More Reflections on Compassion and Uncertainty at ISPS 2015

In the blog posts by Noel Hunter and by Sandy Steingard, there have already been great reports on ISPS 2015, but I would like to share my own thoughts about what was most significant, and directions for the future.
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Developing a Compassionate Voice as a Step Toward Living With Voices

I’ve previously written about the possible role of compassion focused therapy in helping people relate better to problematic voices, in my posts Could compassionate self talk replace hostile voices?Feed Your Demons!, and A Paradox: Is Our System for Responding to Threats Itself a Threat? I’m happy to see more interest being taken in this kind of approach, and a video has just become available which, in 5 minutes, very coherently explains how a compassion focused approach can completely transform a person’s relationship with their voices and so transform the person’s life!
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Listening for the Person within “Madness”

As we struggle to invent a humane approach to the extreme states that get called “psychosis” or “madness” or “schizophrenia,” it may be helpful to investigate some of the better approaches developed in the past. While these approaches are not without their flaws, they are often surprisingly insightful. (It can also of course be depressing to notice how truths once more widely known were so easily “forgotten” as compassionate approaches got ditched in favor of the latest coercive innovations.)
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Is This Depression? Or Melancholy? Or…

We live in a culture bombarded by media and sped up by rapid-fire social interactions. It’s definitely useful to grab hold of a simple, short, sound-bite term, to quickly describe what we are feeling or suffering. “Depression” is such a word – it evokes and encapsulates, conjures the images of that ugly pit of despair that can drive so many to madness and suicide. Yet at the same time the words we use, strangely, become like those pens deposited in medical offices and waiting rooms around the world: ready at hand, easily found, familiar — and tied to associations, marketing and meanings we were only dimly aware were shaping how we think.
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Finding the Gifts Within Madness

When people are seeing the world really different than we do, it’s often reassuring to think that there must be something wrong with them – because if they are completely wrong, or ill, then we don’t have to rethink our own sense of reality, we can instead be confident about that own understandings encompass all that we need to know. But it can be disorienting and damaging to others to have their experiences defined as “completely wrong” or “ill.” And we ourselves become more ignorant when we are too sure that there is no value in other ways of looking or experiencing.
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Spearheading Doctors and the Re-introduction of Electroconvulsive Therapy for Children

As a mother of 3 children, grandmother of 3, I was both shocked and disturbed to read that ECT was being promoted as a safe treatment for children and a viable option in healthcare. For I know that ECT causes fits to the brain, memory loss, headaches and trauma, to some if not many. I know this because I’ve heard it from people who have received ECT voluntarily. They tell me that it caused them to lose “good” memories, eg of holidays, and some have said it made no difference to their mental wellbeing, in terms of being able to come off psychiatric drugs or in dealing with low mood. They talk of having “maintenance” shock treatment and of not being allowed hospital discharge until agreeing to have it.
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Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia? What About Black People?

In many respects it is difficult to fault the report Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia, recently published by the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP)[i]; indeed, as recent posts on Mad in America have observed, there is much to admire in it. Whilst not overtly attacking biomedical interpretations of psychosis, it rightly draws attention to the limitations and problems of this model, and points instead to the importance of contexts of adversity, oppression and abuse in understanding psychosis. But the report makes only scant, fleeting references to the role of cultural differences and the complex relationships that are apparent between such differences and individual experiences of psychosis.
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When Homosexuality Came Out
(of the DSM)

With a diagnosis of schizophrenia, if internalized, comes the erosion of personhood, lowered self-esteem, shattered dreams, and a sense of disenchantment. The psychiatrist Richard Warner has even suggested that those who reject the diagnosis of severe mental illness may have better outcomes as they retain the right to construct their own narrative of personhood and define what really matters for them. Despite public education campaigns (or perhaps because of them), the stigma of mental illness is as enduring as it was 50 years ago.
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Going Deeper into “Madness”:
ISPS 2015’s International Dialogue

