Creative Mental Health: Scotland and UK

wordle of mental health and recovery terms

The Scottish Recovery Network recently called for a complete rethink on mental health care and in particular with regard to legislation. They have argued that,

To date, Scotland’s mental health laws have been recognised as progressively rights-based compared to many others around the world. However SRN believes this respected position is threatened unless we take the opportunity to engage in a much wider review of how our national laws reflect and respond to the changing legal and policy landscape.

Scotland is becoming an increasingly rights-based, recovery oriented nation….The law needs to better reflect and progress person-centred, strengths-based policy and practice that is already taking shape in Scotland and beyond.

Recovery seeks to achieve the best personal outcomes for all – people with lived experience and practitioners – and our laws can play a guiding role in achieving this.”  [SRN 2014]

 

Creativity and Mental Health

With the emphasis shifting away from illness and diagnosis and towards a focus on positive health, strength building and recovery of well-being, it is time to push for a complete overhaul of the whole idea of mental health  ‘treatment’ and ‘care’. A more refreshing picture would entail integrated services that recognise a central role for creative activity and social support in the lives of all humans, most especially when we are stressed, alienated, cognitively overwhelmed or in an otherwise vulnerable state. Those two factors emerge clearly from many qualitative and quantitative studies of service users’ perspectives and, furthermore, are even more effective when a dedicated place or site is available in which to gather on a regular basis.

It has, in fact, been demonstrated that given enough information, support and appropriate cultural conditions, people in the throes of extreme experience can and do navigate a course towards re-instating their well-being, indeed this could be thought of as creative recovery, a form of self-actualisation. No longer is it acceptable to write off people with severe mental health issues as ‘unsuitable’ for psychotherapeutic approaches. One UK study demonstrated that Cognitive Behaviour Therapy helped fifty percent of unmedicated participants to significantly reduce their psychotic experiences.

I recently reflected here on new developments in mental health in Ireland, much of which resonates with the work and approaches taken by the Scottish Recovery Network cited here, as well as with many commentators and activists in the UK such as Dr Joanna Moncrieff and in the US through informative and radical bloggers at Beyond Meds and Mad in America.

 

Rethinking Mental Health

An upcoming book by Professor Peter Kinderman at the University of Liverpool looks and sounds very exciting and resonates with my own current publication. Keep an eye out for A Prescription for Psychiatry coming soon.

 

citation for image and info: SRN, 15th April 2014, scottishrecovery.net @ Scottish Recovery Network and @SRN_Tweet

How we can improve the mental wellbeing of young people

Anj Handa at Anj Handa Associates writes about the need to improve on the mental wellbeing of young people. I couldn’t agree more and would add a few points: I worry though that society is focusing too much on diagnosing and medicating young people and not enough on dealing with the social conditions that could have an impact on growing the positive mental health of citizens. Very interested in positive mental health promotion, especially for young people and I believe it to be bound up with strong self-esteem and a vibrant society full of opportunities for people of all abilities.

Anj Handa

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A shocking report published recently by The Prince’s Trust revealed that one in five young people is suffering from mental health issues. Tragically, it also highlighted that long-term unemployed 16 to 25-year-olds are twice as likely as their peers to have be on anti-depressants and believe they have nothing to live for. This number equates to around three quarters of young people.

Now, leading Mental Health charities, such as Rethink Mental Illness, the Mental Health Foundation and Sane have joined the debate, saying that not enough is being done on mental health for young people and that lives are being put at risk. They have called for more training for teachers and GPs and for awareness to be raised among parents and teenagers to be able to spot the signs.

Personally, I feel that awareness-raising is crucial, but that we also need to equip young people with the tools to…

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The Inspirational Ruby Wax

SANE NEW WORLD is a wonderful book image of book cover, Sane New World by Ruby Wax, 2013by Ruby Wax, a gift to us all. In a previous article by Ms Wax in The Guardian  she openly describes her experiences and insights into mental health difficulties and recoveries, specifically with depressive episodes. Here she is in her inimitable gripping, ironic prose, ‘depression isn’t about having a bad hair day. In actuality it feels like your old personality has left town and you’ve been replaced by a block of cement; indifferent if you win the lottery or fall off a cliff.’ Ms Wax goes on to reflect that shame sets in alongside well-meaning but ill-informed advice to ‘perk up’, that is until you discover fellow sufferers with whom you identify and both give and get empathy – social support in action. But that support should be more widely available and built into society, she argues, in the form of walk-in centres and the regular availability of places to meet and mentor on the AA model. Her vision resonates well with the central thesis of my upcoming book entitled Creativity and Social Support in Mental Health: Service Users’ Perspectives (Palgrave). My main findings with day centre clients were the importance of having  somewhere to go and something to do every day, as well as routine and reliable social support. There is such a lot going on, awareness is growing, stigma is dissolving (slowly, we must keep at it). This blog will join the groundswell and hopefully contribute useful ideas and observations or at least help to bring voices together. Please feel free to add comments and suggestions. Thanks for looking in and until next time, look after your mental health 🙂

Meanings of The Matrix

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Virtual and computer imagery in the film The Matrix

Much has been written on The Matrix film trilogy, for instance in an intriguing account of the philosophical themes which the film delves into, author Roman Meinhold asserts that we are challenged by the content of the film to think philosophically about our human existence and the nature of reality.

