By Will Hall — Aren’t most of the people we work with, I ask, really facing the problem of poverty in our society? Don’t homelessness, the criminal justice system, child abuse, lack of jobs with adequate pay, lack of funding for substance abuse programs — aren’t these the issues we see on a day to day basis when we talk with people diagnosed with a mental disorder? Aren’t these the “stressors” we know that turn coping day to day into collapse and crisis? And among those who are more middle class and privileged, isn’t there a terrible stress around lack of adequate childcare, a heavy consumer and student debt, a scramble to keep up with 60 hour work weeks, a despair about the future in a world of ecological extinction, fear of falling behind, substance problems, failure to prevent or heal child abuse, and a media-saturated and materialist world that seems to have no real space to be human? — When we sit and listen to people we find a society in crisis from multiple issues, a crisis that is affecting everyone. … [click on title for full view]
Again and again I am told the ‘severely mentally ill’ are impaired and incapable, not quite human. I am told they are like dementia patients wandering in the snow, with no capacity and no cure, not to be listened to or related to. I am told they must be controlled by our interventions regardless of their own preferences, regardless of the trauma that forced treatment can inflict, regardless of the simple duty we have to regard others with caring, compassion, and respect, regardless of the guarantees of dignity we afford others in our constitution and legal system. I am told the “high utilizers” and “frequent flyers” burden services because they are different than the rest of us. I am told the human need for patience doesn’t apply to these somehow less-than-human people. And when I finally do meet the people carrying that terrible, stigmatizing label of schizophrenia, what do I find? I find – a human being. A human who responds to the same listening and curiosity that I, or anyone, responds to. … [click on title to read the rest]
By Will Hall — “Depressed.” — It’s a word I put in quotes because, like so many words we use to describe our mental health experiences, it has as much power to confuse as it does to clarify. We live in a culture bombarded by media and sped up by rapid-fire social interactions. It’s definitely useful to grab hold of a simple, short, sound-bite term, to quickly describe what we are feeling or suffering. “Depression” is such a word – it evokes and encapsulates, conjures the images of that ugly pit of despair that can drive so many to madness and suicide. Yet at the same time the words we use, strangely, become like those pens deposited in medical offices and waiting rooms around the world: ready at hand, easily found, familiar — and tied to associations, marketing and meanings we were only dimly aware were shaping how we think. … [click on title for the rest of the post]
Celebrated US President Abraham Lincoln also suffered from life-threatening depression. Did he view his “melancholy” as a treatable illness, as a punishment from God — or as a source of his gifts? How did Lincoln’s extraordinary leadership abilities arise from his struggle with extreme pain?
Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness, explores the famous President’s battle with despair, suicide, and intense sorrow, and discusses what people with depression – and the medical establishment empowered to treat them – can learn from Lincoln’s suffering. … [click on title for the rest of the post]
We’ve learned to co-exist with different beliefs as one of our most cherished values of tolerance in a multicultural society. That lesson can be key for encountering the different realities in situations where someone is being called psychotic, delusional, schizophrenic or mentally ill. Respect and support may stretch our thinking, but can be vital to recovery. Cross-culturally, we accept that even the most strange or unfamiliar belief has value, meaning, and purpose in the person’s life. We give it the benefit of the doubt. The same is true of bizarre beliefs that get called psychosis. And using diagnostic language instead can amount to the same kind of put-down that goes with cultural supremacy and racist insult.… [click on title for the rest of the post]
By Will Hall
Dear Post-traumatic Disorders Program, Psychiatric Institute of Washington,
A close and dear friend is dead.
She was a patient at your hospital, and a few days ago she sent me this text:
“I left the trauma program after 48 hours. I was appalled at the environment, the terrible therapy and being treated like a prisoner. I went there looking for healing and support and found the experience even more traumatic. Western mental health systems are dehumanizing and insane.”
That was the last message I ever received from her. I got a call that my friend’s body was found in the river: she drowned herself. … [click on title for the rest of the post]
Is schizophrenia really an “incurable illness” — or a state of chronic terror? Are there ways for psychotherapy to reach people in different realities? And does Freudian psychoanalysis offer a humane and empowering approach?
Bert Karon, psychoanalyst since 1955, co-author of the classic textbook Psychotherapy of Schizophrenia, and Professor of Clinical Psychology at Michigan State University, outlines psychoanalysis and discusses how his talking cure helps people diagnosed psychotic and schizophrenic. … [click on title for the rest of the post]
Are there ways to reach people in states of madness? How do talking with ghosts, hearing voices, and seeing visions – as well as enduring family turmoil – relate to psychotic crisis?
When Dina Tyler discovered the meaning of life in an altered state, the treatment she received only inflicted further trauma. Dina instead embraced her madness as a guiding force for recovery, and found a way to leave labels and medications behind. Today she works as a counselor to youth experiencing psychosis, communicating across different realities with people driven away from traditional care. … [click on title to read and view more]
By Will Hall
Urban shamanism is a broader approach, rediscovering the roots of tribal mind for modern people and putting ancient patterns to use in new forms. Urban shamans reinvent spirit healing for ourselves. All of us have ancestral links to shamanic cultures if we go back far enough, because all societies have origins in tribalism. There are no rules and no end to learning and creativity, as we reawaken our indigenous minds and recreate spirit healing in new ways. … [click on title for the rest of the post]
How do we recover from childhood violence? When Lauren Spiro was 14, her father was murdered. Eighteen months later, she began to have unusual spiritual experiences and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Today she works to promote peace and healing in communities, fulfilling the vision she had in her extreme state. Lauren is co-director of Emotional CPR, associate director of the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery, and her new memoir is Living For Two: A Daughter’s Journey from Grief and Madness to Forgiveness and Peace. … [click on title for the rest of the post]