Shopping mall shaman

Practicing Shamanism in a Community Health Center

By Myron Eshowsky .
From Shamanism Spring & Summer 1993, Vol. 5 No. 4 & Vol. 6 No. 1

For six years I worked openly practicing shamanism in a community mental health center. I was able to do this work with the support of my supervisor and the administration. In the course of that time, there were many successes, some non-successes, and a growing acceptance of shamanism as a culturally diverse method for addressing the needs of the center’s clientele. Most importantly, it was a proving ground for returning shamanism to the community setting.

Read the rest of this fascinating article here.

Dress for success

The appearance this past week of two myth-busting articles on schizophrenia in the New York Times, was long overdue. Still, I couldn’t help firing off a cranky comment to the Well section of that paper to argue that it is absolutely ludicrous that mainstream medicine for years has gotten away with promoting the dumbing down of patient expectations.

Think about it. In almost every other area of endeavor, Americans are encouraged to self-promote, to aim big, to dress for success, to follow the American dream. Everywhere . . . except for a schizophrenia diagnosis. You would think, wouldn’t you, that emulating what more successful people do would be part and parcel of  any recovery. But, apparently the wisdom of this idea has escaped much of the mental health industry, which now appears finally ready to STUDY THIS PHENOMENON  further! Oh, for heaven sakes! If you tell people they are sick, most people will believe you. Knowing they are “brain damaged” and have “a biochemical imbalance” will make the road to recovery even harder.

Researchers have conducted more than 100,000 studies on schizophrenia since its symptoms were first characterized. They have tested patients’ blood. They have analyzed their genes. They have measured perceptual skills, I.Q. and memory, and have tried perhaps thousands of drug treatments.

Now, a group of people with the diagnosis is showing researchers a previously hidden dimension of the story: how the disorder can be managed while people build full, successful lives. The continuing study — a joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Southern California; and the Department of Veterans Affairs — follows a group of 20 people with the diagnosis, including two doctors, a lawyer and a chief executive, Ms. Myrick.

It was hard for me to keep a straight face when I read how “surprised” the research community was when it discovered this “hidden dimension of the story.”  In the meantime, my son Chris goes about his daily living while we continue to extract him from the clutches of his dismal diagnosis. He is out most evenings in rehearsals for the upcoming Christmas pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk. He’s a member of several choirs that practice once a week. If he were living back in North America, and not the life of an expat in Europe, I feel sure that he would have a paying job in addition to all of the volunteer work that he does. The work permit here is not an insurmountable stumbling block, but it is a process to go through that we haven’t managed to give much thought to until recently. I continue to push the idea of his going back to university to study voice and music. Chris and his brothers, Taylor and Alex, are getting along well and they are doing their bit to encourage Chris to develop his full potential. Why should anyone settle for less?

Memoir About Schizophrenia Spurs Others to Come Forward

. . . Researchers have long wondered how some people with schizophrenia can manage their symptoms well enough to build full, successful lives. But such people do not exactly line up to enroll in studies.

For one thing, they are almost always secretive about their diagnosis. For another, volunteering for a study would add yet another burden to their stressful lives.

But that is beginning to change, partly because of the unlikely celebrity of a fellow sufferer. In 2007, after years of weighing the possible risks, Elyn R. Saks, a professor of law at the University of Southern California, published a memoir of her struggle with schizophrenia . . . read the rest here

and also from the NY Times:

Lives Restored

A High-Profile Executive Job as Defense Against Mental Ills

The study has already forced its authors to discard some of their assumptions about living with schizophrenia. “It’s just embarrassing,” said Dr. Stephen R. Marder, director of the psychosis section at U.C.L.A.’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, a psychiatrist with the V.A. Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and one of the authors of the study. “For years, we as psychiatrists have been telling people with a diagnosis what to expect; we’ve been telling them who they are, how to change their lives — and it was bad information” for many people.

Read the rest here

The Danny Diaries: Overcoming Schizophrenia – a mother’s experience

The Danny Diaries: Overcoming Schizophrenia
by Ann Cluver Weinberg

This is a memorable schizophrenia story, written from the point of view of the mother. Why “great”? Because there is no other schizophrenia memoir, written by a mother that shows by vivid example how, by understanding and supporting another person, full recovery can happen. “Danny” has been well for over twenty years and works in a professional capacity in an extremely challenging workplace. They say that the younger the age when schizophrenia symptoms appear, the less optimistic the prognosis. Danny’s troubles started in early adolescence, but he eventually recovered, proving how wrong this prognosis can be.

