Serious Mental Illness Blog

An LIU Post Specialty Concentration

Posts tagged art

228 notes

artfromtheedge:

HAVE YOU CREATED ART IN OR ABOUT AN EXTREME STATE?
The creators of the Serious Mental Illness blog invite you to submit your visual art, photography, video work, poetry, collage, or short fiction to Art from the Edge. All of the art shown on this flyer has been featured on the blog.
Art from the Edge, a virtual gallery and resource center, is dedicated to art created in and about extreme mental states. It is an open and public world wide forum for artists to share their visual and written works and their personal stories with all those interested in the connection between creativity and “edge” states.
Much like art, which exists in a multitude of mediums and forms of expression, there are a plurality of “edge” states that inspire the artists who harbor them. For this reason, we leave the term completely open to our community’s interpretation, knowing from research and experience that this state could be driven by psychosis or trauma, or an altered state induced by drugs. It could be the offshoot of extreme depression or grief, or the aftermath of a spiritual or mystical state of consciousness.
Ultimately, we are interested in the artist’s individual experience and in his or her sense of what it is that drove the creative act. 
submissions@artfromtheedge.net
artfromtheedge.net

artfromtheedge:

HAVE YOU CREATED ART IN OR ABOUT AN EXTREME STATE?

The creators of the Serious Mental Illness blog invite you to submit your visual art, photography, video work, poetry, collage, or short fiction to Art from the Edge. All of the art shown on this flyer has been featured on the blog.

Art from the Edge, a virtual gallery and resource center, is dedicated to art created in and about extreme mental states. It is an open and public world wide forum for artists to share their visual and written works and their personal stories with all those interested in the connection between creativity and “edge” states.

Much like art, which exists in a multitude of mediums and forms of expression, there are a plurality of “edge” states that inspire the artists who harbor them. For this reason, we leave the term completely open to our community’s interpretation, knowing from research and experience that this state could be driven by psychosis or trauma, or an altered state induced by drugs. It could be the offshoot of extreme depression or grief, or the aftermath of a spiritual or mystical state of consciousness.

Ultimately, we are interested in the artist’s individual experience and in his or her sense of what it is that drove the creative act. 

submissions@artfromtheedge.net

artfromtheedge.net

(via smiliu)

Filed under art artist artistic creative poem story write poetry poet writer visual visual art video mixed media collage digital art digital psychosis psychotic trauma drug drugs depressed depression mind body brain diagnosis disorder psychology

