It's just not right.
Grumpy old psychiatrist wonders why - and tries things to escape oppression, institutionalisaton, industrialisation of mental health and digital tyranny.
Hopefully by only bending the rules, but never breaking them.
Well, we'll see.
Psychosocial Alternatives to Psychiatric Hospitalisation ...Discos in the Alps!
I love taking pictures of mountains from aeroplanes...
Thank goodness for Google Maps and a good G4 connection. Apart
from the flight, my planned journey of car-train-plane-bus-train-bus-minibus
was a make-it-up-as-you-go-along affair, with colleagues a few hours ahead of
me texting to explain the next leg. But the smooth plan was terminally modified
at the last-but-one point, when the very helpful ticket clerk at Trento bus
station said 'Andalo finished' when I asked for a ticket on the 1855 from stop
8 to my final destination. Google to the rescue - and I had ten minutes to get
back to the train station to do the last legs as train-train-bus-minibus instead
of the planned train-bus-bus-minibus. And thanks to the mighty search engine
and its all-singing all-dancing maps, I arrived by way of some fantastic
hairpin bends in the Italian Alps just as the others were sitting down to
dinner at Hotel Splendid...
But what was it I was coming to? I had
very little idea, but trusted the people who had suggested it: they thought that
three of us from dear old Slough would find it worth our while to attend the manisfestazione. But just what a manifestazione was, none of us knew.
Mountain air makes you happy!
But after a traditional Italian supper with some Austrian additions
(a sort of dumpling stew, and something made out of some special cabbage) as we were quite near the Austrian border, we were to
find out. We just missed the volley-ball competition
for the hundred and thirty delegates, and the prizes-for-everybody
prizegiving. But as a sort of apres-volleyball, a disco was organised in the
evening. Not having been to one of them for decades, it was with some
trepidation that the four of us English-speakers hid in wallflowers’ corner and
downed a few cocktails. As the night wore on there was karaoke, thumpy clubbing
music, laser beams, stage smoke and all the trappings – with some great dancers
and a very variable quality of singers. But who were they all? The answer is ‘people’. Some were the
normal residents, workers, skiers and tourists in Andalo, and some were from
the Manifestazione: mental health staff, and many more mental health ‘service
users’ and their families. But they were doing normal things like normal
people, and it all felt very normal (well, as normal as a disco can feel to a
grumpy old psychiatrist who hadn’t been to one for more than half his life).
Next morning, we had a meeting with the main organisers – and it
all clicked. They are building relationships – through sporting and social
activities – that can be seen to have a more positive effect on people’s
recovery from mental health conditions than medication and institutionalisation
usually does. It’s a national organisation called ANPIS (National Polysport Association
for Social Integration): www.anpis.it.
They cover Italy, and have been working for twenty five years; for
the last ten years they have also been making links with other European
partners as the ‘European Project’. Our work in Slough, including Greencare,
the Hope Recovery College, the weekly micro-TC Embrace group and the
keep-people-out-of-hospital ASSiST programme, could therefore be seen as a
similar type of emancipatory psychosocial ‘better than mainstream psychiatry’
approach. Even more so as the ‘Therapeutic Town Slough’ initiative gathers
momentum (see 8 October 2015 blog).
The Slough Team
The next fixed point is going to be the Summer Manifestazione in June, when we amongst several
others are invited to part of it which will be a conference to pull together an
EU research bid – which will hopefully start to generate the evidence to
convince policy-makers that psychosocial care isn’t only cheaper, kinder and
more human than the heavy hand of state psychiatry – but is more effective and
is what people want.