To be met by another human in a dignified way. Our feelings are essential, so is our thinking. Maybe more than ever right now. How do we — you and I think about life and other humans, how do we- you and I include others? How do we talk about one another and how do we solve dilemmas and conflicts in everyday life and in society? A few days ago I watched a movie about the life of Hanna Arendt, a great philosopher and human being. I thought to myself that her thinking and deeds are missing today. What would she have said about the world and what would she had suggested us to do?
I think she would have asked us to connect research and practice in a more direct way, and to never forget our own responsibility regarding the way we talk and behave towards each other. Christmas appears, for some people it means a lot and for some people it means nothing. Whether we believe in the narrative or not, about a child being born in a stable many years ago, Christmas might remind about the importance of love and miracles happen. At least that is what Christmas means to me, and the darker it gets the more I need to hold on to the idea about the light and yes, miracles happen.
What else to call that which happens when people come together and open up our hearts and minds… One of the Nobel prize winners talked about miracles happen, but it uses to be connected to hard work, he said. Might well be… Things happen we cannot always explain, life changing meetings and new discoveries. Psychotherapy research tell us it is not possible to explain in detail what works and what does not work in the therapy room, the researchers claim it seems as if the meeting is essential between the therapist and the one called client. Those of us; professional helpers and family homes who have worked for many years know that the researchers are right — the meeting is essential — actually the most important.
But not just the meeting, also the therapist and the client as those we are matters. How we talk, think and behave, towards each other, ourselves and others. It is knowledge related to life itself, something human beings have experienced and still experience, no matter when and where on earth we are.
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My wish for years to come is that we will take care of this knowledge, and create organizations and contexts which hold essential knowledge, develop it and care for it. Read More. I am not sure he would have liked to be mentioned as the one who made it happen, and of course it was a collaborative action, but he had a special gift in the sense, to create space for essential meetings to happen, either it took place in a psychiatric ward between just a few persons or during an international meeting.
We are many who have followed the plans to create a medication free ward within the mental health care system in the North of Norway and I was excited and happy to be on my way, and also to meet with Robert Whitaker who would be there to examine how does the ideas and practice look like. Thanks to his relentless searching for facts and evidence regarding psycho pharmaceuticals many people have come to question the existing paradigm which is very focused on medication.
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From the very first moment as entering the ward I felt a welcoming atmosphere, an openness and a respectful warmth. The ward is situated right in the middle of the hospital, and few things have been changed regarding how it looks like compared to a traditional ward, and still it is different.
Few things but essential ones, as for example the piano which is placed in the living room. It made me think of Barbro Sandin and Walla where she together with others worked for many years. Walla was the name of the organization but it was also the name of the beautiful home like house where the work took place. Barbro used to say that the environment with its furniture, paintings and flowers is essential especially when life is hard and chaotic inside.
Well, beautiful things are important but as we know more important are the people around us, and so I wish to say something about the people I met. As always it is from a very subjective point of view and as always it will just capture some glimpses, but still…. Merete Astrup who is in charge of the ward seems to be surrounded by people whom like herself mediate warmth, calmness, trust and faith in what is happening and what will happen. This altogether with the respectful way the staff talk about and with those here called patients is as I think a guarantee for the work and shared mission.
By the way, it took me a long time to find out who is the one and who is the other.
The tone in every conversation was respectful and as we all know that is of utmost importance when life is at stake. As it also is essential to let people be the way we are, without being met by interpretations and interventions we have not asked about. This if I may say freedom is an important principle, as I understood it. To not let specific formulas or methods stand in the way, but to try to see each and every one and their needs and strengths. As for example there is no formula how many days the patients may stay at the ward, it might be a few days and it might be months.
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There is a structure at the ward which include different activities and conversations, but the one here called patient does not have to participate if she or he does not want to do so. Many different professions are represented at the ward, but it did not seem to be crucial who is the one and who is the other, rather it seemed as if the relationship is in focus and to make use of many different perspectives and experiences. A challenge since Northern Norway is a big area is to build sustainable networks in different parts of the area and to find people to cooperate with.
When talking to Merete and the others it seemed as if they were well aware of this challenge and willing to take it on.
I could not help myself from suggesting the staff to find some family homes who are willing to be part of their pioneer work. If something, that is missing so far, as I think. It made me both hopeful and glad to meet with the people at the ward and to be invited the way we were. Robert Whitaker will write a more detailed article in MadinAmerica so please stay in touch and be connected.
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The staff has taken on to a big and important challenge, we are many from all over who hope and wish their work and experiences will be followed by other psychiatric wards in the Nordic countries and elsewhere. I wish all the people I met the very best, and I keep inside of me some strong and touching moments, in the kitchen, in a sofa and at a meeting that I was blessed to be part of.
He had a strong belief in the ability of people and the importance of listening to both what is expressed verbally and what you feel in your body. Through Tom and his work I became, in my work, a part of a large network that in its practice and vision reminds us of the importance of the perseverance, patience, dedication and personal responsibility that we always carry with us. Especially in times like these — so marked by anxiety, inconsistencies and implausible statements — it is essential not to give in to despair and catastrophic fantasies.
Even if it sometimes seems difficult, there is no alternative but to think that things will go well in the end, and that it matters what we each do and contribute with. Suzanne Osten usually reminds me of this. I was thinking about this the other day when I was listening to a movie clip with the French psychoanalyst Francoise Davoine; she began her career more than thirty-five years ago by visiting the dayroom at a state psychiatric hospital in France only to be present if any of the patients would like to talk to her.
She calls her patients researchers, because together with her, they research their lives and the surrounding world. She showed that it is possible to understand psychotic conditions and that what is called schizophrenia is neither chronic nor impossible to comprehend. But the encounter with another human being is extremely important. Actually not all of them are in a hurry. One young man just limped by on bent legs that were perhaps demolished in a war somewhere. Another young man is sitting on the sidewalk listlessly holding out a paper cup.
I imagine that he is silent, that his cry for help was silenced long ago. So many people are feeling so hopeless these days.
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Sometimes I think twice before I turn on the radio. And is it really preferable to turn your thoughts off? To not allow yourself to feel or be touched.
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Maybe someday I will be big enough to stand up. Maybe someday I will be brave enough to do my part and do what I should have done a long time ago. Amidst all the lights and tinsel, the presents and the aromas from bubbling pots my mind is needled by the unrelenting thought — does it really have to be like this?
In a world where we all should be able to help each other and join together loneliness is mushrooming accompanied by cynicism. Professional media pundits on TV talk about goodness as if it were ballast, as if there were an excess of it. At the same time these same pundits talk about drug addiction as if it were a sickness, without taking into consideration any kind of relationship or context. So random, so reckless, so dispiriting. Suzanne says we can tell the darkest stories imaginable, to children and adults alike, as long as we always ensure there is a ray of hope at the end.
A glimmer of light that makes it possible for us to go on, that helps us have the courage, the ability and the will to care about the essence of human beings and their conditions in the world. As part of our commitment to you, we want to share more on what we do, how we do it and why we do it.
I struggled to help a patient with catatonic depression – but the tide is turning
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