Psychologist Dr. Robert Rich speaks about Alfredo Zotti’s book: ‘An Artist’s Creative Life With Bipolar Disorder’ which was published by Modern History Press early in 2014, and edited by Bob Rich. Many thanks to Matt Cairns for filming Dr Bob Rich and for editing the greatest part of of this short film.
While the material that I am going to provide here could possibly be helpful to people who suffer with almost all mental disorders, I am going to limit myself and say that the material here will be helpful to those who suffer with Depression and Bipolar because I have a good understanding of these disorders.
In other words, if you suffer with Bipolar Disorder or Depression, you could benefit from reading the following presentation Presentation 2.
Please read it carefully and slowly and try not to rush through it. Even if you read one page per day, and ensure that you understand it, that is going to be very helpful to you, I believe. If you do not understand something you can ask me here and I will reply with an answer.
Here is the link, again, to the presentation Presentation 2. You can download it and keep it. I would print it if I was you and keep it close by. The more you read it the better it is.
I hope that many people, who suffer with a mental disorder, or who have a family member with a mental disorder, will read it. This presentation, if understood properly and followed, can lead to recovery.
Conflict of interest in Australian universities and lack of transparency.
A couple of years ago (in 2012) I was searching for an article, on the internet, when suddenly I came across Professor Simon Chapman’s article titled ‘Australian Universities Fail on Conflict of Interest.’
To my greatest surprise, I read that Professor Chapman sent a questionnaire to all 39 Australian universities. The questionnaire’s main aim was to find out how many universities had a central register of public declarations; if the register was publicly accessible without the need for a freedom of information application; and whether the universities published their registers on the internet.
According to Professor Simon: ”Just as you can look up the register of parlamentarians’ interests – for example, you can go and find out what shares a minister has or if they have received any gifts – so you should be able to do something like that with all universities.”
Why is it important to have a public register that is easily accessible? From my perspective, being a mental health advocate and in my position as a volunteer in my attempt to help hundreds of people with mental disorders, with the support of psychologists and psychiatrists, it is important for managing a possible medical conflict of interest. For example, Dr Katelaris wrote that:
“institutions must provide the right environment and policies for their staff, and the institution itself, to encourage “clean” research and practice, leading to valid knowledge and useful treatments.”
In other words, in the face of a lot of media speculation about the influential power of big pharmaceutical corporations, in Australian universities, I feel that I should be able to know, as a citizen and as someone who has studied in a university for many years, if this speculation has some validity, or if it is just a construction of the media.
Moreover, my interest is to establish whether research carried out in universities has the best interest of people with mental disorder in mind, or if it is just geared to test and prescribe more medication and, as we well know, medication for long term treatment of mental disorder has a dismal track record meaning that medication, while extremely helpful in the beginning of the pharmacotherapy, has the tendency to lose efficacy especially if sufferers don’t work hard towards their recovery with other natural interventions. How do I find out if research is “clean” as Professor Katelaris puts it? FOr example this critique of a research may give an example of some of the problems http://download.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS014067361260097X.pdf?id=eaatah0q8hDlUc0k-WWKu
After all, despite decades of medical research and pharmacotherapy research in mental illness, the situation for those who suffer with a mental disorder is worsening everyday. More and more people are ending up in our jails; many commit suicide; and recovery is very rare in the wider society although research shows that therapy has a good chance of leading to improvement.
I have been able to help some people towards their recovery, over the internet, simply by communicating to people who suffer with a mental disorder such a schizophrenia or bipolar, by discussing problems with their families; and by engaging in some readings, narrative therapy and writing/creative therapy. The results of my personal longitudinal research are encouraging. I note that many people that I have attempted to help have been able to recover just like me and my wife and what has made this possible is the development of critical consciousness through special literature; social support; love and care. I feel that this is a New approach based on both my effort combined with that of the consumer empowerment of Canada to empowwer sufferers and help them to recover. See the presentation for a better idea about this New Paradigm of Mental Disorders Presentation 2 If everyone was able to help people as I am, the number of people with mental disorders should be declining.
