Conference at Vatican Holds Great Promise: You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

Barry Duncan
11
62

I am just back from a conference – or what was called a study meeting – at the Vatican, entitled, “The Child as a Person and as a Patient: Therapeutic Approaches Compared.” Held under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, the two-day meeting on Friday June 14 and Saturday June 15 in the Vatican’s Pope Pius X Hall drew some 250 participants from 30 countries.

This has been 6 years in the making, mainly representing the hard work and perseverance of Marcia Barbacki. I have also participated for the duration because I thought it was, perhaps, the best opportunity ever to spread the word about the risks of psychotropics for youth given that Catholic Health Care represents 26% of the world’s healthcare and the Church’s ability to disseminate information to all corners of the globe. Considering the power of the pharmaceutical behemoth, I thought that maybe the Catholic Church might help if key individuals understood the risks that psychotropics bring to children — that they might make accurate information available in an area typically shrouded in industry marketing.

I just read Robert Whitaker’s account of his experience; his disappointment, in essence. I walked away with a completely different sense. Bob’s blog brought to mind one of my favorite Stones’ tunes: You can’t always get what you want… but if you try sometime you just might find… you get what you need! That’s what sums it up for me because I came away wit – or at the least the possibility of – getting exactly what I need. Let me explain.

It is unequivocally true that that the conference went through many renditions and changed significantly from what we originally proposed and wanted (a full 2 day conference with speakers that we chose to examine the risks and benefits of psychotropics across the lifespan). But, we can’t always get what we want…

Instead, what the conference evolved to after much deliberation and consultation within the Council was a two-day study meeting that included 11 of our speakers couched within 40 others covering a variety of topics related to the care of children from medical, religious, anthropological, multicultural, and practice perspectives. Our speakers examined the trend of increasing psychotropic prescription and asked, “Are the rising global prescription rates justified by the clinical trial evidence?” Our interdisciplinary team of the world’s leading authorities (see list in previous blog of the team) examined the evidence and concluded that psychosocial options should be the first choice. Seven of our speakers presented for twenty minutes while four of our team served the all-important role of moderator.

And what happened was quite remarkable. Our team won the participants over. Our presenters and moderators made a very compelling case for prescribing caution instead of psychotropics. I believe that we were successful largely because many in the audience were already on our side anyway. We tapped into common themes found in many (certainly not all) presentations: namely that the child cannot be reduced to a biological description and that love, family, culture, and spirituality were key elements in any therapeutic approach.

And then our four moderators convened in a separate room to meet with members of the Pontifical Council to offer specific recommendations for guidelines the Council might want pediatricians, psychiatrists, and others working with children around the world to consider. Despite the diversity within this group, there were some commonalities that quickly developed that echoed the above themes, and that dispensing a pill, in other words, is not the answer. The prevailing view of this closed door session was that psychosocial and spiritual approaches — such as connecting the child to family counseling, churches and other activities — should be the first line of treatment with children. This was, of course, our goal from the very beginning! So if you try, sometime, you just mind find, that you get what you need!

We were told at the conference that the Council is planning to issue guidelines (not dictates) that would be the direct result of the study meeting and proceedings. If the guidelines even approximate the sentiments of the participants and the deliberations of the moderators with the Council representatives, then this endeavor holds incredible promise to alter prescriptive practices.

We are very grateful to the Vatican, the Pontifical Council of Pastoral Health Care Workers, and especially Archbishop Zygmond Zymowski, president of the Council for the courage to host this conference despite its controversial nature and all the viewpoints that he had to represent.

Let’s sing it together: You can’t always get what you want…

PS: Our seven speakers’ presentations are posted at heartandsoulofchange.com

11 COMMENTS

  1. I appreciated your interviews Barry. You presented the evidence for your point of view convincingly. It’s nice to read your perspective on the gathering as well as Bob’s.

    I’m heartened that you believe your group was “heard” and that, generally, there was agreement “that the child cannot be reduced to a biological description and that love, family, culture, and spirituality were key elements in any therapeutic approach.”

    Also, thanks for posting the presentations.

    Best,
    David

    • Hi David,

      I know we should not mention religion and mental illness, in the same sentence. It does generate some very HOT emotional reactions.

      Yet, knowing how much you enjoy, as I do, a good movie and metaphor.

      What do think the wild Red Dragon which Jake learns to Master, in the movie Avatar, represents?

