Saturday, 31 October 2009

A little Saturday fun

...and two more pieces of good advice for the person who inspired this post: 1. The comment field of a blog isn't the best place to have private conversations. Maybe you should consider e-mail instead. 2. Since you seem to have such great difficulty understanding English, consider another language!

Hope, I expressed myself clear enough this time, and won't get misunderstood, again again.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Some thoughts about A Beautiful Mind and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

Usually, I'm not a big fan of filmatizations. Especially when I've read the book before I watch the movie, and when the book's emphasis is about more complex psychological contexts watching the movie often has been a bit of a comedown. An example of such a, in my opinion, somewhat failed adaption is A Beautiful Mind with its rather exaggerated and twisted presentation of "hallucinations", meant to help the audience understand the phenomenon, but actually more fit for obtaining the very opposite effect. And indeed, some stylistic faux pas, one would think directors like Bergman and Tarkovsky for instance had taught the cinema to avoid a long time ago. But, well, on the one hand we have Bergman's and Tarkovsky's feel for subtle nuances, on the other Hollywood's preference for broader strokes of the brush. Like comparing apples and oranges.

Another thing that can give me a kind of comedown experience is when the movie consciously twists the text's "message", exploiting the book's, author's or protagonist's popularity in order to get its own "message" out. This too, A Beautiful Mind is an outstanding example to illustrate, abusing John Nash's celebrity status, letting his character state, that he takes the "newer medications", while we all know that the real John Nash didn't take neuroleptics other than when he was forced to, like during hospitalizations, and never after 1970.

The producers excused their distorting the historical facts, and said they didn't want people to toss out their drugs. In the meantime, the movie doesn't at any point directly state that John Nash didn't take drugs over longer periods. Thus there should be no need to mention the matter at all. Unless the idea was to exploit John Nash's popularity for the benefit of the psych drug industry. On the contrary, I'd say. Given the fact, that Nash did recover, while recovery on neuroleptics virtually never occurs, the truth should have been mentioned.

So, all in all it was with reservations that I ventured into watching the filmatization of Joanne Greenberg's novel I Never Promised You a Rose Garden the other day.

Except for in a single sequence, the visualization of Deborah's "hallucinations" is created in a more subtle way than John Nash's in A Beautiful Mind, and thus more endurable and credible. Never mind that it left me with vague associations to Timothy Leary and Woodstock, just as the decorations, costumes and requisits represent a somewhat strange blend of the 1950ies and the late 1970ies.

Although the movie's last sequences seem a bit rash - and it has to be considered that the standard length for movies, that rarely was exceeded, was 90 minutes back in 1977, the movie's production year - and, compared to the novel, a little superficially happy-ending-like, the movie manages to avoid the all too broad strokes of the brush, and, and this is really an achievement the subject taken into account, it avoids to descend into the melodramatic.

Based on a novel as complex as Joanne Greenberg's, a filmatization can hardly be anything but fragmentary. Nevertheless, the movie succeeds to make the best of its 96 almost-standard minutes, both because it focusses on some of the most essential themes of the novel, and not least because of the actors' brilliant performance (Kathleen Quinlan, Bibi Andersson - oh well, a Bergman-trained actress...), and I was positively surprised to see the novel's basic "message" unchanged.

A comment at YouTube says what the novel teaches us is "to have COMPASSION with the mentally ill". I replied: "What both the book and the movie teach us is that so-called "mental illness" is a choice (out of necessity though). Not a chronic brain disease. And they both teach us that we should make it possible for people to choose freedom, like Frieda Fromm-Reichmann made it possible for Joanne Greenberg. Instead of indefinitely locking them up in helplessness and dependency with toxic chemicals and hopeless messages about defective genes and chronic brain disorders."

I was surprised, but I'd also forgotten all about the movie's production year, 1977, that is about the fact that the movie was shot at a time in history when psych drugs didn't yet play the everything else overshadowing role they do play today, and when psychological and psycho-social causes still were considered. Interesting and refreshing in this context is that the dialogue doesn't get stuck in diagnoses and other crudenesses. Although "psychotic" appears from time to time, "schizophrenia" for instance isn't mentioned one single time throughout the entire movie. Probably also this a 1977-phenomenon.

