Recovery and peer support, or the medical model. Why must it be “either/or”?

Today’s post is from Pete Earley’s blog. There is yet another battle currently being waged in the United States, this time over the appointment of the Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. The introductory paragraph is clear as to what issues are at stake.

Harvey Rosenthal: The “Worried Well” – A False Narrative Meant To Divide

BY PETE EARLEY

(5-15-17) I bumped into Harvey Rosenthal recently at the National Council on Behavioral Health Care convention in Seattle and invited him to write a guest blog. Harvey is Executive Director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services and one of the best known advocates for recovery and peer support services. Given what seems to be a constant battle being waged between the “medical model” that focuses on medication adherence and the “recovery model” that focuses on peer support and other social services, I thought it would helpful to hear his point of view, especially because a new Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Abuse will soon be appointed.)

Re-Balancing Federal Policy Need Not Have To Choose Between Extremes

BY HARVEY ROSENTHAL

For far too long, advocates for court mandated outpatient commitment have promoted the false narrative that recovery, rehabilitation and peer support providers and advocates don’t want to serve Americans with the most serious conditions…..and that our motivation in supporting the redirection of public funds from hospital to community is simply to capture public dollars for our own purposes. In contrast, these groups have outrageously played upon unfounded connections between violence and mental illness to promote a singular one-size-fit-all prescription of “more meds, more beds and more coercion.”

Along the way, these groups have promoted beliefs that a recovery and rehab focus only applies to the ‘worried well’ and excludes the most distressed, that peer support is inevitably against treatment and medication and that rights advocates are only interested in helping people in the greatest need to avoid such treatment?In recent years, subscribers to these beliefs have succeeded in capturing the attention and support of conservative Republicans, think tanks and the tabloids. They have heavily informed the efforts of self-styled mental health reformer Rep. Tim Murphy and are apparently poised to see the appointment of an apparently like-minded first HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health Services.

Advocates across our spectrum must join together to educate both the Senate that will be confirming the first HHS Secretary Read the rest of the post here

 

 

A new documentary CRAZYWISE: How western cultures treat spiritual awakening, available free until March 28

Phil Borges is an award winning photographer and documentary film maker who has spent many years photographing and documenting the practices of indigenous and tribal peoples. He observed the mystical practices of the shamans (healers) who command a respected place in their cultures, and then he wondered: Where are the healers and the shamans in our western cultures? Many of them he found on the streets, a sad commentary on our go-it-alone culture.

From the CRAZYWISE synopsis:

Through interviews with renowned mental health professionals including Gabor Mate, MD, Robert Whitaker, and Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD, Phil explores the growing severity of the mental health crisis in America dominated by biomedical psychiatry. He discovers a growing movement of professionals and psychiatric survivors who demand alternative treatments that focus on recovery, nurturing social connections, and finding meaning.

CRAZYWISE follows two young Americans diagnosed with “mental illness.” Adam, 27, suffers devastating side effects from medications before embracing meditation in hopes of recovery. Ekhaya, 32, survives childhood molestation and several suicide attempts before spiritual training to become a traditional South African healer gives her suffering meaning and brings a deeper purpose to her life.

CRAZYWISE doesn’t aim to over-romanticize indigenous wisdom, or completely condemn Western treatment. Not enery indigenous person who has a crisis becomes a shaman. And many individuals benefit from Western medications.

CRAZYWISE is intended to heighten our awareness of how we treat our mentally ill in western cultures and it proposes solutions. Please watch this paradigm changing film, and spread the word! 

This film is available until March 28: https://vimeo.com/201079582/37ea6dd390

A townhall meeting surr0unding the launch of the film can be viewed viewed on YouTube.  You can also find it on the CRAZYWISE website.

 

Recovery: Pushing them too soon?

In case you’re getting impatient with the slow progress your relative may be demonstrating, I thought I’d share Chris’s experience taking courses. The ability to pay income tax (and, by my inference, to succeed at training courses) is almost the gold standard for recovery (in addition to getting along well within the family and the wider community) according to Doctor Abram Hoffer.

Here’s a long list of the courses Chris attempted, beginning at about age 21, a year after he was first hospitalized.

