People with mental disorders or differences are often experienced as “hot stoves” in society — at work, at school, at home, in friendships. In addition, providers and consumers who embrace the medical model and those who don’t are often “hot stoves” for one another. The result of arguments for and against those and other divisive perspectives is interference with empathy, understanding, creative solutions, and forward movement as a mental health community.
The 24-minute films “How to Touch a Hot Stove: Thought and Behavioral Differences in a Society of Norms,” and “Crazy?” emerged from our collaboration with filmmaker Sheryll Franko. The first, the principal film, and the second, composed of supplementary material from the dozens of interviews with a wide range of professionals, people with lived experience, and professionals with lived experience, are found on our website, www.thehotstoveproject.org. A film on the meaning of “recovery” — which further tackles the complexities of social integration, but from a different angle — is now in the works.
But The Hot Stove Project is much more than our films. The HSP is dedicated to increasing dialogue across different perspectives through a variety of means that include public speaking, conferences, the use of social media and so on to engage the community at large — professionals and non-professionals, consumers and non-consumers —in re-thinking “madness” and the we/they divide.
Alice is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who trained in the ‘70s. She witnessed the field split into the medical community and the non-medical community, with little or no communication across that widening divide. She became tired of giving people who think, feel, or behave outside socially accepted norms medical band-aids so they could tolerate an increasingly toxic social matrix.
Lois is an academic with psychoanalytic training. She has written extensively on the interface of creativity and neuropsychoanalysis and while writing her last book, Imagination from Fantasy to Delusion, researched in part while she was a Visiting Scholar at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, she became acutely aware of the division among mental health practitioners with regard to the etiology and treatment of those with serious psychiatric disorders.
Lois and Alice met 5 years ago, each eager to find ways of aggressively fighting the stigma that plagues those who are marginalized because of their “differences” in thinking and behavior. Making a film seemed like one way to reach a large number of people in the effort to get people to ask the difficult questions — questions about how they, as individuals, might inadvertently be contributing to the divide and how they, with greater awareness, might help to decrease it.
The Hot Stove Project aims to seek greater integration, both of our understanding of “madness” – and of those who would be labeled “mad” – into society. It aims to invigorate what must be a large-scale social movement analogous to women’s rights, civil rights, and gay rights. Marginalization of a large group of people can no longer be accepted and integration must be based on empathy for those who struggle, those who live, love, and work with them, and those who treat them.
Society as has much to learn from people who think differently. We all do.
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