Wednesday, 19 November 2008

"The Doctor Who Hears Voices" - An alternative approach to crisis

The documentary "The Doctor Who Hears Voices" can now be watched at YouTube - or below in this post - as a playlist. For months I've waited to get a chance to watch this film, that shows the British therapist Rufus May's approach to helping people in crisis, documenting his work with "Ruth", a young doctor who hears voices, over a period of twelve months.

His approach of trying to help people figure out the meaning behind their "symptoms" makes Rufus May, who has experienced crisis and has been labelled "schizophrenic" himself at the age of 18, a controversial figure in a system, that regards things like hearing voices a meaningless "symptom" of a brain disease.

Some takes in this film were a bit tough to watch for me, almost "too close for comfort". And I guess, others will experience the same. Nevertheless, this is an important film, that not only can contribute to a better understanding of what crisis really is about, but also takes on the discriminating dimension inherent in a concept that views crisis, "mental illness" as a chronic brain disease, meaningless and incurable, requiring life-long medication, and being a valid excuse for not giving the "mentally ill" person any chance to seek a higher education and/or be employed in a responsible position. Without doubt, it was a wise decision to let the true Ruth remain anonymous. I have seen comments on this film, that say, Rufus May is irresponsible as a therapist, and that Ruth should be reported to the NHS, being a danger to her patients, the "mentally ill" person she is.

In my opinion, we need a lot more Rufus Mays. And, apart from those who are directly affected by crisis themselves, and whom it may help to come to a better understanding of their experience, everyone who works in the mental health system should watch this film. Here it is:


See also:

Update to this post

My review at IMDb

Indlæg om filmen på dansk/Review in Danish


Abysmal Musings said...

Thanks Marian, interesting.

Gianna said...

thank you Marian,
I've been wanting to see this since it first came out...

Unfortunately I can't watch it now because my brain feels numb---yes NUMB not just foggy...

in any case I can't concentrate thanks to NOT having been treated like Ruth when I should have been.

I'll watch it once this withdrawal spell has passed...

thanks again.

Gianna said...

Hey Marian,
I've been watching this in bits and pieces...I'm almost brain can't handle video for some reason.

I just wanted to say what disturbs me most about this is that most people would be terrified and horrified and judgmental of what Rufus is doing you know if he still has his job...??

god, the truth is, the right thing to do is just too radical for most people...and that is a very very sad thing.

I'll try to finish soon..I'm really screwed in the head...though I managed to write a post I'm quite excited about posting based on my last comment to you on my blog...

it's on my issues around being a professional vs. a will be up tonight at midnight and I really want your feedback!

Marian said...

No doubt that people are terrified and judgemental. The first of, so far, two comments at IMDb says it all: " the film makers not have a duty to let the NHS know they have a schizophrenic doctor in their employ? She is potentially dangerous!" - Well, the commenter seems a bit, uhm, now I'll be judgemental, ignorant to me as s/he doesn't even seem to know the difference between psychiatry and psychology, calling Rufus May a psychiatrist. But then again, this is obviously how an average person views these things... sadly.

And yes, as far as I know, Rufus May still has his job.

Rufus May said...

Thanks for sharing this. Lots of people contacted me to say it was moving and inspiring. While others retreated to old prejudices. A million people watched it when it was first broadcast on channel 4. For me this relatively big audience justifies the way the film maker sets the film up quite dramatically, juxtaposing self determination against percieved risk, and describing me in quite tabloid terms. Its definitely provoked a range of strong reactions and got people exchanging views which is what we need more of!
There is generally a silence in the media and theatre that madness is meaningful and can be worked through without psychiatric medication if people get the right support from others.
You can read more about the film and my approach and related movements at
And yes I am still working in the NHS.
Thanks again Rufus