‘What Happened?: What mental health is really about’ by Bill Saunders

Some of you will will know that I believe that the biomedical approach to mental health—using drugs to treat what are considered to be biochemical disorders—causes more harm than good.

Over this weekend, I have been reading an excellent book by Clinical Psychologist and educator Bill Saunders, a Perth-based man. What Happened?: What mental health is really about is well-worth reading.

‘If you consult a psychiatrist for assistance with a mental health problem you will be subjected to the “What’s wrong with you?” approach. You will be assessed, diagnosed and then treated, most commonly with a pill to combat your purportedly biologically based ill.

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Recovery as an Organising Construct – Bill White Interviews Larry Davidson

William L White and Larry Davidson are two of my recovery ‘heroes’. In this 2013 paper from his website, Bill interviews Larry about mental health recovery. As the former says, Larry was ‘one of the earliest pioneers in studying and promoting the concept of recovery related to severe mental illness.’ Here are Larry’s answers to two of Bill’s questions. [I have shortened the paragraphs for easier online reading.]

‘Bill White: How is the emergence of recovery as a new organizing paradigm changing the design and delivery of mental health services in the United States?

Larry Davidson: I think the biggest change that the recovery paradigm has introduced, and the change that poses the most difficulty for traditional clinicians to understand and accept, is that recovery is primarily the responsibility of the person rather than the practitioner.

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‘The Four Stages of Recovery’ by Mark Ragins

Here’s a blog I first posted back in May 2013, not long after this website first launched. Mark Ragins is a leading recovery figure in the mental health field. He was a pioneer in setting up MHA Village, a recovery community based in Los Angeles. His writings are well worth a read. Here is what Mark has to say about stages of recovery in an article entitled The Road to Recovery. What Mark says here is just as relevant to people recovering from addiction.

‘Recovery has four stages: (1) hope, (2) empowerment, (3) self-responsibility and (4) a meaningful role in life.

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Recovery from Mental Disorders, A Lecture from Patricia Deegan

Patricia Deegan PhD is a psychologist and researcher. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teeenager. For years, Patricia has worked with people with mental disorders in various ways, to help them get better and lead rewarding lives. This film trailer features a lecture by Patricia Deegan on the subject of her own route to recovery. [4’09”]

‘A Journey Toward Recovery: From the Inside Out’ by Dale Walsh

I’ve been away visiting family this weekend and haven’t had a chance to prepare a new set of blog posts for this week. I therefore thought I would re-post some of my old favourites from the past this week, which will give me time to prepare new ones for next week. 

One of my favourite articles about recovery was written by Dale Walsh back in 1996 which really summed up what recovery and recovery principles mean to a person who has been suffering from mental health problems. I thought I would highlight some of the main points here. 

The Problem
‘For many years I believed in a traditional medical model. I had a disease. I was sick. I was told I was mentally ill, that I should learn to cope with my anxiety, my depression, my pain, and my panic. I never told anyone about the voices, but they were there, too. I was told I should change my expectations of myself and realize I would always have to live a very restricted life.

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

I believe strongly in the words of this title. This blog first appeared on the Mad in America website and I posted it on this website in May 2014.

‘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.

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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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Factors Facilitating Recovery: Mutual Support

I continue with my series of blog posts relating to the factors that facilitate recovery from addiction, which I have detailed in the second last chapter of my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol AddictionThese factors are also relevant to recovery from mental health problems.

“Acceptance is just one aspect of the fifth key factor underlying recovery, being supported by others. People in recovery stress the importance of having someone believe in them, particularly when they don’t believe in themselves. They also stress the importance of having a person in recovery as a mentor or role model as they travel their journey.

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We are not the Slaves of our Brains: Peter Kinderman

In my last blog post, I criticised the approach of the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the USA in treating addiction as a medical disorder. Of course, it is not just addiction that is thought to be due to brain dysfunction by many neuroscientists, psychiatrists and other medical practitioners. Mental health problems are considered to reflect neurotransmitter dysfunction by many people in these professions. And Big Pharma (the drug industry) encourages this view.

I am reading a fascinating book at the moment, A Manifesto for Mental Health: why we need a revolution in mental health care by Clinical Psychologist and academic Peter Kinderman. I thought the following quote from Peter’s book to be particularly appropriate to what I said about brain and behaviour in my last blog post. [I have shortened Peter’s paragraphs to make the quote easier to read online.]

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Indigenous Trauma and Healing

images-1“We are like the tree standing in the middle of a bushfire sweeping through the timber. The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burnt, but inside the tree, the sap is still flowing and under the ground, the roots are still strong. Like the tree, we have endured the flames and yet we still have the power to be reborn.” Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Senior Australian of the Year, 2021

This section of the website focuses on the healing of trauma and historical trauma, in particular in relation to Indigenous peoples.  I will write a series of articles, which will appear in the order they are written (oldest first), in an attempt to take the reader on a journey into this fascinating field.

