Classic Blog: ‘Neutralising Suffering: How the Medicalisation of Distress Obliterates Meaning and Creates Profit’ by Joanna Moncrieff

jmoncrieffThere is so much great content on Mad in America. Here’s a piece from British psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff, one I wholeheartedly endorse. In fact, this blog is essential reading. The original article has all the references.

‘People have used psychoactive substances to dull and deaden pain, misery and suffering since time immemorial, but only recently, in the last few decades, have people been persuaded that what they are doing in this situation is rightly thought of as taking a remedy for an underlying disease.

The spread of the use of prescription drugs has gone hand in hand with the increasing medicalization of everyday life, and a corresponding loss of the previous relationship that people had with psychoactive substances.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel Mary Barton was originally to be named after Mary’s father John Barton, a working class factory hand addicted to opium. The novel depicts the unimaginable poverty and exploitation of industrial Manchester that made opium-induced oblivion an appealing escape.

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‘Healing Trauma: What We Are Doing Wrong… and What We Need To Do To Get It Right’ by Bessel van der Kolk

338059More from Bessel van der Kolk’s wonderful book. If you want to know more about trauma and its healing, this is an essential buy.

‘We are fundamentally social creatures – our brains are wired to foster working and playing together.

Trauma devastates the social-engagement system and interferes with cooperation, nurturing, and the ability to function as a productive member of the clan.

In this book, we have seen how many mental health problems, from drug addiction to self-injurious behavior, start off as attempts to cope with emotions that become unbearable because of a lack of adequate human contact and support.

Yet institutions that deal with traumatized children and adults are all too often bypass the emotional-engagement system that is the foundation of who we are and instead focus narrowly on correcting “faulty thinking” and on suppressing unpleasant emotions and troublesome behaviors.

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‘Cultural Genocide Survivor Walking The Red Road’ by Wayne William Snellgrove

a07bb170c4a36161aa1f8f4859c19794_LI can’t begin to appreciate what it must have been like to have been removed from my mother at a very young age and be brought up in a culture I knew was not my own. This happened to so many Indigenous people in Australia, Canada, USA, New Zealand and other colonized nations.

When I read stories like the one below,  I know I am doing the right thing with my life, trying to help Indigenous people through Sharing Culture. I marvel at the healing that is illustrated in stories like the one below. I know that we must pass on such stories, so many other people can be inspired to Walking the Red Road. That they can take their own journey of healing.

Here is the story of Wayne William Snellgrove, which appeared on the I Love Ancestry website.  

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I Am Not Anonymous: Ellie, ‘Come With Me’

EllieTextBlog-1024x682A Story from the excellent I Am Not Anonymous website is long overdue. Here is Ellie’s Story“:

‘When I was drinking, my life was ruled by shame.  It’s exhausting, living a double life. On the outside I was a put-together, active, intelligent woman.  I made sure my outside always looked okay, so nobody would look too closely at what was really going on, at my dirty secret.

Inside, I was a crumbling mess.  I felt less-than, unworthy and insecure.  I strove for perfection in all things, which of course is unattainable, and this left me feeling empty and ashamed.

I drank to fill the cracks, the emptiness.  I drank to numb out, escape.  I drank to feel okay with myself.  I found myself in my late thirties, a shell of a person, hollow and feeling desperately alone, even though I had a beautiful family, a job, and people who loved me. 

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Dreambuilding in Napranum

Napranum-Aboriginal-Community-4-450x337Some of you will know that I am also running the Sharing Culture initiative. Sharing Culture aims to help Indigenous people heal from historical trauma and its consequences. These consequences include poor physical health, mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence, self-harm and suicide.

Here is a blog I put up today which will describe one of my projects:

‘”The Elders taught us that to treat the sick trees you must treat the whole forest – you must create a healing forest. If not, the trees will just keep getting sick again… It means that we must actively heal the community and its institutions at the same time an individual works on his or her own healing from alcohol or drugs or other unwell behaviors.” Don Coyhis, Native American Leader & Founder of the Wellbriety Movement

Society has the knowledge to facilitate Indigenous healing. This knowledge comes from individuals who have overcome great adversity and undergone a healing process, as well as from successful Indigenous healing initiatives. Sadly, however, this knowledge is neither disseminated well, nor implemented enough by current systems of care.