Today’s parents are told by doctors and psychiatrists that that their relative has a biochemical imbalance, a damaged brain. They believe that their children are mentally ill. How do you think the child will react to a parent who thinks that there is something wrong with them? Will they gain confidence in themselves? Not very likely. But where do parents turn to for information that runs counter to the medical model of the so-called illness? Memoirs written by ex-patients are a good place to begin. This particular memoir is unique, because it is written by the mother.

We are introduced to Danny as a child through delightful words and conversations that the author wrote down every night in her journal. She did the same for his older sister, Nicola. Both children are the precocious offspring of artistically-inclined parents. The family is South African and living in London in the 1960s. When Danny is a small child, they move back to their homeland. This is a critical time in South African history, as it was still under government enforced racial segregation. The memoir is brimming with South African English words and Afrikaans dialect, which gives the book its special flavor.

Lucy gives Danny lot of freedom to be himself, even if himself is problematic.

What his problem is initially appears to be pot, or dagga, the local term for it. He’s smoking too much of it way too young. He’s a precociously talented guitarist, and with the freedom that he has, drugs are easy to come by. He lacks the self-discipline to break away from dagga, and the parents, being self-professed liberals and artists, by nature are not disciplinarians and are not effective at stopping the smoking. The mother knows that dagga is only part of the picture. Recreational drug use never helps psychosis, but it adds unneeded complexity and angst to an already difficult condition.

The doctors and psychiatrists are not helpful. As Lucy remarks after a visit to one psychiatrist, “he gave me a stern and gloomy diagnosis, but no practical information about how to help.” She is confident in her mothering skills and in her judgment of Danny, and is rightly critical of doctors who are grim about the prognosis for schizophrenia, seeing them as part of the problem, not part of the solution. She knows Danny, the doctors do not. She rarely wavers in her belief that Danny will be well one day. The trouble is, drugs are always within easy reach for Danny. He backslides a lot.

The early 1980s was yet another transition period in determining what schizophrenia was and how to treat it. This is a diagnosis that is subject to trends. After a break of two years, Lucy takes her son back to see the psychologist, “Jeff” who was so helpful with the family the first time. Now he tells her that he believes schizophrenia is a lifelong chronic illness that needs to be treated by medications. He no longer thinks he can be of any help, based on new information. Potential support denied. Lucy is on her own once again to figure this out for herself. Her optimism puts her at odds with the medical community. One psychiatrist in England wants her to institutionalize Danny for life. Truly shocking advice for someone who is only 17. On a plane trip she happens to sit beside a psychiatrist who says that some people with schizophrenia do recover and a good thing to do is to support the person’s interests.

Today’s treatment for schizophrenia and other mental health problems is skewed disproportionately in favor of medication. If Danny’s treatment took place today, instead of in the 1980s, the author’s strategy would not change, but she would also have to battle the by now well-entrenched biochemically determined treatment model of the so-called illness. At first, Danny was not on any medication, and then he was occasionally given sleeping pills at night. He was on lithium for a short period of time and was on an antipsychotic for a short time. Lucy comes home after Danny was doing very well and discovers him in a knife-wielding rage. She attributes this more to pot smoking (his rages usually lagged pot smoking by a few days), than to the fact that she had abruptly discontinued his antidepressant a week earlier because he was doing so well. In those days, there was no information about the dangers of going cold turkey off these medications. Dropping them quickly can cause rebound psychosis.

Lucy encourages her son in many ways—to drive a car, to be involved in music, to develop more self-discipline through Karate, etc. She reads Erik Erickson, and frames what Danny is going through as a difficult, extended maturation process. There is an astonishing statement by Danny towards the end of the book, which I won’t reveal, that, if I interpreted it correctly, backs up the author’s contention that Danny’s problems were a child’s struggle to become an adult in his own right. Doctors call this struggle “schizophrenia,” but they maintain schizophrenia is a “disease.”

Do you consider your own child “mad”? Have you ever considered that changing your attitude may change the outcome? Here is what the author does:

I explained to him (Oliver, her husband) my now clearly formulated philosophy of not even thinking Danny mad, or an addict, or helpless, or hopeless, etc.

Early the next morning Lucy finds his bed empty and Danny in the garage with his new Kawasaki.

“Danny!” I exploded, “Haven’t you been to sleep all night?

“No. Me and Anthony rehearsed late late. And then I was just too fascinated by my bike. I couldn’t leave it.”

I thought. He is like a farmer sitting up all night with a horse.

