Toronto’s Family Outreach and Response Program

We all can’t live in Toronto to have access to this program, but we can all tap into the excellent web resources it offers. More importantly, the message it offers is HOPE. The Executive Director, Karyn Baker, says that she wants families to be the light at the end of the tunnel for their relative. In the program’s training course, she writes:

The key messages that families report taking away from the course is that: recovery is possible even without any professional intervention (for many families this is the first time they have ever heard this message) hope is the cornerstone to recovery it is almost impossible to recover without hope and the familys role is to hold that hope; to avoid creating learned helplessness by being overly involved; to support risk taking and giving the relative the dignity and freedom to fail like any other human being; to let go of controlling relatives choices this is their recovery journey; to stop viewing everything from a problem orientation and start building on strengths; to use madness as a human experience; dont use coercion or forced treatment; explore alternatives and use advance directives.

Where I live, I have been isolated from the kind of support systems I might wish to have become involved with, but every time I got down, I learned to look for positive messages on the web for support.

Please check out the program’s website for further hope and inspiration.

Families of those recovering from serious mental health issues are probably one of the last groups within the mental health community to embrace the vision of recovery. Their experience of the mental health system is often one of despair, hopelessness, helplessness, alienation, isolation and discrimination. Families are often told to grieve the loss of their loved one as they knew them, to lower all expectations and to make sure their family member takes their medications. This leads to a family environment that does not promote recovery. How can a family embrace recovery when they feel their lives are full of loss, sadness, anger and power struggles?

Traditionally, family support and education programs mostly focused on teaching families about diagnosis, treatments, mental health resources, crisis intervention, communication skills and self-care. There was little, if any, mention of recovery and no critical examination of the mental health system from a trauma-informed and anti-oppression perspective. These programs created like-minded thinking between families and mental health professionals, which further reinforced the idea that recovery is not possible.

In 2001, the Family Outreach and Response Program was introduced to Recovery. While the program had always worked together with consumer/survivor advocacy organizations and fought against coercive legislation – we really didn’t have a framework for working directly with families that felt empowering for both families and their relatives. The philosophy, values, principles and concepts of recovery filled this void and the first Mental Health Recovery Series was written.

Participants have responded extremely positively to the series, so much so, the request for the Series is so great we are barely able to keep up with demand. We have also trained several service providers locally, provincially, nationally and internationally.

The Series has also acted as a catalyst for families to demand change within the mental health system. The participants have now adopted a critical perspective of the system and want more alternative recovery-oriented services available to their family members.

Families are inquiring as to whether our program can provide some of these alternatives such as the Wellness and Recovery Action Plan, Pathways To Recovery, and Hearing Voices groups. Our program is always striving to expand our services to meet this request.

Eventually, our vision is to have a Family Mental Health Recovery Centre, a community that provides all types of groups, educational and advocacy events that promotes recovery, peer support and is inclusive of the diverse families within the Toronto area.

Does it matter?

A graphic distributed on July 4, 2012, by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva shows a representation of traces of a proton-proton collision. Physicists say they have found a new sub-atomic particle in their search for the Higgs boson, the particle that is believed to explain the mystery of mass. Photograph by: Courtesy of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), AFP/GettyImages

The particle physics experiments conducted at CERN matter to schizophrenia because they are about energy fields and vibrations. The common thread that I’ve been exploring with Chris on this holistic journey is vibration and emotion, one and the same thing.

The US Army no longer marches on its stomach

“Conducting military operations? On Seroquel? There must be some mistake, I thought. But a little research confirmed Aaron’s accounting: the United States armed forces are increasingly marching on pharmaceuticals. Twenty percent of active-duty troops are on psychotropic medications, including 17% of the combat troops in Afghanistan.”

Read the rest here:

The best of Mad in America

Here are two more articles that caught my eye over the past few days. I like both of these because they are heavy on social criticism in the grand tradition of the muckraking literature of early twentieth century America

The first is written by social worker Jack Carney on New York State’s Assisted Out-Patient Treatment program, which is heavily skewed to issuing treatment orders to black men.

Take-away from this article – two causative factors in the spread and continuation of over-diagnosis in the black male population:

For his part, Metzl tracks the over-diagnosis of schizophrenia in black men to the early 1970’s, the high point of black disillusion with and anger at the societal status quo.

1. The appearance of the modern DSMs – II, III, IIIR, IV and IV TR – their advocacy of the biological model of mental illness, and the introduction of Schneiderian first rank symptoms, particularly paranoid ideation and hostile, aggressive behavior, as indicative of schizophrenia; and,

2. The fear and anxiety provoked in psychiatrists and other professional mental health providers by African-American men, presumed, particularly when undergoing an apparent acute psychotic episode, to have a great potential for violent behavior.

The second piece is by psychotherapist Bob Fancher and titled How talk therapy sold out.

The need to prove that psychology provides appropriate treatment of mental disorders, comparable to medication, changed what counts as good science in talk therapy. (Social work tagged along later, as it generally does.)

In all of science, method is supposed to fit subject matter—and all sorts of methods are used, since life comprises all sorts of subject matters. Now, though, in talk therapy research the methods were being dictated in advance, regardless of subject matter, to serve the purpose of competing with psychiatry.

No form of therapy that was client-directed, or that depended on a patient’s free associations, could possibly meet these criteria. Nothing remotely resembling therapy as it is actually practiced—eclectic, responsive to unforeseen circumstance, oriented toward patients’ problems rather than DSM symptoms—could be studied.1. The appearance of the modern DSMs – II, III, IIIR, IV and IV TR – their advocacy of the biological model of mental illness, and the introduction of Schneiderian first rank symptoms, particularly paranoid ideation and hostile, aggressive behavior, as indicative of schizophrenia; and,

After Seroquel

I assume just about everybody who reads this blog also reads the Mad in America webzine, but I want to draw your attention in any case to the Op-Ed piece After Seroquel written by Nancy Rubenstein Del Guidice. The article speaks for itself, but it’s the comments from the readers that really caught my eye because of the great variety of the content and the wisdom therein.

Nancy Rubenstein Del Guidice’s comment comes toward the end in response to another reader.

The point I want to make is that there is a gap in our mental health reform movement that I think is a symptom of a larger phenomenon. The denial of Victims. As long as this persists, the perpetrators will not be brought to justice, and the Victims will continue to be disappeared; in institutions, in hospitals, homeless, and in unmarked graves. I am not intersted in standing by while the “Mental Health” profession turns to new markets and engages in turf wars. This is genocide. This is not about medecine. It is about murder.”