursed from the start,” National), who is described as “tough and disciplined” by one business associate, who also says, “I had a lot of respect for the man’s ability at a negotiating table.” The next time I am looking for someone who embodies ugly, aggressive business practices, someone who “didn’t care, [but] just wanted money,” I will have lots more choice. If I can’t find a man who meets these requirements, there will likely be lots of women executives to choose from.

Brock Lupton, Courtenay, B.C.

Four decades have been spent examining, discussing and trying to eliminate the gender-specific challenges faced by working moms. Conversely, we have spent almost no time discussing the gender-specific barriers faced by the millions of men who want to be more involved fathers and the stigmas that come for those who are. The low person on the totem pole at work is now the man who has taken on primary child care duties; what impetus is there for men to give up the fight for the corner office? Until we start to value a father’s brand of love as equal to that of a mother, the glass ceiling will never be smashed.

Cameron Phillips, Vancouver

Wrong titan

Peter C. Newman’s article “The fall of the titans” (Business, March 18) was interesting and provocative, and the photos of former members of what he calls “the Canadian Establishment” brought forth many reminders of the deeds of the men shown. However, the picture labelled as George Eaton is actually George Kosich, who was at Eaton’s during their demise, but I fear the major damage was done before he arrived. Frank MacTaggart, Mississauga, Ont.


 
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