Professor Simon Chapman informs us that some universities replied although nine did not . Only three universities declined to participate to this research. Of the 27 universities that replied 15 said that they did not require regular declarations from staff and none had policies indicating staff should declare conflict of interest when commenting on an issue publicly. Of the 12 universities with a central register of declarations only two made the list available on request: The University of Southern Queensland and the University of Western Sydney. 3 university provided access to declarations made by a specific staff member: LaTrobe University; University of Canberra, and the University of New South Wales.
In other words, only 5 Australian Universities are able to show the register of declaration so that people can look into problems.
For example, if Sydney University made available their register of declarations, people would have been able to look into Professor’s Ian Hickie’s problem to do with his close association with Servier and consequently, Lancet’s publishers could have decided to let someone else write on the research to avoid conflict of interest..
The problem was that Professor Ian Hickie had failed, according to the Lancet, to provide information about his complete association to Servier, a French pharmaceutical company, before he agreed to write an article on agomelatine, a substance for depression.
According to the Lancet, someone who cooperates in this way with a pharmaceutical company that has created the drug should not be writing an article on research that explains the value of such substance. Clearly the research article should have been written by an independent professor not associated in any way with Servier. And Lancet’s argument is that if Hickie had told them about his full ties with Servier, they could have decide to let someone else write the article to avoid conflict of interest.
West Australian Labor MP and anti-ADHD drug campaigner, Martin Whitely calimed that Hickie’s reputation is under question and it is entirely appropriate to question whether he should be a leader of mental health reforms and research in Australia. While I am not here taking sides I am concerned.
It is problems like the above mentioned that create suspicions in people’s mind and hence why it would be so important to have transparency in universities and for people to have access to a public register of declaration. If there was an accessible register at Sydney University, perhaps the Lancet may have been able to read about the close association between Hickie and Servier given that Hickie also works for Sydney University..
The problem here is how are we to know what goes on in universities? How do we know if pharmaceutical corporation have bought enough influence to decide which research is to be accepted and which is to be rejected? Which subject is to be studied and which is not, especially in psychology or psychiatry? And would not this be conflict of interest in terms of sound research designed to truly help people? How do we know what is going on if there is no transparency? After all universities can have an influence on society at large.
The situation is complex and while we have no solid evidence to suggest that pharmaceutical corporation have great influence in universities the fact that all Governments have the tendency to cut funds to education (for example the federal government is going to cut billions to education this year) universities could be forced to rely on sponsors and corporations that may have less than ideal intentions. If there is conflict of interest, which should be established, then this may end up costing extra billions to Australia in terms of mismanagement of resources, useless or inadequate research aimed at increasing profits rather than helping people, and training of mental health professionals who will not be able to help sufferers very much because of lack of humanitarian approaches so important in psychology and psychiatry.
I feel that if governments and mental health interest groups want to truly help sufferers, we have to take a closer look at what is happening in Australian universities. What is happening is that there seems to be too much emphasis on science when it comes to studying mental illness and not enough focus on the person and the fact that people who suffer with a mental disorder, like me, are people first not a disease. We need structural and social support. We are intelligent people who need help not only in a medical sense but following a model that consider our psychological well-being, our social support and our body. This, sadly, is not happening in universities today. The biopsychosocial model, much admired by mental health professional, has never shaped into a solid framework that could be used to truly help people. I wonder why??? Because I use it everyday with great results
Perhaps another relevant point is that pharmaceutical drugs is only one of many examples. There are others where society is endangered by conflict of interest of researchers.
Some would say that as long as the conflict of interest is disclosed in advance, that should be OK. After all psychiatrists do test new drugs on their patients and do need to work closely with pharmaceutical corporations. But how do we know if they are honest or not? if there is no way to establish transparency of dealings and conduct. that is. I feel that things are not as simple as that. The debate remains divided and I personally feel that full transparency, in all dealings, is a must and that in its absence we have a problem on our hands even if this problem is uncertainty and doubt. I do not know Professor Ian Hickie and I prefer not to pass any judgement or take any sides. But I would prefer a Mental Health Commission that focuses mostly on social and psychological support with medication being considered only an additional help if absolutely necessary.