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Rachel Kelly: How poetry helped me recover from depressionBy Rachel Kelly, The Telegraph
Author Rachel Kelly suffered such severe depression that she was bed-ridden for months. In Mental Health Awareness Week, she describes how poetry proved a lifeline
Tell people that you’ve written a memoir about how poetry helped you recover from depression and most look baffled. Poetry? Depression? How does that work?
But odd as it sounds, the healing power of consoling poems and prose was at the heart of my recovery from two breakdowns, or “depressive episodes” as psychiatrists prefer to call them.
The love of my family, drugs and therapy were hugely important in the battle to recover from an illness so severe that the first time I was bed-ridden for six months, the second for a year. But it’s no exaggeration to say that poetry proved a lifeline.
Though I couldn’t read during the acute stage of the illness I could listen. My mother would read to me from books of poetry or the Bible and I could manage to remember and repeat the odd line. My favourite when I was first ill was from Corinthians: “My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in weakness.” It made sense of the suffering. I wouldn’t just recover: I’d be stronger too.
A second favorite was “But westward, look, the land is bright” from Say not the Struggle Naught Availeth by Arthur Hugh Clough, one of Churchill’s favorite poets, whom he was fond of quoting in the war. Again, I would get better. The land would once again be bright. Of course, as doctors know, believing in your own ability to recover in turn makes it more likely.
When I was awake in the dark hours of the night, and suffering from that sense of complete isolation that is at the heart of feeling depressed, I would repeat these snatched lines to myself, prayer-like. I wasn’t alone after all.
It was only when the antidepressants began to work that I could concentrate on entire poems – and only short ones. I turned to Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poems which celebrate the healing power of nature, poems such as Pied Beauty. Nature was reaching out and grabbing me by the collar as I recovered, my mood perfectly summed up by Hopkins’s celebration of even the smallest miracles of creation. The language performed for me, rekindling my enthusiasm for words and refreshing my own stale vocabulary.
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
A poem can also provide a different narrative from the negative story in our heads. This was how I felt when I read George Herbert’sLove (III) during my first breakdown. During the first verse I felt a bolt of electricity pierce through me. All the hairs on my arm stood on end. It was the first time that had happened in a while.
Love bade me welcome,
But my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin,
But sweet-eyed love, observing me grow slack,
Did welcome me in.
Yes: my soul had been drawing back. Yes: I needed love to bid me welcome. The idea that my soul was “guilty of dust and sin” seemed the most perfect description of the depressive illness. The poem pinpointed a sense of guilt that I should be depressed while blessed with a loving home and husband, something I had not previously acknowledged. Herbert’s words were bursting through the clouds of my mind. It seemed we had been to the same place and spoke the same language, albeit that his visit was centuries ago. I had found a companion on my journey.
I’m not the first to derive comfort from poetry. Apollo was the god of poetry as well of medicine. In 1751 Benjamin Franklin founded the first American hospital, the Pennsylvania Hospital, where reading and creative writing were among the treatments prescribed for mental illness. Freud, Adler, Jung and others recognised the healing power of words, and this led to the 1969 founding of the Association of Poetry Therapy.
Nowadays, figures in the literary and philosophical worlds advocate their own brands of healing words. Alain de Botton'sThe School of Life has recently begun courses in mindfulness and poetry. William Sieghart, the founder of the Forward Poetry Prize, invites audience members at literary festivals to request “Poetry Prescriptions” to suit their specific emotional and psychological needs. As Boris the bard, endorsing the importance of poetry, humorously suggests, “There is no known disaster, That poetry can’t master.”
There’s even some scientific evidence that poetry changes the way we think. The arrangement of poetry, even the clearest, has different conventions to continuous prose. This presents enough of a challenge to get our brains working differently. Research by Philip Davis and the neuroscience department of Liverpool University discovered that readers of Shakespeare, when they came across an unusual but totally comprehensible grammatical construction, would show a spike in neural activity. Even though the readers understood what was being said, their brains were shocked into activity. The requirement to concentrate in the moment helped me stop regretting the past and fearing the future in the negative mental spiral characteristic of depression.
In this way, poetry can work in a similar way to mindfulness, forcing us into the present. Robert Frost, demonstrating my point perfectly, put it far better when he said a poem can be a ‘momentary stay against confusion.
Black Rainbow, my memoir about how poetry helped me recover from depression, began life as a series of poetry recommendations to friends. They knew what I had been through and asked for poems I thought could help them in times of need. With the book’s publication, readers have been sending me the poems and prose that have helped them. Soon perhaps I won’t need to explain that poems can be as good as pills in helping you recover.
Rachel Kelly’s memoir about how poetry helped her recover from depression, Black Rainbow: How Words Healed Me – my journey through depression’ is published by Yellow Kite Books, a subsidiary of Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99. All author proceeds are going to the charities SANE and United Response.

 
 
 
For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog.
Click Here to access original SMI Blog content 

Rachel Kelly: How poetry helped me recover from depression
By Rachel Kelly, The Telegraph

Author Rachel Kelly suffered such severe depression that she was bed-ridden for months. In Mental Health Awareness Week, she describes how poetry proved a lifeline

Tell people that you’ve written a memoir about how poetry helped you recover from depression and most look baffled. Poetry? Depression? How does that work?

But odd as it sounds, the healing power of consoling poems and prose was at the heart of my recovery from two breakdowns, or “depressive episodes” as psychiatrists prefer to call them.

The love of my family, drugs and therapy were hugely important in the battle to recover from an illness so severe that the first time I was bed-ridden for six months, the second for a year. But it’s no exaggeration to say that poetry proved a lifeline.

Though I couldn’t read during the acute stage of the illness I could listen. My mother would read to me from books of poetry or the Bible and I could manage to remember and repeat the odd line. My favourite when I was first ill was from Corinthians: “My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in weakness.” It made sense of the suffering. I wouldn’t just recover: I’d be stronger too.

