In 1973 the academic journal Science published an article called On Being Sane in Insane Places. It documented the findings of an experiment by psychologist David Rosenhan designed to test the validity of psychiatric diagnosis. The first part of Rosenhan’s study involved eight ‘sane’ people feigning auditory hallucinations to see if they could get committed into psychiatric institutions. What is interesting about the experiment is not the ease with which the participants successfully feigned mental illness, but the difficulty they had, once inside the system, of proving themselves sane. Although none of the participants showed any further symptoms it took up to 52 days for them to be released, and even then only then when they accepted diagnosis of irreversible lifelong conditions such as schizophrenia. So what? That’s pretty much what I thought until I got diagnosed with bipolar.
I woke up this morning and there it was again, I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother. This essay is all over the internet, written by a woman who is using her personal story about experiences with her “mentally ill” son, whom she is “terrified of,” to appeal for more dialogue on the issue of mental health. As I write this, her son’s picture has been viewed by over a million people. They have read her accounts of what may be some of these young man’s most painful childhood memories.
Crooked Beauty and The Embodiment of ‘Madness’ by Ken Paul Rosenthal c. 2010
A filmmaker delves deep into the creative and conceptual process of embodying madness in the poetic documentary, Crooked Beauty.
South African graduate psychology student Niyati Evers research paper on shamanism and schizophrenia, including an interview with a Botswana sangoma - spirit healer - and discussion of process-oriented psychology.
I've struggled with melancholy since early youth-ranging from suicidal crisis-to blanketing sorrow-to months of numb depression. Sometimes sadness comes when I see a styrofoam cup and think about the environmental damage our society is causing; when I think about rape and war; or when I think about a friend in an abusive relationship. Sometimes I'm sad for no clear reason. Feeling sad about the world, and tending toward depression in general, has been a major motivating force for my activism, yet conversely, that same sensitivity can have a paralyzing effect which prevents me from being the non-stop activist I idealize. Learning to work with my depression, rather than against it has been necessary. I learn to try to flow with my moods, fighting the sorrow less, accepting the melancholy into my life as a teacher who keeps me in touch with the destruction of the planet.
Mental Disability Rights International and the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales needed a spanish-speaking psychiatric survivor with group facilitation and grassroots organizing skills. So I got a call: Would I go to Argentina to work on the campaign to reform the country's asylum system? Here's a report on my fascinating trip to the land of Che and Milongas...