Dr. Xavier Amador Talk on Helping People with Mental Illness at Cambridge, MA

Dr. Xavier Amador
President and Founder
The LEAP Instititute
(Listen, Empathize, Agree, Partner)

Dr. Amador lays out pathways to build trust, heal relationships and partner with someone who is suffering from mental illness but is resisting help.

“I’m going to tell you a little bit about something that is very important to me from a professional perspective… but is also very personal. I have a brother with schizophrenia who really is the one who gave me the title for this talk and book by the same name: I’m not sick. I don’t need help.

“This is a very very common problem. I will talk about just how common it is”

Dr. Xavier Amador, founder of The LEAP Institute giving a public talk on how to help people with mental illness who don’t realize they are sick. Sponsored by the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Cambridge Chapter. The lecture was given on the evening of October 2, 2012 at the Cambridge Public Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

For more information, visit leapinstitute.org.



“I think that’s exactly what he had. I believe that my son Chris, over the course of repeated breakdowns, lost his capacity to understand his illness so he went off his meds. That’s when we lost him for good. He never took meds again. He ultimately chose to take his life rather than take medication.” — Cathy Weaver, Austin, Texas

People with anosognosia have a real neurological condition caused by damage to the brain, most likely in the frontal and parietal lobes.

Because of this condition, they can’t recognize that they are sick.

Anosognosia is associated with many diseases.

Some people with strokes, brain tumours, Alzheimer’s disease, and Huntington’s disease suffer from this same lack of insight.

It’s very clear that about half the people with schizophrenia and roughly 40% of people with bipolar disorder have some degree of anosognosia. In other words, they don’t recognize their own illness. We recognize this for Alzheimer’s disease but we seem to have trouble recognizing that this is also common for people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Russell Weston is one tragic example. Mr. Weston came to Washington D.C. to “save the world from cannibals” and killed two Capitol Police officers while in this delusional state.

Weston was not taking medication because he did not believe he was sick.

County judge, Polly Jackson Spencer developed the first-of-its-kind outpatient commitment program in Texas. She saw the devastation caused when the severely mentally ill are too sick to seek treatment and end up trapped in a revolving door of incarceration, homelessness, hospitalization and victimization.

“You can’t simply tell someone who has a mental illness and is disorganized in their thinking, ‘Hey, you’ve got a doctor’s appointment in three weeks and it’s ten miles from here, these are the different buses you need to take to get there, and don’t forget to go’ and assume that they’re going to make that. That’s just not going to happen.” —Polly Jackson Spencer, County Judge

Judge Oscar Kazen supervises the day-to-day operations of Bexar County’s court-ordered outpatient treatment program. He meets regularly with patients, psychiatrists, and staff.

“When I sit in that little courtroom, down in the basement of that abandoned hospital, the guy who sits at the end of the chair—that mentally ill patient—didn’t have a choice. He didn’t wake up one morning and say ‘I want to lose my life, I want to lose my sanity.’ These people had no choice in the matter and it’s our responsibility to bring them back to sanity.” — Oscar Kazen, Judge

Anosognosia is the number one reason why people fail to seek treatment.

It’s up to the rest of us to make sure that they are able to get treatment.

Learn more about anosognosia at treatmentadvocacycenter.org

Video by the Treatment Advocacy Center.

Join Dr. Randall White at the 11th Annual Family Conference: From Crisis to Hope

11th family conference poster 2016

Dr. Randall White is pleased to be presenting at the 11th Annual Family Conference in mental healthy and substance services. Please join us Saturday, April 23, 2015, 9:00am-4:30pm in the Paetzold Theatre at the Vancouver General Hospital. Admission is $25 per person, and limited financial assistant for admission cost is available –just contact Becky Hynes via email (or call 604-714-3771 ext. 2300 for details.

Keynote Presentations Include:

  • Access & Assessment Centre (AAC): A New Service for Vancouver Residents to Access Mental Health and Substance Use Services in Vancouver
    • Monica McAlduff (Director, Vancouver Mental Health & Substance Use Acute, Tertiary & Urgent Services)
    • George Scotton (Manager, Vancouver Access & Assessment Centre, ACT & AOT)
  • Finding Clarity in Chaos: Principles for Developing Health and Recovery
    • Dr. Diane Fredrikson (Physician Lead, Early Psychosis Intervention Program, Vancouver Coastal Health)
  • When Treatments are Inadequate – New Hope for Patients
    • Dr. Randall F. White (Medical Director, B.C. Psychosis Program, Clinical Associate Professor, UBC)

Panel Discussions:

  • Support for Families in Need
  • Family Panel: How Families Can Advocate for Improved Mental Health Care

For the complete program schedule, click here!