  1. Audited an art history course (managed to hang on mainly due to the heroic efforts of the professor to accommodate his behavior)
  2. Passed a political science semester course
  3. Quit another polysci course due to worsening symptoms
  4. Enrolled in a month long physics course and lived away from home – didn’t keep up with assignments and, obviously, failed. Final grade about 5%, if I recall.
  5. Failed to submit final work for a communications course
  6. Took refresher math lessons with a tutor; too distracted to concentrate
  7. Enrolled in a three-week French course – quit about day 3. Too anxious.
  8. Took an online music theory certificate course for a semester – I think he passed. It was so long ago.
  9. Resumed piano lessons – didn’t practice much. Stopped the lessons.
  10. Enrolled in a three-week computer course. Passed first module
  11. Enrolled in second three-week computer module. Failed second module
  12. Enrolled in an intensive French course – passed
  13. Enrolled in the next level of the French course – passed
  14. Enrolled in a sound engineering certificate program for one year – not quite making the grade. Quit.
  15. Enrolled in online math course – in progress
  16. Resumed taking piano lessons – as of last week

If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have encouraged Chris to become a student until he was much older and further into his recovery. Chris simply wasn’t ready until HE decided he wanted to do something more, which began around the age of 28 (course number 11 onwards). Getting there has been slow and unpredictable, but Chris has changed a lot and is finally seeing that he if wants to make something of his life, only he can do it.

 

Eric Maisel interviews me in Psychology Today series

Welcome to Childhood Made Crazy, an interview series that takes a critical look at the current “mental disorders of childhood” model. This series is comprised of interviews with practitioners, parents, and other children’s advocates as well as pieces that investigate fundamental questions in the mental health field. Visit the following page to learn more about the series, to see which interviews are coming, and to learn about the topics under discussion:

http://ericmaisel.com/interview-series/

Rossa Forbes is a blogger with an upbeat and decidedly offbeat mom’s perspective on the journey of schizophrenia. Her memoir, The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness will be published early next year by Inspired Creations LLC.

EM: How would you suggest a parent think about being told that his or her child meets the criteria for a mental disorder and ought to go on one or more psychiatric medication for his or her diagnosed mental disorder or mental illness?

RF: Before going down that road I would insist that the doctor conduct a thorough medical history to assess whether there is an underlying medical condition, e.g. Lyme disease, brain tumor, or an autoimmune condition.

As it is only quite recently (2007) that the link between psychosis and an autoimmune disorder called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis has been made, it is possible that researchers are already identifying other antibodies in the blood and spinal fluid with links to psychosis.

Do keep in mind that doctors know very little about how the drugs work or what causes mental illness. The word “medication” (as opposed to “drug”) implies the presence of a disease state that can be successfully treated pharmaceutically.  As schizophrenia (the mental illness with which I’m most familiar) is considered by the medical profession to be incurable, in the same way that they consider most mental illnesses incurable, this negates the idea that a medication exists that can treat it.

The drugs are actually major tranquillizers and they are generally effective at dampening psychosis –masking it, not getting rid of it. In the process, these drugs make the person sluggish and prone to weight gain and other side effects.

I know from experience, how hard it is to manage “schizophrenia” without resorting to a prescription drug. I do think it is possible, but I think most parents initially are not in any way familiar with how to do this. Acquiring this knowledge may take years of trial and error, although there are online courses that are beginning to teach these skills.

Read the rest of the interview here

Understanding Extreme States: An Interview with Stephen Harrod Buhner

This interview with Stephen Buhner was conducted by Matt Stevenson,  a young man who has recovered from challenges associated with multiple “severe” psychiatric diagnoses and who is building a bit of a reputation on the Mad in America site by interviewing leaders about alternative ways of conceptualizing distress, as well as about about paths to recovery outside the mainstream system.

Understanding Extreme States: An Interview with Stephen Harrod Buhner

One day on the ISPS listserv, psychologist Paris Williams shared a chapter from a book in which an herbalist and alternative healer named Stephen Harrod Buhner described his approach to working with the extreme states of mind commonly labeled as “schizophrenia” by psychiatrists. The chapter was entitled “On the Healing of Schizophrenia” and the book is Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm.

Buhner described concepts which I knew from my study of psychoanalytic approaches to these problems, such as profound fragmentation of the mind into part-selves to counter overwhelming anxiety, and the great care and lengthy time frames necessary to help severely traumatized people regain trust in the outside world. Buhner described how the dedicated healer could painstakingly be permitted access to the fragmented inner world of a terrified person and help them reintegrate their mind. Of “schizophrenia,” Buhner said, “The cultural paradigm or view of the condition is itself dysfunctional, to the extent that the paradigm is crazy.” (Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm, pg. 503)

Finding myself intrigued by this man who’d never trained in psychiatry or psychology but who nevertheless worked effectively with people in severe distress using self-developed theories, I tracked Buhner down. I asked him to speak to me about these issues, and here is what resulted:

Read the interview in its entirety  here  Be inspired!

What I’ve been doing lately

I haven’t posted in quite a while, mainly because, as usual, I’m hard at work getting my memoir The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness ship shape and ready for launch. But, it’s taking much more time than I ever imagined possible. It seems I been saying this for years, and, well, it’s embarrassing that it’s taking so long.

