- POPULAR CULTURE
- MENTAL HEALTH
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
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- APPLIED SCIENCES
- PRINT & MEDIA
PSYCHIATRY: AN OVERVIEW
"I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty 50 years from now, in 2014. The lucky few who can be involved in creative work of any sort will also be the true elite of mankind, for they alone will do more than serve a machine." These are the words of Isaac Asimov back in 1964. For those who would like to know more about Isaac Asimov(1920-1992), an American author & professor of biochemistry at Boston University who was best known for his works of science fiction & for his popular science books, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Asimov Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters.
There is little doubt that Asimov's prediction & his emphasis on creative work contains some truth. The medical specialty of psychiatry involves a devotion, a dedication, to the study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders. In the last half century the field of psychiatry has come to involve literally billions of people. The people who specialize in psychiatry differ in many ways from other mental health professionals and physicians in that their field of learning involves not only the social and biological sciences, but much else. The medical specialty that is psychiatry utilizes research in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, medicine, biology, biochemistry, and pharmacology; it has generally been considered a middle ground between neurology and psychology. The notion of a "biopsychosocial model" is often used to underline the multifactorial nature of clinical impairment. The word "model" here is not used in a strictly scientific way though. Alternatively, a "biocognitive model" acknowledges the physiological basis for the mind's existence, but identifies cognition as an irreducible and independent realm in which disorder may occur. The biocognitive approach includes a mentalist etiology & provides a natural dualist (i.e. non-spiritual) revision of the biopsychosocial view, reflecting the efforts of Australian psychiatrist Niall McLaren to bring the discipline into scientific maturity in accordance with the paradigmatic standards of philosopher Thomas Kuhn. There are now dozens of forums and information sites on the subject of psychiatry in cyberspace like this one: http://www.wpanet.org/detail.php?section_id=10&content_id=414
Unlike other physicians and neurologists, psychiatrists specialize in certain aspects of the doctor-patient relationship; they are trained to varying extents in the use of psychotherapy & other therapeutic communication techniques. Disorders that psychiatry deals with include various affective, behavioural, cognitive, & perceptual abnormalities. Psychiatrists differ from both clinical psychologists & psychologists in that they are physicians. Their residency training, usually 3 to 4 years, is in psychiatry; their undergraduate medical training is identical to all other physicians. Psychiatrists can, among other things, counsel patients, prescribe medication, order laboratory tests, order neuroimaging, and conduct physical examinations. For a more detailed overview of psychiatry go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychiatry
This sub-section of my website, as well as all the sub-sections which deal with mental health issues, is offered for informational purposes. It is also offered as an aid to others. It is NOT a substitute for medical advice. I make every effort to offer only accurate information. I cannot, though, guarantee that the information I make available here is always correct or current, or that my understanding of the wide-range of topics which I deal with is necessarily a correct understanding. I am no authority. Below readers will find the personal, idiosyncratic, story of my experience with various mental health problems over my lifetime, and it was this experience that has led me to take an interest in this field.
No one should rely, therefore, upon any information contained herein, nor make any decisions or take any action based on such information. Consult your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program, taking any medication or, indeed, taking any action at all as a result of reading what I post below, insofar as mental health issues are concerned. I am not responsible for any action taken by those who rely in one way or another on the information contained herein and for any damages incurred, whether directly or indirectly, as a result of the errors, omissions or discrepancies contained in this account. The following information is NOT intended to endorse drugs or recommend therapy. While this account might be helpful it is not, as I say, a substitute for the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgement of healthcare practitioners in patient care.
A PLACE TO START
I highly recommend the following links on the internet: (i) among dozens of sites, (a) for some problems in psychiatry, (b) for the Authenticity Mental Health Network, and (c) for the Americanization of mental illness---to begin your stay at this subsection of my website on mental health. In the end, of course, readers are free to begin where they please. This hardly needs saying. I belong to over 100: mental health, bipolar, schizophrenia, affective disorder, personality disorder, and general health sites. I interact as little as possible, but respond to incoming posts when I can be of help to others. There are literally 100s of thousands of people at all the health sites at which I am registered; I could spend all my time dealing with the people at these sites who have problems in the area of mental health.
There are, as of 2016, some 800,000 to a million people who die by suicide every year, making it the 10th leading cause of death worldwide. There are an estimated 10 to 20 million non-fatal attempted suicides every year. Mental disorders are often present at the time of suicide with estimates ranging from 27% to more than 90%. Of those who have been admitted to a psychiatric unit, their lifetime risk of completed suicide is about 8.6%. Half of all people who die by suicide may have major depressive disorder; having this or one of the other mood disorders such as bipolar disorder increases the risk of suicide 20-fold. For more on this subject go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide#Mental_disorders
I am not a professional psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, or general psychologist. I often advise people with mental health concerns: (a) to seek out professional advice from at least one and, hopefully, two doctors, and (b) to do some serious and problem-specific Googling in cyberspace. After 16 years, 2000 to 2016, of helping others at mental health and general health sites, I now only respond to those who send me direct questions, questions that come in to my daily batch of emails, or are posted at some site directly to me. I do not respond to posts that are just placed as passing information, say, at SNS like Facebook, MySpace or, indeed, any one of the literally 100s of internet sites at which my writing is found. If I did respond to such posts that is all I would do all day long!
HERE ARE SOME OF THE MANY LINKS AVAILABLE ON MENTAL ILLNESS
IDIOSYNCRATIC CULTURAL TRAPPINGS
We can become psychologically unhinged for many reasons that are common to all, like personal traumas, social upheavals or biochemical imbalances in our brains. Modern science has begun to reveal these causes. Whatever the trigger, however, the ill individual and those around him invariably rely on cultural beliefs and stories to understand what is happening. Those stories, whether they tell of spirit possession, semen loss or serotonin depletion, predict and shape the course of the illness in dramatic and often counterintuitive ways. In the end, what cross-cultural psychiatrists and anthropologists have to tell us is that all mental illnesses, including depression, P.T.S.D. and even schizophrenia, can be every bit as influenced by cultural beliefs and expectations today as hysterical-leg paralysis or the vapors or zar or any other mental illness ever experienced in the history of human madness. This does not mean that these illnesses and the pain associated with them are not real, or that sufferers deliberately shape their symptoms to fit a certain cultural niche. It means that a mental illness is an illness of the mind and cannot be understood without understanding the ideas, habits and predispositions — the idiosyncratic cultural trappings — of the mind that is its host.
MANY WRITERS ON MENTAL HEALTH
Anthony Storr(1920-2001) was an English psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and author. He is one of my favorite writers providing a quite useful overview on mental health perspectives. The literarture, though, on mental health issues is now vast, and I leave it to readers to work out their own reading repertoire. For more on Storr go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Storr The association between bipolar disorder & creativity first appeared in literature in the 1970s, but the idea of a link between "madness" and "genius" is much older, dating back at least to the time of Aristotle. The Ancient Greeks believed that creativity came from the gods, and in particular the Muses, the mythical personifications of the arts and sciences, and the nine daughters of Zeus, the king of the gods.
The idea of a complete work of art emerging without conscious thought or effort was reinforced by the views of the Romantic era. It has been proposed that there is a particular link between creativity and bipolar disorder, whereas major depressive disorder appears to be significantly more common among playwrights, novelists, biographers, and artists. Psychotic individuals are said to display a capacity to see the world in a novel and original way, literally, to see things that others cannot. But these themes are just a start, and readers with an interest in the subject of mental health need to work out their reading from the special areas of the subject which concern them.
Studies on mental health are now legion. A study by psychologist J. P. Rushton found creativity to correlate with intelligence, and psychoticism. Another study found creativity to be greater in schizotypal than in either normal or schizophrenic individuals. Divergent thinking was associated with bilateral activation of the prefrontal cortex, schizotypal individuals were found to have much greater activation of their right prefrontal cortex. This study hypothesizes that such individuals are better at accessing both hemispheres, allowing them to make novel associations at a faster rate. In agreement with this hypothesis, ambidexterity is also associated with schizotypal and schizophrenic individuals. Three recent studies by Mark Batey and Adrian Furnham have demonstrated the relationships between schizotypal and hypomanic personality, and several different measures of creativity. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creativity_and_mental_illness Again, the subject of creativity is but one of a host of subjects in the mental health domain.