Have questions about 11th Annual Family Conference in Mental Health and Substance Use Services? Contact Annual Family Conference: Family Involvement in Mental Health and Substance Use Services

11th family conference poster 2016





In some patients, achieving a therapeutic serum clozapine concentration requires a high dose entailing a prolonged series of dose increases. This may be more common among smokers, and people with schizophrenia are more likely to smoke and to smoke more cigarettes per day than the population at large. One short cut to achieving a therapeutic level is adding fluvoxamine, a serotonin reuptake inhibitor used to treat anxiety and depression. Clozapine is converted by cytochrome enzyme 1A2 to the metabolite N-desmethylclozapine, known as norclozapine in clinical settings. Fluvoxamine inhibits this process which shifts the ratio of clozapine to norclozapine upward and prolongs the half life of clozapine. Fluvoxamine also inhibits CYP2C19 and in some people, CYP3A4 as well. The clinical effect is to permit a lower total dose of clozapine, and it may make once-daily dosing more tolerable. Furthermore, fluvoxamine can be used to treat concurrent anxiety and depression while maximizing clozapine serum levels. The evidence for the safety and benefits of these uses of fluvoxamine was reviewed in a recently published article.

The authors identified 24 case reports and series comprising 29 patients, and 9 prospective studies comprising 212 patients; 2 of these were randomized trials. Most patients had a primary diagnosis of schizophrenia, and the rationales for the various studies were diverse.

  • Increasing clozapine plasma level
  • Treating negative symptoms
  • Treating positive symptoms
  • Treating depressive symptoms
  • Treating obsessive-compulsive symptoms
  • Reducing metabolic adverse effects

The available evidence for most of these indications is mediocre or poor except for increasing plasma levels; according to the authors, fluvoxamine increases clozapine, norclozapine, and clozapine N-oxide plasma levels in a dose-dependent manner. The data among smokers is supportive but surprisingly limited. One point they raise is that the effects of changing the ratios of metabolites other than norclozapine is not understood. The evidence for reducing metabolic adverse effects is relatively good as it comes from a 12-week RCT, but long-term efficacy is unknown. As for treating depression or obsessive-compulsive symptoms, the authors conclude that it is safer to use an appropriate antidepressant without the pharmacokinetic complications of fluvoxamine given the risk of toxicity if clozapine levels rise abruptly.

Safety concerns addressed in studies include the risk of agranulocytosis and seizures for which there is no evidence of a protective or facilitative effect; the available evidence correlates increasing clozapine dose and not plasma level with risk of seizures. (2) The reports reviewed mention frequent occurrence of common adverse effects including sedation, sialorrhea with drooling, and constipation in fluvoxamine-treated patients. Clinicians and patients should be aware that prescribing fluvoxamine to enhance clozapine effects is not approved by Health Canada or the US Food and Drug Administration.


Polcwiartek C, Nielsen J. The clinical potentials of adjunctive fluvoxamine to clozapine treatment: a systematic review. Psychopharmacology. Published online Dec 2, 2015. Abstract

Remington G, Agid O, Foussias G, et al. Clozapine and therapeutic drug monitoring: is there sufficient evidence for an upper threshold? Psychopharmacology. 2013;225:505–518. Abstract

The Canadian Psychiatric Association’s Annual Conference Welcomes Dr. Randall White at its 65th Annual Conference

65th Canadian Psychiatric Association’s Annual Conference banner

Every year, more than 1,200 psychiatrists and other mental health care professionals attend the Canadian Psychiatric Association’s conference to educate themselves on the latest research in the field, exchange ideas, and network with colleagues from across the country. This year, Dr. Randall White is honoured to be presenting a symposium on the diagnostic and therapeutic advances in Schizophrenia along with several of his esteemed colleagues.