For the time being I’ll opt for a more newsletter style of delivering future blog posts. My random musings will go straight to your inbox.

 

Recovery course starting Sept. 15

If you’re looking for some expert family oriented advice on how to practice recovery, I see that Krista Mackinnon is running another Recovering Our Families online education course beginning September 15th.

http://familieshealingtogether.com/focus/recovering-our-families/

“Krista Mackinnon’s facilitation and training on family recovery provides vital, practical tools for supporting someone struggling with psychosis. I encourage everyone I work with to take this class: it’s a wealth of useful learning that can immediately improve family relations and help find a way through the labyrinth of madness.”
Will Hall, MA, DiplPW
Therapist and schizophrenia survivor, Madness Radio host and trainee
in Open Dialogue at the Institute for Dialogic Practice.

 

Lyme disease and autoimmune issues

I’ve become quite interested recently in two medical conditions associated with psychosis symptoms: Lyme disease and a rare autoimmune disorder.  When my son Chris was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2002, no blood tests, no tests whatsoever were done, except for the MRI that my husband and I insisted on. He was diagnosed based on a doctor’s opinion of what his symptoms represented. In the years since, Lyme disease has received a lot of attention because of its growing prevalence. (It seemed nobody was talking about it in 2002, and now it appears to be everywhere!) Several people I personally know have tested positive for Lyme disease and received treatment. In June of this year, the amazing story of musician Kris Kristofferson’a recovery from dementia induced by Lyme disease hit the news. http://tinyurl.com/hlk8r9d

Research on autoimmune issues and schizophrenia is still in its infancy. But, for some people, this may eventually prove a game changer. In 2008 Josep Dalmau presented a paper on anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a schizophrenia like condition caused by the body’s immune system attacking a protein in the brain.

“Markx and Dalmau are planning to collaborate with German researchers to study patients who have either come to the hospital with a “first break” — an initial episode of psychotic symptoms — or who are showing early signs, such as social withdrawal or cognitive problems, that typically precede the onset of psychosis. Blood and spinal fluid samples from these patients will be tested for antibodies to the NMDA receptor, and other antibodies. The results might change psychiatry’s approach to patients with new-onset psychosis, Markx said.”

http://tinyurl.com/za2dy4r

 

 

And my book publisher will be . . .

I’m proud to announce that I have recently signed a publishing agreement with Inspired Creations LLC, I love how the company describes itself:

Publisher of

Socially Relevant Culturally Significant and Individually Transformative works

I hope that my memoir, The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness, to be published later this year, will live up to Inspired Creations’ mandate: “dedicated to promoting works that entertain and enlighten, inform and transform, and possess the potential to impact individuals concerned with nature, culture, and the future of our beautiful planet.”

I want my book to do all of that and more – to offer hope to parents caught up in the current biochemically derived definition of mental illness by showing by example that there are choices. You can take the road that everyone else takes, often unsuccessfully, OR, you can take the scenic route and discover things about yourself and your relative that you may find interesting, empowering, fun (yes FUN!), educational, literary, dramatic. I want to blow your mind by introducing you to some off-beat therapies and thinking patterns  that nudged my son towards wellness. I want you to return from the trip, wondering “was that all a dream or was it real?”

I came across Inspired Creations when I read A Moment of Time, by Jilaine Tarisa and was impressed by how neatly this book wove together a lot of millennial themes in a tightly written mystery. I thought to myself, this is a publishing company I’d love to approach, because my book has a lot of themes in common with the publisher’s aspirations.

Stay tuned.

Australia: first in overall health and life expectancy for schizophrenia

The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death. It was developed by the World Health Organization in the 1990s as a way of comparing the overall health and life expectancy of different countries. (Wiki)

Australia ranks dead last (#192) compared to other countries in the measurement of the effect of the overall disease burden (DALY) for schizophrenia. Which means, people diagnosed with schizophrenia enjoy longer lives, work more, and have better health in Australia than in other countries.

Could this surprising finding be due to Australian’s well known consumption of Vegemite, that foul tasting brown yeast that gets spread on toast starting in infancy? Vegemite’s got plenty of B vitamins: B1 – essential for brain vitality, B2 to support the nervous system, B3 energy release, and folate to fight fatigue. Sounds exactly like what the doctor ordered. Well, Dr. Abram Hoffer, at least.

Other countries have their own versions of spreadable B vitamins, notably Marmite (United Kingdom) and Vitam-R (Germany), and these countries have got respectable DALY scores (185 and 179), but Australia is still far in the lead. In World War I, Marmite was supplied to British soldiers’ as part of their rations, in order to prevent beri beri, a B vitamin deficiency disease.

