For years I have reported that the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is widely considered a Pharma front group, pushing psychiatric drugs not non-drug treatment to prevent suicide. A recent AFSP annual report acknowledges receiving money from Sunovion, Janssen, Forest, Pfizer and Otsuka America Pharmaceuticals and AFSP appointed former Forest executive and JED Foundation founder Phil Satow to its Project 2025 Advisory Committee.
AFSP’s 2012 annual report reveals donations from Eli Lilly, Pfizer and five other Pharma companies and a $100,000 donation from psychiatric drug maker Forest Laboratories. In 2011, AFSP appointed psychiatrist Charles Nemeroff president of the group despite a Congressional investigation into his unreported Pharma income study and removal of an NIH grant that he managed before he left Emory University in disgrace.
Now comes news in a New York Times op-ed that the AFSP is also doing the gun lobby’s bidding. Last year, it announced a partnership with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade group which consists of firearms manufacturers, distributors, retailers, shooting ranges and sportsmen’s clubs. Is it any surprise the pact has altered AFSP view of guns and suicide? After all, the NSSF is so uncompromising on “gun rights” it believes people on the Terrorist Watch List should be able to buy guns.
AFSP volunteers are now told, writes lawyer Erin Dunkerly in the New York Times, they cannot talk about “gun control” and the links between a gun in the home and suicide. Of course, that is like telling people working against drunk driving they can’t talk about alcohol.
Groups “interested in gun control” are now excluded from AFSP’s annual Out of the Darkness walks writes Dunkerly—even groups that had participated in the walks and donated to AFSP before the NSSF partnership. After the NSSF partnership, both Dunkerly and another co-chair of the AFSP walk in Pasadena were asked to step down from their posts apparently because of their views about gun dangers.
The partnership between the AFSP and the National Shooting Sports Foundation was billed by the AFSP staff and executives as a “way to educate low-information gun owners about suicide prevention,” writes Dunkerly. “But the reality is that this partnership provides no information for the general public, gives incomplete advice and has had the effect of covering up clear and present dangers inside the home to depressed individuals.” What? A gun trade group downplaying gun risks and promoting guns?
Both guns and psychiatric medications are linked to suicide. Here is how the warning on Paxil, a popular SSRI antidepressant, reads:
“Antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults in short-term studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders. Anyone considering the use of PAXIL [one SSRI] or any other antidepressant in a child, adolescent, or young adult must balance this risk with the clinical need. Patients of all ages who are started on antidepressant therapy should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior. Families and caregivers should be advised of the need for close observation and communication with the prescriber.
But AFSP apparently has no shame partnering with gun or drug makers. In so doing it joins the ranks of soft drink makers promoting “fitness” and hunting groups promoting “conservation.”
Martha Rosenberg is a freelance journalist and the author of the highly acclaimed “Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health,” published by Prometheus Books. Check her Facebook page.