Combat arts for recovery

Several people I have corresponded with through this blog have positive things to say about becoming a disciple of martial arts. One such person is Jane Alexander, who studied internal martial arts — ba gua, tai chi chuan and chi kung healing under Master Bruce Francis.

Another such person is Skyblue Cure. In one of his blogs (below) he explains why movement therapies are more important than “talk” therapies, although he believes that his emotional cure came first, allowing him later to benefit from martial arts. He cautions against martial arts for someone likely to suffer a psychotic break. I’m not judging the validity of martial arts for someone who has been diagnosed with e.g., schizophrenia, but it’s good to be aware that there are people who think MA has been helpful in their own particular case.

“Nowadays, I see psychotherapy is regarded as a “support system” and referred to as “talk therapy”. I see this in all the public information distributed by governmental mental health organizations in North America. It is obvious that the definition of the term itself has been modified and co-opted by the pharmaceutical companies in the selling of their drugs as the only solution for the human condition. “Psychotherapy” has become a support system to ensure “compliance” for patients to take their drugs.

There is the tendency to think of it as a means to protect the sensitive rather that to transform the sensitive into the tough.

Psychotherapy is more than “Talk”. Eclectic, confrontative, Gestalt, bio-energetic psychotherapy involves emotional expression and doing things with the body that changes the nature of emotional expression. This affects both the body and the emotions, is permanent in effect and is far more than the verbal “talk” function of the voice box.

Changing the nature of emotional expression can be done in many ways, martial arts being one of these ways. In my blog I have spoken about the benefits of taking the body/mind approach through other activities such as sound therapy, the Alexander Technique, Family Constellation Therapy. Another of my blog reader wrote of the benefits of Direct Confrontation Therapy. Then there is Low Expressed Emotion, another excellent approach to lowering the emotional tone in our everyday interactions. Martial arts are also an excellent way to work with issues of unresolved anger that create energy blockages.

So I was intrigued to learn through MindFreedom, that Corinna West, a former Olympic athlete, has created a program called Combat Arts for Recovery. Her program is one of 12 semi-finalists out of 55 entries to the Team USA grants competition. If chosen as the winner, her program stands to earn $12,000 to promote combat sports for mental health issues.

Please read what she says about the program, and consider voting for this worthwhile endeavor. 

Local sports clubs are providing scholarships to people with emotional difficulties. Mental health service providers can use advocacy skills to encourage their doctors to prescribe exercise instead of medication. This is a first step in my business’ goal of providing a mental health system so cheap that people in recovery can pay for it themselves. This will include almost all peer provided services and no medications. I plan for outcomes that should rival the Open Dialogue model in Finland where most people completely recover without even getting labeled.

Please vote for our program at You can vote once per day per email address until September 18. Right now we are a little behind and we need as many votes as possible. Once you’ve voted for Combat Arts for Recovery the first day it should just be three clicks the other six days.

For more information about the program or for more detailed voting instructions, check my website at:

Corinna West, MS, CPS
Creative Director, Wellness Wordworks
PO Box 172351, Kansas City, KS 66117

The King is wearing no clothes, and I bought his suit!

More commentary in the Guardian on wearing the the new black in Europe (a mental health diagnosis).

A new survey from the European College of Psychopharmacology, a meta-analysis of a gathered mass of earlier research, reports that a staggering 164.8 million Europeans – 38.2% of the population – suffer from a mental disorder in any year

A couple of thoughts came to mind when I read the article. One, is that there is no mention of schizophrenia. By omitting “schizophrenia,” it’s an easy sell to convince readers that, yes indeed, the mental health industry has gone too far in labelling everyone because these labels can be short hand terms that we toss around for people we are just trying to make a bit of fun of, and who we really don’t think are “clinical.”

