More pictures, less words…

Following from my last post, a few friends have recommended some other videos and pictures and comics.

The first, sent to me by various friends, deserves a whole post to itself.  It’s the wonderful Hyperbole and a Half.  A selection of brilliant comics on a variety of topics including depression.  Both funny, sad, true and uplifting, they are a work of genius.  Some of them are short and sweet, others, like ‘Depression part Two’ are seriously long (by internet attention standards), but deserve a proper read.  The author, who describes him/herself as “heroic, caring, alert and flammable”, brings a dark humour to serious experiences:

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Another friend, Ben, recommended this animation on depression, which uses Churchill’s ‘Black dog’ to illustrate the experience of depression, and how, perhaps using imagery, a person can learn to live with their experiences.  The animation is by the illustrator and author, Matthew Johnstone (in conjunction with the WHO) although I’m not clear if he’s talking of his own experiences.  Worth a watch..

Susanne sent me this cartoon, which speaks for itself.

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And then Julia reminded us that depression is  actually often actually misdiagnosed IED (Inappropriate Environment Disorder), a new diagnosis that I’m hoping to get to replace almost all other diagnoses in the DSM-VI.

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Empathy and how to help a friend who’s down…. in pictures and words.

A few things popped up on my various feeds this week, all on the same kind of topic.
The first was this cartoon (thanks Catherine)…

depressionsupport

Which comes from a blog called www.robot-hugs.com.  Below the line on the facebook page where the cartoon had been posted, was the old story about empathy:

So there’s this guy walking down the street and he falls into a great big hole. A doctor walks by and the guy yells up to the doctor ‘hey, I fell in this hole, can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it into the hole, and walks on. 

A priest then walks by and the guy yells up to the priest ‘father, can you help me? I fell into this hole and I can’t get out’. The priest says a prayer, throws down a Bible and walks on. 

And then a friend of the guy walks by and the guy yells up ‘hey, buddy, I’m stuck in this hole and -‘ and before he can finish the friend jumps down into the hole. 

‘What the hell are you doing?’ the guy says, ‘Now we’re both down here!’ 

‘Yup’, says the friend, ‘But I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.’

This story is exactly what happened to a client of mine this week.  Someone he cared about jumped into his hole and helped him find the way out.  These are the people we need in our lives.

And then I came across much the same thing from the brilliant RSA shorts series.  This from a lecture about sympathy vs empathy.

Oh, and I nearly forgot the first one, again from Robot Hugs!  Full of useful advice.

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Anyone care to recommend any other cartoons they really like about psychological health?

 

Youtube Channel Review: Time to Change

Type: YouTube Channel: Time to Change
Highly Recommended Resource.

Time to Change is a campaign which sets out to end mental health stigma.   That’s a tough, but laudable goal (especially tough given the continuing level of irresponsible reporting by media such as the Sun newspaper) .

The campaign started in 2007 and is supported by the mental health charities Mind and Rethink.  In terms of online resources, Time to Change has both a webpage and a YouTube channel.   More broadly, Time to Change seeks to engage the general public through all forms of media, whether it be TV, radio, internet, magazines or poster campaigns.  I’m going to briefly discuss the YouTube channel today.

In short, it’s a brilliant resource.  Useful to everyone from mental health service users, through to teachers, families and indeed anyone who wants to know wants to understand more about mental health difficulties, be it their own or other peoples’.

The videos cover a large range of formats/styles and topics.   To take just a few examples:

  • Animations such as the one above, beautifully illustrating a young person’s experience of depression and recovery.
  • A mock horror film trailor, ‘Schizo’, which seeks to undermine traditional associations between mental health and violence).
  • Short, poignant and powerful mini-dramas, such as ‘The Stand Up Kid’, which explores the unseen impact of stigma in schools.
  • A silent film, ‘The 5th Date… time to talk’, complete with speech bubbles, which considers the sometimes scary experience of disclosing one’s mental health diagnosis to a date.
  • Endorsements and discussions from famous people who have been open about their difficulties such as Stephen Fry and Frank Bruno (who discusses mental health with his daughter, Rachel Bruno) .

Many of the videos are sorted into particular topics, for instance there is a section with five videos, all of which feature a different person’s experience of mental health and the workplace.  In total there are over 80 videos, and so far, every one that I’ve watched is excellent.   I’m going to try and work my way through the other videos,  there’s a lot of them, but they are generally very short, and all inspirational, so not a chore.

 

Video resource: 5 young people’s experiences of mental illness.

Publisher:  Time to change.
Type:  Short Videos Collection

This very brief video (3.25) includes the experiences of 5 young people.   It’s short and concise and thus does not provide much detailed information.  However, each of the young people in this video are featured in their own longer videos, where they discuss their experiences in more detail.  This video thus provides a great opener for for any discussion about mental illness, especially with young people.   The related videos then provide additional material for further, more specific discussion.

These are just some of over 80 videos provided by ‘Time to Change’ on YouTube.   I’ve also provided a brief review of the channel here.

