Month January 2015

Month January 2015

On and Beyond Psychiatric Diagnosis

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I attended the Critical Voices Network Ireland (CVNI) two-day Conference at University College Cork on 12 & 13 November 2014.

The CVNI is a network for people from diverse backgrounds (people with self- experience, carers, professionals, academics and interested others) which provides an opportunity to share, discuss and debate critical perspectives on and beyond recovery.

The first keynote speaker of the Conference Olga Runciman, chair of the Danish Hearing Voices Network, called herself Denmark’s first mad psychologist and got us thinking about what she called the ‘phenomenon of voice hearing’ –

This was a very interesting presentation and certainly challenged some of my thinking.

The next keynote ‘The Value of Labelling’ by Stuart Neilson, a lecturer who writes about autism and brought his personal perspective into the presentation, spoke for the value of diagnosis. During his lifetime he had suffered badly, been called names and excluded because of his difficulties in communicating well with others. He also spoke about a report ‘The Not Guilty Verdict’ which perhaps explained why people found having a diagnosis helpful. The downside of diagnosis he said however ‘was in who was applying the label and how accurate it was’.

Towards the end of the session Stuart said “We called ourselves freaks in the 60’s – we felt empowered in doing so”. 

Once again the presentation brought up some interesting and new concepts but what stuck most with me was the idea that people choosing a description for themselves, if they think they will help them, is completely different from being labelled by another.

Pat BrackenConsultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director of West Cork Mental Health Services kicked off day two presenting ‘Critical Thought as a strong and Positive Force for Mental Health. He said he wanted to open spaces for new ideas and agendas in mental health and believed critical psychiatry was the way forward for this. His finishing comments summed up very succinctly what I think he was saying overall;

There should be more power in the lives of ordinary people so they are enabled to critically think – having the spaces to do so. Critical thinking is indeed a positive force in psychiatry.

The conference included many more fabulous speaker, workshops and experiences of learning and understanding which I am still pondering away on – presentations are available here