Although it can by no means replace reading the novel itself, a filmatization of Joanne Greenberg's autobiographic novel that is well worth watching.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden at YouTube.

Thursday, 29 October 2009


Probably, posting this vid won't exactly make me more popular. But hey, if I was blogging for the sake of popularity, I'd blog about knitting, cooking or gardening, I suppose.

Monday, 19 October 2009

"... I'd rather have my own suffering than someone else's solution."

Yesterday, Ron Unger posted a link to an absolutely amazing article by British novelist Jeanette Winterson on his blog.

A few quotes:

"My creativity pulled me out of a hopeless childhood, and gave my life meaning and shape. But I have always had various forms of manic depression, (just can't bring myself to call it "bipolar"— whoever invented that dismal term must have been uni-polar—a condition I define as being permanently tethered to the banal)."

"...I'd rather have my own suffering than someone else's solution."

"Wounding—real or symbolic—is both mark and marker. It is an opening in the self, painful but transformative."

"We know from 100 years of psychoanalytic investigation that an early trauma, often buried or unavailable to consciousness, is the motif that plays through our lives. We meet it again and again in different disguises. We are wounded again in the same place. This doesn't turn us into victims. Rather, we are people in search of a transformation of the real."

Well, I could go on and on... Go read the whole article "In Praise of The Crack-Up" at, and this is amazing, this too, the Wall Street Journal's website.

Open letter to Oprah Winfrey in response to the programme about “The 7-Year-Old Schizophrenic”

19th October 2009

Open letter to Oprah Winfrey in response to the programme about “The 7-Year-Old Schizophrenic”

This is an open letter addressed to Oprah Winfrey and intended to be seen by the public through newspapers and other media, such as a letter to the editor, or included in websites, blogs, Facebook etc.

This is where you come in, please circulate this letter as widely as you can. It would be helpful if you copied me into any email you send, so I can keep track of where it is being posted. Also if the letter is published anywhere online or elsewhere, please let me know.

If you want to add your support, send me your name and some details about who you are and where you live. The more people who sign up the better.

Best wishes and my heartfelt thanks for the many suggestions and messages of support.

You can see the programme about Jani and the accompanying article here

You can download a copy of the open letter here

Paul Baker

Introduction: This letter has been written in response to the Oprah Winfrey programme about Jani "The 7-Year-Old Schizophrenic” broadcast on the 6th November 2009. We want to tell you about an alternative and more empowering approach to the experience of hearing voices. 85 members of the mental health community around the world, including voice hearers, relatives, citizens, academics and educators, therapists, nurses and researchers have been moved to sign this letter. Such is the level of concern we feel about the circumstances that Jani finds herself in.

Dear Oprah

We are writing this letter in response to your programme about “The 7-Year-Old Schizophrenic”. This concerned Jani, a child who hears voices, and was broadcast on the 6th October 2009.

We do so in the hope we can provide a more hopeful and positive alternative to the generally pessimistic picture offered by the members of the mental health community featured in the programme, and in the accompanying article on your website.
What upset us most and moved us to write the letter, is that, as a result of the programme, parents of children who have similar experiences to Jani will be left with the impression that they are powerless and will not be able to do anything constructive to help their children to come to terms with their experience of hearing voices.

For it is simply not true that nothing can be done.

We say this because we have been researching and working with adults and children like Jani and their parents for the last twenty years, and in doing so have reached very different conclusions from the ones reported on your programme.

We write this letter primarily for parents and carer givers, in the hope that it will enable them to develop a new and more empowering way of thinking about their children’s experiences, and that it will help them to find ways to help those children with their emotional development and with recovering from being overwhelmed by hearing voices.

Unfortunately, there is very little practical advice available about children who hear voices which addresses the needs of parents or other members of the family. This is a shame because they are the most important form of support to such children. So, we want you to know that there are some simple commonsense things that parents can do to help children who hear voices - even children in seemingly hopeless situations, like Jani.

We would like to make the following observations:

One of our founding members, Dr. Sandra Escher from the Netherlands, is an expert on the issue of children who hear voices. She has spent the last fifteen years talking to children who hear voices, and to their parents and carer givers. To date, on this issue, Sandra has carried out the most detailed and thorough research in the world. As a result of her work she offers a new perspective on what troubling voices may represent, and how parents can help a child cope if he or she hears voices.