Having said all of this, the Mental Health Commission of New South Waless, guided by Commissioner John Feneley, is doing a terrific job showing that there is always room for improvements no matter what. I admire the effrort and integrity of Commissionar Feneley. The PDF of their direction, for future intervention in Australia, is found at the following link http://nswmentalhealthcommission.com.au/
Apart from the fact that Medicare sponsored visits to psychologists, for therapy, had been cut by the previous Labour government from 18 to 10 visits per year, with danger that these could be cut even further, everything in thei PDF document is informative and shows a clear vision for better mental health. If this it to be realised, in the face of the above problems such as government budget cuts, debates and tensions to do with conflict of interest, and the predominant biomedical direction that universities have taken, which present the dangers that pharmacotherapy mey become the dominatn way of helping and treating people (even though statistics show that this may be making the situation worse as we now seem to generate mental illness and related problems that increases annually ) remains to be seen.
I tend to agree with Professor McGorry who calls upon the Governments to increase fundings rather than reduce expenditure. As he rightly points, while mental health receives 6 to 7 percent of Australia’s combined health budget, mental ill health is responsible for 13 percent of the total cost burden. If we were to dig deep and look at the long term costs of inadequate fundings, in terms of incarceration of people with mental disorders (about 20,000 in jail now); if we look at the disruption and cost to families of people with mental disorders such as schizophrenia who cannot get assistence either financial or from the mental health professionals due to limited availability of beds and resources; and if we look at lost opportunities, suicide and substance abuse, the cost would probably reach the 20 to 30 percent of the total cost burden of mental ill health in Australian society.
I respect the ideas and visions of Professor Mc Gorry and I know that he is a psychiatrist with an adedquate understending of psychology and of the need for a bio-psycho-social model of health. Because medication is only one tool which is not the most important but which nees to be used with other tools such as social support, psychological support and the ability to look past the mental illness or disorder so as to find the person, get in touch with that person, and work with the person towards recovery.
I suspect and speculate that McGorry’s fear is that Governments will try to cut costs and save money even if these cost cuts are going to be astronomically expensive in the long run.
Guess what happens when government cut on costs without providing additional support for people with mental disorders? We rely more on medication, as a nation. In this sense, when the government cuts funds for the sake of saving money, pharmaceutical corporations benefit and drug sales go up. But anti depressants and anti psychotics have not reduced the problem of mental illness, not to mention the side effects, reduce life expectance, and all the problems that are associated with pharmacotherapy alone treatment. To the contrary, despite all the research on pharmacotherapy and the brain, we are witnessing an astronomical increase in numbers of mental ill health cases as more people with mental disorders end up in our jails costing the government billions of dollars. Perhaps the money should go to help people directly first, and only as a second attempt to brain research and new drugs. Exactly the opposite of what we are doing now.We are people not biological machines.
I have been a student of the University of Newcastle (Australia) since the early 90s and studied, on and off, in various degrees, till 2012. I have recently given a presentation on a New Paradigm of Mental Disorders at a few Australian Universities. To view or download this presentation please click on the follwoing link Presentation 2
Today I help many sufferers, with mental disorders, as a volunteer, and I must admit that without tertiary studies none of the volunteering work I do would be possible. Not only do I help sufferers, supported by two psychologists and one psychiatrist, but thanks to the studies I have been able to recover from bipolar 2 disorder. The University has empowered me and all the knowledge and critical consciousness made the recovery possible, mostly thanks to the old philosphical and humanitarian subjects that are today becoming scarce in Universities.
Because of my voluntary work, I have good experience of mental disorders from an inside perspective, a perspective that many mental health professionals and academics find powerful and insightful.