 

 

Youtube Bipolar Video – brief review.

Youtube Video Review: ‘Cutiepieforeverc’
Highly Recommended Resource.
Main topic: Bipolar.

Another brave testimony by a young US American lady.  In 16 minutes, ‘Cutiepieforeverc’ describes her experience of bipolar disorder.  Her first clear problems came when she went to college (away from home).  In common with many people who receive a bipolar diagnosis,  her first symptoms were lack of sleep (something it appears that she had always faced to some extent).  This led to a period of 2-3 weeks where she hardly slept and indeed felt very little need to sleep*.  During this period she engaged in a variety of ‘reckless’ behaviour including shopping sprees and late night runs (from which she was regularly picked up by the police).  It appears that she did not seek help at this point, this had to wait until the ensuing depression, which lasted around 6 months, led to her getting to ‘breaking point’ and contacting her mother, leading to her hospitalisation.    Although I don’t have research evidence to support this more generally, many of the young people I have worked with (or done research with) have experienced their first serious problems at college/university, and often in the first year.

‘Cutiepie’  details her hospitalisation as ‘the most horrific experience of my entire life’,  which is not an uncommon description, even from those who believed that they needed to go to hospital.  She worked out that in order to get out of hospital, she could lie and cover up her  depressive symptoms (that hospital may have made worse), which worked.  Again many people will recognise this catch 22 situation, of being stuck in a hospital that does not seem to be working for them, and needing to pretend that all is fine to leave the hospital.   She then goes on to discuss her journey to find a medication treatment that worked for her.  At the point the video was made, she describes feeling very settled and content with her life and medication.  She ends the video with some advice for people going through similar experiences:

  • Don’t ever settle for a medication that does not feel right and does not make you feel right.
  • Don’t ever settle for a doctor that does not want the absolute best for you.

Excellent Advice!  In my opinion, health professions should absolutely encourage their clients/patients to take control of their own treatment and encourage them to seek out (with guidance), what works best for them.

Overall, this video was a very clear and concise description of one young person’s experience of bipolar disorder.  ‘Cutiepie’, describes experiences that many people with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or similar will be able to relate to, and as such this video would make an excellent resource for therapy groups or interested individuals.

*Sleep abnormalities are becoming one of the most convincing traits linked to bipolar disorder diagnoses, and emerging evidence suggests that early sleep problems may be a risk factor for the development of later mood disorder symptoms.  When I get time, I will try and provide some links to the latest research.

Youtube Channel Review: Rawsammi

Youtube Channel Review: Rawsammi
Highly Recommended Resource.
Main topic: Bipolar.

This is a great and brave resource.  Rawsammi (her user name) is a mid-twenties US American lady (I want to say girl, but is that appropriate?),  who has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.  She’s posted dozens of videos, that cover everything from her experience of hospital, through to hyper-sexuality, the DSM-V and ‘taking responsibility’.  Rawsammi’s videos are delivered somewhat as a stream of consciousness, rather than being focussed and concise, but each video that I’ve watched contains useful information, emotion and humour.  The videos talking about her experience of hospital and the run up to hospitalisation are extremely open and honest, and I think could be extremely valuable to others who have had similar experiences.

It would take hours to go through all the videos and I don’t have time to review them all, anyone who wants to add their thoughts on any of the specific videos is more than welcome to comment below.

Youtube video review.

Media Brief Review.
Brief Video (5.26)
Topic: psychosis
Produced: by Surrey and Borders NHS trust

This is a short video about early intervention in psychosis from the Surrey and Borders NHS trust.  The video attempts to show one person’s experience of psychosis.  The lady involved provides personal information and is honest and open about her experiences of psychosis and of UK mental health services.   Unfortunately, the structure of the video and the production are not very good..  Nevertheless, it could still be a useful resource.  The participant is non-white (black, no further information), and thus her testimony may be helpful to those of similar background.

Beginnings

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Bogota, Colombia

Why, What, How?

Having spent many years avoiding doing anything like writing a blog, I’ve finally found a vaguely compelling reason to put my daily thoughts in print, or at least pixels.

What is that reason?

I’m doing some research for a pet project, and it has occurred to me, that as I very rarely finish pet projects, if this one is to be of any use to anyone other than me (or indeed, me), perhaps I should just write it up as I go along.

A project you say?

I do.  I’m researching internet resources that may prove therapeutically useful for people suffering from mental health difficulties, as well as for mental health workers and students In particular I am interested in those difficulties that are sometimes referred to as ‘severe and enduring’.  In practice this most often means diagnoses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and personality disorder.

My interest stems primarily from wanting to have access to honest, accurate and diverse representations of different peoples’ experiences for use in a therapeutic environment.  When I first did a YouTube search several years ago to find a compelling video clip that would help communicate the experience of mania in a teaching session, I found very little.  Fast forward to the current day, and there is a growing wealth of experience represented on the internet, from brave, first-hand descriptions to the latest in academic thinking.

I was initially planning to trawl through the internet and make private notes on the resources I found, which I could then share with my colleagues and clients.  However, realising that most of my pet projects never see the light of day, I thought that  a blog was perhaps the way forward.