      I went to Thailand with a phrase ringing in my head, “Know Thyself.” Although not comprehending its deeper meaning. I thought you might like, what popped up first, on my facebook feed, this morning;

      “And just as in the past each civilization was the vehicle of its own mythology, developing in character as its myth became progressively interpreted, analyzed, and elucidated by its leading minds, so in this modern world—where the application of science to the fields of practical life has now dissolved all cultural horizons, so that no separate civilization can ever develop again—each individual is the center of a mythology of his own, of which his own intelligible character is the Incarnate God, so to say, whom his empirically questing consciousness is to find. The aphorism of Delphi, ‘Know thyself,’ is the motto. And not Rome, not Mecca, not Jerusalem, Sinai, or Benares, but each and every ‘thou’ on earth is the center of this world, in the sense of that formula just quoted from the twelfth-century ‘Book of the Twenty-four Philosophers,’ of God as ‘an intelligible sphere, whose center is everywhere.'”

      Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, Volume IV: Creative Mythology, p.36

      Interestingly, there are a few historical interpretations;

      Ancient Egyptian
      There are two parts of the ancient temple of Luxor; the outer temple where the beginning initiates are allowed to come, and the inner temple where one can enter only after proven worthy and ready to acquire the higher knowledge and insights. One of the proverbs in the Outer Temple is “The body is the house of God.” That is why it is said, “Man know thyself.” In the Inner Temple, one of the many proverbs is “Man, know thyself … and thou shalt know the gods.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Know_thyself#Ancient_Egyptian

      Hence I write of how I learned to “catch the gap between the spark and the flame,” as Buddhist’s suggest.

      The gap being synaptic (on a cellular level) the spark being a heart stimulated orienting response, and the flame being our God (Cosmic) mind. Similar to, Mosses burning bush metaphor?

      Best wishes,

      D.B.

      • Movies and Metaphors are a favorite of mine and as we’ve discussed before, Avatar is chock full of them.

        The Red Dragon is a ripe one! I like the concept of Jake and the Dragon so much because it’s a mutual process of acceptance. Jake needs to work within his abilities to “capture” the Dragon but ultimately it’s up to the Dragon to “allow” itself to be tamed. And at a very basic level both understand this. It’s in this understanding by Jake that he takes another step forward in understanding this very different culture.

        I didn’t know if you’ve returned from Thailand or not, but reading some of your other comments it looks like you have. I hope your visit there was helpful and meaningful for you. Also, don’t know if you’ve noticed but there seems to be a growing contingent of Aussie’s on MIA! I think that’s great.

        Best,
        David

        • Of course the careful reader might note that Jake’s struggle with the Dragon could also be viewed as an internal struggle. The Red Dragon can represent all kinds of inner struggles, sins, doubts, dreams, etc within Jake that he seeks to tame, overcome or come to…ACCEPT.

          Thanks for getting me going Batesy!

          • Of course we are not supposed to mention real-life metaphors on a webzine dealing with the very serious topic of misunderstanding mental illness & a knee jerk reaction of prescribing medications.

            What does metaphor & myth have to do with the human condition, cry the neo-rationalist’s from their secure position of superior intelligence.

            I mean, what would Dragons & Lions have to do with the human heart & metaphors about that label which should not be mentioned.

            PSYCHOSIS.

            Best wishes,

            D.B.

            P.S.

            Perhaps in the need to belong, to “act-out” an innate attachment urge, rationalist’s simply follow the group mind, in well known Cartesian Circle?

            And of course you & I have been around this this maypole before.

  2. Dear Barry,

    I applaud your efforts and your tireless work to get what we all need, a clearer perspective on the reality of so-called mental illnesses. I understand, the very rational perspective adopted by the council and its good intentions, for issuing guidelines. As you point out;

    We were told at the conference that the Council is planning to issue guidelines (not dictates) that would be the direct result of the study meeting and proceedings. If the guidelines even approximate the sentiments of the participants and the deliberations of the moderators with the Council representatives, then this endeavor holds incredible promise to alter prescriptive practices.

    We are very grateful to the Vatican, the Pontifical Council of Pastoral Health Care Workers, and especially Archbishop Zygmond Zymowski, president of the Council for the courage to host this conference despite its controversial nature and all the viewpoints that he had to represent.

    Let’s sing it together: You can’t always get what you want…

    I question, however, whether we will, in fact, get what we need.