As awareness spreads about there being something wrong with existing approaches to “psychosis” aka “madness.” Interest grows in exploring what to do instead. One meeting place for exploring this question of “what to do” will be the ISPS conference in NYC in March 2015, which is titled “An International Dialogue on Relationship and Experience in Psychosis.” This conference promises to stand out in terms of the variety of voices,  perspectives, approaches and traditions that it will bring together to focus on the deeper issue of how helpers can best understand and interact with those experiencing what is called psychosis.
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Why “Stabilizing” People is Entirely the Wrong Idea

If human beings were meant to be entirely stable entities, then “stabilizing” them would be an entirely good thing; a target for mental health treatment that all could agree on. But it’s way more complex than that: healthy humans are constantly moving and changing. They have a complex mix of stability and instability that is hard to pin down. All this relates to one of my favorite subjects, the intersection of creativity and madness.
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Independence

Where I live we are approaching an important day in our nation’s history on Thursday 18 September 2014, when a referendum will be held and the question asked: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”. Whatever the outcome it is an exciting time to be Scottish and to consider what being independent means. I think it has great relevance to the work I do as a mental health writer, activist and campaigner, a psychiatric survivor and unpaid carer of family members who have mental disorder diagnoses/labels, through 3 generations or more. Tied in as my family are or have been to the psychiatric system do we have independence or the right to be independent?
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How Can Professionals Learn to Reduce Fears of Psychotic Experiences Rather Than Emphasize Pathology?

The kinds of experiences we call psychotic are often incredibly scary: people feel they are being persecuted by strange forces, or that their brains have been invaded by demons or riddled with implants from the CIA . . . the list of possible fears is endless, and often horrifying. While standard mental health approaches counter many of these fears, they often create new fears of a different variety.   Wouldn’t it be helpful if professionals were trained in an approach that could help people shift away from both dangerous psychotic ways of thinking and also away from the sometimes equally terrifying explanations which emphasize pathology?
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Psychiatric Interference

In this post I want to make the case as to why I am “critical” and not “anti” psychiatry although at times I can feel very “anti”, because of being a survivor of psychiatric treatment and mental illness labels three times over and because all of my family through 3 generations have been targeted by psychiatry. In the 1960’s when we first had a television it could at times get “interference” on the screen which meant we couldn’t see the picture properly and the causes could be either just a blip requiring a thump to the box or a more permanent problem needing fixed by a TV engineer. Psychiatry to my mind has similar problems with “interference”, most particularly in its use of psychiatric drugs for any and every situation it is having to deal with.
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Hearing Voices, Emancipation, Shamanism and CBT: Thoughts After Douglas Turkington’s Training

When Doug Turkington, a UK psychiatrist, first announced to his colleagues that he wanted to help people with psychotic experiences by talking to them, he was told by some that this would just make them worse, and by others that this would be a risk to his own mental health, and would probably cause him to become psychotic! Fortunately, he didn’t believe either group, and in the following decades he went on to be a leading researcher and educator about talking to people within the method called CBT for psychosis.
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From Protesting to Taking Over: Using Education to Change Mental Health Care

As we develop critical awareness about the mental health “treatments” that don’t work and that often make things much worse, the question inevitably comes up, what can those who want to be helpful be doing instead? I believe that one key to successful change is going to be making effective training in alternatives widely available, so that those working in the field who hear our protests and criticisms with an open mind will be able to get support in then transitioning to doing things differently.
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Speaking up as a Mother

I wanted to write this blog post both in praise of and defence of mothers. Thinking especially of mothers who have been in and through the psychiatric system as mental patients and mothers who have supported family members in and through that same system, and who may have had to walk the plank or put on a flak jacket for the privilege. For it’s been my experience as a carer of 3 sons with “mental disorder” labels, and as a mother labelled with “schizoaffective disorder”, that the patriarchal psychiatric system has a habit of targeting mothers, blaming us in the process.
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Shifting the Paradigm While Resisting the Sheep and Goats Scenario

We are all sheep. Mental health difficulties, emotional distress and crisis situations are common to all. Altered mind states, paranoia, spiritual beliefs, hearing voices and other phenomena may be experienced by many people in life, due to a range of reasons, traumatic or painful, creative or self inflicted. It’s normal to feel things deeply when a person is sensitive to pain, has been traumatised or subject to abuse. I was a goat who saw myself as a sheep and so I made a complete recovery from mental illness and psychiatric treatment.
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Have You Ever Taken an Experimental Antipsychotic Called Bifeprunox?

