Monday, May 25, 2009

Are Spiritual Encounters All In Your Head?

NPR, 19th June 2009

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According to polls, there's a 50-50 chance you have had at least one spiritual experience — an overpowering feeling that you've touched God, or another dimension of reality.

So, have you ever wondered whether those encounters actually happened — or whether they were all in your head? Scientists say the answer might be both.

There's no place like strange

The Age, 23 May 2009

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Will Elliott maps a journey to the 'other side' in his battle with schizophrenia, writes Owen Richardson.

WILL Elliott's first book, the award-winning The Pilo Family Circus, describes a descent into the underworld: feckless young Jamie is kidnapped by psychotic clowns and taken into an alternative universe of pain and fear and demonic conspiracy.

The main character in his new book, Strange Places, also takes a wild and disorienting journey: the television tells him it knows what he's been up to, he comes to understand that his family is out to get him, and one night he sees the moon blown up by a nuclear weapon.

The difference between the two books is that the main character of Strange Places is called Will Elliott, and what the book describes actually happened to him.

In his late teens and early 20s Elliott underwent two psychotic episodes, the second of which ended with his being diagnosed as schizophrenic. Now 30, Elliott hasn't experienced a relapse and has decided to tell the story, at some cost to his present comfort.

"To go back and immerse myself in it, and especially the first symptoms in the early days, it was embarrassing for me," Elliott says. "It was the opposite of pleasant nostalgia, to keep going back over that and checking that it was all arranged properly was the worst part for me. I don't know how it is going to be having other people reading these intimate and not exactly flattering details."

Creative minds: the links between mental illness and creativity

The Independant, 5th May 2009

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At first glance, Einstein, Salvador Dali, Tony Hancock, and Beach Boy Brian Wilson would seem to have little in common. Their areas of physics, modern art, comedy, and rock music, are light years apart. So what, if anything, could possibly link minds that gave the world the theory of relativity, great surreal art, iconic comedy, and songs about surfing?

According to new research, psychosis could be the answer. Creative minds in all kinds of areas, from science to poetry, and mathematics to humour, may have traits associated with psychosis. Such traits may allow the unusual and sometimes bizarre thought processes associated with mental illness to fuel creativity. The theory is based on the idea that there is no clear dividing line between the healthy and the mentally ill. Rather, there is a continuum, with some people having psychotic traits without having the debilitating symptoms.

The voices that help improve care

BBC News, 18 April 2009

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Janey Antoniou has schizophrenia. She regularly hears voices and has paranoid delusions.
But when the emergency services try to help her, or others like her, they can end up making things much worse.

In a bid to try and prevent misunderstandings, Janey, with the use of a tape filled with competing voices, has been coaching ambulance service staff on the world of schizophrenia.
"I see the world differently from other people. I have delusions which can lead me to do strange thing such as walking around London all night trying to get away from a Filipino army.

Bullying may make kids psychotic, study suggests

Reuters, May 4th 2009

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People who are bullied as children have twice the risk of having delusions, hallucinations or other psychotic symptoms as pre-teens as those who have not been bullied, British researchers said on Monday.

They said bullying -- especially when it is severe or chronic -- can have serious consequences for some children, and may even act as a trigger for people who are genetically predisposed to schizophrenia.

"Chronic or severe peer victimization has nontrivial, adverse, long-term consequences," Andrea Schreier of the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, and colleagues wrote in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Several studies have shown that traumatic events in childhood such as physical or sexual abuse are linked with the development of psychosis in adulthood. And people who display psychotic symptoms in childhood are more prone to develop schizophrenia as adults.

Officers hearing voices in their heads: police learn what it’s like to be mentally ill

Journal Times, 11 May 2009

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“Turn your voices on,” Racine Police Officer Chris Cronin told two fellow officers at a special police training last week.She was referring to MP3 players that simulated the experience of hearing voices, which is a symptom of schizophrenia.It was part of Racine County’s first weeklong Crisis Intervention Team training, which is training for a core group of officers from across the county to recognize people with mental illnesses and help prevent those people from ending up in the hospital or jail.With voices coming from headphone speakers alternating between whispering and repeating negative statements, the officers had to fill out a resume and play cards together.

Burlington Police Sgt. Michael Madsen, left, and Mount Pleasant Police officer Dale Swart play cards on May 4 while listening to a recording that simulates hearing voices in their heads at Gateway Technical College. They are participating in Crisis Intervention Team training, which teaches officers to recognize signs of mental illness and to techniques to help those people.

They had to concentrate while the voices said things like “loser, loser, loser” and “You’re not funny. It’s not a joke. Everyone knows about you.”The officers only listened to the voices for about 10 minutes, but it was enough to give them a picture of what life would be like for someone with schizophrenia.“I could fairly well ignore it. But I don’t know how long term I could do that for,” said Dale Swart, a Mount Pleasant Police officer. “I think after a while it would literally break you down.”