So how’s it all going to work?

No idea, right now, I’m just trying to work out what is possible within a blog.  Regardless, I’m very grateful to my good friend Ben Meghreblian for helping me set up this blog in superfast time.

I guess it will evolve with time, or simply be abandoned a few weeks down the line….

What I have decided is that:

  • It should not be about perfectly written prose.
  • It should, if possible, be readable, useful and interesting.
  • It should be a collaborative venture, open to contributions.
  • It’s an excuse for me to do something with all those random photos I take (so there may be lots of images with little or no clear relevance to their posts).

Bear with me!

“Up/Down” Bipolar Disorder Documentary

A film produced by Matt Stockalper and Kyle Gehring

The following is the first contribution to my attempts to provide a resource for those searching for mental health media for use in therapeutic settings (or indeed more generally).

“Up/Down” is a full length documentary (1h23m) about the diagnosis of bipolar disorder.  It is a well produced and well shot film, which involves interviews with the general public, psychiatric professionals, people with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and family members.  For me, the strength of this film is very much the latter two sets of people.  The film begins by briefly surveying what bipolar disorder means to the general public and providing an introduction to bipolar disorder, before  progressing on to more detailed interviews.  For these later interviews, the producers have chosen a format whereby they ask each participant a number of set questions, and hence we get a variety of responses, reflecting the peoples’ diverse experiences of the bipolar spectrum.  The questions broadly cover each person’s experience of bipolar generally, as well as more specifically in the manic and depressive stages.

All the participants are US American, and this is perhaps reflected in the number of medications each participant is taking, the upsides and downsides of which are explored in a later section of the film.  One of the people interviewed also describes her experiences of ECT, with the pros (being shocked out of depression) and cons (very severe complications of memory loss).  Towards the end of the documentary, relatives of people with bipolar are interviewed and they discuss how it is to have a relative with bipolar disorder.

Overall I liked this documentary.  Although one never knows what has been lost or emphasised in the production and editing, the film appears to give space for each participant to express their own experience.   I feel that the film could be of interest/use to professionals, patients and relatives.

Some reservations.  I have some concerns  with regard to the introduction to bipolar disorder.  Primarily, it is perhaps too ‘factual’ in nature, when what is presented as fact is often actually rather controversial.

Diagnosis is always a difficult topic to deal with and in this film the validity and utility of  diagnosis are taken for granted; this is always going to be an issue for those, who like me, have concerns about the way in which diagnoses are used.  The film continues the tradition of treating disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia as unitary and separable conditions, when the evidence for this is limited.   For example the brief history of bipolar disorder at the beginning of the film gives the impression (as many believe) that the distinction made by Kraepelin was a clear scientific progression (previously the disorders were ‘confused’).   It is an irony that although we know that there is little evidence for a clearcut distinction between these diagnoses, it is hard to talk about the experience of people who have these symptoms without using their diagnoses and we thus reinforcing the impression that we are discussing two independent, valid diagnoses.   On the other hand, the film clearly shows one of the benefits of diagnoses, by using the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, the filmmakers were not only able to easily select a group of people with similar (but not the same) symptoms and experiences, but also enabled me and others to easily find their film.

There is also a very controversial statement that ‘children as young as three have displayed signs of the [bipolar] disorder’, again perhaps reflecting that this is an US film, where very very early diagnosis and medication is not unheard of (very extreme examples include the treatment and subsequent treatment related death of a four year old).  The narrator also states that ‘Most psychologists and psychiatrists believe that it [bipolar disorder] is genetic’, which is far from the full story, and is to my mind, misleading.  Most of us may accept that the diagnosis bipolar disorder is highly heritable (and has a shared genetic component with schizophrenia among other diagnoses), but many of us are aware that the full story is much more complicated and that  heritability is a very misunderstood topic.

Documentary Timeline. For my own purposes, I’ve detailed some questions/points in the documentary along with the appropriate times (not at all complete)

Introductory Topics

  • History of bipolar disorder:  07.00
  • Childhood bipolar 8.30
  • Symptoms 09.00
  • Diagnoses, depression to mania ratios 10.00

Questions

  • ‘Could you give me a general explanation of how you felt before you were diagnosed?’  0h14
  • ‘And how long have you felt the symptoms of bipolar’  0h16.55
  • ‘What was this person like in a depressive episode and how did you react to it?’  1h06
  • ‘What was this person like in a  manic episode and how did you react to that?’  1h07.30
  • ‘How do you view bipolar disorder now after having been exposed to it personally?’  1h09
  • ‘Have you accepted the disorder as part of your life?’  1h12
  • ‘What are your thoughts and hopes for the future?’ 1h13
  • ‘What would you like the general public to know about bipolar disorder’  1h13.30
  • In your own words, try to sum up what it’s like to have bipolar disorder’  1h16.30

Other

  • A lovely description of bipolar disorder at 1h18.00.  Boat, anchor and kite metaphor.