First of all, from the research carried out into the experience of adults and children who hear voices it has become apparent that:

To hear voices in itself is a normal experience. Of course it is unusual, but at some time or another, many people hear a voice when nobody else is actually present.

However, it is possible for people to become ill as a result of hearing voices when they cannot cope with them.

For most children (60%) the voices disappear over time as the child develops and as they learn to cope with life's problems, and with the emotions and feelings involved with those problems, which led to the voices starting in the first place.

Several large-scale population (epidemiological) studies have shown that about 4 % of the population hear voices. Of this 4%, about 30% seek assistance from mental health services. Amongst children, however, even more hear voices (8%), and as with adults, about 30% are referred to the mental health services.

This means that there are apparently many more people who hear voices who do not require the support of mental health services than those who do. This is because the majority can cope with their voices and function well in everyday life.

Unfortunately, most of the information that we have about the experience of hearing voices comes exclusively from research with patients: people who obviously cannot cope with the voices and needed help. These are people who feel that the voices made them feel powerless and who were overwhelmed by them. This is the case for research about adults and children who are hearing voices.

However, in our research we found that a common theme in both groups (adults and children) is the high percentage of traumatic experiences that have been the trigger for hearing voices. In adults, around 75% began to hear voices in relationship to a trauma or situation that made them feel powerless. Examples of the kinds of traumas that trigger voices include the death of a loved one, divorce, losing a job, failing an exam, but also longer lasting situations like being physically, emotionally or sexually abused.

The percentage of traumatic experience found as the trigger to hearing voices was even higher amongst children. It stood at 85%, with some traumas specifically related to childhood. These traumas might include being bullied by peers or teachers, or being unable to perform at a certain level at school. Another commonly reported traumatic incident related to hearing voices was being admitted to a hospital for a long time due to a physical illness.

Generally, our research indicates that hearing voices is a reaction to a situation or a problem the child or young person cannot cope with. Voices act as messengers and it may well be a mistake to try to kill the messenger - for instance through administering medication.

Another striking finding is that what the voices say often indicates the problem which troubles the child, but in an elliptical manner. Take just one example: The voices told an 8-year-old boy to blind himself. This frightened his mother. But when we discussed whether there was something in the life of the boy he could not face, she understood the voices’ message. The boy could not cope with his parents’ problematic marriage. He did not want to see it.

In Jani's case, has anyone tried to establish why the rat is called "Wednesday", why the girl is called "24 Hours", and why is the cat called "400"? What do these mean for her? Are there reasons behind this? Furthermore, why did she want people to call her "Blue-Eyed Tree Frog" and "Jani Firefly".

Is this something she associated with safety, and if so why?

Our research also revealed that when full attention was given to the problems facing the child, he or she was able to establish a more constructive relationship with the voices. As a result children became less afraid of their voices. When a child is able to consider the problems that are at the root of his or her distress, and with the emotions and feelings involved, the child is no longer preoccupied with the voices.

Recently, Sandra conducted a three-year follow up study on eighty children who heard voices, aged between 8 and 19. Half of this group received mental health care because of their voices. However, the other half were not given any special care at all. She interviewed the children four times, at yearly intervals. By the end of the research period 60% of the children reported that the voices had disappeared.

Of course figures and statistics like this do not directly relate to Jani. But the overall message is that the chance that the voices might disappear are quite high.

We saw that when children have problems which bring on the experience of hearing voices, their ability to learn to cope with their voices is inhibited. However, if the problems were dealt with or the child’s situation changed - for example, because of changing schools - the voices disappeared.

It is important that we appreciate that the desire to make the voices disappear is a goal of the mental health care services and not necessarily that of the children themselves. There are some children who did not want to lose their voices. This is OK, for the most important thing is that the voices no longer remain at the centre of their attention. This is because, as the relationship with the voices change and became more positive, instead of hindering the child the voices start to take on an advisory role. If children find within themselves the resources to cope with their voices, and the emotions involved with hearing them, then they can begin to lead happier and more balanced lives.

The most important element in the process of positively changing a child's relationship with his or her voice is support from the family. Unfortunately, our research has shown that being in the mental health care system had no positive effect on the voices. However, we did find that what had a positive influence on how the child coped with hearing voices was being referred to a psychotherapist who accepted the reality of the voices and was prepared to discuss their meaning with the child.