Like a farmer sitting up all night with a horse. Exactly! The author shows the reader how to change what may be disturbing or unusual behavior to an understandable motivation, and then keep up a cheerful attitude even though you may have doubts. The child will adapt well to this strategy over time. I’ve done the same for my own son. Read this book (please!) for many of these insights.

I would love to see this book widely disseminated because here is a mother telling you that yes, schizophrenia is an understandable condition. This condition, seen here in the light of a difficult transitioning from childhood to adulthood (many people have said this, not just the author), can be overcome by seeing the person, not the medical model of the disease. Her viewpoint is very relevant today, when the purely medical model of the disease is being challenged as never before.

Consider asking your local library to order a copy.

Order this book online at or / email, or in South Africa contact the author at
Product Details
Paperback: 420 pages
Publisher: Trafford Publishing (February 3, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426919603
ISBN-13: 978-1426919602
Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches

Like-minded parents muscle their way into the ISEPP conference

I was pleased to be asked to contribute a blog post to the upcoming International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry (ISEPP) conference in Los Angeles, Oct. 28-29. The conference is entitled: Alternatives to Biological Psychiatry: If we don’t medicate, what do we do?

The content of my post (below) is the usual stuff that I yammer on about, that everybody talks about alternatives to the current mainly drug based treatment for schizophrenia, but what is anybody actually DOING about it?
Actually, it is parents who are disastisfied with the current group think about mental health, who, through trial and error, have figured out how to put the pieces of their child back together. We are reluctant to deliver our relative into the hands of professionals, having learned through experience that if you want to do something right, do it yourself. Unfortunately, parents who have figured it out, are rarely invited to speak at conferences, which are the domain of mental health professionals. That being said, the ISEPP conference is a terrific opportunity to shape and direct the future of alternatives to biological psychiatry. Fellow bloggers, Becky Murphy and Duane Sherry have also contributed posts to the ISEPP blog. Read Becky’s contributions here and Duane’s here
A Mother’s Search Through Alternatives to Biological Psychiatry: If we don’t medicate, what do we do?

By: Rossa Forbes

First of all, I am delighted to have the chance to speak to this issue in my blog post to ISEPP. That’s the big question, isn’t it?

If we don’t medicate, what do we do?

Where is the how-to guide?

In December 2003 when my then nineteen year old son, “Chris,” was first hospitalized and given a diagnosis of “schizophrenia,” I had no idea that there were any alternatives to the medications. Certainly, no doctor informed my husband and I that there are competing schools of thought about schizophrenia and other so-called mental illnesses. Instead, we were told the usual claptrap that he had a brain disease and drugs would control it but not cure him. That negative message stopped us in our tracks for at least two years. My son did not get better during that period, even in an expensive outpatient program that he attended daily. He was as much a mystery to the psychiatrists when he left—as medicated as when he entered.

However, I got better, meaning I got smarter and started to investigate what I could do for him. I decided to take my inspiration from psychiatrists and others who have a generally more upbeat perspective on schizophrenia—Abram Hoffer, Thomas Szasz, R.D. Laing, Dr. Peter Breggin, and Dr. Loren Mosher. I went even further afield and read Carlos Castaneda, Hermann Hesse, and Daniel Paul Schreber and began to sense a wonderful magic to this so-called disease. I am not romanticizing this condition, but it’s important to see the magic. I read about the German New Medicine of Dr. Ryke Geert Hamer and I saw how trauma or shock registers in the body as cancer, schizophrenia and other health problems. Dr. Hamer also says that rendering a diagnosis sets in place feelings of hopeless and despair that prevent healing. How right he is. Armed with this information, I put together my own healing program for my son. This generally amounted to dragging him (and me) through some weird and wonderful stuff. I figured that chances are, as his mother, I had a role in why he reacted to life as he did, and I may as well take this opportunity to heal myself, too.

Read the rest here.

A lotta humor

October 18, 2011

A Letter from Goldman Sachs

Concerning Occupy Wall Street

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)– The following is a letter released today by Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman of banking giant Goldman Sachs:

Dear Investor:

Up until now, Goldman Sachs has been silent on the subject of the protest movement known as Occupy Wall Street. That does not mean, however, that it has not been very much on our minds. As thousands have gathered in Lower Manhattan, passionately expressing their deep discontent with the status quo, we have taken note of these protests. And we have asked ourselves this question:

How can we make money off them?