As the largest psychiatric professional development program in Canada, the CPA is an invaluable resource. 2015 marks a new direction for its annual conference with several changes to usual programming:

  • Pre-conference courses will be offered Wednesday, September 30
  • Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings will each offer an all-delegate keynote plenary
  • The AGM and President’s Gala have been moved to Friday morning and evening, respectively
  • Refreshment stands with coffee and tea will now be available at both venues

The conference will be held October 1st – 3rd at both The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and the Hyatt Regency Vancouver. For location and room rates, visit fairmont.com/hotel-vancouver and vancouver.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html or book online 2015 CPA FHV and 2015 CPA HRV.

Conference Details:

  • Pre-Conference Courses (scheduled on Wednesday, 30 September, 13:00 – 17:00)
    These four-hour sessions were the most highly rated courses from peer reviewers. Space is limited, so register early.
    -Member/Affiliate: $150
    -Non-member: $225
  • Registration Package (CPA Members/Affiliates only)
    Includes three discounted scientific days, admittance to the exhibit hall, daily coffee breaks, admittance to the co-developed symposium, and the option to purchase a ticket(s) to the President’s Gala (all events have limited seating).
  • Daily Registration
    Each day of registration includes scientific sessions, admittance to the exhibit hall, daily coffee breaks, admittance to the co-developed symposium, and the option to purchase a ticket(s) to the President’s Gala (all events have limited seating).

    Resident & Medical Student Member registrations include all 3 days for $75.

    -Member/Affiliate: $320
    -Non-Member: $550
    -Nurse, Research Assistant, Psychologist, Social Worker: $380

    -Member/Affiliate: $320
    -Non-Member: $550
    -Nurse, Research Assistant, Psychologist, Social Worker: $380

    -Member/Affiliate: $320
    -Non-Member: $550
    -Nurse, Research Assistant, Psychologist, Social Worker: $380

Attend the CPA President’s Gala!

Friday October 2, 7:00-11:00pm
The President’s Gala is an exceptional four-course dinner where we honour CPA award winners, congratulate our outgoing president, and conduct the exchange of office. It offers a great opportunity in a beautiful setting for networking with your friends, colleagues, mentors, and may even see you on the dance floor. The dress for this event is business attire.

-Residents: $35
-Members/affiliates: $75
-Non-members: $95

Dr. White’s Symposium Details:

Thursday, October 1 at 4:30pm – 6:00pm
Randall White*, MD, FRCPC; Geoffrey Smith, PhD; William Honer, MD, FRCPC; Marnie MacKay, BScN, PhD (c); Serdar Dursun, MD, PhD, FRCPC; Mahesh Menon, PhD, RPsych; Gary Remington, MD, PhD, FRCPC


For a complete schedule of the scientific programming, click here.

For updates, follow @BCPsychosis on twitter & use #cpaconference to follow conference highlights.

Dr. Randall White at the 9th Annual Pacific Psychopharmacology Conference

Dr. Randall White is pleased to be attending the 9th Annual Pacific Psychopharmacology Conference this September where he will be Co-chairing the pre-conference and moderating many of the conference sessions. Join us to learn what’s new in evidence-based research on the pharmacotherapy of psychiatric illness.

This year’s conference theme is: Balancing Risks and Benefits to Improved Adherence

The pre-conference workshop title is: Strategies for Managing Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Primary Care at the workshop. The workshop will also cover the following topics in the format of brief presentations with cases:

  • Incorporating Measurement-Based Care for Mood Disorders into Clinical Practice
  • The BC Practice Support Program Adult Mental Health Module: Implications for Primary Care
  • Use of Antidepressants in Ambulatory Settings

Key speakers for the conference:

Martha Sajatovic, MD
Treatment Adherence in Bipolar Disorder
Dr. Martha Sajotovic, is a professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at Case Western Reserve University. She is also a director of the Geropsychiatry Program, and Neurological and Behavioral Outcomes Center, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, and a Willard Brown Chair in Neurological Outcomes Research, Cleveland. Her research focus is on treatment adherence in Bipolar Disorder and Improving Outcomes for People with Schizophrenia.

