Bedford Happy!

From her wonderful site here on WordPress, Marie-Louise Plum gives a great uplifting account of an arts for mental health project coming up in Bedford. Let’s hope this is the start of a new paradigm for mental health promotion and recovery. Look out too for my book with Palgrave Macmillan in April 2014, “Creativity and Social Support in Mental Health: Service Users’ Perspectives”, describing many more examples of the power of creative activity and social support in mental health and well-being. For now, join me in following up Marie-Louise’s fantastic leads here for more exciting work in this arena. Thanks Marie-Louise and All the best for now, Roberta 🙂

A mental health related arts project! In Bedford! Where I’m from! Ticking all the boxes here, press release below, read on folks…

Is Bedford the unhappiest place in Great Britain? The national press may think so, but Bedford Creative Arts think differently.

Bedford Happy is a project commissioned by Bedford Creative Arts. Kent artist Dan Thompson will be looking at the town, and working with local groups to find out where people are happiest – and what it is that gives them a happy buzz. A day-long artwork event will be produced celebrating Bedford’s happiness on Saturday 29th March. There will be a trail of interventions to make people a little bit happier, some special markers of happy memories and a celebration of the shops and cafes that are making people happy. “Bedford is an interesting place, full of quirky stories and interesting places, Bedford Happy is a great opportunity…

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Professor Dinesh Bhugra on refreshing psychiatry

tag cloud, multicoloured words relating to psychiatry, like mental health, treatment and medical.

Psychiatry’s New Era

With admirable clarity and much insight on cultural and social factors in mental health and wellbeing, Professor Dinesh Bhugra is due to take up the Presidency of the World Psychiatric Association.

Symptoms are not the essential focus, rather ‘social functioning’ is key, argues Professor Dinesh in a recent Guardian feature interview by Patrick Strudwick. Click the link to read the full article in the Guardian

and for Professor Bughra’s site,

Professor Dinesh Bhugra.

 

Psychiatry needs Social Anthropology and Sociology

With a polymathic background in not only medicine but in sociology and social anthropology as well, Professor Dinesh heralds in a much needed new era in approaches to mental health across the globe. Not only do patients and citizens need this, psychiatrists and allied professions do too – according to Professor Bughra, morale is at an all time low and much needed services such as day centres and rehabilitation models are currently under erosion.

I am in total agreement with this new approach and hope it will materialise in not only improved services, but services that take account of service users’ views and those of many people who have incorporated what might be termed ‘psychiatric symptoms’ into a creative way of being human – as well as finding ways to improve and boost their own mental health and wellbeing with positive psychology, creative and meaningful activities and various forms of social support. One very uplifting and encouraging story is told by Eleanor Longden, who discovered that many people are voice hearers and that the voices are often attempts to heal, emerging from the inner world (as R. D. Laing and Carl Jung also intuited in days gone by).

While some might argue that psychiatry should drop the  diagnostic ‘labelling’ altogether and that medication should have no place in mental health support, others see the changes required as a more expanded repertoire within the mental health professions,  to include mindfulness, meditation, diet, various healthful activities and especially some form of regular, meaningful occupation. For more detail on these themes see a recent post on Ruby Wax’s book, Sane New World and some recent scholarly work by Joanna Moncrieff, The Bitterest Pills and Rapley et al De-Medicalising Misery.  My own book based on service user perspectives is due out in April 2014, Creativity and Social Support in Mental Health.

I wish you all good mental health and welcome comments, views and suggestions for helpful sites and other media.

Psychiatry tag cloud Image citation and source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Psychiatry_tag_cloud.svg

Creative Mental Health: Soul Spelunker: Thoughts On Heideggers Being And Time

Creative Mental Health: Soul Spelunker: Thoughts On Heideggers Being And Time.

This post from Mark Dotson’s Depth Psychology blog Soul Spelunker was reblogged on my own blogger site a few months ago, as I found it helpful in my attempts to understand existential and phenomenological psychology (I don’t pretend to have totally grasped it even yet, but I think I’m moving in the right direction!).

Lived experience is a concept gaining ground in mental health research. It is, however, not easy to define. In the post linked above, I found some helpful explanations of Hegel and  Heidegger’s vision of ‘being’ in terms of organic and developmental processes. Rather than the dominant approach of subject/object division, the concept of Dasein reflects a more holistic state of being in the world. From this theoretical stance it is then possible to discuss lived experience as an investigable phenomenon and so drive forward a more humanistic approach to research, evaluation, practice and policy.

Other authors whose work on ‘meaning making’ added to this repertoire included Rollo May,

Creative Mental Health: Soul Spelunker: Thoughts On Heideggers Being And Time

Eric Maisel,

Creative Mental Health: Soul Spelunker: Thoughts On Heideggers Being And Time

and Arthur Kleinman.

Creative Mental Health: Soul Spelunker: Thoughts On Heideggers Being And Time

My motivation for this search for understanding comes from my background in qualitative research and mental health. The concepts of ‘lived experience’, ‘ways of being’ and ‘phenomenology’ or ‘worldview’ were already firmly planted in my mind from anthropology and ethnography. The fact that humans ‘make meaning’ and form cultural matrices within which to affirm and manifest our existence had also taken root, mainly during the interpretive analysis of my fieldwork and other research material.

Most recently I have discovered the work of Mick Bramham in existential phenomenological psychotherapy, work which has really cranked up my understanding of these concepts by at least ten gears. I do encourage anyone interested to visit that site and to look as well at the work of Rollo May and Eric Maisel.

For any researchers seeking a theoretical and methodological approach that focuses on lived experience and making meaning, I recommend beginning with anthropology and in particular with Arthur Kleinman’s The Illness Narratives.

Happy Reading 🙂

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 🙂

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