The only reason that I can think of as to why Australia is on top is that Vegemite is a part of their culture and children start eating it early, rather like what peanut butter is to the average North American diet. Sure, Germany’s got Vitam-R, which tastes way better than Vegemite and Marmite and has more B vitamins, but I don’t think it’s a cultural phenomenon to the same extent as it is in Australia, and therefore it may be consumed less.

If you are living in one of those countries that doesn’t have a tradition of liking dark brown yeasty goo on its toast in the morning, think about making a switch.

Donald Trump – the Master Builder

You may well ask, why am I putting Donald Trump in my schizophrenia blog?  The short answer is to drive traffic to it, lol. But I was both amused and horrified today to discover how much the Donald and I have in common beyond our blond good looks, some Scottish and German ancestry, and latent Presbyterianism: We are both, according to numerology, life path number 22. Though separated at birth by several years, our birth day, month, and year add up to 1966. Who knew?

Well, I kind of had an inkling. My interest in finding out the Donald’s number was piqued when my husband sent me a recent opinion piece in The Washington Post, written by Farroll Hamer: “Building developers are reactive and megalomaniacal. Just like Trump.” Mr. Hamer was a former city planner in the Washington D.C. area, and, from years of working with clients, he has developed what he calls his Developer Profile.You want to know what kind of President Trump will be? Find out what developers are like. Not surprisingly, we learn from Mr. Hamer, that, if Trump were elected, he really would build a wall.

On those few issues he identifies closely with, such as trade and restricting immigration, he would be unrelenting and inventive. He really would build a wall. He can’t keep Muslims out of the United States or return lost jobs to the country, but he would do what he can and call it a success.”

The number 22 is the most powerful of the life path numbers. Successful number 22s are number 4 skyscrapers. Number 4 is the foundation stone upon which the master builder builds. Some of us step up to the glory of the number 22, but many of us, probably most of us, just live quiet, unassuming lives because we are stuck in our windowless basements. We are neither creative, intuitive, nor inventive. Number 4s tend to be boring, predictable, averse to risk taking, and therefore miss out on a lot of opportunities because we are too late to the game. (Now, that last part doesn’t sound at all like Trump!) As 4s, we work so hard that we often can’t see the forest for the trees. As a developer 22, Donald Trump would bulldoze those trees. What makes us potential 22 superstars like TRUMP is that some of us may have in our numbers the intuition of number 11 (22 = 2 times 11) on top of being efficient and pragmatic.

If you want to know Donald Trump, appreciate the fact that he’s a developer AND a number 22. Being a 22 is no guarantee that someone will become the president of the United States. (You might, on the other hand, own your own media empire, like 22 Oprah!) It does mean that someone has a shot at larger things. In Donald’s case he was fortunate enough to work hard at doing what he’s good at. (Working hard, building, bulldozing.)

Does 22 sound like a TRUMP and a developer? Visionary, intuitive, practical. Able to turn someone else’s dreams into reality (e.g. build a giant wall or skyscraper), dictatorial, insensitive, and overbearing. 22s are also described as a classic case of “be careful what you wish for.”

Of course, TRUMP had an added advantage at birth by being the son of a wealthy developer. He didn’t get sidetracked into thinking he might be an artist or a humanitarian, where clearly his talents don’t lie. Although, to be fair, it’s not like we number 22s aren’t capable of empathy or creativity. It’s just that we’re so damn efficient and practical that we cut corners to keep it simple. We can do what other people need of  us!

Have you taken up numerology yet with your own son or daughter who is going through a mental health crisis? If you can see how Donald Trump has made the most of his number, why not indulge in a little numerology to help your relative find his or her potential?

You might also like:

How numerology increases understanding

Schizophrenia and numerology

Getting to know you

Postlude

Don’t miss signing up for the next ‘Recovering Our Families’ course

I’ve taken two modules of this course. Believe me, there is nothing like it out there. To get the best flavor of what it’s about, read the testimonials from mothers who have taken the course.

“Recovering our Families” introduces families to key recovery principles, leaders, research and resources that are person- and family-centered, trauma-informed and strengths based. This interactive, facilitated online class combines emailed lessons with recovery exercises, videos, online resources and a password-protected website with private facilitated group discussions and peer support. The “Recovering Our Families” course was written by and is facilitated by Krista MacKinnon with the help and support of Family Outreach and Response Program in Toronto Canada, and The Foundation For Excellence in Mental Health in Oregon, USA.”

To learn more about this innovative course click here

The next course begins Monday, March 15th.