Harnessing the Fierce Energy of Counterculture

Mental health knowledge and practice was highly contested in the 1960s and 70s. Struggles over homosexuality and radicalism, drug use and replicable drug trials, were part of a unique countercultural moment. These were wild times. Transactional analysis, developed by Eric Berne and Claude Steiner, was also part of this fiercely energetic moment.

In January 2017 Claude Steiner (pictured above), a clinical psychologist, passed away in California. According to his obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, Steiner’s last words were, ‘Love is the answer’ and ‘I’m so lucky’. He had led a long and full life, and left behind an important legacy in psychology. Steiner was a founder of the Radical Therapist Collective, protested at American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association meetings, and edited a collection of Readings in Radical Psychiatry in 1975. Steiner also published a short children’s story called The Warm Fuzzy Tale in 1969 and Games Alcoholics Play in 1970. In 1974, he followed these books up with Scripts People Live, which was a bestseller in the United States. Most importantly, Steiner was influential in developing and popularising transactional analysis.

Steiner was born in France, relocated to Mexico, and then moved to California in 1952 to study physics. But in the aftermath of atomic explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and seeing how physics was associated with nuclear weapons, he rejected the field. The link to bombs and bomb-making put him off. Transferring to psychology and eventually obtaining his doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1965, he became a close associate of Eric Berne. Set against the backdrop of a topsy-turvy mental health landscape, it is clear that their story had an important impact on psychology – during a unique moment in time – through the creation of transactional analysis.

The full article can be read here

Enjoy. And I’ve written similar work on the 1960s and mental health:

with Social History of Medicine…

https://academic.oup.com/shm/article-abstract/27/1/104/1707848/Therapy-Means-Political-Change-Not-Peanut-Butter?redirectedFrom=fulltext

and Hidden Persuaders…

http://www.bbk.ac.uk/hiddenpersuaders/blog/agents-of-pacification/

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CFP. Mental Health and Money: Past and Present

A Call for Papers.

Socioeconomic factors and mental health: past and present

Editors: Professor Matthew Smith and Dr Lucas Richert (University of Strathclyde, UK)

This article collection will examine how the relationship between socioeconomic factors and mental health has been and is understood in an array of different places and periods. Although much of the focus of current mental health research and clinical practice is on the neurological aspects of mental illness and psychopharmacological treatment, historical research demonstrates that a wide range of factors — from vitamin deficiencies such as pellagra, and infections such as syphilis to traumatic life events — have contributed to the onset and exacerbation of mental health problems. Among all these factors, one looms largest: socioeconomic status. On the one hand, socioeconomic inequality has been long recognised as a potential cause of mental illness, as the history of mental hygiene and social psychiatry during much of the twentieth century demonstrates. On the other hand, however, the mentally ill have also historically faced much socioeconomic hardship; today, a high proportion of the homeless and incarcerated in many countries suffer from mental illness.

By exploring this topic across time and place, this collection aims to provide a historical context for today’s mental health crisis, and also to inform current mental health policy, especially attempts to prevent or alleviate mental illness through social change.

Insights on a broad spectrum of themes are welcomed, including, but not restricted to

  • Homelessness and mental illness;
  • Social psychiatry and mental hygiene;
  • Community mental health;
  • Forensic psychiatry;
  • Race and mental health;
  • Psychiatry and various economic/political systems (e.g., communism, socialism, capitalism);
  • Socioeconomic factors and child mental health;
  • How health professionals deal with poverty and mental health;
  • Social policy and mental health;
  • Social activism and mental health.

This is a rolling article collection and as such proposals and submissions will be welcome throughout 2017. However, full submissions received by November 1 will be considered for publication as part of the collection’s formal launch in 2018.

Please do think about submitting.

Gin, Beer, and Chicken: Hogarth’s Art and More

A new piece of art commissioned by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) re-imagines William Hogarth’s classic 1751 cartoon Gin Lane. It depicts a society preoccupied by junk food rather than gin.

This is pretty amazing timing, considering this is the focus of my Disease and Society lecture this week!

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Reimagined Version by Thomas Moore

According to the BBC, the original showed the damaging effects of a gin craze sweeping London as well as a population suffering from deadly infections common at the time. Cholera. Syphilis. You name it. In contrast, Thomas Moore‘s new picture shows how obesity and mental health issues are today’s big health threats.