MENTAL ILLNESS IN FILM
Mental illness has appeared frequently as a major theme or background element in film. Many motion pictures portray mental illness in inaccurate ways, leading to misunderstanding and heightened stigmatization of the mentally ill. However, some movies are lauded for dispelling stereotypes, & providing insight into mental illness. In a study by George Gerbner, it was determined that 5 percent of 'normal' television characters are murderers, while 20% of 'mentally-ill' characters are murderers; 40% of normal characters are violent, while 70% of mentally-ill characters are violent in the TV world.
Contrary to what is portrayed in films and television, Henry J. Steadman, Ph.D., & his colleagues at Policy Research Associates found that, overall, formal mental patients did not have a higher rate of violence than the control group of people who were not formal mental patients. In both groups, however, substance abuse was linked to a higher rate of violence. See Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2004, if you are interested in this theme. Several books now provide a helpful overview of mental health problems as they are characterized in cinema.
These books include: (i) Danny Wedding, Mary Ann Boyd and Ryan M. Niemiec, Movies and Mental Illness: Using Films to Understand Psychopathology(2nd ed., Cambridge, MA, Hogrefe & Hufer Publishing, 2005); (ii) David J. Robinson, Reel Psychiatry: Movie Portrayals of Psychiatric Conditions(Rapid Psychler Press, 2003); (iii) Glen O. Gabbard and Krin Gabbard, Psychiatry and the Cinema(American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., 2nd ed., 1999); and (iv) Otto F. Wahl, Media Madness: Public Images of Mental Illness(Piscataway, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 1997). For a list of the major disorders which have been utilized as part of the plots by movie-makers go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_illness_in_film#See_also Works of fiction and TV programs dealing with mental illness are also listed at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_illness_in_fiction
I read Sarah Williams' script for Poppy Shakespeare before reading Clare Allan's novel, and what I liked most about it was that it made no sense - at least not in the way that scripts are conventionally meant to. The narrator had no name, you knew next to nothing about her past, the world was couched in its own self-referential language of "dribblers and sniffs" that had to be taken entirely on its own terms. And the plot, such as it was, hinged upon tiny, almost invisible things - secret viewing rooms that might or might not be part of a collective fantasy, emotional undercurrents between the characters of a very real and delicate ambivalence. All the same, at the core of all this ambiguity was an accessible emotional journey of devastating power - the story of a friendship that goes badly wrong. The Dorothy Fish was clearly a symbolic world of bureaucratic nightmare out of Kafka. But the other, almost hidden truth of it was that it was also a place of choice, not coercion, at least for N, and that she and the other day patients found their only source of comfort here. Why had they chosen to live this life, why couldn't they understand why Poppy hadn't, or couldn't, and what did this conflict say about them and all of us? For more go to: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/tvandradioblog/2008/mar/31/thebeautyofpoppyshakespear
MEN DON'T SEEK HELP
More than 1.3 million men in Australia experience mental health problems but too few of them seek help because of the stigma that exists. This stigma is particularly one that applies to men. In the program at the following link you can hear about how the strategy of early intervention can ensure a better future for young men with psychosis; how a young man emerged from severe depression to create a social enterprise to help others, and the relationship between men’s mental health and their ageing process. Go to this link: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/6464602
MY PRESENT MEDICAL STATE
I have written a personal and idiosyncratic, medical and clinical study of what some life-study students call a chaos narrative. This study focuses on an aspect of my life involving several mental health issues, mainly bipolar 1 disorder. This account is now in its 15th edition. In my retirement, the years from 2001 to 2015, I have revised the account each year producing what became a new edition each year. This book has 15 chapters; the last chapter contains ten appendices which, with the main text, provide what I hope are helpful perspectives for others who suffer various traumatic experiences in life. This is a Two-Part account at Baha'i Library Online, & it deals with two-halfs of my life, from conception to age 35 in Part 1. Part 2 deals with the last half, age 35 to 71 with some overlap between the two periods: 1943 to 1980, and 1981 to 2015. For our world of print-and-image glut, I advise many readers to simply skim or scan to portions of the book relevant to their own experiences. For the entire story go to: http://bahai-library.com/price_mental-health_history_autobiography-memoir
As I say in my annual letters, in summarizing my present situation, I have 3 children and four grandchildren all living within cooee. I also have a small circle of friends, and many an internet correspondent. I could give you a dog's breakfast of problems that people in this quite personal world of contacts experience. I see 8 doctors for my several maladies: a psychiatrist for my bipolar disorder, a GP for scripts, blood tests, hearing tests, and an assortment of stuff; a urological surgeon for my enlarged prostate, a renal physician for my moderate chronic kidney disease & cholesterol problems, a gerontologist for diverticulitis and colonoscopies when required, a podiatrist for foot fungus and other foot problems, an optometrist for my cataracts and annual eye tests for vision, a dentist and dental technician for my 6 teeth and 2 partial plates. Goodness---my story is as long as your arm....so my main aim on a daily basis is to write and read as much as possible except for 2 hours after taking my seroquel for my bipolar I disorder which psychiatrists also give to war veterans with PTSD. My several medications keep me: (i) pain free, (ii) in a comfortable condition to go through the 12 hours when I'm not in bed on a daily basis, and (iii) with a good night's sleep each day.
ONE PERSON'S STORY: not mine
The following mental health file whirred to life in 1969 in Cambridge, Massachusetts just as I was settling into a normal existence after my own 6 month's stretch in psychiatric institutions in Canada. The person in question had recently left Opus Dei, the Catholic religious order to which he'd committed his young soul; a major depression had followed. The records printed below at this link were out of the mouths of his many caretakers; they chronicled his treatment at various medical offices and psychiatric clinics in the Boston area, from then until 2012. The following records have been lightly edited. Spelling errors have been corrected, abbreviations standardized, & doctors’ names changed. Go to this link, although you may have to surf-about at the site to actually access his story: http://www.thebaffler.com/stories/story-illness
STORIES OF JOURNEYS THROUGH MADNESS:
Twenty-seven years old and in her first semester at Yale Law School, Elyn Saks had days when, she writes, "I feared that my brain was actually heating up and might explode. I visualized brain matter flying all over the room, spattering the walls. Whenever I sat at a desk and tried to read, I caught myself putting my hands up to either side of my head, trying to hold it all in." For more of this story through madness go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/apr/17/infiltrating-the-enemy-of-the-mind/
Neuropsychopharmacology is an international scientific journal & the official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. The journal focuses on clinical & basic science contributions that advance our understanding of the brain & behavior. The word comes from the Greek word for neuron with its associated meanings of: "nerve"; psyche, "mind", "soul"; and another Greek word pharmakon meaning: "poison" or "drug", and, finally, the Greek suffix -logia meaning "the study of". It is an interdisciplinary science related to psychopharmacology, that is, the study of how drugs affect the mind, as well as fundamental neuroscience. It entails research into of mechanisms of neuropathology, drug action or pharmacodynamics, psychiatric illness, and states of consciousness.
These studies are instigated at the detailed level involving neuro-transmission, receptor activity, bio-chemical processes, & neural circuitry. Neuropsychopharmacology supersedes psychopharmacology in the areas of "how" and "why", and the field also addresses other issues such as brain function. Accordingly, the clinical aspect of the field includes psychiatric, and especially psychoactive, as well as neurologic, that is non-psychoactive, pharmacology-based treatments. For more go to several inter-related journals: http://www.nature.com/clpt/journal , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuropsychopharmacology , and an extensive list of pharmacology journals at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Pharmacology_journals
CULTURE MEDICINE AND PSYCHIATRY
Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry is an international and interdisciplinary forum for the publication of work in the fields of medical and psychiatric anthropology, cross-cultural psychiatry, and associated cross-societal and clinical epidemiological studies. The journal offers original research, & theoretical papers based on original research, across the full range of these fields. Contents include clinically relevant interdisciplinary work which bridges anthropological & medical perspectives & methods, along with research on the cultural context of normative & deviant behavior, including the anthropological, epidemiological and clinical aspects of the subject. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry fosters systematic, wide-ranging examinations of the significance of culture in health care, including comparisons of how the concept of culture operates in anthropological and medical disciplines. To browse through 39 volumes at 4 issues per volume go to: http://link.springer.com/journal/volumesAndIssues/11013
Marijuana samples seized by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency in 2014 show the concentration of THC, the drug’s psychoactive compound, rising from a mean of 3.75 percent in 1995 to 13 percent in 2013. Potency seesaws depending on the strain and form. Fresh Baked, which sells recreational marijuana in Boulder, Colo., offers “Green Crack,” with a THC content of about 21 percent, and “Phnom Penh,” with about 8 percent. The level in a concentrate called “Bubble Hash” is about 70 percent; cartridges for vaporizers, much like e-cigarettes, range from 15 to 30 percent THC.