Of course, the prevalence of schizophrenia is the same as it’s always been (about 1 in 100), so it appears that schizophrenia is not part of this label creep. But the prevalence of its near identical sibling, bipolar disorder, has skyrocketed. I think a large part of this upward trend for bipolar, is not just the resulting side effects of increased use of drugs which can trigger mania, but has to do with the fact that nobody wants to be called “schizophrenic.” It’s so much more acceptable to be “bipolar.”

Keep in mind that psychiatrists want to OWN schizophrenia. It’s their bread and butter, after all. So far, they manage to deliberately obscure the fact that many people actually RECOVER from this state, usually by taking themselves outside of the psychiatric model of the so-called “disease.” When the public appears to catch on to this diagnostic label creep for relatively mild neuroses, psychiatry has always succeeded in the past and will continue to succeed in future, to convince the public that schizophrenia is a true mental illness. And, the public will nod its collective head in agreement that schizophrenia is a terrible scourge and there is no remedy but compassion for this dreadful disorder of the brain.

With all the focus on biochemical solutions to the problems of the psyche, brought to you by none other than big pharma, I have been waiting for my chance to repeat what John McCarthy ruefully says (in his delightful Irish way) about his reliance on psychiatry for 20/30 years. “The King is wearing is no clothes and I bought his suit.” Please read the full interview at Beyond Meds.

In the interview, McCarthy echoes Ron Unger’s post, about trying too hard to recover.

McCarthy says: “But God what I have learned from the upside: madness is an emotional feeling just like joy, love, happiness, sadness, all the others, but I shut the door in its face as I was taught to do. Rejected all it had to give, and it, madness got mad at me. I fought it, it fought back and it won. I learned so painfully and slowly, to let it in, be comfortable with it, and it has rewarded me for my kindness to it.

Beautifully said.

Abnormal is the new black

I received this message in my in-box from Vince Boehm, a psych rights activist:

**** note: This is a private list. I send out alerts, useful news items, and comment to a group of mental health professionals, decision makers and activists. (OK to repost and to include this header and comments). If you do not want to receive any of these emails, please let me know. To preserve privacy, I blind copy the entire list. Vince Boehm ****

While this article is obviously framed in terms favorable to the industry, and similar reports with like numbers have been published for the U.S. market as well, I have a hypothetical question.

With the percentages of labeled people seemingly creeping up relentlessly towards a 51% majority, what happens when these numbers cross that line?

Will then the “abnormal” become “normal”?

Just a thought.


Nearly 40 percent of Europeans suffer mental illness

LONDON (Reuters) – Europeans are plagued by mental and neurological illnesses, with almost 165 million people or 38 percent of the population suffering each year from a brain disorder such as depression, anxiety, insomnia or dementia, according to a large new study.

With only about a third of cases receiving the therapy or medication needed, mental illnesses cause a huge economic and social burden — measured in the hundreds of billions of euros — as sufferers become too unwell to work and personal relationships break down.

“Mental disorders have become Europe’s largest health challenge of the 21st century,” the study’s authors said.

At the same time, some big drug companies are backing away from investment in research on how the brain works and affects behavior, putting the onus on governments and health charities to stump up funding for neuroscience.

“The immense treatment gap … for mental disorders has to be closed,” said Hans Ulrich Wittchen, director of the institute of clinical psychology and psychotherapy at Germany’s Dresden University and the lead investigator on the European study.

“Those few receiving treatment do so with considerable delays of an average of several years and rarely with the appropriate, state-of-the-art therapies.”

Wittchen led a three-year study covering 30 European countries — the 27 European Union member states plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway — and a population of 514 million people.

A direct comparison of the prevalence of mental illnesses in other parts of the world was not available because different studies adopt varying parameters.

Wittchen’s team looked at about 100 illnesses covering all major brain disorders from anxiety and depression to addiction to schizophrenia, as well as major neurological disorders including epilepsy, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

The results, published by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ENCP) on Monday, show an “exceedingly high burden” of mental health disorders and brain illnesses, he told reporters at a briefing in London.

Mental illnesses are a major cause of death, disability, and economic burden worldwide and the World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, depression will be the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease across all ages.