In 2004, a patient was given an experimental antipsychotic called bifeprunox and died of hepatorenal failure nine days later. But the sponsor apparently did not investigate the death for three years. In late 2007 the sponsor issued a safety alert and suspended all bifeprunox studies. This is where things get interesting.
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Biomarkers for Mental Illness, Transgenic Mice, and the
Otherness of Psychosis

I’m not a scientist so what do I know?  Yet I’m not convinced of the biomedical model of mental illness and therefore the search for biomarkers.  I didn’t believe it when labelled with a lifelong mental disorder and thought that psychiatry had got it wrong.  And proved it by getting off the psych drugs and back on with my life.  Even though they write it in our psychiatric notes I don’t believe a word of it.  I resisted their predictions, in defiance when I could, and got better.
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Forced Treatment or Psychiatric Abuse?

I’m now 61 years old and looking back over the years of my life I can honestly say that the most invasive and abusive treatment I have ever experienced has been in psychiatric settings. I say this as fact and without emotion. I thought that going into hospital would result in respite and sympathetic treatment but soon found out in 1978 that it meant coercion and control. If I’d been 100% mentally well I would have remembered that psychiatric treatment wasn’t a positive experience because I knew this from what my mother had to go through.
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The Peter Pan Effect of Psychiatric Treatment

For some people their psychoses or nervous breakdowns come at the transition between youth and adulthood. It may be in the final years of school or the moving away from home to go to university or a new job in the big city. It was like this for many members of my family although not for me. My psychoses were to do with hormones and body transitions. But there could be a similarity I suppose, in terms of moving from one mind/body state into another.
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Divide and Conquer: the Abuse of Psychiatric Power and Resisting the Pressure

I have a bone to pick about the dichotomy of surviving schizoaffective disorder, lifelong mental illness and psychiatric treatment, contrasted with the labels in my youngest son’s psychiatric notes, saying “family history of”, “mother’s mother had schizophrenia”, “oldest brother has paranoid schizophrenia”.   And about the efforts of psychiatry to separate my family, one from another, as they have forced treatment on us.  Because all of us have been through the psychiatric system in some ways there has been strength in numbers.  In other ways it has meant the labels have stuck to us, thick and fast, even when recovered.
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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Psychosis: A Valuable Contribution Despite Major Flaws

The core of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT, is the idea of simply accepting, rather than trying to get rid of, disturbing or unwanted inner experiences like anxiety or voices, and then refocusing on a commitment to take action toward personally chosen values regardless of whether that seems to make the unwanted experiences increase or decrease. This idea is consistent with the emphasis in the recovery movement of finding a way to live a valued life despite any ongoing problems, but ACT has value because of the unique and effective strategies it offers to help people make this shift.

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Creating Dialog on Approaches for “Psychosis” in New Jersey

What would happen if professionals opened their minds about the nature of madness?  What new possibilities might be created if they questioned labels such as “schizophrenia” and if they instead showed curiosity about the person underneath the label, and interest …
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Tapering Off Medications When “Symptoms Have Remitted”:
Does That Make Sense?

While a 2-year outcome study by Wunderink, et al. has been cited as evidence that guided discontinuation of antipsychotics for people whose psychosis has remitted results in twice as much “relapse,” a not-yet-published followup of that study, extending it to 7 years using a naturalistic followup, finds that the guided discontinuation group had twice the recovery rates, and no greater overall relapse rate (with a trend toward the medication group having more relapse.)
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