High-THC marijuana is associated with paranoia and psychosis, according to a June article in The New England Journal of Medicine. “We have seen very, very significant increases in emergency room admissions associated with marijuana use that can’t be accounted for solely on basis of changes in prevalence rates,” said Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a co-author of the THC study. “It can only be explained by the fact that current marijuana has higher potency associated with much greater risk for adverse effects.” Emergency room visits related to marijuana have nearly doubled, from 66,000 in 2004 to 129,000 in 2011, according to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. For more on this subject go to:http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/02/education/edlife/this-is-your-brain-on-drugs-marijuana-adults-teens.html?ref=science&_r=0
THE INTERNET IS AWASH WITH ADVICE AND STORIES
The world of mental health in cyberspace is awash with advice and stories, alternative medical treatments and mainstream medical advice. In some ways it is a labyrinth. Religions and philosophies, social sciences and sciences all make their inputs with various perspectives and approaches enough to completely bamboozle the average punter. After 7 decades of dealing with problems in this field myself, I have written a 110,000 word (270 page, font-14; 350 page, font-16) longitudinal, retrospective and prospective account of my experience with bipolar disorder, as well as several other mental health problems over more than 70 years: from October 1943 to November 2014. My story is far too long for most cyberspace surfers, the Facebook-twitter-age. My acccount is a personal, clinical, and idiosyncratic study of what some life-study students call 'a chaos narrative'. This study focuses on an aspect of my life involving several mental health issues, but mainly bipolar 1 disorder. You can access my story at this link: http://www.mdjunction.com/diary/ron-prices-experience-of-bpd-1944-to-2007
My account is now in the 3rd draft of its 14th edition. In my retirement from FT, PT and C/V paid-employment, beginning in the first year of the 3rd millennium, I have revised the account each year:(i) to add and comment on the changes in my medications and life experiences, and (ii) to update the information base in relation to the relevant knowledge about mental health, and especially about BPD and several other disorders, as that base of information became available, for the most part, in cyberspace.
This account aims to be as clinical as possible. It is not written as a narrative with episodes to keep readers wanting to read more, like a novel or a personal life-story. It is not written to be an interesting, highly personal account, for publishers to market and achieve a big readership on some best-seller list, on a list of books or ebooks in cyberspace or real space. It is, as I say above, a clinical and medical, longitudinal and, for most readers, somewhat antiseptic inquiry. It is an inspection and investigation, a personal rummaging around in my life and definitely not a story to keep readers on the edge of their seats, entertained, and moved by religious or philosophical, psychological and sociological insights.
My book is not written to be a model or an example of how I dealt with suffering, with anxiety, with life's troubles and woes. It is written to be of help to those with an interest in this particular mental health problem, bi-polar disorder. It is also written to provide a life-narrative, one person's life experience over more than 70 years of dealing with its manifestations in his life. Go to this link if you want to skim, scan, or ramble-around-in my account:http://bahai-library.com/price_mental-health_history_autobiography-memoir
This account has now been at many internet sites, and at Bahá'í Library Online for several years. This account has now had at least 40,000 hits and, possibly, as many as 100 thousand. It is impossible to know how much of my ongoing story has been read and by how many, even if the number of clicks or hits has been quantified at several internet sites. Readers will find my personal account and experience of bipolar 1 disorder(BPD) outlined in several parts. This is to make it easier for those who like short posts. Still, the length of my posts is a problem, as I say, to those with Facebook-twitter proclivities and preferences.
It is my life-narrative and my experience with a special focus on the idiosyncratic manifestations of BPD in my life. For this reason, among others, I have posted part or all of this 'chaos-narrative', as I say, at a number of internet sites. Mine, of course, is not the only story. There are now 100s, if not 1000s, of accounts of BPD in cyberspace. Mine is one of the most detailed due to its being the story, the experience of one person over his total lifespan of some seven decades.
Some refer to such an account as 'coming-out-of-the-closet'. This experience has parallels to, and with, the experience of: lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, paedophiles, people with criminal records and a host of others who have some stigmatized social problem as part of their lives. Such stigmatized problems have resulted in the person keeping their experience, their problem, their disability, their status, hidden as far as possible from others. Again, the literature on these several human predicaments is massive, and this account makes no attempt to deal with all of these stigmatized illnesses and disorders. The concept of 'coming-out' is not dealt with in detail, although this account is, in itself, a form of my coming-out.
Severe mental tests are everywhere apparent, not only in the field of psychiatry and clinical psychology, disciplines whose role is to deal with these afflictions, but also across the wider, the global, culture in which we all live. These tests have been afflicting people across most cultures in the long history of humankind, but especially in the last century as the world’s population has gone from 1.4 billion in 1914 to 7.4 billion in 2014. The onset of the Great War, 1914-1918, in some ways marked a new stage in the burgeoning problem of mental health and the tempests of our modern world. The new field of disaster psychiatry now plays a vital role in the evolving structures for preparedness & response in the field of disaster management.
Science and experience now address the tragedies of mass catastrophe with new systems. The challenges are massive for integrating mental health contributions into the practical requirements for survival, aid, emergency management and---ultimately and hopefully---recovery. The human face of disaster and the understanding of human strengths and resilience alongside the protection of, and care for, those suffering profound trauma and grief are central issues in relation to disaster psychiatry.
These tests, disasters and crises will continue in the decades ahead as the tempest afflicting society continues seemingly unabated. While this tempest blows through the minds and hearts of billions, there is also, it seems to me, an integrating and constructive set of processes at work. All is not tragedy and despair in the workings of modern history although, to some, it may appear to be thus. There is now available a burgeoning range of resources in today’s print and electronic media to help people understand this complex and extensive field of mental health. My life-narrative, which I hope will be of help with respect to BPD, is but one small resource, although a lengthy account, for readers. I have posted sections of this account at internet sites which contain a dialogue between people interested in particular mental health issues about which I have had some experience. Again, here is the link to my story:http://bahai-library.com/price_mental-health_history_autobiography-memoir
THE MENTAL LIFE OF PLANTS AND WORMS
"The Mental Life of Plants and Worms, Among Others," is an essay in The New York Review of Books on 13/4/'14 by Oliver Sacks. Oliver Wolf Sacks(1933-) is a British-American neurologist, writer, and amateur chemist who is Professor of Neurology at New York University School of Medicine. For more on Sacks go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Sacks I place the introduction to his essay here to provide what is, for me at least, a stimulating juxtaposition of content with no direct relation in many ways to the theme of mental health. This post belongs more appropriately in the biology, or even the evolution, sub-section of this website.
"Charles Darwin’s last book, published in 1881," Sacks begins his essay, his review, "was a study of the humble earthworm. His main theme—expressed in the title, The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms—was the immense power of worms, in vast numbers and over millions of years, to till the soil and change the face of the earth. But his opening chapters are devoted more simply to the “habits” of worms."
Sacks continues: "Worms can distinguish between light and dark, and they generally stay underground, safe from predators, during daylight hours. They have no ears, but if they are deaf to aerial vibration, they are exceedingly sensitive to vibrations conducted through the earth, as might be generated by the footsteps of approaching animals. All of these sensations, Darwin noted, are transmitted to collections of nerve cells. He called these collections “the cerebral ganglia” in the worm’s head."