I respect the University of Newcastle very much. It is a very tolerant and outstanding University and, in fact, given that I help many students from almost all Australian Universities, who either suffer with a mental disorder or who need a hand with their studies, especially statistics, I know that Newcastle is one of the most tolerant Universities towrds people with disabilities and mental disorders.
Nevertheless, like with anything in life, it is not completely free from problems.
One important problem that I have noted is that it follows, disproportionately (in terms of a biopsychosocial model) the biomedical and behavioural sciences to study mental illness in the health disciplines and especially in psychology. Of course all Australian universities are similar in that they also follow the biomedical and behavioural models. What I want to say here is that these models are not really working in the open society because, on their own, without consideration of social support and humanitarian concerns, are incomplete and largely ineffective.
Evidence for this is complex but basically three main factors are important to mention: the increasing numbers of mental illness cases in Australian jails which seem to have become the new institutions or psychiatric hospitals; the fact that a great number of people with mental illness committ suicide, do not recover and/or are jailed each year; and the fact that the standard of living of people with mental illness is decreasing annually, all point to the failures of our system. Mental illness is increasing throught the Western world
What I want to say to my university, that I love so very much, is that if it continue on this biomedical/behavioural path, it will be left behind by other more advanced countries and the statistics are already showing worrying signs.
It is not only important to advance with research and knowledge, but it is mostly important to reduce mental illness cases in Australia and to help people who suffer towards some sort of recovery. This is not happening and I cannot emphasize this more. It is simply not happening. To help people towards recovery we need to change and follow principles of the proposed New Paradigm of Mental Disorders (see Presentation link at the top of this page)
If academics or mental health professionals would like to comment, and possibly suggest how we could persuade governments and universities to make some change, so as to work towards a recovery approach to mental disorders, I would love to hear from them. We do need to change because we cannot simply remain as we are. It is preventing progress and it is not helping the society. Most importantly, the majority of people are aware of what is going on, most people pretend not to know but it is clear that the biomedical model is the domionant one throughout the world.. About 80 to 90% of university students know that the biomecial model is used disproportinately, in all universities of the world, and that it does not really help people with mental disorders, perhaps such concentrated scientific method may be adding to the problem creating more mental illness along the way. It is almost common knowledge.
I believe that the University of Newcastle is amongst the best in Australia. But I truly would like the University to become one of the best in the world and I feel that it has the right academics and the right environment to achieve this.
The problems are enormous. It is common knowledge that Pharmaceutical Corporations have tremendous influence on medical schools of universities, something that is in our literature today, and Newcastle may be not immune from this problem. It is also true that Governments are short sighted and think about balancing the books today, forgetting that by balancing the books today, and cutting on funds, they are creating huge debts for the future in terms of social failures, illness, barriers to recovery, the cost of poor health management, and all the other problems that pile up as time goes by.
When a sufferer does not have adequate social support and ends up doing something stupid, committing suicide or ending up in jail because of punching someone, it costs the government huge amounts of money. To keep a person in jail costs the government over 110,000 Australian dollars per year and it is also a fact that people with mental disorder, who end up in jail, deteriorate further so that they end up costing al lot more money in all senses of the word not least in terms of health.
This costs billions, billions that could be used to truly help now rather than save money now by creating huge debts for the future. I also call on Governments to become more aware and perhaps start working in a less political way if they want to help Australia.
We are up against these tremendous problems and I know that many academics and mental health professionals are well aware of these problems, suffer in silence, and are unable to do anything to change.
We have failed and our methods are not helping people with mental disorders directly. The statistics are telling us that the biomedical model does not lead, on its own, to recovery and that the behavioural approach has also failed. It is time to change.
Do we really want to help people with mental disorders towards recovery? or do we want mental health professionals, researchers and academics to profit on the misfortunes of those who suffer? Can we continue this way when people are ending up in jail; when people cannot afford to live; when people are committing suicide? No, we cannot afford to go on this way. It is time to change. Because to continue to do inadequate research that does not help directly, to take money away for things that do not help directly, is to be less than a good citizen. Research must lead to real improvements that truly help people in a practical way.