Robert Zipursky, MD, FRCPC
Improving Outcomes for People with Schizophrenia
Dr. Zipursky is a professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences. ‘s research interests have been in investigating the biology of schizophrenia and its treatment using brain imaging techniques (CT, MRI, PET), the treatment of first episode psychosis, prevention of schizophrenia, and clinical outcomes from schizophrenia. He has served on the editorial boards of Schizophrenia Research and Schizophrenia Bulletin. He is a recipient of the John Cleghorn Memorial Award for Excellence and Leadership in Clinical Research from the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Michael Smith Award from the Schizophrenia Society of Canada.If you are planning to attend, please introduce yourself to Randall! And if you’re coming from out of town, Be sure to ask for the “Annual Pacific Psychopharmacology Conference 2015” rate or quote booking ID #15906 at time of booking.

Pre-conference Workshop Information
September 17, 2015
Time: 1-4pm, lunch provided prior to course at 12:30pm
Cost: $119 for delegates, $69 for residents, apply a $25 discount if you register for the Sept. 18 conference as well

This workshop will be great for nurse practitioners, pharmacy/therapeutics, psychiatrists, registered nurses, residents and students.

Conference Details:
September 18, 2015
Executive Plaza Hotel and Conference Centre

Social Media:
Follow Dr. Randall White @BCPsychosis on Twitter, use #CPDpppc to follow the conference.

Prenatal Tobacco Exposure and Schizophrenia


In utero exposure to tobacco, in other words having a mother who smoked during pregnancy, has been associated with several developmental disorders including attention deficit disorder and learning problems. Research from the Finnish Prenatal Study of Schizophrenia, a nationwide cohort of people with schizophrenia, suggests a link between this illness and in utero tobacco exposure. Dr. Alan Brown of Columbia University in New York described 997 Finnish patients with schizophrenia matched with same-sex and same-age controls whose mothers had blood samples taken during pregnancy. The American and Finnish research team examined serum cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine and a reliable biomarker for tobacco use, in the banked blood samples.
Among the affected offspring, 20.2% were born to women with serum cotinine greater than 50 ng/ml, considered a sign of high tobacco use, compared with 14.7% of controls; the odds ratio was 1.38 (95% CI, 1.05-1.82, p = 0.02), with adjustment for maternal age, parental psychiatric disorder, and birth province. When serum cotinine was analyzed as a continuous variable, the effect was weaker, with a final odds ratio of 1.06 (CI, 1.004-1.12; p = 0.035) when adjusted for the same factors along with a measure of maternal inflammation, C-reactive protein (CRP), which was also determined in banked serum.
The findings, while far from conclusive, suggest a dose-response which is one sign of plausibility. Furthermore, nicotine crosses the placenta and is associated with neurodevelopmental effects including cortical thinning and changes in the P1 auditory evoked response. The physiologic mechanisms of smoking may include reduced placental perfusion, increased carbon monoxide, oxidative stress, and the direct effects of nicotine on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, which are important regulators of other neurotransmitters, and of neuron migration and cell survival.
A. Brown, H. Surcel, S. Niemela, S. Hinkka-Yli-Salomäki, I. W. McKeague, A. Sourander. Epidemiological Evidence for Inflammation and Nicotine Exposure as Prenatal Risk Factors for Schizophrenia. Symposium 1-2, 15th International Congress on Schizophrenia Research, Colorado Springs, Colorado. March 29-April 1, 2015.

Riverview Refractory Psychosis Data Presented at International Psychiatry Congress



View the poster in a PDF file here


Treatment-resistant psychosis is a challenge to psychiatry and a substantial burden to health-care systems. The province of British Columbia in Canada has publicly funded, universal health care, and patients with treatment-resistant psychosis may receive care in a specialized residential program. Between 1993 and 2011, 663 patients were admitted to this program; this cohort contains one of the largest known series of patients with treatment-resistant schizoaffective disorder.

All patients were evaluated by a psychiatrist, social worker, pharmacist, nurse, general physician, and neuropsychologist. Records from previous hospital admissions were reviewed and all information was presented at a multidisciplinary conference. This resulted in a consensus DSM-III or -IV multiaxial diagnosis and a detailed treatment plan. Ratings of symptoms and functioning at admission and discharge included the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale, the Social and Occupational Functioning Scale, and the Clinical Global Impression of Severity. A research psychologist compiled all data at the time of each patient’s hospitalization.