“When a worm is suddenly illuminated,” Darwin wrote, it “dashes like a rabbit into its burrow.” He noted that he was “at first led to look at the action as a reflex one,” but then observed that this behavior could be modified—for instance, when a worm was otherwise engaged, it showed no withdrawal with sudden exposure to light. For Darwin, the ability to modulate responses indicated “the presence of a mind of some kind.” He also wrote of the “mental qualities” of worms in relation to their plugging up their burrows, noting that “if worms are able to judge…having drawn an object close to the mouths of their burrows, how best to drag it in, they must acquire some notion of its general shape.” This moved him to argue that worms “deserve to be called intelligent, for they then act in nearly the same manner as a man under similar circumstances.”
For more of this essay, which serves as a review of the following books: (i) The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms: with Observations on Their Habits by Charles Darwin, London: John Murray (1881); (ii) Jelly-Fish, Star-Fish, and Sea-Urchins: Being a Research on Primitive Nervous Systems by George John Romanes, London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Co. (1885); (iii) Mental Evolution in Animals by George John Romanes, London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Co. (1883); (iv) In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind by Eric R. Kandel, Norton, 500 pages; (v) What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses by Daniel Chamovitz, Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 200 pages; (vi) The Foundations of Ethology by Konrad Lorenz, Springer (1981); (vii) Behavior of the Lower Organisms by Herbert Spencer Jennings, Columbia University Press (1906); (viii) Cephalopod Behaviour by Roger T. Hanlon and John B. Messenger, Cambridge University Press, 250 pages; and (ix) An Introduction to Nervous Systems by Ralph J. Greenspan, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press--go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/apr/24/mental-life-plants-and-worms-among-others/?insrc=hpss
FOUCAULT: INVENTING OURSELVES and THERAPIES OF NORMALITY
Michel Foucault(1926-1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, philologist and literary critic. His theories addressed the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they are used as a form of social control through societal institutions. Having taught Foucault as a teacher in the social sciences, I know from experience that his writings and his ideas are difficult to grasp. His language, like the language of many thinkers and theorists in the social sciences, is laden with jargon and complexities. For people whose main diet of print is Facebook-like messages, the daily paper and celebrity magazines, they simply can't deal with the language. Alot of reading in the social sciences requires time, persistence and a certain dedication to trying to work-out what is being said. Many people today are not willing to put in the hard yards as they say due to the tendency to simplify as well as all sorts of tendencies in modern and complex society.
The most common Foucauldian approach to mental health issues, and the therapeutic culture in general, is an approach in which Foucault critiques what he calls normalization processes. Normalization processes are essentially socialization processes. Of course, the subject of socialization is itself a labyrinth in many ways, after an initial reading of its simplicities. Foucault's approach is best represented, best understood, by means of the work of Nikolas Rose, especially Rose's Inventing Ourselves & Governing the Soul. Rose’s particular targets are the matrix of disciplines, practices and terms like “psy”. This term 'psy' is short for the words: psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and psychotherapy. Rose claims that this matrix acts as a “therapy of normality,” “a psychology of everyday life” and “a pedagogy of self-fulfillment”(1)
This type of Foucauldian approach allows one to critically examine the costs of contemporary forms of subjectification. Go to this link to update your understanding of subjectification: http://markcarrigan.net/2013/03/03/subjects-vs-subjectification-getting-beyond-an-unhelpful-dichotomy-without-irritating-the-foucauldians-too-much/ Education and the entire socialization process has an impact on what some social analysts and theorists refer to as processes of individuation, or processes of subjectification – of becoming a subject. The subjectification function might best be understood as the opposite of the socialization function. Subjectification is about ways of being independent from the imprisoning effects of socialization; it's about ways of being in which the individual is not simply a ‘specimen’ of the wider society, of an encompassing social order. Late-modern freedom, says Rose, presupposes and produces an autonomous choosing self whose health and happiness are understood as the outcome of individual choices made as part of a universal quest to make a meaningful life for oneself and often quite independent of socialization processes. (See Rose, Governing, p. 231). For a Foucauldian, such a freedom is at best equivocal, for it is, paradoxically, an obligation (Inventing Ourselves 17).
As Rose puts it: "We have been freed from the traditional and, often, arbitrary prescriptions of religious and political authorities. This allows a range of different answers to the question of how we should live. In this new freedom, though, we have become bound into relationships with new authorities, authorities which are more profoundly imprisoning than the old ones. This is because these new relationships, new authorities, appear to emanate from our individual desires to fulfil ourselves in everyday lives, to craft our personalities, and to discover who we really are. Through these transformations we have come to invent and reinvent ourselves. This process involves many ambiguous costs and questionable benefits. (1) Nikolas S. Rose, Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self, 2nd ed., Free Association, London, 1999; and Inventing Ourselves: Psychology, Power, and Personhood, Cambridge UP, 1996.
All of this has a complexity which many readers, as I say, simply can't deal with. I have tried to simplify the issues as best I can, as I once did when I was a lecturer and teacher for decades. I will come back to these paragraphs as I, too, try to simplify the complex language. The vast armory of techniques of self-transformation that go under the catch-all rubric of New Age, and alternative therapies, can also be seen as part of the “psy” matrix to which I have referred above. They operate within the same “moral territory” (Rose, Governing, p. 245) as the psy disciplines, and they are in many ways instruments of a cultural dominant, some particular cultural point of view or perspective. In Foucauldian terms, they are technologies of the self, or mechanisms for “governing the soul,” as Rose might put it. Alternative therapies are disciplines in the Foucauldian sense in that they are acts of self-making. They involve submission to bodily regimens in contexts in which power is usually unevenly distributed. Moreover, they often rely on the confessional mode that Foucault sees as "paradigmatic of processes of subject formation in modernity." Rose describes this mode more simply as follows:
"In confessing, one is subjectified by another, for one confesses in the actual or imagined presence of a figure who prescribes the form of the confession, the words and rituals through which it should be made, who appreciates, judges, consoles, or understands. But in confessing, one also constitutes oneself. (Governing, p. 244)." Alternative therapies can be seen as a radical extension of the confessional mode. This is because healing, and the formation of the self, occur through narrative, ritual and other bodily techniques. All of this, says Rose, involves the subject’s entire body in which the person is made to feel he or she is "speaking the truth about their self".
In most alternative therapies, the body itself is understood as a living metaphor, a set of signs to be decoded and rendered meaningful. Alternative therapies are particularly potent sites of subjectification since they combine this confessional mode with the mechanisms characteristic of disciplinary power. That is, they enjoin participants to adopt techniques of self-management and self-surveillance—whether it be by changes in diet, posture, lifestyle, thought patterns, or even whole life philosophies—as part of their process of healing, self-understanding, or self-transformation. They are, then, disciplinary technologies par excellence. For more on this subject go to: http://www.uiowa.edu/~ijcs/secular/barcan_johnston.htm
Al Alvarez(1929- ) is an English poet, novelist, essayist and critic. He was with Sylvia Plath on Christmas Eve about 7 weeks before she committed suicide. He said many years later in a radio interview: "I was 30 years old at the time and I was stupid. What did I know about chronic clinical depression? I had been clinically depressed myself, but I didn't know what it was when I was in it." Alvarez's words resonated with me because I was clinically depressed 7 to 8 months later in the autumn of 1963. I, too, had no idea what it was and noone else did either; it was a phase in my schizo-affective disorder, at least so my mental instability was characterized by psychiatrists in the summer and autumn of 1968 when I was in a big mental hospital in Ontario for four months.
In 1962, Plath's son Nicholas was born—and then life began to be hard and disturbing, except that she was able to write the poems now found under the title Crossing the Water. She was separated from her husband; she came back to London with two small children, tried to live and work and survive alone in a bare flat during one of the coldest years in over a century. The Bell Jar was published under a pseudonym just before she died, in February 1963. The overt signs of my long-standing battle with bi-polar disorder began in that same year. I was not able to release some of the story of those inner battles until the 1990s. In the autumn of 1963 my mood swings began and five years later I bottomed-out in a manic episode that led to hospitalization from 3 June 1968 to 3 December 1968.
Elizabeth Hardwick(1916-2007) was an American literary critic, novelist, and short story writer. She wrote the following about Sylvia Plath who committed suicide on 11 February 1963: "In Sylvia Plath’s work and in her life the elements of pathology are so deeply rooted and so little resisted that one is disinclined to hope for general principles, sure origins, applications, or lessons. Her fate and her themes are hardly separate and both are singularly terrible. Her literary work is brutal, like the smash of a fist; and sometimes it is also mean in its feeling. Literary comparisons are possible, echoes vibrate occasionally, but to whom can she be compared in spirit, in content, in temperament?"