I am currently working on my new book that will come out next year. The book will offer a New Paradigm of Mental Disorders; it will look into the Biopsychosoclial method of doing things; and it will suggest that the New Paradigm that I propose, following the Consumer Empowerment of Canada, combined with a biopsychosocial model of mental disorders, can lead us to the ability to help people directly, towards recovery. It will provide lots of statistics and feedback from mental health professionals who work everyday with clients. Such testimonies and statistics cannot be ignored.
If Governments are serious about saving money, they are not going about it the right way because their policies increase illness and related spending in the long run. Mental Health agencies that advise the government would do best to make this clear that to save money we need to help in a real sense not hide the problems away.
If you are an academic, a mental health professional, or a sufferer, please, I would love to hear from you with a contributing post.
Thank you very much for reading this and for your time
Patonga is one of the most beautiful suburbs of the Central Coast of New South Wales, in Australia.Patonga means Oyster and this is no wonder since Patonga is full of oysters that grow naturally though there are also many oysetr banks.
What is wonderful about the place is that much of it is in pristine natural conditions, probably just as when the Aboriginal People of Australia had not yet met the destructive white man. Of course I am also a white man but a white man who is aware and who would never desecrate sacred land for financial gains. I am a different kind of white man, one who believes in the sacredness of nature, in the sacredness of the community spirit and who believes in a natural way of life.
I wonder how long it is going to be before developers move in with the idea of changing the place to look more modernized (or stuffed) and lose all of its natural charms? They have already tried this and the residents have been united in saying NO to progress and the destruction of what can now be considered a sacred place.
These were the ideas that ran into my head as I was composed the song “Patonga Blues”. I got together with Frank White and decided to let him sing the song knowing that he would sing it adding to the melody his own particular style and ideas, hence why the music is both mine and Frank’s. The result is a classical blues number that we will perfect as time goes on.
For now I have quickly recorded the song in my studio and played all instruments myself. But it will not be long before we record it with the live band. Meanwhile you can listen to Patonga Blues by clicking on the following link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=od3aIdtlOfk
What do the words mean? The first verse mean that we are so influenced by our current ideology that we don’t realize that we are destroying many of the natural and beautiful spots of our country (Patonga Blues and we are full of hopeless dreaming) . Once these natural location are destroyed, Australia will not have the same charm, the same appeal and it will not be the same. We will have a world that will become increasingly similar no matter if we find ourselves in Australia or America. Countries will lose their individual landscape: concrete building surrounded by plants and animals that do not belong to the area because that is what the silly white man does, he changes things, often for the worst. But it is more than this if we think about the direction that humanity has taken: a technological jungle where we are becoming increasingly alienated from each other and where we are loosing our humanness. I am always hopeful that we may realise that we are self destructing in time. Let’s cross our fingers.
Then the song speaks of alienation: “You go your way I go my way” meaning that we have lost the ability to live within a community and be real active members of that community. We are losing the community spirit and we are all becoming alienated.
And for now, while we worry about these things, “Patonga Blues will keep us Dreaming”, meaning that while we are hoping for a better future, yet being aware that a better future may not come after all and that we may loose the beautiful and natural resources, we are kept in a kind of limbo or depressed state while we fear that our beautiful place, here on the Coast, may be spoiled for the sake of letting big developers take over, lock that average person out of their own land by bying them out and selling it to wealthy people who were probably never part of the area. This is our world today, a material world full of anguish and fear. Meanwhile “Patonga Blues will keep us dreaming”.
Patonga Blues: music by Alfredo Zotti and Frank White and words by Alfredo Zotti.
I am not a therapist and I always tell everyone. I invite sufferers to take certain paths and to look at the world differently. I become their online friend and it is through this friendship that, in time, their condition begins to improve. I am in touch with some friends who are psychologists and psychiatrists that guide me and support me.
