Awesome speakers, awesome chair, awesome venue, awesome audience ... what more can I say?
Well, it was an honour indeed to speak at the second CrazyWise conference in the Netherlands. The day was chaired by the impressive, cutting-edge Dutch psychiatrist Jim van Os who is revolutionising mental health care in Holland. He heads a user-led research centre and with Holland being a relatively small country, his senior role in psychiatry means he has influence too.
Jim wants to dismantle the national mental health institution and take mental health care right into the community. He has close family members who are experiencers. Watch his TedEx talk on YouTube and look out for him at the ISPS conference in Liverpool 2017.
First up was, of course, Phil Borges, director of the much-anticipated CrazyWise film. His audio-visual presentation with clips from the film gave us a sense of what is to come. We want more, but we’re still going to have to wait another year. They’re now editing and on schedule to hopefully release the film in December 2016.
As Phil was talking I recognised a line from my new book – if those supporting you don’t believe you can get well and don’t validate your experience, go and find somebody who does. Great to know it’s getting out there.
Other speakers were Will Hall who shared from the heart in a lovely, very engaging, no-PowerPoint-kind of way. He obviously gets the political dimension to creating change within the mental health field and seems very sound.
Will’s book ‘Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs’ is available in 14 languages, including Dutch. My first book, In Case of Spiritual Crisis, is also available in Dutch as Spirituele Crisis, which is jolly handy and was selling well, I’m pleased to say.
Sean Blackwell had brought a client with him to share her experience of his powerful 1-2-1 work using Holotropic Breathwork to move through spiritual emergence(y) and trauma. They showed a video featuring her art work to illustrate her journey. You can watch many more videos produced by Sean at his BipolarOrWakingUp YouTube channel.
Sandra Escher who has done amazing work over decades with Marius Romme, shared research and therapy for hearing voices, showing the clear link between trauma, abuse and hearing voices. It was clear from the questions from the floor that people are also interested in the more transpersonal or spiritual understanding of hearing voices, such as through spirit attachment.
In my presentation, I shared the learning from my personal experience and also touched on the new Alliance for Revisioning Mental Health (more about that here soon). I stressed that our approach is not to criticise what isn’t working, not to attack old school psychiatry, but to present therapeutic alternatives that are so compelling and appealing, so backed by research, that you simply can’t argue with them. This seemed to resonate with many people I spoke with during the day. My final words were: ‘I believe we can change the face of mental health, we can change the face of psychiatry, we absolutely can, and together we must’.
In the final Q&A, Jim van Os was very clear that psychiatrists are now really starting to question the over-reliance and long-term use of medication. This must, at least in part, be thanks to the thorough research Robert Whitaker has done. And I was heartened to hear from a psychiatrist in the audience that he, and presumably others too, now feel ethically duty-bound to offer therapeutic alternatives; he cannot morally justify relying solely on psychiatric drugs any longer, he said.
This really confirms for me what I shared in my presentation: I feel more hopeful than ever that we can create real change within mental health care. Are you feeling this too? If you were at the conference do share your impressions of the day... oh, and check out the CrazyWise Rotterdam FB page...
LINKS to things mentioned in this blog post:
CrazyWise Conference Rotterdam on FB
Jim van Os' TedEx talk on YouTube
ISPS Conference Liverpool 2017
Will Hall’s website
Sean Blackwell’s YouTube channel Bipolar or Waking UP
Robert Whitaker’s book Anatomy of an Epidemic