Open Paradigm Project – Matt Samet

Rock climber, author, and Mad in America Blogger Matt Samet discusses his experience becoming addicted to, and subsequently coming off of, benzodiazepines. Check out Matt’s book Death Grip: A Climber’s Escape from Benzo Madness.

‘Looking forward to the Good Ol’ Days’ by Tim Carey Ph.D.

timA thoughtful article by Tim Carey on Mad in America to start the week.

‘One of the most remarkable aspects of Robert Whitaker’s (2010) outstanding book Anatomy of an Epidemic was his comparative data that contrasted outcomes for mental disorders prior to the introduction of pharmacological treatments with outcomes for mental disorders after pharmacological treatments became the main, and often only, course of action.

I have asked people in workshops to estimate who might be better off – someone diagnosed with what we now call bipolar disorder prior to the introduction of lithium or someone diagnosed after lithium became a standard treatment. Almost without exception workshoppers estimate that the people diagnosed before lithium was available do much worse. Whitaker’s data indicate exactly the opposite. It’s a staggering finding.

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‘The Power of Storytelling’ by Lisbeth Riis Cooper

lrcooperLisbeth Riis Cooper is another person whose blogs on Mad in America I really appreciate and value. Here’s one on storytelling.

‘Over the years, I have heard many powerful recovery stories. I’ve also had many opportunities to share our family’s struggle with mental health challenges and our recovery journey.

Each time I share my story, it gets a little easier. I feel a little lighter, a little more hopeful. And I realize how far our family has come, how much we have learned and healed.

Stories are powerful. And so is the process of telling them. Here is what I have observed over my last 10 years of storytelling:

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‘Shh… Just Whisper it, But There Might Just Be a Revolution Underway’ by Peter Kinderman

pkindermanHere is an excellent article by Prof Peter Kinderman from Mad in America. Yes, recovery-based care is needed!

‘The idea that our more distressing emotions can best be understood as symptoms of physical illnesses is a pervasive, seductive but harmful myth. It means that our present approach to helping vulnerable people in acute emotional distress is severely hampered by old-fashioned, inhumane and fundamentally unscientific ideas about the nature and origins of mental health problems.

We need wholesale and radical change in how we understand mental health problems and in how we design and commission mental health services.

–o–

It’s all too easy to assume mental health problems must be mystery biological illnesses, random and essentially unconnected to a person’s life. But when we start asking questions about this traditional ‘disease-model’ way of thinking, those assumptions start to crumble.

While it obviously serves the purposes of pharmaceutical companies, ready with their chemical pseudo-solutions, the evidence doesn’t support this view.

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‘Setting the Intention to Heal: The Starting Point of Mental Health Recovery’ by Douglas Bloch

dblochHere is such an important blog about healing and recovery. Thank you, Douglas.

‘“The readiness is all.” William Shakespeare

In my work facilitating depression support groups, I have discovered three essential factors to healing from depression, which I call ”the three pillars of mental health recovery.”  In my earlier blogs for Mad in America I wrote about two of these pillars  – connecting with community and using a holistic approach to treat symptoms. Now I would like to present the first and MOST IMPORTANT pillar – Setting the Intention to Heal.

I define setting the intention to heal as “making the decision that you want to get well, even if you don’t know how.”  Setting the intention to heal does not require that a person know the exact path that will heal him from a major depression or other mental health disorder. It just requires that he or she wants be well.

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‘Proposal From Italy: An International Collection of Recovery Stories’ by Giuseppe Tibaldi

UnknownPlease check out this important and interesting proposal.

‘Here is a new proposal from Italy: We want to start an international initiative to promote the writing of recovery stories in every country, with the ultimate goal of sharing at an international level the most compelling ones from each country.

Our proposal is born from an awareness that recovery stories are necessary today in order to give back to mental sufferance its meaning and transparency, to fight the biographical opacity of biological theories (the broken brain) and to guarantee decisional power to those who are offered (or imposed) mono-dimensional or dehumanizing treatments.

For me, personally, my interest in the writing of such stories came about from my reading just such a story more than a decade. The book, The Day the Voices Stopped. A Memoir of Madness and Hope, was written by Ken Steele.

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Stamp Out Stigma: “It Can Get Better” by Kelly

A wonderful film clip from an excellent website, StampOutStigma.

“Whatever happened to the sense of community where you actually cared about your neighbour?”

Being brave enough to seek help led Kelly to recovery.

“I get so much satisfaction because I see that when I share my story with others it empowers them.”