We also saw that ‘normalising’ the experience can help parents to deal with the voices. Try not to think of it as a terrible disaster but rather as a signal for something that troubles your child and which can be resolved.

On the other hand, if parents cannot accept that hearing voices is fairly normal, but believe only that it is a symptom of an illness, and are afraid of them, then the child naturally picks up this feeling. Imagine for a moment if you were the child and were afraid of the voices, and when you looked for support from your parents you found that they were even more afraid of the voices than you. Obviously, this would put you under great pressure and probably mean that you would become reluctant to talk about your experiences at all.

There is a second problem. If a person is afraid of the voices then he or she can become obsessed simply by the fear of them. If one is distressed and anxious one cannot listen very well to the story a child tells about his or her experiences. This means that a sympathetic other may fail to pick up on the related emotions and problems that the voices represent.

In our experience, what helps children the most is a systematic approach to understanding the voices. So, in order to help we have developed an interview to help map the experience. This can be used as a way to understand the stress the child is under, and then to work together to find solutions for the problems raised by the experience of hearing voices.

We would like to offer this 10-point guide for parents, indicating what they can do if their child tells them that he or she hears voices:

1. Try not to over react. Although it is understandable that you will be worried, work hard not to communicate your anxiety to your child. 

2. Accept the reality of the voice experience for your child: ask about the voices, how long the child has been hearing them, who or what they are, do they have names, what they say, etc.

3. Let your child know that lots of children hear voices and that usually they go away after a while. 

4. Even if the voices do not disappear your child might learn to live in harmony with his or her voices 

5. It is important to break down your child's sense of isolation and difference from other children. Your child is special - unusual perhaps, but really not abnormal.

6. Find out if your child has any difficulties or problems that he or she finds very hard to cope with, and work on trying to fix those problems. Think back to when the voices first started. When did the voices arise for the first time? What was happening to your child when the voices first appeared? Was there anything unusual or stressful that might have occurred?

7. If you think you need outside help, find a therapist who is prepared to accept your child's experience and work systematically with him or her to understand and cope better with the voices. 

8. Be ready to listen to your child if he or she wants to talk about the voices. Use drawing, painting, acting and other creative ways to help the child to describe what is happening in his or her life. 

9. Get on with your lives and try not to let the experience of hearing voices become the centre of your child's life or your own. 
10. Most children who live well with their voices have supportive families around them who accept the experience as part of who their child is. You can do this too!

In conclusion we would like to stress that, in our view, labelling a seven-year-old child as schizophrenic and subjecting her to powerful psychotropic medication and periodic hospitalisation is unlikely to help resolve her problems with voices. Indeed, the opposite is most probable: Jani will simply become more powerless when it comes to finding ways to cope with her voices.

Because your well respected, award winning show reaches out to so many people, we are concerned that ther will be many viewers who will be left with the impression that the kind of treatment Jani receives is the only one available. If this is the case then there will be children who will be subjected to an unnecessary lifetime in psychiatric care because their families believe there are no alternatives. It is very important to recognise that hearing voices, in itself, is not a sign of psychopathology - and - voice hearers who are patients can be helped to recover from their problems by being supported in developing their own ways of coping with their emotions.

We hope you will give consideration to the possibility of making a future programme showing the other side of the story, one of hope, optimism and with a focus on recovery. Perhaps you could make a programme about a child with similar voice experiences to Jani, who has been helped to come to terms with her or his voices and to discuss with the child, parents and therapists how this was acheived? If there is anyway we could help make this happen, please contact us.

We look forward to hearing from you on the issues raised in our letter.

Yours sincerely,
Paul Baker 
INTERVOICE coordinator

Signed by 85 people from 14 countries, listed in order of the time they were received.