The answer is the newly launched Goldman Sachs Global Rage Fund, whose investment objective is to monetize the Occupy Wall Street protests as they spread around the world. At Goldman, we recognize that the capitalist system as we know it is circling the drain – but there’s plenty of money to be made on the way down.

The Rage Fund will seek out opportunities to invest in products that are poised to benefit from the spreading protests, from police batons and barricades to stun guns and forehead bandages. Furthermore, as clashes between police and protesters turn ever more violent, we are making significant bets on companies that manufacture replacements for broken windows and overturned cars, as well as the raw materials necessary for the construction and incineration of effigies.

It would be tempting, at a time like this, to say “Let them eat cake.” But at Goldman, we are actively seeking to corner the market in cake futures. We project that through our aggressive market manipulation, the price of a piece of cake will quadruple by the end of 2011.

Please contact your Goldman representative for a full prospectus. As the world descends into a Darwinian free-for-all, the Goldman Sachs Rage Fund is a great way to tell the protesters, “Occupy this.” We haven’t felt so good about something we’ve sold since our souls.


Lloyd Blankfein
Chairman, Goldman Sachs

Occupy Wall Street & the Mental Environmentalism movement

Adbusters Media Foundation is a not-for-profit, anti-consumerist, pro-environment[1] organization founded in 1989 by Kalle Lasn and Bill Schmalz in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The foundation describes itself as “a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age.”[2]

The Adbusters Media Foundation publishes the reader-supported, advertising-free Adbusters, an activist magazine with an international circulation of 120,000[3] devoted to challenging consumerism. Notable past and present contributors to the magazine include Christopher Hedges, Matt Taibbi, Bill McKibben, Jim Munroe, Douglas Rushkoff, Jonathan Barnbrook, David Graeber and others.

Adbusters has launched numerous international campaigns, including Buy Nothing Day, TV Turnoff Week and Occupy Wall Street, and is known for their “subvertisements” that spoof popular advertisements.

In English, Adbusters has bi-monthly North American, Australian, and International editions of each issue. Adbusters’ sister organizations include Résistance à l’Aggression Publicitaire[4] and Casseurs de Pub[5] in France, Adbusters Norge in Norway, Adbusters Sverige in Sweden and Culture Jammers in Japan.[6]

The subtitle of Adbusters magazine is “The Journal of the Mental Environment”.

Their philosophy is that if a key insight of environmentalism was that external reality, nature, could be polluted by industrial toxins, the key insight of mental environmentalism is that internal reality, our minds, can be polluted by infotoxins. Mental environmentalism draws a connection between the pollution of our minds by commercial messaging and the social, environmental, financial and ethical catastrophes that loom before humanity. Mental environmentalists argue that a whole range of phenomenon from the BP oil spill to the emergence of crony-democracy to the mass extinction of animals to the significant increase in mental illnesses are directly caused by the three thousand advertisements that assault our minds each day.[citation needed]

In a 1996 interview, Kalle Lasn explained the goal of Adbusters: “What we’re trying to do is pioneer a new form of social activism using all the power of the mass media to sell ideas, rather than products. We’re motivated by a kind of `greenthink’ that comes from the environmental movement and isn’t mired in the old ideology of the left and right. Instead, we take the environmental ethic into the mental ethic, trying to clean up the toxic areas of our minds. You can’t recycle and be a good environmental citizen, then watch four hours of television and get consumption messages pumped at you.”[9]

Moving on, but conflicted

Some of the most vulnerable times for Chris were the times following release from a mental institution. Three years ago I did my darndest to keep him out of hospital because I felt he would get worse the longer he stayed, which turned out to be three months. During that time he watched someone slit his wrists and bleed all over the bathroom sink. That’s the one that I heard about. I have no idea what else went on during his time there. I decided in the end that a psych hospital is a learning experience, and chances are, Chris gained some valuable insights.

As it happened, Chris emerged three months later in reasonable shape, but, as I said to the psychiatrist, he was in better shape on in-take than he ever had been, so they were getting a better product to start.

However, on being sprung from the institution, his mind was still very much in fantasy land despite the vaunted drugs and the psychiatry, and that took time to straighten out. An old college friend of Chris’s, who was then aged 25 and in grad school, came to visit, and Chris insisted that they play Magic: The Gathering together. That shows how he was still clinging to fantasy. He first got interested in myth and Magic cards at the age of ten. It seemed a giant regression for him to be playing Magic at aged 25, but I said nothing. Over the course of the next year, Chris began ruminating a lot on his childhood, and past transgressions. He telephoned a few old friends from childhood who he hadn’t seen for years and apologized to them – for what I really have no idea. I suspect it had to do with the odd sly kick directed their way. This kind of behavior is not acceptable, but to my way of thinking it’s part and parcel of childhood. As a child, Chris professed to be as good as gold, and being too good is always grounds for suspicion that the person isn’t as good as they claim to be. Chris seemed to be feeling awfully guilty about his past deeds, not a healthy sign, but then again, perhaps a way of coming to grips with his past. His apologizing to people sounds like what people are encouraged to do in Alcoholics Anonymous. Perhaps Dr. Stern was urging him to do this.