‘On Waking Up From the “American Dream”’ by Laura Delano

images-9Another powerful blog from one of my favourite writers. Please SHARE widely, Laura’s words are so important.

“These enviable youngsters appear to be the winners in the race we have made of childhood. But the reality is very different, as I have witnessed in many of my own students and heard from the hundreds of young people whom I have spoken with on campuses or who have written to me over the last few years.

Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.” William Deresiewicz,  Don’t Send Your Kids to the Ivy League, The New Republic, July 21st, 2014

Author’s Note: I encourage you to read Mr. Deresiewicz’ piece before continuing on with mine below.

Throughout my life, I’ve had access to privilege, especially in regards to my education, which included a lifetime of private schooling followed by matriculation at Harvard University.

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‘Reflections on a Pathologized Adolescence and a Vision For The Future’ by Laura Delano

0-71I’ve been working on a larger writing project for a while now, and am currently focusing on my ninth grade year –  the year I turned fourteen, the year I began to think about suicide, the year I discovered the temporary satisfaction that comes from escaping oneself, and the year I met my first psychiatrist and said goodbye to myself.

For many years, I carried great shame about all that unfolded during that year – about the things I did, the secrets I kept, the harm I caused, the darkness I was so immersed in.

Today as I write, I am full of love for that lost girl I once was, for I see that I was on a universal, archetypal search – for answers to my profound emptiness, to why I yearned to die, to why I felt so utterly convinced that I didn’t fit into the world.

I was searching for self-worth, for peace of mind, for a sense of safety in a world I didn’t understand. I was searching for the kinds of things that all young people search for, only I was never presented an opportunity to realize this.

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‘Is Recovery the Right Word?’ by Dolly Sen

omeka-net-4762-archive-fullsize-757b9035f7beee79de9361dc5997f5bfExcellent reflections by Dolly Sen from an Archive of Mental Health Recovery Stories.

‘The problem with the Recovery Model is that it is a medical term, and is expected to sit safely and warmly in the medical world. The recovery model says you need to look beyond the symptoms and see the person. But the whole relationship between service user and professional is regulated by the symptoms, depending if your symptoms go up or down, decides what treatment you get, if any at all.

It is also assuming that there is an illness to recover from. That the mental and emotional pain is not a very human and very appropriate response to trauma, that it has to be pathological, a sickness.

If that wasn’t enough, it then puts you in a system where people blow out your candle and then ask you to get better, or it takes your candle away and then asks ‘where is your light?’ You won’t find a better example of catch 22 than in psychiatry.

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CRAZYWISE: Rethinking Madness – A Documentary Film

There’s a great film coming to our screens next year. CRAZYWISE, directed by Phil Borges and Kevin Tomlinson, is a feature documentary exploring alternative treatments for mental illness.

You can learn more about the film and support its production – PLEASE do – by going to the film’s Kickstarter page. I’m really excited by the film. Here’s what is written by Phil and Kevin:

‘About the Film:
CRAZYWISE centers around Adam, 29, a former wakeboard champion who struggles with his sanity following a psychotic break. Desperate and feeling shame from being labeled with a potential lifelong disease, Adam embraces meditation.

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‘Psychiatric Epidemic (Part 2): The Scope of the Epidemic’ by Robert Whitaker

Robert Whitaker, author of “Anatomy of an Epidemic” speaks at PsykoVision’s conference on the Psychiatric Epidemic in Copenhagen.

In Part 2, Whitaker digs down deep into the research pertaining to psychiatric medication and demonstrates quite clearly that the studies paint a very different picture that the prevalent common wisdom of the day.

What is the reason for this discrepancy? Misinformation? Disinformation?

‘Human Rights Are Fundamental to Good Mental Health Services’ by Paul Farmer

Unknown-2It’s good to see a reminder about Human Rights, in particular in relation to mental health services. This article which appeared in the Huffington Post is from the Chief Executive of the mental health charity Mind.

‘Thankfully most people never have to worry about their human rights. For many, they can seem fairly distant: something for lawyers and politicians to worry about, with little impact on our own everyday lives.

When we do hear about human rights in the media it’s usually via a story that links them with supposedly ‘undeserving’ groups or used as a proxy for anti-European views. But this picture hides the uncomfortable truth that people in the UK do still have their rights abused.

People with mental health problems often fall through the human rights safety net. The mental health system has extensive powers to detain people, to deprive them of their liberty, to restrain them and to force people to take life-changing drugs.

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Psychiatric Epidemic (Part 1): The Roots – Robert Whitaker

The Psychiatric Epidemic – does long-term use of medication decrease the chance of recovery?