A second favorite was “But westward, look, the land is bright” from Say not the Struggle Naught Availeth by Arthur Hugh Clough, one of Churchill’s favorite poets, whom he was fond of quoting in the war. Again, I would get better. The land would once again be bright. Of course, as doctors know, believing in your own ability to recover in turn makes it more likely.

When I was awake in the dark hours of the night, and suffering from that sense of complete isolation that is at the heart of feeling depressed, I would repeat these snatched lines to myself, prayer-like. I wasn’t alone after all.

It was only when the antidepressants began to work that I could concentrate on entire poems – and only short ones. I turned to Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poems which celebrate the healing power of nature, poems such as Pied Beauty. Nature was reaching out and grabbing me by the collar as I recovered, my mood perfectly summed up by Hopkins’s celebration of even the smallest miracles of creation. The language performed for me, rekindling my enthusiasm for words and refreshing my own stale vocabulary.

Glory be to God for dappled things –

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

A poem can also provide a different narrative from the negative story in our heads. This was how I felt when I read George Herbert’sLove (III) during my first breakdown. During the first verse I felt a bolt of electricity pierce through me. All the hairs on my arm stood on end. It was the first time that had happened in a while.

Love bade me welcome,

But my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin,

But sweet-eyed love, observing me grow slack,

Did welcome me in.

Yes: my soul had been drawing back. Yes: I needed love to bid me welcome. The idea that my soul was “guilty of dust and sin” seemed the most perfect description of the depressive illness. The poem pinpointed a sense of guilt that I should be depressed while blessed with a loving home and husband, something I had not previously acknowledged. Herbert’s words were bursting through the clouds of my mind. It seemed we had been to the same place and spoke the same language, albeit that his visit was centuries ago. I had found a companion on my journey.

I’m not the first to derive comfort from poetry. Apollo was the god of poetry as well of medicine. In 1751 Benjamin Franklin founded the first American hospital, the Pennsylvania Hospital, where reading and creative writing were among the treatments prescribed for mental illness. Freud, Adler, Jung and others recognised the healing power of words, and this led to the 1969 founding of the Association of Poetry Therapy.

Nowadays, figures in the literary and philosophical worlds advocate their own brands of healing words. Alain de Botton'sThe School of Life has recently begun courses in mindfulness and poetry. William Sieghart, the founder of the Forward Poetry Prize, invites audience members at literary festivals to request “Poetry Prescriptions” to suit their specific emotional and psychological needs. As Boris the bard, endorsing the importance of poetry, humorously suggests, “There is no known disaster, That poetry can’t master.”

There’s even some scientific evidence that poetry changes the way we think. The arrangement of poetry, even the clearest, has different conventions to continuous prose. This presents enough of a challenge to get our brains working differently. Research by Philip Davis and the neuroscience department of Liverpool University discovered that readers of Shakespeare, when they came across an unusual but totally comprehensible grammatical construction, would show a spike in neural activity. Even though the readers understood what was being said, their brains were shocked into activity. The requirement to concentrate in the moment helped me stop regretting the past and fearing the future in the negative mental spiral characteristic of depression.

In this way, poetry can work in a similar way to mindfulness, forcing us into the present. Robert Frost, demonstrating my point perfectly, put it far better when he said a poem can be a ‘momentary stay against confusion.

Black Rainbow, my memoir about how poetry helped me recover from depression, began life as a series of poetry recommendations to friends. They knew what I had been through and asked for poems I thought could help them in times of need. With the book’s publication, readers have been sending me the poems and prose that have helped them. Soon perhaps I won’t need to explain that poems can be as good as pills in helping you recover.

Rachel Kelly’s memoir about how poetry helped her recover from depression, Black Rainbow: How Words Healed Me – my journey through depression’ is published by Yellow Kite Books, a subsidiary of Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99. All author proceeds are going to the charities SANE and United Response.

 

 

 





For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog.