"Certain frames for her destructiveness have been suggested by critics. Perhaps being born a woman is part of the exceptional rasp of her nature, a woman whose stack of duties was laid over the ground of genius, ambition, and grave mental instability. Or is it the 1950s, when she was going to college, growing up—is there something of that here? Perhaps; but I feel in her a special lack of national and local roots, feel it particularly in her poetry, and this I would trace to her foreign ancestors on both sides. They were given and she accepted them as a burden not as a gift; but there they were, somehow cutting her off from what they weren’t. Her father died when she was eight years old and this was serious, central. Yet this most interesting part of her history is so scorched by resentment and bitterness that it is only the special high burn of the bitterness that allows us to imagine it as a cutoff love." For more go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1971/aug/12/on-sylvia-plath/?page=1
PSYCHIATRY: AN OVERVIEW
Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to the study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders, among which are affective, behavioural, cognitive and perceptual abnormalities. The term "psychiatry" was first coined by the German physician Johann Christian Reil in 1808 and literally means the 'medical treatment of the soul.' The Ancient Greek psykhē is the word for soul, and -iatry means medical treatment, again from a Greek word iātrikos meaning medical and iāsthai to heal. A medical doctor specializing in psychiatry is a psychiatrist. For a historical overview, see timeline of psychiatry at this link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychiatry
PSYCHIATRY AND KAREN HORNEY
The following two paragraphs open a review of the book: Karen Horney: A Psychoanalyst’s Search for Self-Understanding by Bernard Paris(Yale, 270 pages, 1994).
Is psychoanalysis flirtation, as Adam Phillips has suggested? Even when not sexually charged, psychoanalysis liberates longing from a deadening fidelity to the past. It lets dreaming off the hook – and provides a vacation from the ego – by declaring a moratorium on action. Freud famously told his patients not to make any major decisions while in treatment with him. His method seeks to exchange deeds for words in order to explore the wishful thinking in between. Like flirtation, his technique stops short of seduction, sex and love, to create a space in which to discover what we are doing by talking about the imagined fulfilment of our wishes to someone else – who often becomes their main object.
Psychoanalysis began with women talking to Freud about their discontents. Increasingly, however, Freud’s own talk was only of men – of the legendary Oedipus and Narcissus, and of grown men’s boyhood dread of castration. Hence the appeal of Karen Horney. Not only was she the first psychoanalyst to point out Freud’s male-centredness, she was also the first to complement it with an account of men’s as well as women’s psychology on the basis of her own experience – as a woman. In her time, and following the publication of her collected papers, Feminine Psychology (1967), she became the darling of feminism and, more generally, of pop psychology. Now, however, her work is much less well-known. And those who do know it are inclined to dismiss it – for naively, narcissistically even, assuming that Women’s femininity is generated by women’s biology alone, without reference to men.
Karen Horney(1885-1952) was a German psychoanalyst who practiced in the United States during her later career. Her theories questioned some traditional Freudian views. This was particularly true of her theories of sexuality and of the instinct orientation of psychoanalysis. She is credited with founding Feminist Psychology in response to Freud's theory of penis envy. She disagreed with Freud about inherent differences in the psychology of men and women, and she traced such differences to society and culture rather than biology. As such, she is often classified as Neo-Freudian. For more on Karen Horney go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Horney For the rest of this review go to: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v17/n14/janet-sayers/boy-crazy
Dementia originally means madness. It is a word which comes from the Latin: "de" means without, and "ment" is the root of the Latin word 'mens' meaning "mind". It is a serious loss of global cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired person, beyond what might be expected from normal ageing. It may be static, the result of a unique global brain injury, or progressive, resulting in long-term decline due to damage or disease in the body. Although dementia is far more common in the geriatric population, it can occur before the age of 65, in which case it is termed "early onset dementia".
Dementia is not a single disease, but a non-specific illness syndrome; that is, it is a set of signs and symptoms. Affected cognitive areas can be: memory, attention, language, and problem solving. Normally, symptoms must be present for at least six months to support a diagnosis. Cognitive dysfunction of shorter duration is called delirium. In all types of general cognitive dysfunction, it is higher mental functions that are first affected. For two excellent articles on the subject go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dementia and http://bahaiblog.net/site/2012/12/13/dementia-and-ageing-a-spiritual-perspective/
DIAGNOSIS OF MENTAL ILLNESS
Diagnosis of mental illness has come to have an increasing specificity. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was first published in 1952. The fifth edition came out in May 2013. The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association and it provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. It is used in the United States, and in varying degrees around the world in the more than 200 other countries, by clinicians, researchers, psychiatric drug regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and policy makers. For more details on the DSM go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diagnostic_and_Statistical_Manual_of_Mental_Disorders
People are being labeled increasingly: (a) as society has moved in the more than 60 years from 1952 to 2014, and (b) as the DSM has gone from edition 1 to edition 5. People are seen as having a mental health problem if they have a number of the factors or criteria that constitute any one of a seemingly infinite number of specific mental: illnesses or disorders, problems or symptoms. Unfortunately, negative stereotypes are associated with mental illness. According to one aspect of a critique of labeling theory, the stigma of being labeled mentally-ill actually causes one to be mentally-ill. It is a result of effects described as self-fulfilling prophecy. According to a modified version of the theory, assumptions about causation are omitted, and only the negative impact on the self-concept is addressed. This impact is described in later research about stigma and self-stigma.
Stigma can have negative consequences for self-concept by lowering self-efficacy. This fosters dysfunctional coping styles and ultimately reduces quality of self-concept. Also, stigma can be internalized and can create self-stigma. This occurs when the label comes to predominate in the framework of the self-concept. This also tends to reduce self-esteem. Thus, eventually, the concrete nature of a more specified diagnosis leads to a lowering of the self-concept through stigmatization effects. In spite of these negative effects, it is reasonable to believe that positive effects can also exist. A label can foster self-acceptance, causing one to seek treatment. A label can also foster interpersonal understanding. It is argued that these effects should be investigated. On the basis of outcomes, it should be decided whether diagnosis should or should not be reported to the patient. For more details on the DSM-5, and the controversies surrounding this diagnostic tool, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DSM-5
Mental illnesses have been diagnosed more and more frequently since the introduction of the first version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM, American Psychiatric Association) in 1952. Other diagnostic classification systems have also come into being during the latter half of the twentieth century. These tools were developed for creating a shared language, thus facilitating communication about mental illnesses. Critics argue, however, that the result of classification has been much more than a common language. Mirowsky and Ross (1989), for example, claim that diagnoses are being seen as entities. That is, they are seen as non-overlapping categories in which all characteristics of a dysfunction are covered. They postulate that imposing a diagnosis can obscure rather than provide information, and that it can impede rather than facilitate understanding. Diagnoses are being made into something absolute with an almost physical reality, instead of functioning as a general, simplified description of a cluster of problems.
This “reification” can dominate thinking about mental illness in society, clinical practice, research and law (Hyman, 2010). People are seen as being mentally ill instead of having a mental illness. Societal institutions such as health insurance uphold this practice (Mirowsky & Ross, 1989). The diagnosis thus has become more of a label, which is a reified and stereotypical version of the diagnostic description. For more on this topic go to the following article in the electronic online journal Social Cosmos: The Consequences of Labeling Mental Illnesses on the Self-concept: A Review of the Literature and Future Directions at: http://socialcosmos.library.uu.nl/index.php/sc/article/viewFile/27/23
MENTAL ILLNESS AND WOMEN: 1800 TO THE PRESENT
The following is a review in 2009 in the London Review of Books of: Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present by Lisa Appignanesi. The review begins: "I managed to grow up and leave home before I found out that my mother had once spent time in a mental ward. She was, at the time of her hospitalisation, a very new mother – of me – and consequently exhausted. What sent her to the mental ward was delirium. That, at least, was what the emergency room doctors thought when she arrived at the hospital extremely ill with encephalitis (which they never even suspected, despite her complaints about an unbearable headache and neck pain and nausea). She was admitted as a mental patient, and treated, over the course of the week, with ping-pong."