Society must also pay attention to, and implement, findings from scientific research that demonstrate key principles that underlie healing. For example, research has shown that self-determination is the foundation of healing and recovery from adversities like trauma, mental health problems and addiction.

Sadly, however, governments and systems of care still act in a paternalistic and controlling manner towards Indigenous people. They see themselves as the agents of change for Indigenous people, even though evidence shows that this approach does not work. It further disempowers people.

As a result of these problems, society is not helping Indigenous people improve their health and wellbeing to the level it should. This is a human rights issue that needs addressing urgently.

Sharing Culture involves the development of an educational resource that shows how healing occurs at an individual, family and community level. As part of this initiative, we are collaborating with highly respected people who have developed key Indigenous healing initiatives. We intend to create high quality content about these initiatives that will be disseminated to a wide audience via a multi-platform approach, i.e. internet, documentary film, iBooks, newspapers, etc.

We aim to inspire and educate our audience, create advocacy campaigns, and help the people we collaborate with develop their projects further (many receive minimal funding). We need to learn from, and facilitate the work of, people with successful healing initiatives.

Today, I would like to announce the first of our Healing Journey collaborative projects. This project involves the development of an easy-to-access, internet-based educational and advocacy resource based on lived experience that will inspire and educate people about community healing.

This resource will focus on the remarkable transformation – at an economic, social and spiritual level – that has been occurring in the Cape York Indigenous community of Napranum, a transformation catalysed by Annalise Jennings of Dynamic Exchange.

Dreambuilding in Napranum will comprise film, audio, text and animation that highlights: (1) healing stories and principles; (2) the evidence for transformation; (3) community events and culture; (4) personal reflections on what facilitates change, and (5) how to address practical issues when facilitating community change. We will also link to other internet-based content that enhances understanding of community healing.

Dreambuilding in Napranum will show what can be achieved when Indigenous people are empowered, connected and given the opportunity for self-determination, key elements underlying healing.

Our audience will gain important insights into how Indigenous people overcome great adversity. We will celebrate what Napranum has achieved and ensure that their successes are shared with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people around the world.

We are in the very early stages of this project. Annalise and I have been talking for some time about linking up. I recently uploaded ten pages of content about Annalise’s work in Napranum using content that is already available online.

Last week, Annalise visited Napranum and the community agreed to participate in the project. I am planning the filming that Mike and I will do in Napranum on the basis of my interviews with Annalise. However, this project is dependent on us raising funding, so I have a busy period ahead.

Here are two testimonials for the project:

“Napranum people have always known where they wanted to go. They have always had great vision and direction. What is different about what is happening now, is someone is willing to walk alongside them to help make their dreams happen. It is a story that needs to be told. It is a story that needs to be repeated in other places, by other people. A story of people doing things together. It was in Napranum many years ago, a woman said: ‘Sometimes, when we look at the problems, they seem like a large mountain. But we can move that mountain, one rock at a time.’ Napranum and Tjunundi people of old Mapoon can teach us many things.” Professor Judy Atkinson & Dr Carlie Atkinson

“Every now and then something happens that is so indisputable and powerful that its impact and implications cannot be ignored. The transformation of Napranum is one of those somethings. Communicating the Napranum story should be an urgent priority so that many people, at all levels of decision making, can understand its message and become part of the healing solution.” Professor Tim Carey

You can find out more about Annalise’s work with Napranum here. We’ll both be blogging about this project as time moves on.

‘Is Depression Who I Am or What I Have?’ by Douglas Bloch

In this video, author and depression counselor Douglas Bloch talks about separating your feelings about being depressed from your sense of self worth.

Classic Blog: Brene Brown on joy and gratitude

Vulnerability expert Brene Brown talks about the relationship between joy and gratitude and offers a few tips on how to cultivate more joy in your own life.