Click Here to access original SMI Blog content 

Filed under rachel kelly black rainbow art artist creative creativity poem poems poetry poet writer depression depressed depressive major depression disorder diagnosis mind body brain wellness recovery hope psychology psychiatry counseling mental health healthy author

228 notes

artfromtheedge:

HAVE YOU CREATED ART IN OR ABOUT AN EXTREME STATE?
The creators of the Serious Mental Illness blog invite you to submit your visual art, photography, video work, poetry, collage, or short fiction to Art from the Edge. All of the art shown on this flyer has been featured on the blog.
Art from the Edge, a virtual gallery and resource center, is dedicated to art created in and about extreme mental states. It is an open and public world wide forum for artists to share their visual and written works and their personal stories with all those interested in the connection between creativity and “edge” states.
Much like art, which exists in a multitude of mediums and forms of expression, there are a plurality of “edge” states that inspire the artists who harbor them. For this reason, we leave the term completely open to our community’s interpretation, knowing from research and experience that this state could be driven by psychosis or trauma, or an altered state induced by drugs. It could be the offshoot of extreme depression or grief, or the aftermath of a spiritual or mystical state of consciousness.
Ultimately, we are interested in the artist’s individual experience and in his or her sense of what it is that drove the creative act. 
submissions@artfromtheedge.net
artfromtheedge.net

artfromtheedge:

HAVE YOU CREATED ART IN OR ABOUT AN EXTREME STATE?

The creators of the Serious Mental Illness blog invite you to submit your visual art, photography, video work, poetry, collage, or short fiction to Art from the Edge. All of the art shown on this flyer has been featured on the blog.

Art from the Edge, a virtual gallery and resource center, is dedicated to art created in and about extreme mental states. It is an open and public world wide forum for artists to share their visual and written works and their personal stories with all those interested in the connection between creativity and “edge” states.

Much like art, which exists in a multitude of mediums and forms of expression, there are a plurality of “edge” states that inspire the artists who harbor them. For this reason, we leave the term completely open to our community’s interpretation, knowing from research and experience that this state could be driven by psychosis or trauma, or an altered state induced by drugs. It could be the offshoot of extreme depression or grief, or the aftermath of a spiritual or mystical state of consciousness.

Ultimately, we are interested in the artist’s individual experience and in his or her sense of what it is that drove the creative act. 

submissions@artfromtheedge.net

artfromtheedge.net

Filed under art artist artists creative creativity gallery visual visual art poetry writing write fiction story film video pic picture photo photography poet photographer painter paint painting song music art on tumblr tumblart tumblr art artist on tumblr

19 notes

Paul Gross on Madness and the Creative ProcessBy Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail
Stratford Festival’s second annual Shakespeare Slam includes a one-man cabaret-rock performance by Hawsley Workman, but the main event is a debate inspired by the theme of this year’s festival, Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge. Participants include academics, professionals and singer-songwriter Steven Page (who has suffered from depression) and actor Paul Gross (famed for his portrayal of a mentally overwrought artistic director in the miniseries Slings and Arrows). We spoke to the latter.
The subject of this year’s debate is whether or not madness is inherent in the artistic process. Who’s on which side?
Steven is arguing that madness is not required as part of the creative process. And I’m arguing that it is. Neither of us are in any position to comment with any certainty, and I don’t feel I’m an authority on mental illness per se. But I can talk about the creative process, which does have altered states involved in it. I’m actually not sure exactly what Steven’s argument is going to be. Just that I’m wrong, I’m sure.
Can you give us an idea of what your argument will be?
First, I would define madness as being slightly different from mental illness. I think madness is more closely aligned with shamanism or berserkers or oracles. I think most artists who are any good at their trade – and even those who aren’t – go into a kind of altered state where your proper self recedes to the background and you can receive creative inspiration. It goes back to as far as we can look, and it’s part of the process. But it’s manageable. Or, at its best, it should be managed so that you can enter the state, return from the state, and your consciousness comes back to the foreground and tries to make sense of what you’ve discovered.
Gord Downie has said that his goal as a songwriter is to get out of his own way. Is that the same as the altered state you’re talking about?
I think so. With the governor, the thing that controls you, you have to somehow put it in a closet for a little while, and then open it up and bring it back. I know that Kurt Vonnegut said the trick to writing, for him, was to get rid of his big brain. And yet, he does have to bring back that big brain to edit what he’s written. It’s being able to go in and out fluidly, and being able to call upon whatever you call the muse.
Getting into actual mental illnesses, what about the appeal of the so-called tortured artist?
Authenticity in an artist is what people respond to. But I think it’s a bit mixed up, and for few centuries there’s a been a romantic notion of the tortured artist. It can be difficult for audiences and artists to be able to separate a mental-health problem from inspiration. I don’t think they are aligned necessarily.
So, you’re not contending that artists with a mental illness have this weird reservoir of special inspiration or anything?
Right, that’s not what at all what I’ll be arguing for. But that an artist finds, and uses as a tool, states that are akin to mental illness.
Shakespeare Slam happens April 23, 8 p.m. $29 to $54. Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W., 416-408-0208, 1-800-567-1600 or tickets.rcmusic.ca.

