Random Analytica

Random thoughts, charts, infographics & analysis. Not in that order

Tag: Suicide

Review: The Answer to the Riddle Is Me. A Tale of Amnesia (David Stuart MacLean, 2014)

With information moving at the pace it does these days, picking up a book that is almost a decade old on a subject I thought I understood seemed a reasonable next step on my journey. I’ve only just started reading after a ten-year hiatus, so I have my learning wheels on at the moment. Mefloquine cannot be as bad as my first book? I’ve just finished The Tattooist of Auschwitz which goes into a firsthand account of Josef Mengele.

So, I’m reading about David’s journey, and I get sucker punched with the following paragraph.

I was not aware of this at all. I immediately check Wikipedia and the testing on prisoners was confirmed but no mention of Lariam. Oh, the ‘testing’ mentioned in the Wikipedia page was in relation to prisoners drinking faeces laden milkshakes so they could study hepatitis A. Charming stuff.

I reach out to #miltwitter and ask the question. Yes, I am told, we are aware of this one as Andrew Marriot mentions in it in his book. David responds.

We both agree the history of Lariam is fucked.

So, a book which should be as dead as the Mefloquine Action link in the Acknowledgements (interestingly that now points to a dentists!) is suddenly teaching me things about a disease I thought I knew all about.

This is how the book progresses. Almost in two parts.

One is David’s story of amnesia and how his life unravelled after losing his memory. At first, he thinks he is a drug addict, he likes the mental asylum he finds himself in and he takes up smoking. Different journey but I also see a lot of similarities too. I was struggling in the first few pages but when David describes meeting his dad my attention was arrested.

Because I do the same thing. If you have never had amnesia, I’m not sure you could really follow it all. Yet, David’s amnesia is different from mine. Like total.

Lariam doesn’t get a mention for what seems like ages. Then there it is. The second story. You may have had a reaction to one of your medications. Then Lariam comes into the frame. Then out of the blue Joliet. The story of amnesia interwoven with the horrors of Lariam. David likes movies. I’d point him to The Odd Angry Shot, an Australian Vietnam war movie. Instead of bullets or landmines David hits you with the odd Lariam fact.

Matchee gets a mention of course. A story I became very familiar with very early on. When I shared that with my co-parent in 2019 she emailed me our divorce papers. I have kept that email in my in-tray ever since as a reminder to myself about dealing with dark days. More military stuff. Then ‘out of the blue’, a suicide I was unaware of.

I reach out to #miltwitter again and I get a different response. I don’t think they have heard about this case. If Andrew Marriot hasn’t covered that one, I will.

Of course, there is more but enough spoilers.

David Stuart MacLean delivers a pretty good read if you want a primer on amnesia. Even if you haven’t experienced amnesia, you must get a sense of the disassociation involved. His stories are quite detailed and very personal, and his book shares a lot that would make any person uncomfortable.

If I have a criticism at all is that at the end, he think he goes too soft on Roche. Not quite off the hook but at peace with it all. I understand that too. We all must find our peace with this. Also, in fairness, David wrote this book back in 2012 and in the last decade a lot more has come to light.

It’s not the best book to read. In fact it can be a bit confusing (and I have amnesia) but I think that is kind of the point. He sums it up for us all when he writes:

As I write this in September 2012, I am still afraid of lingering chemical instabilities; afraid of what might still be stuck in the wrinkles and folds of my gray (sic) matter; afraid of what might get dislodged, disrupting who knows what electrical signals; afraid of where I’ll wake up next.

The dread is always there, like some unseen Damocles sword forever in the wings. When he talks about sitting on the building wanting to throw himself off to his death, I got it straight away. I had a similar moment 15-years after Lariam. Except all I had to do was step into the current of Elliot Island and drift away to Fiji. Just letting go.

Suddenly, an old, tired book should deserve a second look. Especially if you are a veteran who has been exposed to Lariam or another anti-quinoline. It’s the Lariam story without the usual military triggers (there are some but if you are reading this book you would be aware of them).

I also think when the Lariam story fully unfolds, this book will be a crucial part of the history as well as not only one was it one of the first ‘lived experience’ stories fully documented but it also reminded us of where it all started.

In dank cells in a prison Illinois where prisoners were given shit laden milkshakes and we thought this was alright.



  1. The Answer to the Riddle is Me. A Tale of Amnesia. David Stuart MacLean. Short Books (2014).
  2. Joliet Correctional Center. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joliet_Correctional_Center (Accessed 30.01.23).
  3. If You Wake at Midnight. The Lariam Wonder Drug Scandal. Andrew Marriot. Austin Macauley (2022).
  4. The Odd Angry Shot. See: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079652/ (1979).
  5. Kyle Brown (Canadian soldier). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyle_Brown_(Canadian_soldier) (Accessed 30.01.23).