PsykoVision in Denmark has recently translated and published Robert Whitaker’s book, “Anatomy of an Epidemic”. In honor of this, PsykoVison has invited Whitaker to speak at a small conference in Copenhagen.

This is Part 1: The Roots of the Epidemic, where Robert Whitaker guides us through the history of psychiatric medication and presents the scientific evidence that proves that the common wisdom about theses drugs is mostly based on falsehoods.

Vikram Patel: Mental health for all by involving all

Nearly 450 million people are affected by mental illness worldwide. In wealthy nations, just half receive appropriate care, but in developing countries, close to 90 percent go untreated because psychiatrists are in such short supply.

Vikram Patel outlines a highly promising approach – training members of communities to give mental health interventions, empowering ordinary people to care for others.

‘What’s Wrong With You? Nothing. What Has Happened to You? Something.’ by Dr Michael Cornwall

mcornwall‘Licensed Mental Heath professionals are trained and are required to find out what is wrong with people.

Unfortunately, 90 percent of the people who could benefit from professional mental health services, in my opinion, are suffering from feeling something is wrong with them. They already feel bad about themselves, like they are failing in life. They often feel a lot of guilt, shame and self-loathing. They are often already judging themselves.

They may have been overwhelmed  by losses, by life events, or have not had their crucial needs met, or have been unloved, neglected, bullied, abused or mistreated by family and others. Because of what has happened to them, they may struggle to not identify themselves as someone who’s lot in life is to be rejected or harmed by others.

Enter the room with them, the totally well-intentioned mental health professional. Too often that encounter adds to the person in need feeling like they are somehow strange, abnormal, defective or damaged goods. Because right away out comes the DSM and the search begins for a valid category of psychopathology symptom cluster. The questions begin – questions aimed at finding abnormal psychology symptoms so a diagnosis can be made and treatment begun as soon as possible.

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‘PROTEST PSYCHIATRY – My Newest Film, Free!’ by Daniel Mackler

‘I just made a new film, called PROTEST PSYCHIATRY, on the psychiatric survivor-lead protest of the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in New York City.  And I’m thrilled by how it turned out.  For starters, I filmed it on no budget whatsoever, created the entire film in three days, and have uploaded it straight to Youtube, so it’s freeeeeee!

This film, for me, was an experiment.  I have been feeling lost as a filmmaker for the past year or more.  I think the big reason has been the process:  it’s huge and expensive and time-consuming.  Each film has absorbed months, literally months, of my life.  Well, all that changed five days ago.

Five days ago (May 2) I was hit with the inspiration bug:  to make a film a new way.

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‘Psychiatry: We Need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Mental Health’ by Leah Harris

lharris‘Speech written for the protest of the American Psychiatric Association – May 4, 2014 

My name is Leah Harris and I’m a survivor. I am a survivor of psychiatric abuse and trauma. 

My parents died largely as a result of terrible psychiatric practice. Psychiatric practice that took them when they were young adults and struggling with experiences they didn’t understand. Experiences that were labeled as schizophrenia. Bipolar disorder.

My parents were turned from people into permanent patients. They suffered the indignities of forced treatment. Seclusion and restraint. Forced electroshock. Involuntary outpatient commitment. And a shocking amount of disabling heavy-duty psychiatric drugs. And they died young, from a combination of the toxic effects of overmedication, and broken spirits.

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‘When we reject the single story we regain a kind of paradise: Why Jubilant Stories matter!’ by Cormac Russell

UnknownHere is a really excellent blog from Cormac Russell of Nurture Development.

‘This blog reflects on the dangers of becoming trapped in the single story. This is a ubiquitous risk. From getting trapped in our personal history, to the dangers inherent in how media shape messages for our consumption, we all need the inoculation that a multiplicity of diverse and contradictory stories bring.

“Show a people as only one thing, over and over again and they become that one thing.”

These are the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian novelist who has dedicated herself to writing about the many stories of her life; her country and her continent. Her newest book, The Thing Around Your Neck, is a brilliant collection of stories about Nigerians struggling to cope within a corrupted context in their home country, and about the Nigerian immigrant experience.

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Myth of the chemical imbalance

Here is the second ‘Unrecognised Fact’ from the Council for Evidence-Based Psychiatry.

Psychiatric drugs have often been prescribed to patients on the basis that they cure a ‘chemical imbalance’. However, no chemical imbalances have been proven to exist in relation to any mental health disorder. There is also no method available to test for the presence or absence of these chemical imbalances.