For more mental health news, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog 

Paul Gross on Madness and the Creative Process
By Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail

Stratford Festival’s second annual Shakespeare Slam includes a one-man cabaret-rock performance by Hawsley Workman, but the main event is a debate inspired by the theme of this year’s festival, Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge. Participants include academics, professionals and singer-songwriter Steven Page (who has suffered from depression) and actor Paul Gross (famed for his portrayal of a mentally overwrought artistic director in the miniseries Slings and Arrows). We spoke to the latter.

The subject of this year’s debate is whether or not madness is inherent in the artistic process. Who’s on which side?

Steven is arguing that madness is not required as part of the creative process. And I’m arguing that it is. Neither of us are in any position to comment with any certainty, and I don’t feel I’m an authority on mental illness per se. But I can talk about the creative process, which does have altered states involved in it. I’m actually not sure exactly what Steven’s argument is going to be. Just that I’m wrong, I’m sure.

Can you give us an idea of what your argument will be?

First, I would define madness as being slightly different from mental illness. I think madness is more closely aligned with shamanism or berserkers or oracles. I think most artists who are any good at their trade – and even those who aren’t – go into a kind of altered state where your proper self recedes to the background and you can receive creative inspiration. It goes back to as far as we can look, and it’s part of the process. But it’s manageable. Or, at its best, it should be managed so that you can enter the state, return from the state, and your consciousness comes back to the foreground and tries to make sense of what you’ve discovered.

Gord Downie has said that his goal as a songwriter is to get out of his own way. Is that the same as the altered state you’re talking about?

I think so. With the governor, the thing that controls you, you have to somehow put it in a closet for a little while, and then open it up and bring it back. I know that Kurt Vonnegut said the trick to writing, for him, was to get rid of his big brain. And yet, he does have to bring back that big brain to edit what he’s written. It’s being able to go in and out fluidly, and being able to call upon whatever you call the muse.

Getting into actual mental illnesses, what about the appeal of the so-called tortured artist?

Authenticity in an artist is what people respond to. But I think it’s a bit mixed up, and for few centuries there’s a been a romantic notion of the tortured artist. It can be difficult for audiences and artists to be able to separate a mental-health problem from inspiration. I don’t think they are aligned necessarily.

So, you’re not contending that artists with a mental illness have this weird reservoir of special inspiration or anything?

Right, that’s not what at all what I’ll be arguing for. But that an artist finds, and uses as a tool, states that are akin to mental illness.

Shakespeare Slam happens April 23, 8 p.m. $29 to $54. Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W., 416-408-0208, 1-800-567-1600 or tickets.rcmusic.ca.




For more mental health news, 
Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog 

Filed under paul gross theater theatre shakespeare creative creativity art artist writer write mad madness creative process steven page depression depressed major depression mental illness mental health mental illness health healthy mind psychology psychiatry body brain artists canada