I do not suffer with psychosis and as such I have no direct experience. But I have helped many friends who suffer with schizophrenia and other disorders that experience psychosis on a daily basis.
How do I help sufferers online, more specifically, through endless email exchanges?
In my experience, the main factor that seems to be very helpful in the recovery process is to make sense of psychosis for people who are receiving psychiatric treatment. This is because psychosis, contrary to what many mental experts believe, is a set of very important and clear cries for help that need to be decoded and expressed appropriately to both the sufferer and the therapist. Then they can be resolved. In my experience, any mental illness that has PTSD origins, can be resolved if we get to the source of the problem and if we help sufferers express their pain appropriately and not just in a mythological manner.
So what are my strategies when I invite people to take certain paths that can be helpful to them? These paths help sufferers to minimize the debilitating nature of the psychotic experience; Clinical Language is not always helpful to sufferers (I always say: to me you are not a schizophrenic or a psychotic but a person, a normal person with some problems, great creativity and great imagination.).
Schizophrenia, or psychosis, is not at all a degenerative disease or illness. And although it may have a degenerative impact on the brain, the brain is plastic and can recover with proper help and support. It can easily recover, without a problem, at least well enough to function in a socially acceptable manner with proper support and help. According to the accepted ideology, schizophrenia is an illness that has no recovery. I don’t see it this way at all. Recovery is always possible for me and my ideology seems to help many sufferers with psychosis.
I focus on individual experiences, the person, and look at their story. Sometimes it is almost impossible to get to the history of the sufferer for they often hide much of what happened in the past due to horrific traumas. But I get it out of them through the use of creativity, art and writing. Sooner or later the mind will give out crucial information to me that I can use to truly help and make the person aware without triggering them into more serious problem. I make them aware indirectly. For example, if during our exchanges of poems, writing, artworks, music, or whatever artistic activity or discussion we have had, I come across important clues that they may have been raped, sexually abused, physically abused, molested or tortured in some way, I make them aware by telling them stories about invented characters, stories that speak of their past that I have decoded from their psychosis.
In this sense, I do lie to them, but use the story to make them aware. Once they are aware, I come clean with them and tell them the truth. But I always get it out and find the source of the problem. I decode the most bazaar symptoms which eventually make a lot of sense. They are little stories, created by the imagination of the sufferer with psychosis, to tackle problems that they could not otherwise express because of the intellectual and emotional complexities. For example, suppose a sufferer imagines that his mothers is telling him things on TV, I don’t find this strange but try to find the real message that their mind is trying to describe. Oftentimes, and perhaps most of the times, there are definite messages hidden in the psychotic experience. Psychosis makes perfect sense to me and I find it an incredibly creative way to express things that could not otherwise be expressed. It is a cry for help!
Any reference to schizophrenia or psychosis is unhelpful to me and the person that I try to help. Recovery and empowerment are the words I use to brain wash those that I help. But each person’s recovery is different; Recovery requires that I believe and stand by the person that I am trying to help; recovery is not cure; recovery is an ongoing process so that the sufferer can learn to cope; stigma and what other people think is what aggravates psychosis and prevents recovery most; those who are able to recover are valuable helpers and can help others through their personal experiences; recovery does not require labels or a particular view of what mental illness is; recovery requires love, friendship, compassion, transparency and trust. Here is a series of important steps I take:
a) I need to help them to establish a social identity social identity that is helpful to them because they think that they are schizophrenic or psychotic, and damaged, full stop.
b) Literature and narrative is what I use to create stories that will help sufferers to recover.
c) The story of hope is the most important one and I often base it on spirituality (not religion of course)
d) I create recovery stories and use these to help.
e) I am the person they can come to trust and that will help them out of the mess that they are in.
f) We come to work towards a coherent account of what happened which we salvage from the psychotic messages and beahviour.
g) I strive to build a positive social identity that at first they share with me and then they can apply in other social situations (group/intergroup contact) and with other people. I call them gifted and to me they are gifted individuals, creative worriers but in the peaceful sense of the word.