34. Mefloquine Dispatches: Other Suicides, April-1997 (Part One)

Upon reflection I took this post down. I was very triggered at the time.

To the Lost.


Just a reminder. As I update this post (on the 14th June 2022) it is now the 342nd day of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

We still haven’t started talking about mefloquine or tafenoquine.


29. Mefloquine Dispatches: Patricia Fernandez de Viana, 10th December 2021

On the final day of Hearing Block 1 for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide (DVSRC) held in Brisbane in December 2021, mother of James, Patricia Fernandez de Viana gave testimony which included a linkage to the use of anti-malarials. Via the AAP and The Guardian. Mother tells veteran suicide inquiry ADF failed to support family after son’s death. Excerpt:

Fernandez de Viana, a wound care specialist nurse, said she discovered the welter of medications her son was on when he died, including experimental treatments for malaria: “I was horrified, absolutely horrified.”

More to follow…

27. Mefloquine Dispatches: McKinsey & Company, 19th October 2021

I completely missed this when it was very quietly released a month ago, so many thanks to Andrew Greene from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for tweeting this out today.

Via the Defence and Veteran Suicide Royal Commission. Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide to open in Brisbane. Excerpt:

Last week the Federal Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel announced the appointment of consultants McKinsey & Company to take action to improve the claims system for supporting veterans, administered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The Minister is reported to have said that McKinsey & Co would be consulting with bereaved families of veterans who have died by suicide.


The Royal Commission hasn’t even started and the current government is giving money to questionable consultants. The fact that staff from a consulting company would be discussing the deaths of loved ones with bereaved families is beyond my understanding. Then you have the complexities including mefloquine or tafenoquine.

In my view the McKinsey appointment doesn’t pass the pub test.


If you need help…

Thank you for your interest. More Mefloquine Dispatches can be found here.

Submission to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide

My story starts in 1999 when I first self-reported about mental health concerns. To the best of my knowledge I am the only person to self-report from Operation Baritone (1997).

Two years prior, on the 22nd March 1997 the online company from 3 Brigade including a detachment from the 103rd Signal Squadron of which I was a part, commenced deployment operations for an airlift to Port Moresby as part of a Company Group deployment.

It was the first stage of a larger plan to ‘temporarily’ re-occupy Papua New Guinea during the Sandline Affair.

Things were moving very quickly. The medics and doctors were under intense pressure to get us out the door. A memory from pre-deployment was of the RMO making their notes on the back of the soldier in front of me, then the same for the next in line.

As part of our pre-deployment the company was given a number of medications including a mefloquine loading dose over three days to counteract malaria. After recent investigations I found that anti-malarials was not noted in my official medical records. I have since been able to prove that I was given mefloquine via my Red Cross blood donation history.

Long story short, the Sandline Affair works itself out without Australian intervention and Company Group is given a leave pass to get on the drink. So close though. Another Fiji, 1987.

For many years, I did not remember any detail from this period until a series of ‘flash-backs’ in 2018/19 become so bad that they hospitalised me. Ironically, it is on the 22nd anniversary of Operation Baritone I was finally admitted to a mental health facility.

Mefloquine sent me insane. I attempted suicide in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2014. When I finally confirmed what the Army had done to me in early 2019 I was angry but also a little relieved. I could finally die with a little peace.

When enough memory had returned that I was able to prove the mefloquine exposure I tried to inform all the relevant authorities. Entities such as the Army HQ, the DVA were not interested in finding these men. The Australian Defence Force Malaria and Infectious Disease Institute and the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee were sympathetic but unhelpful.

In summary:

A company of soldiers were given mefloquine in 1997, a medication which was noted by the World Health Organisation as harmful in 1989. Mefloquine has also been linked to suicides and murder-suicides, most notably at Fort Bragg in 2002. It is rarely used these days. It is a medication that the Armed Forces of many countries wish they had never used.

Some from the Company Group may be dead from their mefloquine exposure. Some, like me, are permanently damaged. Many would not have experienced any symptoms and would wonder what all the fuss is about.

At the very least the men of my Company Group assigned to the opening phases of Operation Baritone deserve to be told they were exposed to mefloquine.

For your review and consideration.

19. Mefloquine Dispatches: Lord Dannatt, 28th November 2019

Over the weekend I come across a story from Britain.

Lord Dannatt, who was chief of the general staff in the UK between 2006 and 2009, warns of a suicide epidemic amongst veterans during a visit to the Portsmouth-based military support group Forgotten Veterans UK.