67 notes

The Play that Wants to Change the Way we Treat Mental IllnessBy Laura Barnett, The Guardian
The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland is based on a new approach called ‘open dialogue’, and replicates the experience of having an auditory hallucination.
Can theatre offer a cure for psychosis? It’s unlikely – and it would be unwise for any theatre-maker even to try. What theatre can do, though, is convey the experience of psychosis: the hallucinations and delusions – often terrifying, sometimes comical – that define reality for those withschizophrenia and related conditions.
This, at least, is the belief shared by David Woods and Jon Haynes, co-founders of the theatre company Ridiculusmus. Their new show, The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland, examines the effects of psychosis on several members of a fictional family, using an innovative conceit. The audience is split in two, with each half sitting on either side of a dividing wall. For the first act, each half of the audience watches one scene, while another scene is performed on the other side. Later, the audiences swap places; and in the final section, the wall becomes transparent, so that both halves of the audience are watching the same scene.
The effect, at least at first, is bewildering – and that is the point. “It’s as if you’re having auditory hallucinations,” Woods tells me when we meet during rehearsals at the Basement in Brighton, where the play is beginning a national tour. “Initially it’ll be overwhelming, chaotic. Then the audience will go out of the theatre, change sides. Slowly the voices will settle into place. In a way, it’s the same with schizophrenia. You don’t get cured, but you can recover.”
Woods and Haynes know more about schizophrenia and psychosis than most. Haynes was sectioned in the mid-80s, and spent six months as a patient in London’s Maudsley Hospital; Woods was a carer for several family members with mental health problems. It was this that first drew them towards making a show about mental illness: a series of early improvisations on the subject of family (the company devise all their work through improvisation and extensive research) threw up memories from their own pasts.
They contacted the Tavistock clinic in London, where they took part in a workshop on child carers for adults with mental health issues. It was there that they first learned about "open dialogue": a revolutionary approach to the treatment of psychosis that has, over the past few decades, virtually eradicated the condition in Western Lapland, the area of Finland where it originated.
Intrigued, Woods and Haynes travelled to the Keropudas hospital in Tornio, Finland, where Dr Jaakko Seikkula first evolved the method - and were so struck by what they found that they decided to make open dialogue the key subject of their show. “I thought: ‘Wow, this is wonderful,’” Haynes explains. “I can imagine that if we’d had this kind of approach [in the UK] years ago, things might have been very different for me. When I was ill, I remember feeling very much that I was the problem. With open dialogue, that’s not at all how the patient feels.”
Open dialogue is, as the name suggests, a treatment based on talking rather than medicating, and on intervening as early as possible in a psychotic episode. Families are directly involved in the patient’s therapy, with the aim of identifying the skewed dynamics, or other sources of emotional tension, that may have caused the patient’s crisis. “The idea,” Seikkula tells me over Skype, “is to organise the psychiatric system in a way that makes it possible to meet immediately in a crisis, and work very intensively together with the family.”
The statistics on open dialogue are startling: according to a 2003 study conducted at Keropudas hospital, 82% of patients who were given open-dialogue treatment had no, or mild, psychotic symptoms after five years, compared to 50% in a comparison group. The method has attracted international attention – in 2011, Seikkula helped found the Institute for Dialogic Practice in Massachusetts, to take open dialogue to the US. But it still remains far from the mainstream in many countries, including the UK.
The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland has open dialogue as an underlying theme, inherent in the idea of an audience listening to a family’s experience of psychosis, much as a psychiatrist might do during an open-dialogue session. Each scene begins with a group of disembodied voices describing the principles of the method, and the psychiatrist character in the play mentions the fact that a colleague in the NHS has been struck off for using open dialogue in the place of anti-psychotic medication.
Haynes and Woods’ key aims are to raise awareness of open dialogue, and to dispel the wider stigma surrounding schizophrenia. “I would hope,” Woods says, “that people who see the show would start listening: talking to each other rather than just barging their way through life. And that they would realise that there is a lot more to schizophrenia than just the tiny minority who go out and stab somebody with a knife.”
Seikkula, too, believes that a piece of theatre such as this has a powerful role to play in expressing what he, and other practitioners of open dialogue, consider the fundamental definition of psychosis. “Psychosis belongs to life,” he says. “In my mind, we can all have hallucinations. If we are in a stressful enough situation, each of us can react in that way. This play gives people a very concrete experience of how that really is.”
The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland is touring the UK. See ridiculusmus.com for full details.

For more information on Open Dialogue, see opendialogueapproach.co.uk

 


For more mental health news, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog

The Play that Wants to Change the Way we Treat Mental Illness
By Laura Barnett, The Guardian

The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland is based on a new approach called ‘open dialogue’, and replicates the experience of having an auditory hallucination.

