Is diagnosing a person and labeling them as mentally ill truly helpful? Ironically, when I first entered therapy it was because I feared mental illness. I did my best going to therapy for over 16 years, but to no avail. I received not one diagnosis but four of them. I finally realized that the mental health system is designed primarily to diagnose and place labels on human beings. These diagnoses or labels not only deem people to be mentally ill or defective, they also often prevent people from reaching their true potential.Read More
The written interview transcript is below, edited for clarity:Read More
Open Dialogue is alive and well in Massachusetts. Since 2011, when Advocates was the first recipient of funding support from the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care, Advocates has been providing Open Dialogue services in two programs based in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Advocates is a full-service, not for profit provider of services and supports to people with psychiatric conditions, developmental and other cognitive disabilities, substance use conditions, and other life challenges, offering residential supports, outpatient and emergency services, among other supports, all dedicated to the idea that everyone, regardless of diagnosis or disability, can live a full, challenging and rewarding life of their own design, given the right supports.
With the initial support from the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care, and with additional support, particularly from the Department of Mental Health, Advocates was able to train 35 staff members at the preeminent training site for Open Dialogue in the US, the Institute for Dialogic Practice under the direction of Dr. Mary Olson, currently affiliated with Yale University.
We then launched two programs – one for young people experiencing early episode psychosis, called The Collaborative Pathway; the other for people receiving services from the Department of Mental Health, whose difficulties had become or were at risk for becoming more chronic, called Open Dialogue in Behavioral Health Services. With support from the Cummings Foundation, and ongoing support from the Department of Mental Health, both programs have been delivering Open Dialogue Services for nearly ten years.Read More
One month ago I suddenly found myself in a very dark place where I felt vulnerable, raw, naked, humble, confused yet seeking to understand the social interaction dynamics that had triggered this journey into a seemingly bottomless pit. It’s been well over 10 years since I’ve been in such a solitary space, feeling alone, unsupported, disconnected from myself and from others.
I slowly began to emerge from the darkness 10 days ago and now I am completely out.
Going into the darkness, I remember telling people I am going through a big shift in my life. It was clear that something significant, transformational was happening. I came back with deeper feelings of connection, and a deeper sense of belonging to something much bigger than myself and a more profound sense of meaning and purpose. One lesson was about a deeper understanding of who I am separate from ego, that is, the identity I was taught and the social conditioning that has so brainwashed my thinking. And I might add the thinking of everyone around me. It’s grip on me is looser.Read More
For many years, mental disorders were simplistically understood as imbalances or deficits in the neurotransmitters in the brain. Recent research has debunked the “chemical imbalance” theory, and has given rise to more complex understandings around how the various systems of the body interact to influence physical and mental health. For example, many people are unaware that 95% of the “feel-good” neurotransmitter serotonin in the body is produced in the intestinal tract.
In recent years, scientists have begun to study what is known as the “gut-brain axis,” or the system of communication between the brain and the gut. Scientists have discovered what could be called “a second brain,” located in the walls of the digestive system. This “second brain” is referred to in scientific literature as the enteric nervous system (ENS), made up of two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells that line the gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. Increasingly, science is coming to understand that the ENS interacts in complex and significant ways with the central nervous system (CNS) via the vagus nerve and what is known as the “adaptive immune system.”
The recognition of the complex and delicate interactions between different systems in the body has given rise to a new field called “psychoneuroimmunology.”Read More
Today, far too many professionals with mental illness are forced to live “in the shadows.” This is often because they are, quite understandably, unwilling or afraid to disclose their conditions and challenges to coworkers and friends, for fear of losing their jobs and place in the community.
As a result, professionals with mental health challenges often lack a resource others take for granted: peer support. Professionals in every field are taught to consult with their peers to discuss issues like work goals, client and coworker relations, and stress management.
However, for professionals with psychosocial disabilities justifiably afraid to live openly, this support is often unavailable. As a result, they can be less equipped to address common and concerning issues, negatively impacting their work performance and quality of life.
At Pro2Pro, professionals with mental health challenges can anonymously connect, communicate with each other, discuss common challenges, develop solutions, and give and get the support everyone needs to perform their best on the job and in life.
As several authorities* over time have researched, documented, and reported, there is no “mental illness.” It is not an “illness”, as practitioners of psychiatry using the medical model, have long conjectured without evidence. There are no “them” with mental illness and “us” without. How we interact with the world does not conform to the construct of illness in physical health, nor can it be treated using that construct to intervene when life challenges arise.
Instead, as I have experienced personally, with family members, and with those I have served, there appears to be a continuum of emotional vulnerability in play daily for all of us, with each of us experiencing fluctuating manifestations of those vulnerabilities in our unique and individual ways. For example, some individuals can be seriously “thrown off” by a sequence of personal financial challenges; others by their spouses suddenly being inexplicably absent in the evenings from the home; or adolescents being bullied on social media, etc.Read More
I am standing here today because – like perhaps many of you – there is a question about Open Dialogue that has been with me for a long time:
WHAT IF? – What if we had had Open Dialogue?
I would like to share a little of my WHAT IF with you.Read More
It is widely believed that the only appropriate response to hearing voices and other unusual experiences is to deny and silence them by whatever means necessary.
In reality, hearing voices isn’t so unusual. Various studies agree that it is (at least) as common as left handedness (and much more so in certain cultures where it is more broadly accepted and even, in some cases, revered). ‘Hearing voices’ is considered an umbrella term, and also encompasses seeing visions, as well as smells, touch, tastes, and unusual beliefs that may not be common or shared.
The Hearing Voices approach offers a non-pathologizing, open way of understanding and supporting people through the experience of hearing voices. It is different from ‘care as usual’ in several ways.Read More
We are all on a spectrum of mental health and everyone will struggle at some point in their life. Let’s build a toolbox for living better.
Beyond Well: Science With Sheila Hamilton is here to explore our understanding of mental health challenges and what we’re learning about ways to help ourselves and others navigate and grow through them.
In this episode, Sheila talks with Cindy Marty Hadge about how a Hearing Voices support group in her neighborhood helped her move from a place of despair to a life of purpose and connection.Read More