Dr. Sandra Escher - Board member of INTERVOICE, The Netherlands

Professor Marius Romme, psychiatrist, MD, PhD, President of INTERVOICE, The Netherlands 

Dirk Corstens, Social psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Chair of INTERVOICE, The Netherlands 

Paul Baker, coordinator of INTERVOICE, Spain 

Jacqui Dillon, consultant trainer and voice hearer, chair of Hearing Voices Network England, board member of INTERVOICE, UK 

Ron Coleman, consultant trainer and voice hearer, board member of INTERVOICE, UK 

Hywel Davies, chair of Hearing Voices Network Cymru (Wales), honorary board member of INTERVOICE; UK

Amanda R. E. Aller Lowe, MS, LPC, LCPC, QMRP - Agency Partner, Communities In Schools & Area Representative, The Center for Cultural Interchange, Aurora, Illinois, INTERVOICE supporter, USA

Adrienne Giacon, Secretary and Hearing Voices Network Support group facilitator Hearing Voices Network Aotearoa, INTERVOICE member, New Zealand 

Dr John Read, Associate Professor, Psychology Department, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand 

Ann-Louise S. Silver, MD, founder and past president, International Society for the Psychological Treatments of Schizophrenia and Other Psychoses (, ISPS-US, USA 

Matthew Morrissey, MA, MFT, Board Member, MindFreedom International, Northern California Coordiator, ISPS-US, San Franciso, USA

Irene van de Giessen, former voice hearer and foster-daughter of Willem van Staalen and Willem van Staalen, voice integrating foster-father of Irene, The Netherlands

Olga Runciman, consultant trainer and voice hearer (BSc psychiatric nurse and graduate student in psychology), INTERVOICE member, Denmark

Professor Wilma Boevink, Chair of Stichting Weerklank (Netherlands Hearing Voices Network), Professor of Recovery, Hanze University; Trimbos-Institute (the Dutch Institute of Mental Health and Addiction), Netherlands

Marian B. Goldstein, voicehearer, (fully recovered thanks to trauma-focussed therapy, the opportunity to make sense of the voices) INTERVOICE supporter, Denmark 

Professor Dr J. van Os, Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, INTERVOICE supporter, Netherlands 

Virginia Pulker, Mental health Occupational Therapist with young people with psychosis, recovery promoter, HVN Australia, Northern Ireland and England. INTERVOICE supporter, UK/Australia 

Professor Richard Bentall, PhD, Chair Clinical Psychology, University of Bangor, INTERVOICE supporter, Wales, UK 

Alessandra Santoni, professional working in a Mental Health Service of Milan, voice hearer and facilitator of a hearing voices group, INTERVOICE supporter,Italy 

Geraldo Peixoto and Dulce Edie Pedro dos Santos, São Vicente - Est. São Paulo - INTERVOICE supporter, Brasil 
Joanna & Andrzej Skulski, INTERVOICE supporters, Polska 

Darby Penney, INTERVOICE supporter and President, The Community Consortium, Inc., Albany, NY, USA 

Jacqueline Hayes, researcher at Manchester University about hearing voices in 'non-patients' and therapist, UK 

Phil Virden, MA, MA, Executive Editor, Asylum Magazine, UK 

Matthew Morris, Mental Health Locality Manager, East Suffolk
Outreach Team, Suffolk Mental Health Partnerships NHS Trust, INTERVOICE supporter, UK 

Ros Thomas, Young Peoples Worker, Gateway Community Heath, Wodonga Victoria, INTERVOICE supporter, Australia 

Dr. Rufus May Dclin/ Consultant Clinical Psychologist, INTERVOICE supporter, UK 

Dr. Simon Jones, INTERVOICE supporter, UK 

Dr. Louis Tinnin, Psychiatrist, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA 

Linda Gantt, PhD, Intensive Trauma Therapy, Inc., USA 

Burton Norman Seitler, Ph.D., New Jersey Institute for training in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, Child and Adolescence Psychotherapy Studies 

Ron Bassman, PhD., Founding member of International Network Towards Alternatives for Recovery (INTAR), Past president of The National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy, USA

Michael O'Loughlin, Adelphi University, NY, USA 

Dorothy Scotten, Ph.D., LCSW, USA 

Marilyn Charles, Ph.D., The Austen Riggs Center, USA

Bex Shaw, Psychotherapist, London, UK

Ira Steinman, MD, author of “TREATING the 'UNTREATABLE' : Healing in the Realms of Madness”, USA

Mike Lawson, Ex Vice Chair National MIND UK 1986-1992, INTERVOICE supporter, UK 

Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D., B.C.S.A., International Center for Humane Psychiatry, USA 