Can theatre offer a cure for psychosis? It’s unlikely – and it would be unwise for any theatre-maker even to try. What theatre can do, though, is convey the experience of psychosis: the hallucinations and delusions – often terrifying, sometimes comical – that define reality for those withschizophrenia and related conditions.

This, at least, is the belief shared by David Woods and Jon Haynes, co-founders of the theatre company Ridiculusmus. Their new show, The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland, examines the effects of psychosis on several members of a fictional family, using an innovative conceit. The audience is split in two, with each half sitting on either side of a dividing wall. For the first act, each half of the audience watches one scene, while another scene is performed on the other side. Later, the audiences swap places; and in the final section, the wall becomes transparent, so that both halves of the audience are watching the same scene.

The effect, at least at first, is bewildering – and that is the point. “It’s as if you’re having auditory hallucinations,” Woods tells me when we meet during rehearsals at the Basement in Brighton, where the play is beginning a national tour. “Initially it’ll be overwhelming, chaotic. Then the audience will go out of the theatre, change sides. Slowly the voices will settle into place. In a way, it’s the same with schizophrenia. You don’t get cured, but you can recover.”

Woods and Haynes know more about schizophrenia and psychosis than most. Haynes was sectioned in the mid-80s, and spent six months as a patient in London’s Maudsley Hospital; Woods was a carer for several family members with mental health problems. It was this that first drew them towards making a show about mental illness: a series of early improvisations on the subject of family (the company devise all their work through improvisation and extensive research) threw up memories from their own pasts.

They contacted the Tavistock clinic in London, where they took part in a workshop on child carers for adults with mental health issues. It was there that they first learned about "open dialogue": a revolutionary approach to the treatment of psychosis that has, over the past few decades, virtually eradicated the condition in Western Lapland, the area of Finland where it originated.

Intrigued, Woods and Haynes travelled to the Keropudas hospital in Tornio, Finland, where Dr Jaakko Seikkula first evolved the method - and were so struck by what they found that they decided to make open dialogue the key subject of their show. “I thought: ‘Wow, this is wonderful,’” Haynes explains. “I can imagine that if we’d had this kind of approach [in the UK] years ago, things might have been very different for me. When I was ill, I remember feeling very much that I was the problem. With open dialogue, that’s not at all how the patient feels.”

Open dialogue is, as the name suggests, a treatment based on talking rather than medicating, and on intervening as early as possible in a psychotic episode. Families are directly involved in the patient’s therapy, with the aim of identifying the skewed dynamics, or other sources of emotional tension, that may have caused the patient’s crisis. “The idea,” Seikkula tells me over Skype, “is to organise the psychiatric system in a way that makes it possible to meet immediately in a crisis, and work very intensively together with the family.”

The statistics on open dialogue are startling: according to a 2003 study conducted at Keropudas hospital, 82% of patients who were given open-dialogue treatment had no, or mild, psychotic symptoms after five years, compared to 50% in a comparison group. The method has attracted international attention – in 2011, Seikkula helped found the Institute for Dialogic Practice in Massachusetts, to take open dialogue to the US. But it still remains far from the mainstream in many countries, including the UK.

The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland has open dialogue as an underlying theme, inherent in the idea of an audience listening to a family’s experience of psychosis, much as a psychiatrist might do during an open-dialogue session. Each scene begins with a group of disembodied voices describing the principles of the method, and the psychiatrist character in the play mentions the fact that a colleague in the NHS has been struck off for using open dialogue in the place of anti-psychotic medication.

Haynes and Woods’ key aims are to raise awareness of open dialogue, and to dispel the wider stigma surrounding schizophrenia. “I would hope,” Woods says, “that people who see the show would start listening: talking to each other rather than just barging their way through life. And that they would realise that there is a lot more to schizophrenia than just the tiny minority who go out and stab somebody with a knife.”

Seikkula, too, believes that a piece of theatre such as this has a powerful role to play in expressing what he, and other practitioners of open dialogue, consider the fundamental definition of psychosis. “Psychosis belongs to life,” he says. “In my mind, we can all have hallucinations. If we are in a stressful enough situation, each of us can react in that way. This play gives people a very concrete experience of how that really is.”

The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland is touring the UK. See ridiculusmus.com for full details.

For more information on Open Dialogue, see opendialogueapproach.co.uk

 





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