I saw this post hospital phase of Chris’s development as very positive, his learning to move beyond childhood and into adulthood.

One problem, though, on leaving the hospital, was that a couple of older people in the community (a man and a woman artist) who were mentally unstable were attracted to Chris. At first, I was glad that they were there, to offer friendship and to receive it. Chris had no friends at this point, and they had virtually none. He thought the older man was extremely interesting and learned, and yes, he was all of that. He and Chris would get together for coffees occasionally and talk about mythology and literature and the state of the world. Chris helped the man move several times. This man had a habit of very suavely talking his way into getting people to house him, but it rapidly went downhill from there as he always got verbally abusive and was kicked out usually after only a few days. I almost took him in, but I had the foresight to call someone I could trust, and was told under no circumstances should I do this. Nonetheless, the man kept telephoning me, always with a new excuse as to why he needed accommodation. When I didn’t bite, he got verbally abusive. I began to not answer the phone, never sure what number he was calling from.

I felt very sorry for this man, because I could see that he was isolating himself and consequently, his mental problems were getting worse. I also felt guilty that I did not want to do more to help him. He was repeatedly urged by others to see a psychiatrist, but always refused, claiming that it was the other person who needed to see one. But it was when he moved beyond verbal abuse and started getting violent, not with Chris, with other people –a push here, a shove there–that I lost any sympathy I still was harboring.

On his own accord, Chris began distancing himself from the man, and the woman artist. He can see that they haven’t dealt with their demons. He now sees them as “mentally ill,” and this bothers him because he knows that he got the same label, and it was unjust. Chris is moving on emotionally, but it is sad that the other two people have not sought the help they need. One person can only give so much.

Around the blogs

“I was fine to speak to when she thought I was ‘Owning my Illness’ but once I disclosed that I was ‘In Denial’ she just couldn’t cope.”

Louise at Schizophrenia at the Schoolgate makes some interesting observations on competition for scarce resources in mental health charities, and how even mental health advocates discriminate when it comes to a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Pamela Spiro Wagner will be exhibiting her stupendous artwork on schizophrenia and recovery on the 4th floor of ArtSpace, Hartford during the week-end of Nov. 12-13. Open Studio Hartford is a Hartford (Connecticutt) regional event that celebrates the arts!

Stephany at Soulful Sepulcher announces that the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (CABF) has a name change and huge expansion plans! Still the same old pharma compromised Scientific Advisory Board, though. Also, don’t miss the announcement of a new searchable adverse drug events database also posted on her blog.

And finally, not from a blog, but direct from Oz via YouTube, lounge lizard Bob Downe sings I Will Survive! Go for it, Bob!

The Danny Diaries

The Danny Diaries, by Ann Cluver Weinberg, is available through Trafford Publishing and Amazon, both e-book and hard copy versions.

Product Description
The Danny Diaries is a book about a gifted, delightful child who had a teenage psychotic breakdown and was diagnosed as schizophrenic. This is a detective story for the reader. Why did he break down? Was it drugs? Was it growing up too quickly? Did he have too much adulation too young? Was society to blame?

And how did he recover? Once more the reader has a detective story to help him or her decide. His mother wrote down his spoken words from when he was fifteen months old, and she has chosen a selection of these both to delight and help the reader. Some of his psychotic speech does come into the book – only as examples, since it is not decipherable. “His weird talk” his sister called it.

People ask, “Is he really off all medication?” Yes! He has been sane and stable and happy for over 20 years.

The book will help parents of disturbed teenagers, but for everyone else it is a good, true story-with an innocent beginning, a chaotic middle, and an ending which is both triumphant and comforting. The book is also for anyone who has doubts about a lot of psychology and therapy. Real life goals are what work in the end.

Ann Cluver Weinberg is a South African author of poetry, stories and biographies who has been published and broadcast in South Africa. She is known for her robust honesty, her lyrical clarity, and her ability to give a universal experience from her very personal and well-observed stories. She lives in Johannesburg.