Ron Unger LCSW, therapist, USA 

Daniel B Fisher (Boston, MA): Person who recovered from what is called schizophrenia, Executive Director National Empowerment Center; National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer/survivor Org., member of Interrelate an international coalition of national consumer/user groups, community psychiatrist, Cambridge, Mass., USA 

Mary Madrigal, USA

Paul Hammersley, University of Manchester, INTERVOICE supporter, UK 

Phil Benjamin, mental health nurse and voices consultant, Australia

Eleanor Longden, Bradford Early Intervention in Psychosis Sevice, England, UK

Karen Taylor RMN, director Working to Recovery, Scotland, UK 

Bill George, MA, PGCE, Member of the Anoiksis Think Tank, Netherlands

Dr Andrew Moskowitz, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK

John Exell, BA(Hons), Dip Arch, voice-hearer, sculptor, artist, writer, poet, UK. 

Tineke Nabben, a voice hearer who has learned to cope with her voices and student, learning to help other children and parents to cope with their voices. Germany 

Marcello Macario, psychiatrist, Community Mental Health Centre of Carcare, Italy, INTERVOICE supporter, Italy

Ian Parker, Professor of Psychology, co-director of the Discourse Unit, Manchester Metropolitan University, England, UK

David Harper, PhD, Reader in Clinical Psychology, School of Psychology, University of East London, England, UK

Wakio Sato:, representative of the Hearing Voices Network - Japan. President of the Japanese Association of Clinical Psychology. The representative of an NPO named "Linden" for community mental health in Konko town, Okayama prefecture, Japan 

Suzette van IJssel, Ph.D., spiritual counsel and voice hearer, Utrecht, The Netherlands 

Jeannette Woolthuis, psycho-social therapist working with children hearing voices, The Netherlands

Dr. Louise Trygstad, Professor Emerita, University of San Francisco School of Nursing, USA

Erik Olsen, Board member ENUSP European Network of Users (x)-users and Survivors of Psychiatry and Executive Committee in European Dsability Forum (EDF)

Astrid Zoetbrood, recovered from psychosis and voices, the Netherlands

Christine Brown, RMN, Hearing Voices Network Scotland, INTERVOICE supporter, UK 

Rachel Waddingham,- Manager of the London Hearing Voices Project (inc. Voice Collective: Young People's Hearing Voices Project), trainer and voice-hearer, UK

Joel Waddingham, Husband and supporter of someone who hears voices, sees visions and has other unusual experiences, UK 

Professor Robin Buccheri, RN, MHNP, DNSc, University of San Francisco, CA, USA

Jørn Eriksen. Board member of INTERVOICE, the Danish Hearing Voices Network and The International Mental Health Collaboration Network, Denmark

Douglas Holmes, voice hearer working in a Mental Health Service in Darlinghurst, Sydney, and facilitator of a hearing voices group, INTERVOICE supporter, Australia 

Matthew Winter, Student Mental Health Nurse and INTERVOICE supporter

Anneli Westling, Relative of a voice hearer from Stockholm, Sweden 

Lia Govers, recovered voice hearer, Italy

Molly Martyn, MA in Clinical Mental Health, Hearing Voices Network of Denver, USA 

Tsuyoshi Matsuo, MD, INTERVOICE supporter, Japan

Janet M. Patterson RN, BSN, USA

Odette Nightsky, Sensitive Services International, Australia 

Barbara Belton, M.S., M.S. trauma survivor who has recovered and former behavioral health professional, USA 

Luigi Colaianni, PhD sociologist, researcher, Community Mental Health Centre, Milano, Italy

Teresa Keedwell, Voice Hearer Support Group, Palmerston North, New Zealand 

Maria Haarmans, MA, Canadian Representative INTERVOICE, Canada

Ami Rohnitz, Voice hearer, Sweden 

Sharon Jones, University of York, INTERVOICE Supporter, England, UK

Gail A. Hornstein, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Mount Holyoke College, USA

Siri Blesvik, INTERVOICE supporter, Norway

Lynn Seaton, mental health nurse, Scottish Hearing Voices Network and INTERVOICE supporter, UK 

Rozi Pattison, Clinical Psychologist, CAMHS, Kapiti Health Centre, PARAPARAUMU, New Zealand

