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General News    H4'ed 3/2/22

New Book Hides Mental Health Institute Director's Sordid Past

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It has been several years since Dr. Thomas Insel left his post as director of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to collaborate on mental health solutions with Google Life Sciences, an arm of Alphabet, Google's parent company, now known as Verily. Insel is not the first or last government official to treat himself or herself to the riches of the industry revolving door (Louisiana Rep. Billy Tauzin surfaced at PhRMA after overseeing Medicare legislation; CDC director Julie Gerberding surfaced at Merck ). But Insel has a disturbing former cronyism record that should not be forgotten.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, in 2010 Insel assured the University of Miami's medical school dean that if he hired his colleague, the disgraced researcher Charles Nemeroff whose multimillion NIH grant was suspended, NIH grants would still flow.

Insel presumably "owed" Nemeroff because as the former head of psychiatry at Emory University Nemeroff got Insel a job there when Insel's research was not renewed at NIH in 1994. Nemeroff then led a lobbying effort to get Insel named as NIMH director in 2002, according to the Chronicle.

In Insel's new book, Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health, there is not much mention of the cronyism, the "musical jobs," the NIH grant hanky panky or even Insel's former psychiatric positions. For example, Insel was credited with moving the NIMH away from behavioral research toward biological psychiatry--the belief that mental illness can be explained by neuroscience and genetics--yet in his new book he now writes, "recovery is not just relief of symptoms, it's finding connection, sanctuary and meaning." Is this a newer, gentler Insel or an admission that in almost ten years, the colossal, biological psychiatry-based $100 million U.S. government "Brain Initiative" has failed to unlock any brain secrets? Can taxpayers have their money back?

Insel now says the genetic brain maps for which he cheer-leaded for so many years--once even calling the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the Bible of modern psychiatry, not an "objective laboratory measure"--haven't helped patients,

Nor does Insel seem to be the pharma drug advocate he was when he defended a CDC report of 10,000 toddlers on psych drugs with the suggestion that maybe "there is a real increase in the number of children suffering with severe emotional problems" and when he linked higher suicides with not enough people taking SSRI antidepressants.

In fact, for demographics that are at greater risk of mental illness, Insel now promotes "low-tech, high-touch interventions," says a February 12, 2022 Wall Street Journal interview and writeup about his book. Hugs not drugs?

Will These Experiments Also Be Hidden?

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)

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