‘Lost Connections’ by Johann Hari, Part 2

In my last blog, I described Johann Hari’s enthralling and inspirational book Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions. This has to be one of the most important books I have read in the mental health field since I first started working in this arena over 40 years ago.

Johann asks himself, given all his new knowledge garnered during his research for the book, what he would say to his teenage self just before he popped his first antidepressant drug—he took the drugs for 13 years—if he could go back in time.

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‘Lost Connections’ by Johann Hari

One of the most interesting books I have read on mental health is Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari. Johann points out that depression is NOT caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, as is argued by drug companies and many biologically-oriented psychiatrists and  doctors.

Moreover, there is little, if any, scientific evidence that ‘antidepressants’ alleviate depression. [Some credible scientists suggest they give a temporary relief to a minority of users.] Johann talks about social factors that cause depression and considers new socially-related ways of alleviating the problem.

Johann describes seven forms of disconnection that cause depression:

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Some Magical Words About Recovery: Tim

I’d like you to ‘meet’ Tim, a medical doctor who found recovery from addiction. He is one of the Storytellers in my new book Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction. In the seven-year update to his original Story, ‘Doctor in Recovery’, Tim wrote some magical words about recovery that I include below. But first, a brief summary of Tim’s original story, using some of his sentences.

‘Growing up in an alcoholic home is a challenge for any child and I was no different. I found school a haven from the unpredictability of my home life. I started to drink to deal with the stresses of work after medical school. Over time, my drinking became worse and worse.’

One morning, as I took the cornflakes and a bottle of whiskey off a shelf together, I thought, ‘This isn’t quite right.’ My first experience of treatment was medical-based—it had prescriptions, but lacked hope! I experienced terrible anxiety and cravings. After relapsing, I made the ‘discovery’ that opiates abolish craving for alcohol… and developed an opiate addiction as well.

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‘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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‘Experiencing Recovery – Part 3′ by William L. White: Toward a Recovery Paradigm

More of Bill White’s talk that he gave at the Harvard Addiction Conference in 2012, the Norman E. Zinberg Memorial Lecture.

Bill talks about the disconnection between recovery and treatment, and asks what do we know about the science of recovery. And how do we define recovery? He tells us how little neuroscience has told us about recovery.

‘Living in an Age of Melancholy: When Society Becomes Depressed’ by Douglas Bloch

“Depression is not just a private, psychological matter. It is, in fact, a social problem … The fact that depression seems to be “in the air” right now can be both the cause and result of a level of a societal malaise that so many feel.” Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

dblochIn a recent Ted Talk, Depression is a Disease of Civilization, Professor Stephen Ilardi advances the thesis that depression is a disease of our modern lifestyle. As an example, Ilardi compares our modern culture to the Kaluli people – an indigenous tribe that lives in the highlands of New Guinea. |

When an anthopologist interviewed over 2,000 Kaluli, he found that only one person exhibited the symptoms of clinical depression, despite the fact the Kaluli are plagued by high rates of infant mortality, parasitic infection, and violent death. Yet, despite their harsh lives, the Kaluli do not experience depression as we know it.

Ilardi believes this is due to the fact that the human genome of the Kaluli (as well as all humans) is well adapated to the agrarian, hunter gatherer lifestyle which shaped 99% of people who came before us.

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‘The Globalization of Addiction’ by Bruce Alexander

globalizationofaddiction2‘Global society is drowning in addiction to drug use and a thousand other habits.

This is because people around the world, rich and poor alike, are being torn from the close ties to family, culture, and traditional spirituality that constituted the normal fabric of life in pre-modern times. This kind of global society subjects people to unrelenting pressures towards individualism and competition, dislocating them from social life.

People adapt to this dislocation by concocting the best substitutes that they can for a sustaining social, cultural and spiritual wholeness, and addiction provides this substitute for more and more of us.’

I’ve taken these words from Bruce Alexander’s website and can highly recommend his book, The Globalization of Addiction, which highlights the role of disconnection or dislocation in the development of addiction. This theory makes much more sense than the classical disease model focusing on the role of brain neurotransmitters in addiction.

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