h) Emotional recovery (or the ability to express ones emotions) is also important and I help sufferers do “cry time” therapy, letting emotions out through creative writing and art, and make the person feel special but not in a cheese way but in an honest and not so sloppy way.
i) Psychosis is a post traumatic reaction full stop. I do not see it as a mental illness because the brain is plastic and it can readjust itself if it is given a chance.
j) Help the sufferer gradually change their beliefs away from the dominant and traumatic ideology of ours and more towards a constructive self critical understanding of life .
k) As we proceed with this special relationship, the sufferer comes to rely less and less on medication (under the guidance of their doctor who helps them to cut down on medication as they learn new coping skills) and more and more on social support, a healthy outlook and towards gaining some self respect. I introduce them to a group of friends who contiinue to help. Indeed our help is based on Social Psychology Principles.
To this day, I have helped many sufferers with psychosis and not one has ever committed suicide. They have all improved. I have a kind of a gift and my gift seems to work well.
An Artist’s Creative Life With Bipolar Disorderhttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LYM54LS is my new book. In this radio interview, which was also filmed quickly, I cover issues that are discussed in the book. Peter Graham, who works for the Australian Buireau of Statistics and who has completed
These are some important parts from the interview Documentary titled: ‘An Artist’s Creative Life With Bipolar Disorder’. I would like to thank Peter Graham, who looks very much like the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, for his questions which have given me an opportunity to highlight the main messages of the book. Peter was a PhD student at the University of Newcastle and now works for the Australian Bureau of Statistics. He is very interested in History, Class Differences, and pop/rock music.
I have never met Dr Bob Rich in person but we have exchanged thousands of emails and today consider ourselves best friends. Such is the power of the internet and computer technology. For me Dr Bob Rich is one of the most competent psychologist living in Australia today. He is also a great novelist and his book,
I am very pleased to say that my book titled ‘An artist’s Creative Life with Bipolar Disorder” is finally out. Here is the link to order one or more copies: I would like to thank Victor Volkman, of Loving Healing Press , for publishing such book and I would also like to thank all of the people that have been part of this journey, a journey that has lasted ten years while I was struggling to help many people with mental ill health on the net. Here I mention a few: my wife Cheryl Zotti; Psychologist Bob Rich who has written wonderful self help books ; Victor Volkman of Loving Healing Press http://www.lhpress.com/ ; Dr Dean Cavanagh (GP); Psychologist Paul Corcoran; Psychiatrist Dr David Butler; Judy Wright; Earnest Dempsey; Rosemary Martin; Lewis Weir; Professor Geoffrey Samuel of Cardiff University ; Professor Trevor Waring of the University of Newcastle ; Professor Pat McGorry ; Psychologist Dr Anthony Kidman who has written a wonderful book for those with a mental disorder who would like to feel better by helping themselves and putting a little effort: ; and many others, too many to mention here. These mental health professionals are different in that they are aware that people with mental disorders can help themselves.
I would also like to thank the staff of Gosford Hospital (NSW Australia) for being so supportive and understanding and for helping my wife.
The only way I could understand mental disorders was to communicate with those who suffer, their care givers and sometimes their mental health professionals, trying to make sense of it all. It was also helpful that I suffer with Bipolar II disorder and that my wife suffers with Bipolar I disorder. I guess that this book that I have written has many messages that are not just mine but a summary of what many intelligent and creative people with mental disorders are saying. Here is what Judy wrote, to give an example:
“Alfredo, to answer your question, I’d say the most valuable thing I’ve learned is that mental illness doesn’t matter much in terms of who you are or your value as a person. It can certainly affect a relationship if left unaddressed but I admire anyone who tries to function in spite of it and recognizes when they need help. Accepting help is a sign of strength because in reality, all of us are interdependent on each other. You tell your story and it helps someone else…and so it goes. Acceptance comes with understanding.”