While philosophical and socio-political interpretations are interesting and no doubt valid, I have found myself drawn to an interpretation that favours depth psychology. Watching the full trilogy for about the third or fourth time within a couple of years, a number of ideas struck me about the meanings held within the film. Firstly, it has all the hallmarks of a fairy tale from the perspectives of Bettleheim and von Franz, detailed more fully in a previous post. As such it represents an inner quest and the various realities in the film equate with levels or stages of consciousness and maturation in the human psychological Self.

Alternative Reality

While the majority of humans’ real bodies are anaesthetised in energy farms for the maintenance of the super machines who now rule the scorched earth, their life experience is a simulated virtual reality, a set of complex computer programmes called the Matrix and run by the machines. Some humans in their Matrix identity sense something is wrong with the world and they seek answers. These renegades are detected eventually by special programmes called Agents and usually destroyed.

Real Reality

Some humans have escaped the pod farms however and live as a besieged community in an underground sanctuary called Zion. The hero Neo is contacted by two of these ‘real’ humans, Morpheus and Trinity, who offer him the chance to escape ‘into the real world’. One of the most electrifying dialogues in cinema has to be when Morpheus gives Neo the option of going back to the Matrix, innocent of any of the previous insights, or to continue with the quest and push into the real world, no going back –  the blue pill or the red pill? The Matrix as a film and a philosophical statement challenges our ability to perceive reality. It also suggests that social consensus and popular culture may be deceptions that mask our true nature and divorce us from the vitality of the body.

Image of Morpheus holding a red and blue pill in each hand.

Morpheus asks Neo to choose true reality and freedom or virtual reality and ignorance.

In one sense then it is a treatise on ‘living in our heads’ too much, cut off from the authenticity of the embodied self. The ‘real’ humans live deep in the earth in Zion and thus are connected with the source of life. They scratch a living in their grubbiness and in their make-do environment, yet are authentic and real in their experiences, contrasting with the Matrix selves who have all the trappings of modernity but are trapped and constrained by their fabricated world.

Archetypes

Morpheus is the messenger and a ‘John the Baptist’ figure, totally convinced that Neo is the One, prohesied to save humanity and end the war with the machines. He is also something of a therapist character as he challenges Neo’s reality and lures him ‘down the rabbit hole’.

Neo is the hero, unsure of his path but following his gut, even when he has to challenge both the prophesy and the Oracle.

The Oracle, though a programme, is an entity personified in a female figure of the wise woman. Like a positive anima, she enlightens, guides and creates opportunities for Neo to realise his destiny, or to make his choices as he sees fit – the anomaly is never really resolved except that Neo does break the mould and act on his own principles – eventually going to the machines to broker a mutual collaboration and thus stop the war. It is through an intense personal connection that Neo achieves his ultimate redemption, as he is in love wtih his other rescuer, Trinity.

Both Trinity and the Oracle seem to me to personify two sides of Neo’s own anima – romantic love and maternal love.

The Hero’s Journey

During the course of the story, Neo goes through several stages that could be equated with the hero’s journey. First, he is unsettled and questing in his previous life in the Matrix. This is how he is detected by Morpheus and Trinity as he attempts to hack into the Matrix programmes. As Morpheus tells him, he is trying to ‘wake up’, a wonderful metaphor for the unease that often drives a person into therapy or some sort of self-reflective journey – “you feel something is wrong, it brought you to me” he says. The Matrix, explains Morpheus, is “the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you.” To take the red pill is to embark on the journey from which there is no turning back.

Neo takes the red pill and erupts into his body in the real world, in a pod on an energy farm, plugged into the system of cables that draw the energy from his body and feed the virtual reality of the Matrix into his brain. Rescued by Morpheus and Trinity and taken to Zion, Neo is effectively a newborn and must re-learn who he really is, not unlike the catharsis of therapy and self-discovery. This is, I think, the central message of the Matrix films, encapsulated in the Oracle’s kitchen wall plaque – Know Thyself – a great Jungian theme on which to conclude.

Morpheus Image citation: http://www.casescorner.com/id57.html

Matrix Image citation: http://scipp.ucsc.edu/~haber/ph116A/

Philosophical citation: http://www.roman-meinhold.com/matrix.pdf

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