Wittchen said that in Europe, that grim future had arrived early, with diseases of the brain already the single largest contributor to the EU’s burden of ill health.

The four most disabling conditions — measured in terms of disability-adjusted life years or DALYs, a standard measure used to compare the impact of various diseases — are depression, dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, alcohol dependence and stroke.

The last major European study of brain disorders, which was published in 2005 and covered a smaller population of about 301 million people, found 27 percent of the EU adult population was suffering from mental illnesses.

Although the 2005 study cannot be compared directly with the latest finding — the scope and population was different — it found the cost burden of these and neurological disorders amounted to about 386 billion euros ($555 billion) a year at that time. Wittchen’s team has yet to finalize the economic impact data from this latest work, but he said the costs would be “considerably more” than estimated in 2005.

The researchers said it was crucial for health policy makers to recognize the enormous burden and devise ways to identify potential patients early — possibly through screening — and make treating them quickly a high priority.

“Because mental disorders frequently start early in life, they have a strong malignant impact on later life,” Wittchen said. “Only early targeted treatment in the young will effectively prevent the risk of increasingly largely proportions of severely ill…patients in the future.”

David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacology expert at Imperial College London who was not involved in this study, agreed.

“If you can get in early you may be able to change the trajectory of the illness so that it isn’t inevitable that people go into disability,” he said. “If we really want not to be left with this huge reservoir of mental and brain illness for the next few centuries, then we ought to be investing more now.”

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Matthew Jones)

Your mother is only your mother

It’s interesting how your mother can tell you something, and you don’t believe it, or at least, you downplay it, and then a stranger tells you something and it makes a deep impression. Last night Chris told me he had been out the evening before and ran into a friend from his psychiatric program days and her brother. The brother said to Chris that, judging from how well he is now, Chris seemed to be doing better than most from the program. Needless to say, Chris was pleased. This remark really boosted his confidence.

Alternatives to Biological Psychiatry conference in Los Angeles

When September rolls around each year, I get the familiar longing to sign up for something. So, I’m thrilled  to see that The International Society Society for Ethical Psychiatry & Pyschology (ISEPP) has an exciting line-up of guest speakers for its up-coming conference in October in Los Angeles: Alternatives to Biological Psychiatry: If we don’t medicate, what do we do? Wish I could go! Instead, I signed up as am ISEPP member. If  have one problem with the conference, it’s that, like many conferences of this nature, it relies heavily on the presence of people with medical degrees and PhDs, and not enough on speakers with real world experience, such as parents. After all, parents exercise the ultimate control in mental health matters, by supporting or not supporting their relative. Their support would add a lot of clout to the aims of the ISEPP.  I know many parents who just roll their eyes at yet another M.D. or Ph.D. telling us how it’s done “in theory.” Maybe when I land an agent and my book comes out, I’ll get the chance to explain to the audience how I translated these theories into practice. So far, I’ve received two expressions of interest from agents, but no follow-up action.

Here’s what the research and educational network has to say about itself:

ISEPP is a non-profit 501 (c3) research and education network focusing on the critical study of the mental health movement. We are primarily a network of professionals and individuals concerned with the impact of mental health theories upon public policy, therapeutic practices, individual well-being, and personal freedom. Our varied membership includes psychiatrists, psychologists, professional clinical counselors, academic researchers, educators, lawyers, psychiatric survivors, concerned family members, other mental health professionals, and advocates. All are welcome. We support one another, inform the media, the public, and fellow professionals regarding the risks entailed in the modern psychiatric treatment paradigm. Our annual conferences are a major outlet for cutting-edge information in mental health.

ISEPP is an independent organization which currently takes no monies from external sources.

You can download the conference brochure here. Consider going to the conference and/or signing up as a member.

Alternatives to Biological Psychiatry: If we don’t medicate, what do we do?
October 28-29, 2011 in Los Angeles, CA @ Double Tree by Hilton
13+ CEUs available for psychologists, MFTs, counselors, social workers & nurses!