Winter 2014
Letters to the Editor

Readers weigh in on everything from environmentalism to mental health – and aliens, too

Silent Stars
As part of a team that is developing an instrument to detect flashes of infrared light from deep space – flashes that might indicate the presence of intelligent life – Prof. Shelley Wright was asked how she might feel if an alien signal were to be detected (“First Contact,” Autumn 2013). Her answer was that she didn’t know. I don’t think she has to worry about receiving such signals. Any highly developed civilization that had been studying us would have long ago thrown up its hands in frustration and moved on to more promising planets. Given humanity’s generally unpleasant record of wars, resource misuse, animal abuse and global warming, the only reason they would have to visit is to tell us to knock it off – or else. Our only hope then would be Captain James T. Kirk.

Geoff Rytell
BEd 1975 OISE, Toronto


Reining in the Greens
I was delighted to read Gerald Crawford’s letter (Autumn 2013) about the politics of climate science. I have long maintained that the environmental movement is out of control and needs a serious tune-up before it will ever earn any credibility with the legitimate scientific community. I would refer your readers to Elizabeth Nickson’s book Eco-Fascists (2012) as an excellent primer in environmental initiatives gone wild. And while we’re on the subject, let’s put a stop to the endless jumping on the green bandwagon to sell everything from bananas to beer.

Dave Winlow
MASc 1986, Gravenhurst, Ontario


Heartwarming Contribution
After reading the Summer 2013 issue, I recommended the article on Mary Jo Haddad (“Taking Care“) to my granddaughter, who earned a medical degree in India. Ms. Haddad’s achievements in life and her contribution to the growth of The Hospital for Sick Children are truly heartwarming.

Subbanarasu Divakaran
PhD 1966, Bangalore, India


Western Arrogance
Regarding the efforts by Prof. Paula Ravitz to increase access to psychiatric treatment in Ethiopia (“Peace of Mind, Spring 2013), I would think that the last thing the so-called developing world needs is an invasion of western psychiatric “medicine.” What ethnocentric arrogance to presume that western “talk therapy” is somehow superior to indigenous prayer groups and spiritual healing. Our own world is evidencing a steady movement in the opposite direction. Perhaps this is the reason for the outreach, like cigarette companies in need of new markets? And since when did the psychiatric profession limit itself to talk – traditionally the preserve of psychologists – given that one of its primary roles is the dispensing of antidepressants and other medications on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry. Again, new markets? If you want evidence, seek out the graphs for the rise of antidepressant drug prescription in the west and the steady increase in the length of time for which they are prescribed.

G.V. Whelan
BA 1976 Trinity, MA 1984, Toronto

Prof. Ravitz responds:
Thank you for raising such important issues, ones that we too feel strongly about and struggle with. Our project is not a sudden attempt to bring a western talk therapy to a low-income country. In fact, it is the result of years of work with colleagues in Ethiopia and long discussions about the problem of bringing urban Toronto psychiatry to a low-income country. As a result, we have together culturally adapted a four-session therapy that focuses on loss and grief and disagreements – universal causes of distress that can underlie depression. Currently in health centres and hospitals in Ethiopia the only treatment for mental illness is medication. This co-created talk therapy will offer an alternative. As you point out, all societies have their own way of dealing with these issues. Our work forges a partnership guided and led not only by Ethiopian psychiatrists but by Ethiopian primary health-care workers and traditional healers so that we establish a”“local talk therapy” to optimize access for the many thousands of Ethiopians who suffer from mental illness.

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