Van den Bosch and colleagues conducted a pilot study to prepare a randomised clinical trial comparing a short intensive course of dialectical behaviour therapy with the standard outpatient. For 39 female patients with borderline problems information was collected on (para)suicidal behaviour, drop-out, severity of borderline problems and quality of life. The English abstract suggests that the authors used participating observation as a data collection method: “We participated in 3-month-long inpatient dbt programme” (something was added in translation). Results showed that severity of borderline problems was significantly reduced, but there was no significant reduction in (para) suicidal behaviours. However, what happened to dropouts?

Schoevaerts and collegeas (2013) estimate the incidence and evolution of compulsory admissions in Belgium and the Netherlands by pooling and analysing available register data. The epidemiological exploration shows an increase in the number of involuntary psychiatric admissions. That increase is without dispute. However, some question are raised by the presentation of the statistics and the interpretation of the results.

The authors point at an increase by 47% and 25% in Belgium and the Netherlands respectively, but these proportions concern different time periods. Over the comparable period of 2002 to 2008 the increase is about 23 to 24% in both countries. Schoevaerts et al. intended ‘to look into the pitfalls in analysing and comparing these data’, but overlooked this one. And more.

Vandereycken and colleagues aimed to test whether after some psycho-education patients know more about the physical consequences of (or the risks involved in) their eating disorder. The authors used a new 20-items questionnaire based on an educational test for healthcare workers. In general, the patients’ knowledge (N=66) about possible consequences of their illness was reasonably satisfactory (on average, 14 out of 20 questions were correct). In the second round (N=44) there was a considerable decrease in the number of ‘I don’t know’ answers, showing that after a month patients’ knowledge had improved: 17 correct answer on average. But according to the English abstract “17 out of 20 patients now gave positive answers”. And there are other misses.

Noort and colleagues investigated how well clergy men from various denominations (n = 143) are able to recognise psychiatric symptoms compared to mental health care professionals (n = 73). All participants evaluated four vignettes (two concerning psychiatric problems and two non-psychiatric states) by scoring the need for psychiatric medication, mental health care, severity of the disorder and whether there was a religious or spiritual aetiology. Scores ranged from 0 = not at all, 1 = not much, 2 = indeed, 3 = absolutely. Clergy men recognised psychiatric problems almost as well as professionals, but the degree of recognition varied according to the denomination. The authors conclude that the findings of this study emphasise the need for collaboration between clergymen and professionals and stress the importance of consultation. But these topics were not tested! And the differences that were tested could result in spurious significances.

Van der Post and colleagues investigated factors explaining why specific ethnic groups appear to be disproportionally represented in emergency compulsory admissions. This study focused on the ethnic background, pathways to psychiatric emergency services and past psychiatric treatment as predictors of emergency compulsory admission. Crude Odds of compulsory admission for immigrants were significantly higher than for native Dutch people. The authors conclude that this association was no longer found after controlling for socio-demographic characteristics, diagnosis, referral pattern and psychiatric treatment history. Other explanatory factors for the high risk of compulsory admission for non-Western immigrants are suggested. However, statistical analyses and the interpretation of the results are “out of control”.

Troubles with test statistics

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