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What Every Woman Knows: Society By Gas Light

In their bedroom, Gregory becomes impatient and humiliates his wife about making a spectacle of herself in public:

  • Gregory: I’ve tried so hard to keep it within these walls – in my own house. Now, because you would go out tonight, the whole of London knows it. If I could only get inside that brain of yours and understand what makes you do these crazy, twisted things.
  • Paula: Gregory, are you trying to tell me I’m insane? Read more

Appeal To The Man On The Clapham Omnibus by Alex Dunedin

On Sane People In Insane Places was a famous study done by David Rosenhan, a psychologist in America.  Central to the study was the question he posed, ‘If sanity and insanity exist, how shall we know them?‘.  This seems a pivotal inquiry if billions upon billions of pounds are now involved in psychiatric drugs that are proffered as treatments for what gets described as mental illness. Read more

ECT Is Murder: The Historical and Political Roots of ECT and its Hold on Public Imagination By Sonia Soans

Electro Convulsive Therapy is one of those psychiatric treatments that has a strong hold on public imagination. One Flew over a Cuckoos Nest is iconic in its use of ECT as a treatment. The image of a patient being tied by and given electric shocks is hard to shake, brutality and force are ideas associated with this treatment. Inextricably tied to the profession of psychiatry it is born out of experiments with electricity and in abattoirs.

The image of the ‘mad person’ being subdued is powerful, it signals punishment for deviance. It plays on our fear of physical retribution. It is present in films, we have all seen a film where an agitated person was brought in kicking and screaming and given electric shocks only to be subdued. Read more

"Another stupid man, or, reasons why I do not engage with services" By John Sawkins

I was forced to take haloperidol and procyclidine for bipolar. I stopped taking them after 6 weeks. (cold turkey – I never told the doctor). I have not taken any medication for bipolar or other psychiatric condition for 15 years.

One side effect of haloperidol is known to be stroke which I duly experienced one year after taking the drug – and that was only 6 weeks’ worth! (They missed the diagnosis of stroke and put it down to “hallucinations”. I eventually succeeded in persuading an optician to confirm my diplopia (double vision). Read more

Podcast: Interview With Sonia Soans of Asylum Collective

This is an interview with Sonia Soans, part of the Asylum magazine collective which is a platform for democratic psychiatry.  Having experience in clinical psychology and teaching in India, she has focused her study on gendered representations of addiction. Having recently finished her PhD in Manchester, she regularly contributes to critical psychiatry as she helps bring together the new editions of Asylum magazine. Read more

‘Future Shock’: The Crisis of Relationships Between Body, Mind and Environment by Anne Fernie

Nervous exhaustion, melancholy, Weltschmerz, ennui, alienation, neurasthenia, Americanitis, stress, chronic fatigue syndrome, burnout ~ the labels & the socio-cultural context may change yet the symptoms remain the same. We are not referring to issues of faulty brain chemistry here such as clinical depression, mania or psychosis, yet these common & everyday emotions are increasingly being perceived as mental health issues. Should they be? Existential malaise manifests itself in a myriad of symptoms with crucially, no definitive cause ever identified.

A common historical (and current) explanation is that of the socio-cultural, likened to a virus attacking the body but this psychic virus‘inflames’ the psyche (Schaffner, 2014), no more so than during times of rapid social change (Kury, 2012). I do not intend to present a clinical analysis of the ‘condition’ but, whilst acknowledging a consistent trajectory in the occurrence of this individual ‘dis-ease’ with life, focus on the presumptions, treatments and explanations of the times to demonstrate to what extent perceptions of ‘illness’ are influenced by social prejudices and expectations. Read more

Eighties Teenage Psychiatry For School Pressure: One Writer Squashed Another by Maurice Frank

Even in cases where no specified mental illness at all is ever claimed to exist, treatment powers and just the threat of their use, can devastate lives long term when child maltreatment situations, which are obviously not the child’s fault, come to involve child psychiatry. That happened to me, though I am not a person who has ever been labelled to have any mental illness. I have Asperger syndrome, but I belong to the generation who have only been recognised as adults. As a teenager I was not diagnosed with any condition at all.

The delay in awareness of Asperger syndrome itself was a consequence of conservatism in psychiatry which was inhumanly slow to consider and absorb the evidence for Asperger syndrome’s existence in place of curing our every problem by forced change. Being not safe to go anywhere near psychiatry meant I missed out on the early emergence of autism awareness. I discovered it, not through any medical route, but through pursuit of my own issues about school pressure, when it was becoming better known. Read more

Podcast: Psychiatry; A Woman’s Account of Being Sectioned

Here is an interview with a woman who recounts her experience of being sectioned by her husband. It is intimate and she talks about all the details of how it came about, what it made her feel and what she thinks retrospectively of the experience. She went on to become qualified in the field of psychology and so it presents a particularly interesting perspective on psychiatry.

The way that women encounter the world is significantly undermined in many ways.  We need only take a look at the difference in the levels of payment women get for equivalent jobs with their male counterparts.  This oral history represents a signifier into the gender differentials which can exist around voice and agency.  We know from records that in the past single women who had children out of wedlock – also illegitimate children – were often interred in mental asylums for the ‘social inconvenience’ they suggested to the dominant paradigm. Read more