…and this is what I think of the book, what I feel that the main message is:
For the past 10 years I have been trying to understand and study mental disorders like Depression and Bipolar. How we treat people with mental disorders, and by “we” I mean the society, mental health professionals and sufferers alike, is something that interests me because I suffer with Bipolar II and because my wife also suffers with Bipolar I. I have been studying mental disorders for a very long time indeed and from this effort my book has emerged.
The book points to some disturbing truths about what is going on. And what is going on is that our society is basically telling people with mental disorders that they are damaged, that only anti-psychotics or anti-depressants can work to alleviate their problems. The great bulk of the mental health professionals (though there are a number of very caring and aware mental health professionals) look down on sufferers. They often believe that it is the experts who have all of the answers and sufferers are merely people who lack knowledge and who are often too handicapped by their mental disability to be able to help themselves. What is more alarming is that many people with mental disorders have bought into these ideas and now truly believe that they are damaged and that only medication can help.
For as long as pharmaceutical companies, many mental health professionals, and sufferers alike keep seeing mental disorders in this way, that there is no hope except to take medication, nothing much will change in our society. Medication has its values but it needs to be used responsibly and sensibly in the contest of a bio-psycho-social model of health. That is to ensure that sufferers have a stress free life, appropriate housing, a job whether part time or full time that suits their condition, a support group, an understanding government, and people around us who can provide support and care. Many of these things are missing in our world today. No amount of medication available will help a woman who takes anti psychotics or anti depressants drugs but who then goes back to a home of domestic violence and abuse. It is clear that the environment and the psychological well being of the sufferer are also as important, if not more so than medication alone.
For as long as the majority of mental health professionals fail to give proper importance to childhood traumatic experiences, to the sensitivities of the person and neglect to look into child abuse or mistreatment, nothing will change.
Our world is full of stressors and it is a world that is far from an ideal one. Money seems to rule over everything else and our real treasure, our planet, is in danger; indeed we are in danger of extinction unless we change our ways and stop sabotaging our life on Earth. This is a mad world we live in and I believe that there is no such thing as sane individuals, or mentally ill ones. We all have problems and all struggle each day. We also have the potential to help ourselves, no matter what our problems or afflictions are.
We can help those with mental disorders, but unless we stop telling them that only medication works and that they are permanently damaged and unable to live a fulfilling and reasonably happy life, nothing will change. Mental illness will go on and continue to get worse as numbers of people with mentally ill health increase. There is no doubt in my mind, after writing this book and communicating with thousands of sufferers from all over the world, that we are contributing to mental illness and even creating it each day. The moment that we realize that many people with mental disorders are special people who need support, help and encouragement to believe in themselves and their future, things will change for the better as people will begin to finally believe in themselves and help themselves towards a better life. We will be able to do the best we can with what we have. Our perspective on mental illness is all wrong and it certainly rarely leads to improvements, something that statistics have been telling us for a long time.
The only improvement is that people are becoming less and less prejudiced and this is something good. But the overall situation is worsening. We need to empower and support those with mental disorders and the government needs to do a lot more to truly support sufferers. Expecting them to work in a stigma loaded and prejudiced world is not the answer. We need jobs that are friendly to those with mental disorders and it is a fact that many may not be able to work. The welfare system needs to support those who are unable to hold full time jobs. Government need to do a lot more and it is a disgrace to see such neglect of our most vulnerable people.
To fix the problems we need to spend money in such a way that improvements are noted. Many mental health professionals know what to do and they’ve been screaming out for changes for a long while; there is a price to pay for solving the problems but the returns are worth it in the long run for to spend money today, in the right way, is to save billions in the future. And this is where governments fail because they are only interested in Band-Aid solutions and the next oncoming elections; alternatively, they fail to listen to those who have the right knowledge for appropriate change.
Most important interventions are: a) to create appropriate accommodation for homeless people with mental ill health; b) to create appropriate employment opportunities that consider the sufferers’ condition. In this sense we have a long way to go, but we haven’t really started to truly help people. Our focus is on money and material possessions not on the quality of life of the people and the planet and the importance of preserving nature. The world has truly gone mad