    Like the the well intentioned reasons in our common view of informed consent, did the conference address the reality of subconscious human functioning within the real-life moment?

    Or, as we all do, did the participants fulfill their self-preservation needs, and rationalize the reality of the real-life experience, in Catholic Institutions?

    Has this need to rationalize, to cover-up, our true motivation, in the stress of each lived-moment, been witnessed on this webzine, when, perhaps, inconvenient questions and truths, were deleted from the post covering the conference, live?

    These are tough, real-life questions, I know, yet as I suggested in my first comments on this webzine. Nothing will change, until we honestly and openly address the reality of how we actually function, in the anxiety (stress or call what you will) of the lived moment.

    With deep respect for your efforts,

    Regards,

    David Bates.

    • Dear me, where is Barry?

      Does his silence on my real-life questions, speak volumes?

      Why do we “autonomically” (refers to our nervous systems) cover-up, inconvenient questions and inconvenient truths?

      is the system we ‘think’ we see “out there” projected from within?

      Best wishes to all,

      David.

  3. Have people seen Russell Brand’s great interview on TV, about mental illness & our Messiah Complex?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2eDj39q0Fo

    Is the complex, a collective one?

    “The Messianic Age is a theological term referring to a future time of universal peace and brotherhood on the earth, without crime, war and poverty. Many religions believe that there will be such an age; some refer to it as the consummate “kingdom of God”, “paradise”, “peaceable kingdom”, or the “world to come”.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messianic_Age

    Perhaps the “world to come” has always been right in front of our eyes, we just need to learn how we do this phenomenon we call perceiving?

    Perhaps we get stuck in a need for “judgement,” unaware of its subconscious process?

    Best wishes,

    David. B.

    • Oh that Brand is funny! At the 5:30 mark he says, “Thank you for your casual objectification. I’m glad that it’s positive for you.”

      This is a great example of a brilliant comedian being on the show with a bunch of asses. They have no reference for Brand. In their groping to come to terms with what is so foreign, Brand pokes fun and, in my opinion, is very clever. “Lose the ring Mika, its doing nothing for you” That’s precious.

      I love when creative genius meets average (Joe).

      • And exposes their “psychological-blindness,” David? Although;

        “I love when creative genius meets average (Joe).”

        I hope your not in need of judgement David:))

        I hope you are contemplating metaphor’s about last shadows?

        Metaphor’s like;

        “And as we wind on down the road
        Our shadows taller than our souls…..

        And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.” _Led Zeppelin.

        Reminds me of what the shaman said to the journalist historian.

        “And you read that stuff, literally?”

        Please consider;

        “So here are people without electron microscopes who choose, among some 80,000 Amazonian plant species, the leaves of a bush containing a hallucinogenic brain hormone, which they combine with a vine containing substances that inactivate an enzyme of the digestive tract, which would otherwise block the hallucinogenic effect.

        And they do this to modify their consciousness. It is as if they knew about the molecular properties of plants and the art of combining them, and when one asks them how they know these things, they say their knowledge comes directly from hallucinogenic plants.

        Consider Narby’s double bind predicament as a western educated man with a rational and objective view of delusional content?

        “Colleagues might ask,

        “You mean Indians claim they get molecularly verifiable information from their hallucinations? You don’t take them literally, do you?”

        What could one answer?

        There is nothing one can say without contradicting two fundamental principles of Western knowledge.

        First, hallucinations cannot be the source of real information, because to consider them as such is the definition of psychosis. Western knowledge considers hallucinations to be at best illusions, at worst morbid phenomena.

        Second, plants do not communicate like human beings. Scientific theories of communication consider that only human beings use abstract symbols like words and pictures and that plants do not relay information in the form of mental images.

        For science, the human brain is the source of hallucinations, which psychoactive plants merely trigger by way of the hallucinogenic molecules they contain.

        It had become clear to me that ayahuasqueros were somehow gaining access in their visions to verifiable information about plant properties. Therefore, I reasoned, the enigma of hallucinatory knowledge could be reduced to one question:

        Was this information coming from inside the human brain, as the scientific point of view would have it, or from the outside world of plants, as shamans claimed?”

        http://bipolarbatesy.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/mad-visions-or-mental-illness-part-1.html

        But hey, what would I know, I’m a certified psychotic, it still says so in my notes.

        Best,

        David B.