First-person accounts of psychosis: challenges for mental health professionals
Professor Gail A Hornstein
Friday 31 May 2013
5 for 5.30pm
Room 9130, Cantor Building, Sheffield Hallam University City Campus S1 2NU

A vast gulf exists between the way medicine explains psychiatric illness and the experiences of those who suffer. Professor Hornstein’s lecture helps us to bridge that gulf, guiding us through the inner lives of those diagnosed with mental illness and emerging with nothing less than a new model for understanding mental distress, one another and ourselves. She will address the importance of listening to the accounts of those who have experienced psychosis as a central component of any mental health practice.

Gail A Hornstein is Professor of Psychology at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts (USA). Her research spans the history of 20th century psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis and has been supported by the National Library of medicine, the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has compiled a bibliography of first-person narratives of madness which now lists more than 1,000 titles. Her new book, Agnes’s Jacket: A Psychologist’s Search for the Meanings of Madness (PCCS Books, UK edition), shows us how the insights of those diagnosed with mental illness can help us radically reconceive fundamental assumptions about madness and mental life. For more information on her work visit her web site.

The lecture will be introduced by Peter Bullimore, one of the Chairs of the Hearing Voices Network, and the Chair of the Paranoia Network. Peter heard his first voice aged seven, after suffering sexual abuse at the hands of a child minder. Through the help of the Hearing Voices Network he was able to reclaim his life from the system. The Hearing Voices Network is a voluntary organization that is made up of people who hear voices and professionals who all share the same ethos that hearing voices is a common human experience. Peter has worked collaboratively with Manchester University for 12 years on the COPE course collaboration in psychosocial education. He also teaches at many other Universities and runs workshops internationally on voices and paranoia working in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Greece.  He is currently undertaking a research project at Manchester University, examining the 10-year collaborative work between the University and the Network.

Places are free and include pre-event refreshments, but must be booked in advance.


5 Comments

Hearing the Voice · May 1, 2013 at 9:42 am

Reblogged this on hearingthevoice.

perspicador · May 2, 2013 at 7:18 pm

There must be a widening gulf in the whole scenario of treatments, remedies, therapies, drug use. So the gospel according to professional clinicians needs in future to have the light of lived experience shed upon it if there is to be future progress. with this in mind, I include a piece of writing reflecting upon the relative appropriateness of some meaningful activities…

Anyone who has lived with symptoms of schizophrenia for a considerable length of time will recognize the perspectives given here: the diagnosable symptoms of sz may be incurably lodged within us and May be a part of our make up, but that does not in itself present a grim or hopeless predicament. This is because our disabilities are also our Attributes. Maybe unwittingly, the psychiatrist’s diagnosis undermines these attributes and sets them in a grim light. But really it is a matter of impact, intensity and degree, whether we languish in despair or set about engaging the symptoms as evidence of rare qualities which mark us out as having gifts to be expressed and applied creatively.

What I am saying is: with the right help, a low maintenance dosage of appropriate medication to reduce the intensity of symptom’s extremes -one which does not pile on a burden of disability which excessive medicating is apt to do- and some vocational and training guidance, we can be the creative artists that nature intended us to be, using our gifts to master the medium which is best suited to our attributes.

My ‘pathway to progress’ has been photography. I find that a modicum of seeing things which ‘are not there’ enables me to apply a creative imagination, to use my mind’s eye to envisage the optimal conditions to develop an awareness of the imaging possibilities of any scene I encounter and with my best endeavour, maybe reproduce that on camera.

Well that is photography and visual hallucinations. What then of reconstructing the Dramatist and Playwright, the writer and novelist from auditory hallucinations? Musicians, composers, singers and lyric writers are also only a step away from the same level of creative attribute and giftedness.

The lesson from this is never to underestimate the extent to which we all have gifts to express and with the right opportunities, can re-emerge as part of our restitution after the excesses of ill-health have run their course. Facilitators who work in mental health, please take special note!

    Centre for Medical Humanities · May 4, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Thank you so much for your post – especially valuable as a reminder that there are so many ways to explore, capture, and represent experience that aren’t reducible to an interest in narrative. If you have published any of your photographs online we would love to be able to link to them.

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