Check out Brene in our section of books to help your recovery.

Learn the Signs and Symptoms of PTSD, with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk

One of the world’s foremost psychiatrists specializing in PTSD, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk visits Big Think to discuss the history of the disorder, its varying effects on sufferers of all ages, and forms of treatment that can “help people to come back to life.”

To understand PTSD, says Dr. van der Kolk, you have to understand the nature of trauma and the ways in which traumatic triggers can vaporize anyone’s joie de vivre.

20 Ways To Facilitate Indigenous Healing, Part 2

P4061087-220x1646. The Healing Ritual of Storytelling
Storytelling is a healing ritual amongst Indigenous people.

In a culturally safe environment (e.g. healing circle), Indigenous people can share experiences by telling their Story (which is often a trauma Story), help each other come to terms with the emotional pain caused by what has happened to them in their past, and make sense of their personal story in relationship to the collective, communal Story.

7. Pride in Surviving Colonisation
Learning history from an Indigenous perspective, illustrating how conditions for social and psychological discontent have developed, helps Indigenous people understand why they have problems.

It also shows them that they retain the necessary agency to change their lives for the better. It helps them deal with shame and blame, factors that impact negatively on social and emotional wellbeing.

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20 Ways To Facilitate Indigenous Healing, Part 1

2007_0118walpole01151-220x164Some of you will know I also run the Sharing Culture website, which focuses on Indigenous healing. Today, I thought I would upload the same blog onto both websites. My action reflects the importance I attach to this area.

Society has the knowledge to facilitate Indigenous healing. This knowledge comes from individuals who have overcome great adversity and undergone a healing process (the lived solution); successful Indigenous healing initiatives, and scientific research demonstrating key principles underlying healing.

Sadly, however, this knowledge is neither disseminated well, nor implemented enough by government and health care, social welfare and criminal justice systems. As a result, society is not helping Indigenous people improve their health and wellbeing to the level it should.

In this and forthcoming blogs, I shall briefly describe 20 ways to facilitate Indigenous healing. Here are the first five.

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‘Willingness To Be Puzzled’ by Gabor Maté

Dr. Gabor Maté talks about how important it is to be puzzled and to ask the question “what’s really going on here?” rather than assuming that we know all the answers.

‘Without a life story, a child is adrift, disconnected and vulnerable’ – Dr Bruce Perry on the value and power of the Life Story approach

UnknownHere is a powerful piece of writing by Dr Bruce Perry, which is adapted from the Foreword to the new book, Life Story Therapy with Traumatized Children, by Richard Rose. It is fundamental to what I am doing with our new initiative Sharing Culture, which is focused on helping Indigenous people heal from intergenerational trauma and its consequences.

‘A fundamental and permeating strength of humankind is the capacity to form and maintain relationships – the capacity to belong. It is in the context of our clan, community and culture that we are born and raised.

The brain-mediated set of complex capacities that allow one human to connect to another form the very basis for survival and has led to the ‘success’ of our species on this planet. Without others or without belonging, no individual could survive or thrive.

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Classic Blog: ‘Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count’ by Brené Brown

If you are trying to do something creative then you’re going to get your arse kicked. So sayeth Brené Brown. If you’re trying to do something creative in this field and help improve the way that we help people overcome addiction and mental health, you will get your arse kicked. So sayeth I.

This talk is essential viewing for learning how to deal with getting your arse kicked. Or at least deal with the people trying to kick your arse.

‘There is nothing more frightening than the moment we expose our ideas to the world. Author and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown shows us how to deal with the critics and our own self-doubt by refusing to “armor up” and shut ourselves off. “Not caring what people think,” she says, “is its own kind of hustle.”

Instead we must “reserve a seat” for the critics and our own self-doubt. “Tell them, I see you, I hear you, but I’m going to do this anyway.”’

‘7 Steps to Creating a Healing Affirmation’ by Douglas Bloch

Depression counselor and survivor Douglas Bloch talks about seven steps you can follow to create your own healing affirmation. Douglas’s Healing channel on Youtube is an excellent resource.