During his visit he talks about the cost effectiveness of the work being undertaken by the charity as well as  how the government of the day and charities should be doing more. Via The News. Former British Army boss brands UK’s veteran suicide crisis the ‘epidemic of our time’. Excerpt:

Britain’s veteran suicide crisis has been branded part of the ‘epidemic of our time’ by the former head of the British Army, who admitted more needs to be done to stop traumatised troops from killing themselves.

General Lord Richard Dannatt admitted he was appalled by the number of people taking their lives in the UK and described the situation as a ‘tragedy’.

Lord Dannatt has come up on my radar previously. Not because he took mefloquine but because he refused it on health grounds. Via The Guardian. Ex-army chief apologises to troops over anti-malaria drug. Excerpt:

Lord Dannatt, who was chief of the general staff between 2006 and 2009, told BBC2’s Victoria Derbyshire programme he would not take the drug because of his son’s experience with it.

Dannatt said his son Bertie had suffered mental health problems after taking two doses of Lariam before visiting Africa in the late 1990s. He was not in the armed forces at the time but had been prescribed the drug by his father’s army doctor.

He is currently the highest ranking officer on record to refuse mefloquine. Mefloquine is a drug that is known to increase the chance of suicide amongst veterans.

Oh, the hypocrisy of old Generals.


Picture: Habibur Rahman (via The News)


If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.


15. Mefloquine Dispatches: Suicide Prevention, early 1990

If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

The Worsening Fatality Statistics in Australian Mining

For those that closely follow the Australian Mining Sector it will come as no surprise that 2014 is emerging as one of the worst in terms of safety that we have seen in a generation. According to SafeWork Australia in the first six months of this year there were 11 notifiable fatalities in the mining sector, which according to my calculations currently equates to a Worker Fatality Rate (WFR) of 28.8 fatalities per 100,000 workers. To give that some historical context the WFR for all Australian workers in 2013 was 1.64 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

2 - MiningFatalities_2003~2014

The first chart details the amount of work related fatalities by year since 2003. Figures exclude death by iatrogenic injuries, natural causes not related to work, disease, injuries sustained while overseas or suicide. The 2014 numbers are correct to 8 August with the 2013 and 2014 numbers reflecting the more comprehensive Industry of Workplace statistics (with thanks to the statistics team at SafeWork Australia for clarifying the differences).

Since the start of 2014 I have started to closely track employment, automation and fatalities as the three key indicators on the health of the mining sector. Within a few weeks I knew that mining safety would be a big story as a number of single fatalities occurred during January and February followed up by an underground collapse in April which killed two miners at the Austar Coal Mine .

Yet, a heightened fatality count in the mining industry isn’t the only story here.

Initially out of ignorance to how the industry and SafeWork Australia tracks its work related fatalities I started to build up a personal database of mining fatalities which also included those who have died of natural causes (on-site but not work related), from suicide, fatalities in overseas Australian miners and more recently those who could be considered Lifestyle Miners.

1 - MiningRelatedFatalities_2014

The second chart looks at Mining and Mining Related deaths of Australians in 2014.The WFR is calculated only on the official SafeWork Australia figures (correct as at 8 Aug 2014).

The key data point in the chart is the inclusion of known suicides. In June The West Australian mining industry was left reeling when an onsite incident led to the death of one employee and the possible offsite death of another. This incident has been followed up by two more probable onsite suicides amongst Pilbara FIFO workers. The recent tragedies come about as the District Coroner for the Pilbara region referred a number of 2013 deaths by suicide amongst FIFO workers to the WA State Coroner for a possible inquest.

It’s not all bad news though and I was heartened by news that AngloGold Ashanti, who were at the centre of the recent multiple tragedy in the Pilbara have in the past week signed up to the FIFO Families Social Support and Education Program.

In summary, I believe the mining industry must face the issue of mental health and suicide head-on. As far as I am concerned, if a miner dies by his or her own hand onsite should be treated in exactly the same way as if it were a work related fatality including the provision of industry wide data and statistics on the subject, more education to employees and their families and if required, seeking help from appropriate resources and organisations.


If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14. Help is also available via Rural Link (1800 552 002), the Suicide Call Back Line (1300 659 467) and online resources can be found at BeyondBlue.

This article was originally published on MiningIQ.
Read the original article.

Data Sources

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics. 6291.0.55.003 – Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, May 2014. Accessed 11 Aug 2014.
[2] SafeWork Australia. Worker fatalities. Accessed 11 Aug 2014.
[3] SafeWork Australia. Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities, Australia 2013. SafeWork Australia. 2014. Pg: iii-vii.