Suzanne Engelen, Experience Focussed Counselling Institute (efc) and member of INTERVOICE. She is an expert by experience and also works for Weerklank (Dutch Hearing Voices Network) and the TREE project, The Netherlands

Further information:

INTERVOICE - The international community for hearing voices.
Working across the world to spread positive and hopeful messages about the experience of hearing voices.
We have found there are many people who hear voices, yet are not troubled by them or have found their own ways of coping with them outside of psychiatric care. This is very significant as it shows you can hear voices and remain healthy.
However, there are also significant numbers of voice hearers who are overwhelmed by the negative and disempowering aspects of the experience. Many are diagnosed as having a serious mental health problem such as schizophrenia – a harmful and stigmatizing concept, in our eyes.
The experience of hearing voices prevents some people from living a fulfilled life in society (especially those in psychiatric and social care) and can lead to having a very poor quality of life. We seek to enable voice hearers troubled by their experience to change their relationship and attitude to their voices and to take up their lives again. We also want to ensure that our innovatory approach is better known by professionals, family members and friends.
We have spent the last 20 years trying to better understand why some people can cope with the experience and others can’t. We have discovered that those people who are not able to cope with their voices, on the whole have not been able to cope with the traumatic events that lay at the roots of their voice hearing experience.
Many voices can be unthreatening and even positive. “It’s wrong to turn this into a shameful problem that people either feel they have to deny or to take medication to suppress.” - Professor Marius Romme

See articles about our work with children here:

Silencing unwelcome voices in children, The Guardian, 22/11/2001 
A psychosocial therapist in Holland has adapted an innovative approach to voice hearing to help very young children dispel the imaginary friends that become realistic foes. Read article here
'She was like a personal coach': An account of hearing voices as a child, The Guardian, 16/11/2001. Read article here
Most children hearing voices stop within three years, Royal College of Psychiatry, 03/09/2002. Read article here

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Beyond redemption? - Critique of an article by Peter Stastny on treatment for first "psychotic episodes".

Via Gianna's blog, Beyond Meds, I just came across an interesting article by Peter Stastny on Although I widely agree to Peter Stastny's observations, two things bother me about his article. One of them is the misconception I see also Peter Stastny obviously holds, that Scandinavia must be paradise when it comes to services offered by the mh system. This is not so! I left the following comment at the post:

Peter Stastny here makes it sound like living in Scandinavia almost is a guarantee for more humane and recovery-oriented care to be provided when a person goes through a "psychotic" crisis. Nothing could be more wrong. "Need adapted treatment", also called the "Vestlapland's model", is, as the name suggests, restricted to a region in Finland, namely Vestlapland. There have been other recovery-oriented treatment approaches that were inspired by the Vestlapland's model, respectively by Soteria and similar projects. For instance the Swedish Parachute Project. All of them have been geographically restricted to more or less minor areas, and many of them are not employed anymore today.

It is true, that community care widely has replaced especially long-term hospitalizations. However, a closer look at how this community care does - NOT - work, shows that it is in fact nothing but what you might call "hospitalization in the community", or, more precisely, on the margins of community. Today, the biological model and thus the almost exclusive reliance on psychotropic drugs as "treatment" dominates psychiatric "care" in Denmark and Norway entirely. In hospital as well as in the community. People aren't warehoused behind the brick walls of a locked ward. They are chemically restrained warehoused in halfway houses respectively in an assisted living facility - more often than not of poor quality; there have been numerous scandals about gross overmedication as well as intolerably filthy and run-down environments here in Denmark over the past years - or, if they're lucky, in their own apartment and at the nearest drop-in center.

About 90 per cent of those who enter the system and receive a "psychosis" or "schizophrenia" label end up as revolving door patients, and on disability.

De-institutionalization has widely failed in Denmark, because it was (mis-)used in order to save the state money, not in order to provide more recovery-oriented services to people in crisis. In the meantime, the overall failure of community mental health care has Danish politicians ask for the re-establishment of hospital beds on locked and secured wards, for the implementation of AOT-laws, as well as for several other initiatives, such as the re-establishment of seclusion rooms, that inevitably will bomb mental health services in this country back to the good old asylum-days. It doesn't occur to anyone that the problem may not be the form - community instead of hospitalization - but the contents - recovery-oriented services instead of drugs, drugs, and even more drugs.