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Good relationships are the key to healing trauma | Karen Treisman | TEDxWarwickSalon

Dr Treisman talks about the importance of forging good relationships and effective society-wide systems when it comes to understanding and healing trauma. Dr Karen Treisman, a Clinical Psychologist, has worked across the globe with groups ranging from adopted children to former child soldiers to survivors of the Rwandan Genocide. TEDx Talks. [17’21”]

How Childhood Trauma Can Make You A Sick Adult | Big Think | Big Think

Dr. Vincent Felitti, the co-founder of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, details the connection between childhood trauma and negative health outcomes in adulthood. Big Think. [7’15”]

‘What is Recovery?’: Julie Repper & Rachel Perkins

In my blogs, I will explore the nature of recovery and will sometimes focus on the ideas of someone else (or a group of people). I’ve previously looked at how David Best has talked about ‘What is Recovery?’ David described key principles underlying addiction recovery.

In this blog, first posted on this website in June 2103, I am going to look at what Julie Repper and Rachel Perkins have to say about ‘What is Recovery?, as described in their excellent book Social Inclusion and Recovery: A Model for Mental Health Practice. They include a number of quotes about recovery, some of which I will use here.

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‘How Do I Know a Treatment Service is Recovery-oriented?’: Mark Ragins

Some treatment services today say they are doing recovery—using recovery-based care—when they are not in fact doing so. So how do you know that you are going to receive genuine recovery-based care when you sign up to a treatment service claiming to be recovery-oriented?

Here is some help from Mark Ragins, a leading figure in the mental health recovery field, about what to look for in a service offering recovering-based care. Mark may be talking about mental health recovery, but what he says is of relevance to addiction recovery. I first posted this blog back in June 2103.

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

I have just received two books written by Peter Kinderman from a publisher as part of a thank-you for reviewing a book proposal. The books look real good, so I thought I’d start this new part of the Resources with an excellent article by Prof Peter Kinderman which was posted on Mad in America in August 2014. I first posted Peter’s article on Recovery Stories at the same time.

‘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.

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Eleanor Longden: The Voices in my Head

Brilliant and very moving TED talk from Eleanor Longden.

‘To all appearances, Eleanor Longden was just like every other student, heading to college full of promise and without a care in the world. That was until the voices in her head started talking. Initially innocuous, these internal narrators became increasingly antagonistic and dictatorial, turning her life into a living nightmare.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia, hospitalized, drugged, Longden was discarded by a system that didn’t know how to help her.

Longden tells the moving tale of her years-long journey back to mental health, and makes the case that it was through learning to listen to her voices that she was able to survive.’ TED2013

Behind the Pages with Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD

“The vast majority of drug abuse is associated with earlier trauma. It’s very rare to see somebody who becomes a drug addict who not also has a history of abuse and neglect.” Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD

Behind The Pages host Diane Goshgarian interviews author Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD about his new book The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Interview recorded at 22-CityView Cambridge on October 08, 2014.

As I said last week, this book is essential reading if you are working in the mental health and addiction fields.

‘What does a person need in their environment in order to recover?’ by Mark Ragins

Mark Ragins believes there are four important things an environment must have to facilitate mental health recovery.

1. Relationships, as it is very difficult to recover alone. This is a little more complicated than you might think, as many people distance themselves from someone with mental health problems. A clinician may do this by talking about the illness rather than the person.

People must commit themselves to having a normal conversation with a person with mental health problems.

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‘Why We Need to Abandon the Disease-Model of Mental Health Care’ by Peter Kinderman

DSM-5__DSM-IV-TRExcellent blog in Scientific American by Professor Peter Kinderman. I agree with all that Peter says here.

‘The idea that our more distressing emotions such as grief and anger can best be understood as symptoms of physical illnesses is pervasive and seductive. But in my view it is also a myth, and a harmful one.

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, not only in how we understand mental health problems, but also in how we design and commission mental health services.

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Classic Blog – ‘What is Recovery?’: Julie Repper & Rachel Perkins

2007_0116walpole0097-220x164In my blogs, I will be exploring the nature of recovery and will sometimes focus on the ideas of someone else (or a group of people). I’ve previously looked at how David Best has talked about “What is Recovery?” David described key principles underlying addiction recovery.

In this blog, I am going to look at what Julie Repper and Rachel Perkins have to say about “What is Recovery?”, as described in their excellent book Social Inclusion and Recovery: A Model for Mental Health Practice. They include a number of quotes about recovery, some of which I will use here.

As Julie and Rachel point out the concept of mental health recovery did not come from professionals and academics. It emerged from the writings of people who themselves face the challenges of life with mental health problems. On the basis of such accounts Anthony (1993) described recovery as:

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