On his weekly HBO show, Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver argues that the tendency to discuss mental health in the wake of a mass shooting is "deeply misleading." He goes on to discuss the lack of support provided by our current mental health institutions and the fact that, instead of receiving support or treatment, many people in crisis end up ignored, or worse, in prison.
The UK’s Independent reports on the Belgium city of Geel, where local families have welcomed people with mental health issues into their homes as boarders since the 14th century. Though, the people of Geel reject the common language and perceptions of “madness.” “Few hosts in Geel would regard the practice as therapy but the city has drawn the praise of psychiatrists through the centuries for the success of its care, allowing people to live with their conditions in a loving environment without being separated from society or treated as a patient.”
On Wednesday, JAMA Psychiatry released a meta-analysis comparing the results of cognitive-behavioral therapy and antidepressant medication in severely depressed populations. Currently, many practice guidelines suggest that antidepressants be used over psychotherapy for major depressive disorder. The analysis, however, found that “patients with more severe depression were no more likely to require medications to improve than patients with less severe depression.”
Chile’s Skills for Life (SFL) program, the largest school-based psychosocial intervention program in the world, has demonstrated improved behavioral and academic outcomes for elementary students identified as “at risk.” A team of Chilean and U.S. researchers assessed the SFL program and will publish their results in the October issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP).
New data on the effects of social support after the onset of psychosis suggests that patients with intense social support function better than those without such help, but than once supports are removed the effects eventually diminish.
When Wilda White recovered from a manic episode triggered by her ADHD medication, she had lost her relationship, her home, and her dream job as a public interest lawyer. She reached a turning point when, she told Seven Days newspaper, "in the course of trying to figure out what had happened to me, I went on the website Mad in America.” Through the site, she connected with a job listing from Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, a non-profit dedicated to empowering and protecting the rights of people labeled “mentally ill.” She is now their executive director.
I’d like to share some personal thoughts on the nature of the Hearing Voices group method, and the insights that this kind of support generates. Through these groups, a tradition of mutual healing is being created that honors subjective experiences, and sharing our stories with each other in this way propels this exciting movement forward.
About a year ago, my partner Ron Coleman said to me “let’s have a recovery camp.” I said “what’s one of those?” and he said “I’m not sure, but let’s invent it.” And so, from June 7th to 12th 2015, we created a community of recovery for a week. The next step is to create communities of recovery around the world — not just as temporary camps, but long-lasting oases within our communities.
For too long we have considered mental well-being to be about the five, ten, fifteen, or twenty percent of us that gets a psychiatric label each year. But really, if you look around at out world for a moment, you can easily see that to be alive, to be human, to exist, one must have support and healing. Festivals like this one give a glimpse of what the world can be like and I recommend this experience for envisioning a future mental health system or any futuristic vision of change.
In a study of 89 residents who had both dementia and behavior problems in six Maryland nursing homes, a team associated with Innovative Aging Research found most of the patients had important, unmet needs. More →
Many youth who get into legal troubles have histories of having social anxieties, and seem to derive benefit from becoming engaged in simple, service-oriented social activities, according to a study in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. More →
The Wall Street Journal reports on two recent studies that found that people who "narrate" their own lives to put a positive spin on them feel better overall. But a paper in Intersectionalities explores how re-narrating one's own sense of personal identity may either help free one from oppression or become a mere expression of one's oppression. More →
Many people now using psychiatric drugs have been convinced or forced to use them while being treated in the mental health system. A good number of people are eager to stop using these drugs, but are often discouraged by others from doing so. Many psychiatric survivors believe that they can never stop using these drugs because they were told they would need to use them the rest of their lives. We hope the Sunrise Center will become a catalyst for a movement of people creating places for people who want to stop using psychiatric drugs.
The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (along with the five other RLCs across the state of Massachusetts) remains in jeopardy of a 50% slash to our budget that would go into effect July 1, 2015 should it come to pass. As noted in my previous post (Peer Supports Under Siege), the proposed reduction was introduced by Governor Charlie Baker in early March. However, there are many hoops to jump through and so we’ll remain in budget limbo for some time to come while the House and Senate draw up their own recommendations and then everyone comes together to make a final call.
Soteria-Alaska, a program modeled after the highly effective Soteria developed in the 1970s by the late Loren Mosher, M.D., opened its doors in 2009. It is also impossible to convey the actual simplicity which in fact is the crowning jewel of the Soteria approach. A conservative review of the effectiveness of the Soteria approach revealed that it is at least as effective as traditional hospital-based treatment — without the use of antipsychotic medication as the primary treatment. Considering that people treated in the conventional way die on average 25 years younger than the general population, this is a substantial finding.
Last fall, I was invited by Psychiatric Times to write an article from a mother’s perspective about what is needed to “fix a broken health system.” As part of my essay, I told the story of my son Jake, who was robbed of all hope by the mental health system and died a homeless man. I also told the story of his cousin Kimmy, who escaped from the mental health system and is now doing well. Psychiatric Times declined to publish my essay.
I have written this story, a story of Exodus to Freedom, a thousand times. I retell it to myself late at night while I lie on my air mattress. In the mornings I may recall these amazing events while running along the beach straight into the sunrise. I walk my dog and tell the story again, hoping passers-by don’t think I’m talking to myself, lest I be called “loco.” But that has never happened. The one aim I had when coming to Uruguay has come true: Not one person here considers me crazy.
Robert Whitaker extended one of his core arguments from Anatomy of an Epidemic in a blog post last week. His argument revolves around the claim that psychiatric drugs are the principal cause of increasing psychiatric disability, as measured by U.S. social security disability claims. But does this really explain the rise in recipients of these SSI & SSDI benefits?
On March 11, 2015, the NHS Foundation and three other Trusts are hosting a free conference to "take stock" after one year of Peer-supported Open Dialogue. More →
"I could not have written those six words 30 years ago, when panic episodes, anxiety disorders and Tourette's syndrome clouded my view," writes author Jonathan Friesen in a Huffington Post blog. "But now I see that though the fog was exceptionally dark, good things were developing, good things inside of me." More →
In The Guardian, Hannah Giorgis describes the troubles she had convincing her mental health professionals that systemic racism against black people in Britain did actually exist. "The conversation made me feel crazy in a way my depression itself never had," she writes. More →
This week a commentary, written by members of the University of Pennsylvania Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy and titled “Improving Long-term Psychiatric Care: Bring Back the Asylum” was published in JAMA Online. The authors recommend a return to asylum care, albeit not as a replacement for but as an addition to improved community services and only for those who have “severe and treatment-resistant psychotic disorders, who are too unstable or unsafe for community based treatment.” The authors seem to accept the notion of transinstitutionalization (TI) which suggests that people who in another generation would have lived in state hospitals are now incarcerated in jails and prisons. While I do not agree, I do find there is a need for a safe place for people to stay while they work through their crisis.
Yoga helped me explore and reconnect with the body I’d abandoned and abused for years. My pain and sadness had me living exclusively in my mind, my body nothing more than a battleground for my inner wars. Through yoga and meditation, I slowly began to love myself again, learning to treat myself with care and respect. I felt a greater sense of self-awareness, and a sense of connection to something greater. This was a drastic contrast to the days when I felt as if god had forgotten about me, or like I was a mistake not meant for this world.
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