Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mad Medicine: A New Group for People Who Hear Voices Celebrates Mental Illness Diversity

The Portland Mercury, 25th June

Full story here

AN AVERAGE-LOOKING, middle-aged man stood in the public meeting room of the downtown Multnomah County Library, asking a question. He was having trouble distinguishing "dream from reality," and he wondered why he should bother to do so when the information he is given turns out to be verifiable and useful. (Once, he was instructed to overturn an empty cup left in a phone booth—and when he did, he happily discovered someone else's forgotten pocket money left underneath.) A woman then stood and spoke of the series of spiritual transformations she has gone through, mentioning that her Catholic phase was initiated by a vision she had of the Virgin Mary. ("Why else would you become a Catholic?" she cracked.) Another younger man admitted that he has embraced the "spirituality of nothingness" after finding that meditation only exacerbated the noisy mind from which he hoped to find relief.

They were all attendees of the first-ever gathering held by Portland Hearing Voices, a new group that has formed to address the spectrum of circumstances surrounding the experience of hearing voices, seeing visions, and holding extraordinary beliefs. If the language sounds deliberate, consider that commonly accepted words like "crazy" and "deluded" are steadily developing the dark shroud of epithet among those who are beginning to recognize that our society's understanding of mental diversity is, at the very least, oversimplified.

Mad Pride

Most people, even many of those working within the mental health system, are only dimly aware of the issues being raised by groups like Portland Hearing Voices (PHV). Nonetheless, the questioning of traditional approaches to experiences that are usually associated with schizophrenia has become quite common, particularly in the UK. (PHV's kickoff event featured a screening of the hour-long BBC documentary Hearing Voices, produced as early as 1995.) While the Portland group is among the first of its kind in the United States,, an international network and online community for voice hearers, estimates that there are over 170 Hearing Voices groups in England alone.

Working across the world to spread positive and hopeful messages about the experience of hearing voices

Monday, June 22, 2009

Psychiatry and Oppression: A Personal Account of Compulsory Admission and Medical Treatment

See original version here

April 9, 2009

Schizophrenia Bulletin 2009 35(4):661-663; doi:10.1093/schbul/sbp025

Benjamin Gray, Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, UK


Dr B.G. is an academic and researcher in the field of mental health and was also diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2003, when he spent a total of 12 months in a mental health hospital. In this article, he relates his personal experience and story to make a polemical and admittedly one-sided case against traditional psychiatry and compulsory medical treatment. He ties his experience to espouse a modern antipsychiatry. Dr B.G. concludes that there needs to be more attention paid to voice hearers’ stories and accounts of mental illness, which he links to the rise of democratic psychiatry and the growth of the hearing voices movement, headed by organizations such as Intervoice, Asylum, MindFreedom, and the Hearing Voices Network.

Hearing Voices: A Personal Story

Certainly, my negative conception of traditional psychiatry and compulsory treatment is colored by the 12 months that I spent in a psychiatric acute unit.

Discussion: The Rise of Democratic Psychiatry and the Hearing Voices Movement

A Call for the Personal Stories of Voice Hearers

To whom correspondence should be addressed; tel: (01206) 82 3828; e-mail:

Two Day Treatment of Auditory Hallucinations by High Frequency rTMS Guided by Cerebral Imaging: a 6 Months Follow-up Study

Newswise, 12 June 2009

Researchers us a technique called Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to treat hallucinations.

Newswise — Auditory hallucinations are one of the more disturbing features of schizophrenia, and tend to persist even when patients are treated with conventional medication treatments. Researchers from the University of Caen, France, report on a new treatment for hallucinations at the meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping. They used a technique called Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation- rTMS, which sends magnetic pulses at high frequency (20 Hz) over the brain surface. By placing the pulses guided by anatomical and functional cerebral imaging over the auditory cortex where hallucinations are generated, they found a significant reduction in auditory hallucinations that lasted for nearly 2 weeks following the treatment; 2 patients were hallucination free after 6 months. While the study is still preliminary, it suggests the potential for 20 Hz- rTMS as a new, noninvasive approach to treatment of schizophrenia that is relatively safe and free of side effects.