"My mother, no lover of the game even when not in shattering pain, played. It was clear to her that a show of friendly interest in her fellow lunatics and placid obliviousness to her frightening circumstances was the way to signal that she might safely be released. To have shown distress, much less anger, would have been crazy. The infection in her brain was diagnosed on the morning of her discharge, the masquerade having been a success, when one of the doctors nevertheless thought to order a spinal tap...........The situation is no less Kafkaesque a century later. On Being Sane in Insane Places, published in a 1973 issue of the journal Science, describes an experiment the American psychology professor David Rosenhan conducted with seven friends (three of them psychologists and one a psychiatrist), who presented themselves at the psychiatric emergency rooms of a range of state and poshly private hospitals and asylums. They had prepared themselves minimally. They were hairy, unshaven and unwashed, their teeth unbrushed. They probably emitted a pong. Apart from their appearance, their only spoken symptom was that they had heard a voice say ‘thud’.
MY JOURNEY: A DIFFERENT CHAOS NARRATIVE
BIPOLAR DISORDER: A Longitudinal Context: October 1943 To January 2014
12th Edition, Draft #2: By---Ron Price of George Town Tasmania Australia
(250 Pages: Font 14—90,000 words)
Disclaimer: This on-line book is offered for informational purposes and, with a host of other resources now available, as an aid to others. It is NOT a substitute for medical advice. Although I make every effort to offer only accurate information, I cannot guarantee that the information I make available here is always relevant, correct and current. This account is of my personal experience. The field of mental health is highly complex and each person's situation is idiosyncratic. This acccount, this somewhat clinical story, is my personal, idiosyncratic, narrative. It is my experience, the story of some of the encounter of my mind with the world, neither a simple account nor perspicuous; the story of some of the traffic between what the world imposed and my mind demanded, received and reshaped. Readers will find here many generalizations but, at the centre of the account, is my life.
No one should rely upon any information contained herein, make any decisions or take any action based on such information. Of course, some readers may decide to do so, but I am not an expert and can make no guarantees insofar as advice is concerned. Consult your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program, taking any medication or, indeed, taking any action at all as a result of reading part of or all of this work. I am not responsible for any action taken in reliance on the information contained herein. If damages are incurred by anyone, whether directly or indirectly, as a result of errors, omissions or discrepancies contained in this account, I cannot and will not be held responsible. If anyone wants to write to me personally they should feel free to do so. My email address is: email@example.com
1. Preamble and Introduction:
1.1 This medium-sized book was once very small, indeed, not much more than a long essay of about 2000 words. It started out as that very short essay a dozen years ago in 2001: (a) as a statement to obtain a disability pension in Australia and (b) as an appendix to my memoirs, a five volume 2600 page opus found in whole and in part at various places on the internet. Both this statement and that book of my memoirs could benefit from the assistance of one, Rob Cowley, affectionately known in publishing circles back in the seventies and early eighties as “the Boston slasher.” His editing was regarded by some as constructive and deeply sensitive. If he could amputate several dozen pages, several thousand words, of this exploration of my life experience of bipolar disorder(BPD) with minimal agony to my emotional equipment I’m sure readers would be the beneficiaries. But, alas, I think Bob is dead.
I did find an editor, a proof-reader and friend who did not slash and burn but left my soul quite intact as he waded through my labyrinthine passages, smoothed them all out and excised undesirable elements. But this editor is in the late evening of his life and, after editing several hundred pages of my writing, he has tired of any continued exercise in my literary fields, and so I am left on my own. I have begun to assume the role that both Cowley and my friend exercised, but it is a difficult and relentless role and I, therefore, only take it up sporadically given the quantity of my writing which does require editing. Without my editor friend, who is now nearly 80 and leads a quiet non-editing life, I advise readers not to hold their breath waiting for me to do what is a necessary edit in this now lengthy work.
For the rest of this account readers can google: Ron Price BPD. They will find portions or all of what I have come to call my chaos narrative at many internet sites dealing as these sites do with: depression, bipolar disorder, various disorders on the affective spectrum and a wide range of mental health issues. My email address, as I say above, is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Any reader who would like to write to me personally in relation to any personal issues raised here feel free to do so. For more of my story go to:https://www.google.com.au/#q=Ron+Price+BPD
HUMAN ANATOMY AND BODY MAPS
The following two paragraphs are not concerned overtly with mental health. These words are about BodyMaps, an interactive visual search tool that allows users to explore the human body in 3-D. With easy-to-use navigation, users can search multiple layers of the human anatomy, view systems and organs down to their smallest parts, and understand in detail how the human body works. Using detailed 3-D models of body parts-including muscles, veins, bones, and organs-Body Maps offers a new way to visualize and manage your health. See how the coronary artery delivers blood to the heart, and learn how plaque build-up on artery walls leads to heart disease. Locate the exact location of a pulled muscle or broken bone, and find information on how to prevent injuries. View a cross-section of the human brain, and learn which areas control certain emotions and body functions.
By offering rich, detailed anatomical images alongside links to relevant and useful health information, BodyMaps allows you to leam about your body and your health in a personalized and revolutionary new way. Go to this link to access these BodyMaps:http://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps
GUT BACTERIA AND MENTAL HEALTH
Can gut bacteria influence mental health? There is a medical revolution underway with the potential to treat a range of behavioural and mood disorders, including: autism, ADHD, MS and Alzheimers disease. A growing number of scientists now believe that it is important not to ignore digestive issues because they see the gut as our second brain. The program at the following link explores the intricate relationship the gut microbiome has with the brain, and how early exposure to antibiotics, and consumption of the wrong foods, can throw this dangerously out of balance. Go to: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/the-second-brain/6689202
MY WRITING AND MY MENTAL HEALTH
The next few paragraphs are "a work in progress."
Access to another world—a world distinct from and in many ways better than our own—is gained neither by good works nor by grace but by giving the self up to writing. This is only partly true. As Paul Éluard writes: “There is another world but it is in this one." These words were used by Australian Nobel laureate Patrick White as an epigraph to his novel The Solid Mandala. Grasping just how the other world relates to this one could be said to be one the main obstacles to understanding life. The activity of writing is not to be distinguished from the activity of self-exploration. Writing as I do, both poetry and prose, consists in contemplating the sea of internal images, discerning connections, and setting these out in grammatical sentences.
I could never conceive of a network of meaning too complex to be expressed in a series of grammatical sentences. Whether the connections between images lie implicit in the images themselves or are created by an active, shaping intelligence; where the energy and feelings come from that discern such connections; whether that energy is always to be trusted—these are questions that interest me and are addressed in a body of writing that is not averse to reflecting on itself.
If there is some central, originary, shaping force behind the facts and fictions of the mind, it can barely be called a force: its essence seems to be a watchful passivity. Readers cannot tell the difference between image-persons and figments of the human imagination, it may be best to treat as no more than an elaborate way of warning us not to identify the storytelling I with the man, & therefore not to read his books as autobiographical records, accountable to the same standard of truth as history is. The I who tells the story will be no less a constructed figure than the actors in it.
STREET KIDS AND THE MENTALLY ILL
Street Kids International(SKI) is a charitable organization with the sole purpose to provide the 700 million youth worldwide living below the poverty line with sustainable opportunities to earn a living. Since 1989, SKI has been successfully developing innovative learning tools to help street kids learn to support themselves and make safe and healthy decisions that positively impact their lives and that of their families. The National Runaway Switchboard (NRS) in the USA estimated in 2001 that over one million youths run away from home each year (Springer, 2001). Street life for adolescents who run away or experience homelessness presents a profusion of stressors, including lack of social support, and increased risk of attempting suicide, sexual victimization, and discrimination (Kidd & Carroll, 2007). The high prevalence of youth becoming homeless, as well as the dangers of living on the streets indicates a critical need for crisis interventions for runaway youths. Interventions for homeless youth must address the various concerns of the individual adolescent. The literature provided by the NRS on homeless youth identifies contributing risk factors, dangers, and treatment interventions for runaway adolescents.