‘Healing From Trauma: Owning Your Self’ by Bessel van der Kolk

UnknownThe Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the healing of trauma. Here’s a short excerpt:

‘Nobody can “treat” a war, or abuse, or rape, molestation, or any other horrendous event, for that matter; what has happened cannot be undone.

But what can be dealt with are the imprints of the trauma on body, mind and soul: the crushing sensations in your chest that you may label as anxiety or depression; the fear of losing control; always being on alert for danger or rejection; the self-loathing; the nightmares and flashbacks; the fog that keeps you from staying on task and engaging fully in what you are doing; being unable to fully open your heart to another human being.

Trauma robs you of the feeling that you are in charge of yourself, of what I will call self-leadership in the chapters to come.

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The dilemma of residential rehab

I first met psychologist Pavel Nepustil from the Czech Republic nearly ten years ago in Cardiff when he came to meet us and find out more about Wired In. We got on really well and have kept in contact since that time.

Pavel has a keen interest in Stories and in recovery from addiction. He has spent time working in the UK, USA, Mexico, Netherlands and Austria, and is still closely linked with the Taos Institute. His PhD thesis was entitled ‘The process of adjustment after the end of long-term meth use without professional help’.

Here, Pavel listens to Markéta tell her story about meth and heroin using. About what helped her to stop. And what did not help. 

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Psychiatry Must Stop Ignoring Trauma, with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk

Acclaimed psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk explores his field’s long, complex, and stubborn history with trauma. Dr. van der Kolk explains how psychiatry as a whole avoided progress, often misdiagnosing trauma as hysteria or, in the case of shell-shocked soldiers, malingering.

The experiences of abused women and children were more or less ignored for a century. They’re still being ignored in ways, he says.

‘One Gutsy Woman’ by Daisy Anderson

dandersonAn inspiring, beautifully written story from Mad in America about being drugged by the biological psychiatry industry and a courageous battle through drug withdrawal to recovery

‘Part One: Becoming Psychiatric: Easy as 1-2-3
Living with a mental illness is hard work. I know because I lived as a psychiatric patient for over thirty-seven years. Working to become well turned out to be even harder. I know because it took everything I had to recover. Even though eighteen psychiatrists treated me, my health only got worse. I recovered completely after hiring a private psychologist. Now, I take no psychiatric drugs and see no psychiatrists.

My almost-completed book, which I call The Daisy Project, tells the story of how I first became a patient in my home province of British Columbia, Canada, why I was sick for so long, and the hurdles I went through to fully recover. This blog provides a brief overview of my journey.

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‘A Personal Tribute: Ernie Kurtz, 1935 – 2015’ by Bill White

EK Photo 2008‘Ernest Kurtz, who made landmark contributions to the study of addiction recovery, died January 19, 2015 of pancreatic cancer. Following publication of Not-God:  A History of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1979, Kurtz focused his studies on the growing varieties of recovery experience, the healing of shame and guilt, and the role of spirituality in addiction recovery.

Ernest Kurtz was born in Rochester, New York, September 9, 1935 – only two months after the meeting of two desperate alcoholics in Akron, Ohio marked the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Kurtz attended St. Bernard’s Seminary and College and was then ordained as a Catholic Priest in 1961.

Following five years of parish work, he began his graduate studies at Harvard University where he completed an M.A. in philosophy and a Ph.D. in the history of American civilization. His Ph.D dissertation on the history of A.A. marked a turning point in the scholarly study of A.A. and the larger arenas of addiction recovery and recovery mutual aid societies, both legitimizing such studies and setting a benchmark by which future studies would be evaluated.

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“Transcend Depression Through Serving Others” by Douglas Bloch

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Douglas Bloch’s YouTube channel on healing depression is an excellent self-care resource, as are his website and book Healing Depression.

‘In this video, author and depression counselor Douglas Bloch talks about how giving of your time to help others can draw you out of depression and transcend the “prison of self.”‘