I wanted to spare you, my son, from suffering like I did. I wanted to give you every opportunity I could. You have grown into a good man, a caring and successful man, yet you still have to fear for your life in this country. You still feel pain when you see what is happening.
I believe now that fifteen years is more than a fair try. Fifteen years of getting treatment without returning to function is actually insanity. I should have given up after year two. Instead of trusting my intuition and insight, I pushed it down and down... until it finally fought its way back to the surface.
Chelsea Roff is the Founder and Director of Eat Breathe Thrive (EBT), a non-profit with an inspired mission to bring yoga, mindfulness, and community support to people struggling with negative body image and disordered eating. I reached out to Chelsea to learn more about her life and organization, which she writes, “…is like AA for people with food and body image issues, plus yoga and meditation.” Chelsea shared her journey from life as a patient to yogi, author, and innovative community organizer. With her permission, you can find this interview below.
The 90s were labeled - rather optimistically - as the ‘decade of recovery.’ More recently, recovery has been placed slap bang central in mental health policy. Is supporting recovery pretty much good common sense? Or is the term being misused to pressure those suffering to behave in certain ways?
Will Storr, for Mosaic Science, wades into the world of neuroplasticity and explores to what extent our brains are capable of changing through adulthood. He asks if the tendency to overemphasize the findings of epigenetics and neuroplasticity isn’t tied to our cultural belief that individuals are totally free to create themselves and pursue the American dream.
Researchers recently completed a first of its kind, large-scale international survey of attitudes about mental health and they were surprised by the results. According to their analysis published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders, people in developed countries, like the United States, are more likely to assume that ‘mental illnesses’ are similar to physical illnesses and biological or genetic in origin, but they are also much less likely to think that individuals can overcome these challenges and recover
Many people are now familiar with the BPS report, Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia, and they have appreciated how it integrates both science and a humanistic understanding to convey a fresh and progressive approach to difficult and extreme experiences. But it has come under attack by psychiatrists, using arguments that are often quite slick, and sound reasonable to the uninformed. But they are wrong, and the better we can articulate how and why they are wrong, the better we can advocate for a more humane and skillful response to people having the experiences that are called “psychosis.”
We are living in a time when good parenting may no longer be good enough. Great parenting might be what it takes, especially if you are concerned about a child whose intensity has gone awry and you suspect the world around you will be applying pressures to medicate.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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..."
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.)
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.