There are also homeless families which are defined as "all adults with dependent children" who: (i) are accepted by local authorities and housing departments, or (ii) are not known by these authorities and have slipped between the cracks, as they say. These homeless families are often accommodated for a brief period in a voluntary agency, a local authority or a housing association hostel. This period varies from a few days to several months depending on what local authority, state, or country we are discussing. The target for rehousing inevitably varies from country to country. Some housing departments also use bed and breakfast accommodation.
The social profile of homeless children includes many well-established risk factors for the development and maintenance of psychopathology. These are not specific to child or adult psychiatric disorders, as research has found high prevalence rates for a number of emotional and behavioural problems and disorders ( Amery et al, 1995). In children of pre-school and primary school age, behavioural problems include sleep disturbance, feeding problems, aggression and hyperactivity. These problems are often comorbid with emotional or developmental disorders. Anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are often precipitated by life events such as witnessing domestic violence.
About one-third to one-half of children admitted to hostels are reported to have mental health problems which require clinical assessment and treatment. The statistics here depend on where in thew world we are discussing this problem. Histories of abuse & the presence of mental illness in mothers were the strongest predictors of child psychopathology. In the absence of any intervention, child mental health problems remained 1 year later(Vostanis etal, 1998). In a subsequent cohort, mental health problems among both children and their mothers were strongly associated with poor family and social support networks (Vostanis et al, 2001).
OBAMA'S AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: THE SUMMER OF 2012
I recomment the following link at The New York Review of Books (16/8/'12) as part of a cause for celebration not only in the USA but around the world. The Supreme Court of the USA, by a 5–4 vote, has left President Obama’s Affordable Care Act almost entirely intact. So the United States has finally satisfied a fundamental requirement of political decency that every other mature democracy has met long ago, and that a string of Democratic presidents, from FDR to Bill Clinton, from the 1930s to the 1990s, tried and failed to secure for Americans. The United States finally has a scheme of national health care provision designed to protect every citizen who wants to be protected. The act subsidizes private insurance for those too poor to afford it, and extends the national Medicaid program that has provided care for some of the very poor to cover all of them.
Although this subject is somewhat tangential to the major themes in relation to mental health at this part of my website, I felt this new piece of legislation in the USA deserved some place at my site. My website is not Eurocentric, but it does have a content that comes more from Europe, North America and Australasia than the vast majority of the 200+ countries on the planet. The American public was expecting the act’s defeat largely because it had grown used to the five conservative justices of the Suprmem Court ignoring argument and overruling precedent to remake the Constitution to fit their far-right template. This introduction seemed the most logical sub-section in which to draw attention to For more details on this subject go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/aug/16/bigger-victory-we-knew/
I recommend the following links to Baha'is interested in the field of mental health:
MY MENTAL HEALTH: AN EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVE
The naturalist Charles Darwin(1809-1882) certainly did not invent the idea of evolution. Evolution can be defined in many ways. One of these ways is "the continuous change over time in the state of some system as a fundamental property of that system." The idea that a process of evolution has occurred in the history of life or of the cosmos itself was found in Kant’s Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science as far back as 1786. The histories of religion, of philosophy, of science, of the fine arts, of the industrial arts, show that they have one and all passed through stages. That was the way the English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist Herbert Spencer(1820-1903) put it. I recognize that evolution is the law of many diverse orders of phenomena in life, and I take this to be the case with the mental health issues I have faced since my inception. I give an account that can be found here of that evolution and the many interventions that have taken place in my dealing with these issues in my life.
I post this item below from one of the men to whom I have been writing for many years. He is a Professor of Sociology at Johnson County Community College in Kansas. His website is one of the most creative and extensive for someone like myself with an interest in the social sciences and especially sociology: Mark Foster. While I don't agree entirely with Mark in his post below, I think his point is one that needs to be made and is an omportant one in the discussion of mental health issues. Foster said that:
Someone raised the issue that there is not much said in the Baha'i texts on the subject of mental health or mental illness. IMO, that is a good thing. One of the Baha'i principles is the harmony of science and religion, which, IMO, requires that revealed religion and the sciences operate in separate jurisdictions. There appears to have developed a popular Baha'i theology of psychological/neurological conditions. Personally, while I would like to see that popular theology replaced with greater wisdom, I would not like to see it replaced with a more sophisticated theology. IMO, psychological and neurological conditions are the provinces of the sciences, and the Baha'i Faith, as a revealed religion, has no direct contribution to make to the subject. --Mark Foster
As I say, I do not agree entirely with Foster's statement since I am of the view that, in the field of psychology, the Baha'i Faith has much to contribute. But the subject is complex and I do not intent to expand on the issues related to this question, this issue, here.
BOREDOM: A LIVELY HISTORY.
Peter Toohey has written( Yale UP, London, 2011) a useful addition to the increasingly rich and vital area of the study of boredom. Julian Jason Haladyn's review of that book is found below. It is a review in the March 2012 issue of the electronic online journal Culture Machine. Our societal propensity for being bored is considered not simply a minor personal problem but rather an affective mode of being that represents a fundamental questioning of culture. Why is it that so many individuals consistently find their lives boring? From the perspective of critical and cultural theory boredom represents an important manifestation of the human condition – to reference Hannah Arendt’s famous discussion of the state of modern subjectivity – considering this condition not simply as an aberration, which is passed over as trivial, but rather as an integral component in the very fabric of human life and knowledge. I have placed this review in the sub-section of my site on depression, although I could have placed it in a sub-section of popular culture or even one or two other sub-sections.
Much of the existing literature on boredom calls attention to the relationship between our current consumer-based culture which promotes disposable objects and constantly changing interests, and the apparent decrease in peoples’ attention spans. These attention spans are satiated only when constantly treated to new forms of stimuli. In many ways we expect to be constantly entertained with every aspect of daily life being judged mostly in terms of how much it interests us, to the point where experiences that do not promise obvious and even immediate engagement are quickly labeled boring.
Without overstating the matter, I think we can accept the place of boredom within a general psychology of everyday life, seeing this affective state as an indication of a cultural restlessness that is at once something very personal and yet also shared amongst innumerable people. Arthur Schopenhauer articulated this sentiment in the early 19th century when he described life as a pendulum swinging ‘to and fro between pain and boredom,’ between the suffering caused by our inability to accomplish or hold onto our desire and the boredom of lacking any desire (1969: 312). It is our desire or will that is the target of consumerism, which aims to make us want what we do not have and reciprocally to not want what we already have. It is for this reason that many critical studies on boredom believe the condition to be directly related to and a result of modern culture, which in a very real way cultivates a perpetual drive to seek the new. For more of this article go to:http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/456/478
TWO PASSAGES BELOW FROM MY CHAOS-NARRATIVE
1. Individual consumers of mental health services must work out what is best for them in terms of those services and in terms of what activities are appropriate for them within their coping capacity in life’s day-to-day spectrum. It seems to me there are some activities which are simply not appropriate for me to engage in given my constellation of mental health issues and the personal circumstances of my life.
2. The famous novelist Willaim Faulkner once said that "every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can't and then tries the short story which is the most demanding literary form after poetry. And failing at that, only then does he take up novel writing." For me the writing process has worked itself out differently in spite of, or perhaps because of, my mental health issues. The Latin expression mens sana in fabula sana can be translated: "mental health is a coherent life story." Neurosis and mental health disorders are, therefore, life-narratives that are not coherent. The writing of my memoirs, my poetry and, indeed, most of my now published work took place in the last decade of the treatment for my bi-polar disorder, 2001 to 2011, the first decade of this 3rd millennium. The core of this treatment consisted of alterations to my medications. It is my hope that the current medication regime for my BPD will be the final one since it seems to have regularized my life to my satisfaction. The coherent life story that readers will find at many places on the internet is as coherent as it was possible for me to describe in the context of my BPD over the seven decades of my life.
THE SUBJECT OF MENTAL EFFORT and THE METAPHORICAL NATURE OF PHYSICAL REALITY
Three of the many significant influences on my poetry, influences which have given great pleasure to my mind and heart and informed my intellectual perspectives over the last two decades(1991 to 2011), were William Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson and William Shakespeare. I was in my late forties before these three influences were first appreciated. They helped me to see nature in all its forms. My second wife, Chris, nature programs on television and, of course, nature itself also stimulated my interest in and appreciation of the external aspects of nature. I found that nature’s external forms permitted my rational mind to attain a renovated and renovating vision of the organic world--and particularly my own inner and personal world. But this vision was slow and difficult to achieve; it developed insensibly and sensibly over the decades; the pitfalls surrounding the acquisition and development of this vision, were many, obscure and subtle.
