Category: Mental Illness

The “Trauma-Focused Turn” in Critical Psychology

A Review of: De-Medicalizing Misery II: Society, Politics and the Mental Health Industry Edited by Ewen Speed, Joanna Moncrieff and Mark Rapley Click on title to read the review (downloads as Word document or contact me for a pdf copy): The “Trauma-Focused Turn” in Critical Psychology First published with PsycCRITIQUES, June 1, 2015, Vol. 60, No. …

Transformative approaches to crises, self-doubt & extreme states

Crises and self-doubt plague all of us at different times in our lives. A natural response is to want to escape the turmoil and angst, and return to solid ground as quick as possible. Yet when we can remain open to suffering, and not shut down or numb out, troubled times can become opportunities for deep transformation. Murray Stein describes …

Imagining suicide

Twice weekly, I commute across the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve taken this route for over a year, yet the view still consumes me. Whether marveling at the Bridge, seeing the sun (or fog) mingle with the Pacific Ocean, or eyeing the cramped San Francisco skyline that signals the end of my workday, I feel part …

What is the function of the brain?

Photo: Sculpture of hands holding each other.

Based on her ethnographic study of psychiatric residency programs, anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann concluded psychiatry is “of two minds”: one “mind” emphasizes the role of neurochemistry, while the other “mind” places more importance on the context of our suffering, including relationships past and present. Identifying the origins of mental illness likely depends on both interpretations. There …

Want to reduce mental illness? Address trauma. Want to save the world? Address trauma.

Different explanations have been given for the increased number of people suffering from mental illness. Some have claimed the increase is the result of ever-expanding diagnostic criteria and syndromes that risk medicalizing normal emotional reactions. Others argue the increase is the result of the pharmaceutical industry financially courting the medical establishment as well as using …

Trauma-informed psychotherapy puts the body – and love – back in mental healthcare

Painting of the word "Love".

For the past 50 years, psychotherapy has taken a back seat to biomedical psychiatry, largely due to reliance on medications for the treatment of mental disorders. Yet clinical evidence increasingly points to chronic, unresolved traumatic stress as the source of many — if not most — mental disorders. Furthermore, longitudinal analyses show continued use of psychotropic medications …

“The Red Book”: A primer for healing madness in a mad world

Through his meticulous design of The Red Book, CG Jung interwove his experience of madness with the collective suffering of his era. Such syntheses are rare — and just what the current mental health field desperately needs. In what follows, I look at how The Red Book became Jung’s journey out of madness as well …

Trauma nation?

Medicine is where hope is alive and well in America. During the past fifty years, due to rapid advances in microbiology, many persons who once might have died prematurely, or suffered debilitating diseases or disorders, instead enjoy productive lives, albeit often with chronic illnesses to manage. Through its near-miracle successes, the field has engendered the …

The “Ides of March” in the cycle of growth

“Beware the Ides of March,” says the soothsayer to Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s drama about the leader’s demise. This phrase, which once forewarned Caesar’s assassination, is uttered each spring by mental health professionals. According to folk wisdom, the season coincides with an increase in mental disorders and symptoms of psychological distress. “March Madness” has become …

Does globalization 3.0 need DSM V?

The slated 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) wobbles like jello. It can’t tell the difference between psychopathology, normal misery, or bad habits. When you know there is something definitely wrong and need help, it won’t necessarily confirm your problem. Allen Frances, MD gives a good breakdown of some …

Dioramic visions of a forgotten past

Do you remember childhood field trips to science museums, gazing into dioramas of our distant ancestors? Perhaps you saw artistic renditions of Homo erectus huddled around a fire, or sitting near a faux cave carving stone tools—a nod to our ancestors’ fledgling cognitive capacities and more human-like traits. Saber-tooth cats or woolly mammoths were sometimes …

When psychiatry retraumatizes

Before I became a psychotherapist, I often wrote, lectured, and blogged about damaging aspects of psychiatry. I am more hopeful now — not about psychiatry improving, but about truly helpful mental healthcare for people who might otherwise be labeled “chronically” mentally ill and forever take medications to tranquillize their internal demons. Since I began combining …

Listening to schizophrenia

The National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) website makes it seem the mystery of schizophrenia is resolved: “Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that affects about 1.1 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. People with schizophrenia sometimes hear voices others don’t hear, believe that others …

Can the West save the world from mental illness?

When health care is inadequate to nonexistent in a country, mental health care is generally much worse. In places like sub-Saharan Africa, where treating AIDS and malaria burden an already overrun health care system, mental illness is largely ignored. Families in the poorest countries around the world sometimes resort to tying mentally ill family members …

Foretelling extinction?

Mental illness has reached epidemic proportions. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates eighteen percent of American adults suffer from a mental disorder each year. The World Health Organization (WHO) claims depression is the leading cause of disability in the world. These numbers, however, do not do justice to the burden of mental illness in our …

Can we let children outgrow their ‘mental disorders’?

From 1994 to 2003, there was a forty-fold increase in the treatment of youths for bipolar disorder — from 20,000 to 800,000 young people in the United States alone. In almost all cases, these children were treated with medications that had not been extensively tested for use in the very young. Thus, nearly one million children and adolescents …