Stories and News
realized, over and over again, that I was seeing patterns in the mental health system—and the only people who were really hearing my message were my clients. And often they knew this message already, because they’d lived it. I wanted to reach more people—and not just “clients”—therapists too, and family members. So I made my first film in 2007, eight years into my therapy career, and then…well, let’s say I just started reaching a huger, wider group of people. And that was very satisfying. It motivated me in a whole new way. And it inspired a shift in my life that I never really expected. After all, I wasn’t a trained filmmaker—I was just someone who was moderately tech-savvy and had a strong message and a lot of drive. And so, without even planning it, a shift came in my life—and eventually making films that reached a lot of people became more tantalizing to me than being a therapist.
Dr. DeSole was intellectually influenced by cultural anthropology but also by the work of the Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing as well as the writings of Dr. Thomas Szasz, who wrote among many books The Myth of Mental Illness. (Dr. Szasz was a personal friend of mine. I made a documentary about his life and work, called The Last Interview of Dr. Thomas Szasz.) Dr. DeSole was acutely aware of the opposition to his work with patients by not only the other attending psychiatrists but also the relatives of the patients and owners of the halfway homes who preferred that their tenants be passive and somnolent instead of active and lively.
When I was twenty-one years of age, twenty-one years ago, I experienced what I now refer to as a spiritual awakening. I knew that there were numerous flaws and damage being done within our current Western medical model of mental health care. I left the psychiatric ward in May 1993 and set out on a mission traveling the world and seeking out all forms of integrated medicine and therapies to understand and get to the root cause of my symptoms. I feel blessed in that I accomplished my personal mission to abundant health.
I’d been working on a documentary project film about R.D. Laing, whose work I’m very interested in. One of the things that Laing was notable for was challenging the totalizing mental health orthodoxies of his day, and trying to understand the experiences of people diagnosed with ‘schizophrenia’ from their perspective. It is profoundly puzzling to me that forty years later, this idea still seems radical in mainstream mental health. After a couple of years of developing the film and trying to find the right story angle, the penny finally dropped: it should be told from the perspective of people with the diagnosis. That would be the most fitting and powerful way of telling a story about the contradiction between the medical explanation of ‘schizophrenia’ and the way people with the diagnosis understand their experiences.
We are excited to announce our line-up of films, speakers, panels, live performances, and more! You can find the preliminary Festival schedule here, and film synopses and trailers here. We’ve appreciated your patience as we’ve put together this exciting program, and please note that more films and speakers will be announced over the coming days, as will a more detailed timeline of events, as we sort out final tweaks to the schedule.
During my studies as an occupational therapist I was taught to never get too close to the user, never to show affection and avoid showing interest in the person’s delusions (for example: a psychotic episode). Boy, were they wrong! Through the years I’ve discarded those myths and ideas, and in my experience if the cooperation is respectful and with equality, the individual is more willing to go through with the recovery process and take responsibility for it.
As I listened to those words and the music behind them, I was brought right back to the countless psychiatrized nights I spent staring at the ceiling, a bag of pills—including Lamictal— in my bedside table, my mind numb and counting the seconds tick past in the dark prison of my ‘bipolar’ life. I could hear that Dylan had been there too, that he’d felt the same pain and emptiness as so many of us who’ve been labeled “mentally ill”. But what I could hear even more than the pain in his words was the unfolding of a rich process of meaning making, an ode to the false promises offered to him in a plastic pill bottle with contents that made his “mouth as dry as chalk” and perpetuated the repressive message that “nothing less nothing more, greatness is what we’re yearning for.”
Mad in America is excited to learn that Elizabeth Kenny, whose one-woman play, SICK, will be one of our featured Festival events, will be delivering a TedMed 2014 talk in September to a broad audience of doctors and other medical practitioners on her experiences in the psychiatric and health care systems. For more information, check out… Read more →
This post, which has been slightly modified, was initially published at the Mad in America website. It was written by Sera Davidow, who is the director of the Western Mass RLC, a blogger at Mad in America, a filmmaker, an activist, and a mother. ‘Beyond the Medical Model’ is a product of… Read more →
[Originally posted at MadinAmerica.com] The summer is fast approaching, which means fall is on its heels. In Massachusetts, this change will be manifest in the beautiful skyline shift from green to orange, red, and yellow. It will be manifest in the descent into the depths of midterm exams and parents’ weekends for thousands upon thousands… Read more →