As a famous Canadian poet, perhaps Canada’s greatest 19th century poet, Archibald Lampman, expressed the challenge: “the poet must not cease from the mental effort required both to obtain this renovated vision of external nature and to return, restored, to the world of men." For those who struggle with some form of mental health issue this may be very difficult. It was not nature in its external forms: flowers, trees, the entire geology and geography of place, that provided for me the deepest satisfactions and fascinations. This renovated vision found and now finds its chief conceptual home, its guiding hand, one of its chief tools and aids, one of its fertile sources and bases, in a particular view of physical reality in all its forms. This view I call, thanks to the literary efforts of John Hatcher since the 1980s, a metaphorical construct whose value, use and importance is an inner, symbolic, dramaturgical, one.(1)
CREATIVITY AND MENTAL ILLNESS
When I finally came to accept lithium without any mental reservations by the early 1990s; when I began, too, to see the end of my teaching career on the horizon by the mid-to-late 1990s and what I hoped would be a coincidental reduction in the various forms of frustration that I had experienced in marriage, in my career and in my community life in many and complex ways for decades, at least as far back as the 1960s---I began to write poetry a great deal. One could say I was obsessed; my wife certainly would use that word and I have come to accept that word as a realistic description of my behaviour, especially now more than a decade later in 2011. I have been retired from FT, PT and volunteer work and I devote all of my waking hours when possible to reading and writing, poetry and publishing, research and independent study.
The drive, the passion, to create never seems to leave me and other activities, domestic and social, serve to provide a useful backdrop, respite, diversion and alternative, coping tools and possibly crutches, to the constant demand that comes from my inner, my psychosocial world and the philosophico-religious assumptions at the centre of this world. But this creative drive is not in the extreme form that is sometimes reported by sufferers of BPD who, without medication, say that their creative urges would literally push themselves from within until their muscles in their chest and rib cage were torn! Or, as the writer Mark Vonnegut puts it half-humorously and half in a self-deprecating tone: "I have so many original thoughts I have to take medication for it."
Many people without BPD create much more extensively than I do. Creativity is found in the temperaments and personalities of all sorts of people and I do not want to over-emphasize or accentuate its presence in people with BPD. I have never been able to write during depression and, once lithium stabilized my moods back in 1980, writing began to flow incrementally and, in time--by the 1990s--copiously. Creativity in people with BPD, it is sometimes argued, stems from mobilizing the energy that results from negative emotion and to initiate some sort of solution to their problems. Discontent, to put it another way, can be the mother of invention for some BPD sufferers. To put this yet another way: discontent can be adaptive or compensatory because it can spur a person on and force the use of his imagination and, in the process, help him ride out the storms of life. If there are genes for creativity and BPD the research has not indicated it thusfar.
From at least 1991 until this year 2011, some two decades, my literary output has been utterly phenomenal. I could never have predicted it in the first 50 years of my life. Again, to go down this track and describe the writing process and creativity in general in more than the cursory manner than I have here would take me into another one of Alice in Wonderland’s borrows where I do not want to go and where I would take myself and readers away from the central theme in my account of bipolar disorder.
SOME OF MY INTELLECTUAL INTERESTS
I have taken a keen interest in the social sciences and humanities, the latter only in the last two decades, since my late forties when I began to teach English Literature to matriculation students in Perth Western Australia, and since I approached(1989-1999) and then enjoyed(2000-2011) my retirement from the job world. The students of English Literature I taught were students hoping to enter university the following year. The multitude of subjects or disciplines I taught, of reading and study, of decades of observation and experience, some of it based in outrageous personal misfortune as well as life's wonderful fortunes, aided my journey. Much despondency, much joy and immense quantities of the quotidian, assisted me in: (a) making my spirit and mind feel alternately strong, capable and energetic on the one hand and vulnerable, exhausted and burdened on the other; (b) giving me an increased veneration and respect for certain portions of the world’s immense corpus of poetry and prose; and (c) acquiring a resolute contemplation of life developed over several epochs of Baha'i history. The great traditions of learning in the great civilizations on the planet over the last several thousand years have become one, among many, of the centres for my study now in the evening of my life, these middle years(65 to 75) of late adulthood as some human development psychologists call the years in the lifespan from 60 to 80.
My stance vis-à-vis the great poetry and literature of history as well as much of the social sciences and humanities has been more active especially since the social and occupational demands of life have diminished in recent years. This active stance, though, is necessarily of a highly selective one given the burgeoning resources now available in all fields of study and learning. Being an active agent of one's own learning is crucial to the cultural attainments of the mind which Abdul-Baha says is the first attribute of perfection to be acquired in life. The resources available now for students and writers like myself are simply staggering in their magnitude thanks to the internet. Life is short and time is fleeting; the hour is urgent and, let there be no mistake, ours in the duty to labour serenely, if we are able, and to lend our share of assistance in whatever way circumstances may enable us to assuage the fury of the tempest of our times.
I must admit and acknowledge that my precursor models and their styles, those I have drawn on for my various and several literary purposes, have increased with the years. For this reason, I qualify as a practitioner, as a legitimate Canadian-Australian hybrid participant, in the tradition that leads from the great Romantics to the great Moderns and the Postmoderns. My perspective rests on: (a) a resolute contemplation of my time and place, (b) a broad synthesis of much from the social sciences and humanities and (c) a noetic integrator that interprets large fields of reality, that is the ontological and theological, epistemological and teleological framework and construction of my religion. And because of this my perspective is—I can safely say--distinctly my own, at least in part. Although this last sentence is long and complex and, although some of the words I have used in this last sentence are long and difficult for some readers, they are necessary to convey what I am trying to convey. I anticipate that only some readers will take an interest in this attempt, however inadequate, to explain 'where I am coming from,' as they say these days in the vernacular.
My perspective is one that, I like to think, includes man, nature, society, every atom in existence and the essence of all created things, as Baha'u'llah puts it poetically in His Hidden Words(3). It is the perspective of a man with a wide and, insofar as I am able to envisage and articulate, a coherent range of concerns. It is the perspective: (i) of an imaginative observer of both the external world and the world of the unseen; (ii) of one who is and has been for more than half a century committed to the gradual, evolutionary building of a New World Order, the foundations of a global society, the City of God, through the teachings of that charismatic and prophetic figure Baha’u’llah; (iii) of an adherent of a new and independent religious system with a detailed and verifiable record of its history and development; (iv) of a participant in a system whose growing influence is arguably the most remarkable development in contemporary religious history; (v) of a man who has not, as many might think, attached himself to a utopian, an unrealistic, dream; (vi) of a person who endeavours to see life simply as it is and to estimate everything at its true value in relation to: (a) a view of universal truth which is perennial but not archaic, (b) a view which accepts that no fortuitous conjunction of circumstances will make it possible for the human community to bend the conditions of life into conformity with some set of human desires—that such a hope, is illusory; and (c) a view that the world is one country, has one common homeland and humankind are its citizens. All of this has taken place: (a) while dealing with the rigours of severe mental tests in the form of bipolar disorder(BPD) in the last 68 years, and (b) while dealing with the joys and satisfactions of this existential world.
(1) I have been deeply indebted since the 1980s to the writing of John S. Hatcher. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in English literature from Vanderbilt University, and a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Georgia. He is currently a professor and director of graduate studies in English literature at the University of South Florida in Tampa. A widely published poet and distinguished lecturer, he is author of numerous books on literature, philosophy, Baha'i theology and scripture, including Close Connections; From the Auroral Darkness: The Life and Poetry of Robert E. Hayden; A Sense of History: The Poetry of John Hatcher; The Ocean of His Words: A Reader's Guide to the Art of Baha'u'llah; and The Purpose of Physical Reality; The Kingdom of Names. He and his family live on a farm near Plant City, Florida.
(2) Louis Simpson, editor, An introduction to Poetry, Macmillan, 1969; Ludwig Tuman, "Toward Critical Foundations For a World Culture of the Arts," World Order, Summer 1975, pp.8-35.
(3) Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette,1985.