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Introduction to Ko Hsin Illingworth's experience of post-natal depression.

I met Ko Hsin Illingworth when she was the Mandarin interpreter during a Crown Court trial I covered for Science, People & Politics. Professional ethics in the particular case she and I were associated with meant I said I would not and could not speak with her until after the trial, but that I would be pleased to have coffee with her then. My choice was to protect both our jobs. I did not know she was suffering from postnatal depression. I made the offer of coffee later because she told me she had some training and experience in her native Taiwan as a journalist, and that she was interested in again being a journalist.

I had no thought I would be editing and publishing her work. I am doing so now pro bono.

The words are Ko Hsin's, and lightly edited by me in a way she agreed pre publication is fair to her and her intent.

I have not altered Ko Hsin's thoughts about Will Power and her depression, but any suggestion that Will Power alone can always get someone through depression is wrong. That comment is made by me writing as a former member of the Medical Journalists' Association, with aspiration to rejoin the MJA!

Also Crown Court is Crown Court. So I have removed the specific Crown Courts Ko Hsin mentions in her copy. The Courts know who she is, and when she took her oath with them as an interpreter.

I have removed one word, because this is a woman who clearly is loving and protective of her daughter, so I do not want any seeming honesty of hers, which she herself might not at the time have understood, to be left in this copy.

I am also publishing the work because as a science writer, journalist and editor, with speciality in science, technology and biomedical research, and historian with post grad experience in the history of science, technology and medicine I have deep concerns about the language and discourse surrounding so-called mental health.

I think the separation of health into physical and mental does a profound disservice to medicine, and to the patient, and to society.

I think also that the concept of mental illness has led to bad law in the shape of the Mental Health Acts, because those Acts contain an element of force undertaken by health professionals. I know and can testify that that power leads them to threats, and to verbal and physical bullying of patients. Nor do the Acts protect vulnerable patients from misdiagnosis with a so-called mental illness, when they have no such illness.

Even if force were ever justifiable in medicine, and I do not think it is, the biological complexity of the brain and its interaction with the human body is not well enough understood that anyone should be allowed to force any medications on a patient. Yet they do.

What do I mean by force? Well, in emergency medicine in accident and emergency if the patient would bleed to death if a procedure were not carried out, then I think the doctor has a right to administer what is needed to prevent death from blood loss. I would not think that was force.

But I do not think psychiatry is emergency medicine. If someone has tried to commit suicide, saving that person from the physical damage could be done by any emergency doctor, with or without a psychiatrist in the emergency room. Whether it was the underlying brain, or physiological disorder, or a medication side effect which led to the attempted suicide is an issue for after the liver has been saved, or the wrist stitched.

Brain surgery tells us how excising the wrong bit of the brain can destroy the human being whom the surgery was intended to save.

Excision is not only by scalpel. It might be by administering the wrong drug, or a drug with effects damaging unimpaired parts of the brain. Just as when early chemotherapy targeted healthy cells and biochemcial pathways, as well as those which were diseased.

God forbid we force treatment on women with post-natal depression, whether those women be in a prison hospital or not.

We have a long way to go in understanding the brain. The first "decade of the brain" I know about was when I was based in the US in the 1990s. At the time I was writing as a news reporter and feature writer for New Scientist, Le Journale Internationale de Medecine and Nature Medicine, among others.

Ko Hsin's personal story is accessible at the link highlighted below in orange.

Helen Gavaghan © 21sth November, 2017

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Click here to read Ko Hsin Illingworth's personal story of post-natal depression.