Patients who did not complete treatment or had a diagnosis other than schizophrenia (SZ), schizoaffective (SZA) or mood disorder (MD) were excluded; the following describes 551 included patients (SZ = 63%, SZA = 29%, MD = 8%). More than half were male (59%), and the mean duration of hospitalization was 30 weeks. The proportion receiving clozapine increased from 21% at admission to 61% at discharge. Those with a MD were less likely to receive clozapine than either SZ or SZA (SZ = 64%, SZA = 61%, MD = 41%). In each diagnostic group, both antipsychotic polypharmacy and the ratio of prescribed daily dose to defined daily dose (PDD/DDD) of antipsychotic medication decreased during hospital stay (polypharmacy: SZ: 52% to 16%, SZA: 52% to 14%, MD: 43% to 0%; PDD/DDD: SZ: 2.1 to 1.6, SZA: 2.1 to 1.4, MD: 1.6 to 1.1). The use of mood stabilizers declined in all groups, but antidepressant use declined only in SZ and SZA. Mean total PANSS score declined in all diagnostic groups, but most in MD, least in SZ, and intermediate in SZA.

In an intensive inpatient program for treatment-resistant psychosis, aggregate improvement occurred despite global reduction in medications while clozapine use nearly tripled. Lower total antipsychotic dose correlated with greater improvement at discharge.

66th Annual American Psychiatric Association Institute on Psychiatric Services in San Francisco

66th Annual American Psychiatric Association Institute on Psychiatric Services in San Francisco

Randall is pleased to be attending the 66th Annual American Psychiatric Association Institute on Psychiatric Services in San Francisco. He presented findings on 630 patients treated during 1993-2010 on the refractory psychosis ward at Riverview Hospital, British Columbia.

To view his abstract, click here.

Follow the conference on Twitter: #IPS2014

The refractory psychosis ward at Riverview Hospital between 1993 & 2010

Riverview Psychiatric Hospital Coquitlam BC

OBJECTIVES: Patients in British Columbia who have treatment-resistant psychosis may receive care in a publicly funded academic program where each patient undergoes a multidisciplinary diagnostic evaluation. We describe this assessment process and present findings on a series of patients including a large number with treatment-resistant schizoaffective (SZA) disorder.

METHOD: All patients admitted to the refractory psychosis ward at Riverview Hospital between 1993 and 2010 had failed to respond to at least two previous antipsychotic trials. A psychiatrist, social worker, pharmacist, nurse, general physician, and neuropsychologist evaluated each patient. All available summaries of previous psychiatric admissions were reviewed, and medical, pharmacological, social and behavioural histories were recorded. All information was presented at a case conference and a DSM-IV multiaxial diagnosis reflected agreement between at least two psychiatrists and a psychologist. Symptom ratings included the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, the Global Assessment of Functioning, and the Clinical Global Impression-Severity scale.

FINDINGS: Of the 642 patients who were admitted, 92 did not complete treatment (died, were transfered or left against advice) or received a diagnosis other than schizophrenia (SZ), SZA or mood disorder (MD). Consensus diagnosis differed from referral diagnosis in 27% of cases. Of 378 patients referred with SZ, the consensus diagnosis was SZ in 78%, SZA in 15%, MD in 2%, and other in 5%. Of the 145 referred with SZA, the consensus diagnosis was SZA in 63%, SZ in 26%, MD in 3%, and other in 2%. Two thirds of the SZA group were bipolar type. People with confirmed MD or SZA tended to be older and had a longer illness duration, and were more likely to be female, noncaucasian, and married. Functioning and symptom severity in the preceding year and at admission were worse in SZ than SZA patients. PANSS positive scores were greater for SZ and SZA than MD, and PANSS negative scores were more severe in SZ than SZA or MD. Prior depressive episodes were very common in MD (98%) and SZA (89%), but 35% of SZ patients also had a previous depressive episode. Lifetime substance use disorder was found in 63% and recent substance abuse in 35% of patients, and these proportions did not differ across diagnoses. At admission, SZA patients were more likely than SZ patients to have been on a mood stabilizer, but the mean number of antipsychotics and total amount (defined daily dose) did not differ.

CONCLUSION: In a series of patients with treatment-resistant psychosis, the most common diagnosis was SZ, but 29% had SZA. SZA patients were frequently misdiagnosed in the community, and compared to SZ patients, tended to have better baseline functioning, lower symptom severity, were older, and had been ill longer.