Authors: S Dollfus, A Montagne-Larmurier, A Razafimandimby, R Morello, O Etard
Centre Hospitalier Universitaire, Caen, France

"Psychiatric diagnoses are less reliable than star sign "

"Psychiatric diagnoses are less reliable than star signs" The psychologist Richard Bentall says that psychiatrists dish out drugs but ignore the value of good relationships
Professor Richard Bentall

It is a state of affairs that makes Richard Bentall furious. In 2004, Bentall, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Bangor, wrote Madness Explained, in which he argued that hearing voices, hallucinations and other symptoms of “severe” mental illness are just exaggerations of quirks experienced by us all. That won him the British Psychological Book Of The Year award. Now, in Doctoring The Mind: Why Psychiatric Treatments Fail, he criticises mental health services, and psychiatry in particular.

Doctoring the Mind paints a stark picture of a mental health system riddled with corruption and incompetence, in which shrinks live it up on pharmaceutical company cash while patients are disrespected, dehumanised and drugged to the eyeballs. Like the legendary “anti-psychiatrist” R.D. Laing before him, Bentall believes that people with mental health problems need understanding, support and respect. Unlike Laing, he offers evidence to back his claims, declaring himself a “rational anti-psychiatrist”.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Looking beyond medicine to treat mental illness: A conversation with psychology professor Gail A. Hornstein

Amhurst Bulletin, June 05, 2009

Agnes's Jacket: A Psychologist's Search for the Meanings of Madness

Full story here

Key sections of the book discuss the work of the Freedom Center, a Northampton-based advocacy group for people diagnosed with mental illness. Founded seven years ago, the Freedom Center stresses choice in treatment. Run by people diagnosed with mental illness, the center offers support groups and other activities aimed at helping to control psychotic episodes.

"Northampton should be particularly proud," Hornstein says, "because it's one of the leading activist and support organizations of its kind in the country."

In the United Kingdom, she attended meetings of the Hearing Voices Network, comprising more than 160 support groups for those who hear voices in their heads. The members say that talking about their voices, and their feelings about them, helps them cope with what can be frightening experiences, Hornstein said.

Impressed by the work of the HVN in Europe, Hornstein became a trained facilitator and now co-leads a Hearing Voices group, one of the first of its kind in this country, that meets at the Recovery Learning Community in Holyoke.

You can buy book here

Woman who killed daughter may get out of prison next month, June 9th, 2009

Full story here

UTAH STATE PRISON -- In extremely emotional testimony, Wendy Bullock described "the voices" that led her to kill her 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Sarah.

On Tuesday, 34-year-old Bullock appeared before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole for her first hearing. Her hands shackled at the waist, she strained to wipe her eyes as she told a parole board member about her years-long battle with mental illness.

"I started hearing voices, and I didn't understand it was mental illness," she said. "I thought it was God or the Holy Ghost or other people's thoughts. The voices continued to get worse."

In 2004, those voices led her to put her daughter in her car and drive from Salt Lake City to an area near Moab. She thought she could see snipers. She thought she could see police cars and helicopters. She thought they were all going to harm her and her daughter.

"The voices were telling me that society was going to hurt my daughter in the worst way, and that God wanted me to send her to a better place," Bullock cried, describing how she choked Sarah to death.

The voices didn't shut up, but Bullock realized what she had done. She said she tried to kill herself -- shoving a pencil in her ear and cutting herself with a dull pocketknife. The voices didn't stop.

It was then a passer-by found her, and she asked for help. Bullock was arrested and later pleaded guilty, but mentally ill, to child abuse homicide. She served sometime in the Utah State Hospital and later wound up at Point of the Mountain.