The situation in Norway, Sweden, and as far as I am informed also in Iceland is that AOT-laws already do exist, and are excessively used, and that at least the mh system in Norway has hospitalization facilities at its disposal so as to be able to incarcerate a vast number of people long-term. Norway also is the European country with most incidents of involuntary hospitalization and "treatment", as far as I know, Denmark holds a sad third or fourth position on this list.

By and large, also the psychiatric establishment in Scandinavia has been successful defending a purely biological, and in addition widely on coercion based, "treatment" model, and preventing alternatives from as much as being publicly discussed, or even becoming known to a broader public. IMHO, our system is anything but a model system. And it looks like it will be even less so in the future.

The other disagreement I have concerning Peter Stastny's article is that also he, as most professionals, seems to believe that when people first had their second, third, or umpteenth "psychotic break" they're beyond redemption. Why his article entirely focusses on alternative treatment options for first "psychotic episodes". I can't tell you exactly how many times I had a "psychotic break" before I eventually received the guidance that made it possible for me to, I dare say once and for all, resolve crisis, but this last of my crises certainly wasn't my first one.

I have no doubt that crisis is "addictive", and habit-forming. The longer and more often someone employs a certain pattern of behavior, certain coping strategies, the more ingrained, probably also neurologically, it becomes. On the other hand, my compared to a teen or twenty-tear-old relatively more extensive life experience also was a huge advantage to me throughout the process of working things out. I'd say, all in all, my chances to recover were maybe different in kind but no smaller than any "first psychotic break" individual's.

No one should ever be regarded "beyond redemption". Recovery is possible and should be aimed at, no matter how many "psychotic breaks" someone has experienced. The services Peter Stastny, and others, are so eager to make available to people who experience their first crisis ought to be available to everyone, disregarded whether they're going through their first, second, or umpteenth crisis.

Monday, 12 October 2009

"Psykisk sårbar" - "Mentally vulnerable". The new, politically correct term in Denmark

There's a new trend emerging here in Denmark. The politically correct term for people in emotional distress is no longer "mentally ill" (psykisk syg) or "insane" (sindssyg - yup, both the "experts" and the media have a preference for this truly value neutral term, especially when it comes to "the schizophrenics"), it is "mentally vulnerable". Beautiful, huh? Like renaming the house slave as housekeeper, or lobotomy as psycho-surgery... Everybody of course just loooves this new term. It sounds so empathetic, so loving and caring, doesn't it?

One of those who are at the leading edge concerning this linguistic revolution is former Danish prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, who recently launched one more amazing website (check out the vid - and cry; no need to speak Danish btw, his facial expression says it all) for, yeah, "mentally vulnerable" people and their relatives.

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, whose daughter suffered from "depression", and eventually felt so respectfully listened to, also by her father, that she couldn't bear it anymore - certainly because of the "illness" - and ended her life, now wants to compensate for this tragic loss by publicly pleading the "mentally vulnerables' " cause. As we all know, these, uhm, people don't really have a voice of their own (that's probably why Poul Nyrup didn't hear the least, although his daughter screamed and shouted right into his ears), so they need every NAMI-parent available to speak for them.

"Schizophrenia is a persistent and serious mental illness," it reads on Poul Nyrup's brand new website. Among a whole bunch of other lies. It seems, Poul Nyrup is in dire need of a Truth Injection. Maybe I'll take pity on him and e-mail him one, one of these days. Being no more "mentally vulnerable" than anybody else, and thus able to speak for myself. But frankly I fear, Poul Nyrup's condition is rather persistent and serious, with treatment-resistant denial being one of the core symptoms.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

"What a show!" - Oprah is going to feature Jani Schofield

"An article in the LA-Times, a radio interview (...) a book, hope for a movie contract,..." I forgot to mention something of the most sought-after by every true narcissist: An appearance on The Oprah Show.

Yeah, Michael Schofield made it! Oprah is going to feature Jani's absolutely unique case in her show. Congrats Michael! Here's to you:

(Indeed, the very last words Peter Gabriel sings in this vid are: "Go to hell!"...)

Stephany has written more about the upcoming event here.

Concerning Stephany's doubts whether the show will be one-sided pro-drugs, just watch the Pfizer-ad at the top of this page.