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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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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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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Uses and Abuses of “Recovery” – A Review

The World Psychiatric Journal has published an interesting article, Uses and Abuses of Recovery: Implementing Recovery-Oriented Practices in Mental Health Systems, that outlines “7 Abuses of the Concept of ‘Recovery.'”  This effort to identify problems in the use of the term “recovery” is important,  and it is good to see the many issues they raise being discussed in a major journal.  I encourage people to read the article, as I won’t be able to touch on many of its points here.  Instead, what I want to do is to add some to their list of abuses of “recovery” and to critique  some of their reasoning about what alternatives should be supported.
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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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Understanding Madness as
Revolution, Then Working
Toward Peace

While some will frame Eleanor Longden’s story, told in her awesome TED video (which has now been viewed about 1/2 million times!), as the triumph of an individual struggling against “mental illness,” I believe the story might better be seen as a refutation of the whole “illness of the mind” metaphor, and as an indication of a desperate need for a new paradigm.
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Opening the Dialogue: Can Families and Survivors Heal Together?

If we believe that emotional problems are primarily disorders of the brain, then perhaps taking a “fill-in-the-blank” medical history is sufficient. However, if we believe that emotional crises and dis-ease are problems that exist between people, in our sticky or not-so-sticky web of relationships, then whether families, survivors and those in crisis can heal together is a much more relevant, if still complicated, question. Perhaps the most honest answer to this question is: “It depends…”
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Community and Hierarchy, Speaking Out and Being Silenced, on the Road to Activism and Campaigning

“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others” from Animal Farm by George Orwell, an allegory of oppression, propaganda and tyranny.  It’s also described as dystopian with characteristics of dehumanisation and totalitarianism.  Where a revolution results …
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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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The Segregation of Psychotics and Schizophrenics in Relation to Recovery

Speaking as someone whose whole family has been affected by psychoses and the subsequent psychiatric treatment I am fed up with the separation and segregation that continually is and has been our lot … The stigma and discrimination foisted upon us by a psychiatric opinion, non-medical, subjective, yet taken as gospel and written in the notes.
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Stigma Begins and Ends With Psychiatry: Time to Stop Labeling and Disabling

The problem with anti-stigma campaigns, to my mind, is that they are focusing on the wrong target, society, when the real issue is to do with psychiatric diagnoses, biomedical models of mental illness and lifelong psychiatric drug prescribing that can restrict and cause disability. Therefore there will never be an end to stigma until there is a turnaround in psychiatry so that patients become people and mental illness becomes life’s problems that can happen to any of us.
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Backsliding in the Bay State

The drumbeat for more “Risk Management” just gets louder. And nowhere is this so alarmingly evident as a new policy proposed by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) in November 2012.
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A Message of Hope in Mental Health Care: There IS an Alternative

In the previous MindFreedom blog, we presented some data from our Hope in Mental Health Care Survey (download the full survey summary here). This data showed that extremely negative prognoses and messages of hopelessness abound in mental health care. Often, these messages come directly from mental health providers. And very often, these messages turn out to be untrue.

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Defining Recovery

Yesterday, Dr. Daniel Fisher emailed and asked my thoughts with regard to “recovery”. Even before I walked away from prescription-pad-only psychiatric work, others asked me about this. Other treatment providers, designated patients and family members asked what I thought they could expect to happen next and what they should do to make things better. I told them that chemical interventions are not the only, or even the essential, tool for recovery.

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Making Sense of Psychosis

I can remember when psychoses used to be called nervous breakdowns and people just disappeared for a while and came back better, or at least more acceptable to society. This was in the 1950’s and 60’s of my childhood and youth, when diagnoses were either schizophrenia or manic depression. Things seemed a lot simpler then.

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Where Do Messages of Hopelessness in Mental Health Care Come From?

The vast disconnect between prognosis (as predicted by mental health providers) and actual outcome (as reported by psychiatric survivors) forces us to ask the question: Why send messages of hopelessness when they are so often untrue?
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We Are All Adam Lanza’s Mother (& other things we’re not talking about)

I do not understand how we can continue to avoid the conversation about psychiatric medications and their role in the violence that is affecting far too many of our children, whether Seung-Hui Cho, Eric Harris, Kip Kinkel, or Jeff Weise (all of whom were either taking or withdrawing from psychotropic medications) or the scores of children and adults they have killed and harmed. It is not clear what role medications played in the Newtown tragedy, though news reports are now suggesting there is one.
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Trying Too Hard to Be Sane, or Trying Too Hard to Recover, Can Lead to Madness

A recent article, “Screw Positive Thinking! Why Our Quest for Happiness Is Making Us Miserable” provides humorous perspective on the ways seeking too hard after happiness can make us unhappy – and, it seems, stupid as well! I’m going to argue that the same paradox also applies to other aspects of mental health, and that some of the major problems in current mental health treatment result from failing to take this into account.
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Shifting the Balance of Power in the Psychiatric System

2013 is going to be a year of protest, for me, demonstrating against the psychiatric system.  In particular, speaking out about the psychiatric drugging of women and children, forced treatment, ECT/electroshock and brain surgery for mental illness.  ‘Bringing in the …
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Building a Bridge to Hope

Hope heals. Thousand of years of experience and, more recently, numerous hope studies, prove this to be true. Yet hope is still a 4-letter word in many mental health settings. How can we build a bridge to hope from hope-stealing physical and emotional pain, hopeless diagnoses and prognoses, and hope-numbing side effects?
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We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For

Those of us with lived experience, here in the US and now around the world have discovered that most mental health professionals have little understanding of what extreme mental states are like. They think those states are a sign of illness. They think that hearing voices and having vivid dreams are symptoms of those illnesses. We who have been through our own recovery know that we are all basically healthy people who have experienced a variety of traumas.
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Navigating the System, the Power of a Story

Throughout my childhood and youth in Perth, Scotland, I remember my mother having nervous breakdowns and stays in the local mental hospital, from mid 1950’s to late 1960’s.  These episodes didn’t affect the happy memories of my upbringing as grandparents …
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Where are the Social Workers: Preparing for a Post-Psychiatry World?

Little more than a week ago, I participated in a panel discussion that focused on the implications of the DSM-5 for social work practice. It was part of a larger conference co-sponsored by the NYU School of Social Work and the New York City chapter of NASW. So far as I know, it was the first such social work conference that’s taken place in New York specifically assembled to review the new DSM.
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Common Sense, Deferred: Lessons From the “Fresh Air” Fight, Part Two

How and why the right to fresh air is continuously blocked by money, politics and ignorance. Plus, personal reflections on how nature heals.
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