The updated version shows a mother salivating over yummy junk food, which she is also feeding her child. In contrast, Hogarth’s 18th century version focuses on a mum more interested in gin and snuff, who is suffering from syphilis sores.

Another stark difference is the prominent payday lender shop, replacing the pawnbrokers of 1751. (Just need a betting shop in there!) Moore’s modern version highlights the popularity of high street chicken shops today, while Hogarth’s work shows people almost skeletal with starvation.

gin-land
Gin Lane by William Hogarth

And…Beer Lane

hogarth

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FULL BREAKDOWN OF CHANGES

gin-lane-2016-annotated-jpg

The overall scene is the same street as presented in the original, but has been developed and modernized so that it is representative of a typical street scene in London, or indeed anywhere in the UK today.

  1. The central character has been reinvented. Where the original depicts a mother who is drunk and too pre-occupied with taking snuff to care for her baby, Gin Lane 2016 instead shows the mother preoccupied with eating junk food, which she has also fed to her child.
  2. A pawnbroker is one of the significant and thriving businesses in the original piece. In the modern version, this has been replaced by one of the payday lenders which have become a feature of many high streets, and are perhaps a 21st century equivalent. The desperation of one of the customers leaving the payday lender represents the mental ill health associated with debt.
  3. The chicken shop is a representative feature of the obesogenic environment which is at the heart of Gin Lane 2016 – busy, vibrant, and packed full of glum looking customers.
  4. The man contemplating throwing himself off the top of a building is a nod to the original in which a barber is seen hanging, having committed suicide because his customers could no longer afford to have their hair cut. Suicide is now the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.
  5. The original arch has been converted into Gin Lane tube station, with commuters glued to their smart phones – a depiction of the busy, potentially lonely existence of many Londoners today.
  6. Junk food adverts provide another reflection of the ubiquitous power of marketing in our obesogenic environment.
  7. The distillery from the original piece has become a busy pub, replete with rowdy drunk customers.
  8. A news vendor hands out a paper with another headline about the threat posed by obesity.

Courtesy of https://www.rsph.org.uk/about-us/news/gin-lane-2016-iconic-artwork-reimagined-for-the-21st-century.html

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My lecture this Friday will definitely be connecting the past with the present…

GIN AND JUICE

 

Podcast Announcement – Radical Mental Health Therapy

I recently had the pleasure of joining Chris Hoff on The Radical Therapist Podcast. You can listen to our lively discussion about the 1960s, long-haired hippies, and mental health services during a period of big-time change. You can download the Pod here or through iTunes. Thanks for listening and sharing! #mentalhealthawareness #healthpolicy

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All the Lonely People

Is it solitude or loneliness? Are you alone, or lonely? How do we actively ward off loneliness? Or, how can we deal with loneliness in a long-term relationship? Andre Picard, a writer for the Globe and Mail, addresses some of these big-time questions in his newest (and excellent) piece of writing – an article that tackles a major issue in today’s fast-paced, interconnected landscape: namely, loneliness. And why does this matter? The reason is simple. The hidden epidemic of loneliness targets many segments of society, but it is clearly the worst with vulnerable groups, including elderly citizens, persons with disabilities, immigrants and refugees, as well as the economically disadvantaged. From a business standpoint, loneliness hurts productivity. From a health standpoint, it impacts longevity and costs the system. Read more.
lone·li·ness (*standard definition)
ˈlōnlēnəs/
noun
  1. 1.
    sadness because one has no friends or company.
    “feelings of depression and loneliness”
  2. 2.
    (of a place) the quality of being unfrequented and remote; isolation.
    “the loneliness of the farm”
 image
BY ANDRE PICARD

When you’re a reporter — as I have been for over 30 years — some stories seem to resonate more than others, and it’s rarely the blockbusters. For me, there are a couple of stories that really changed my perception of what’s important to our health, and the impact of our everyday interactions on our quotidian well-being.

In 2011, Judy Tak Fong Lam Chiu’s frozen and lifeless body was discovered on the sidewalk just 300 metres from her home in a frigid January. Chiu, then 66, believed to be in the early stages of dementia, left her comfortable suburban Scarborough, Ont., home in the middle of the night and ventured into the cold. She discarded her coat and glasses and wandered aimlessly. When she couldn’t find her way back home, confused and scared, she screamed for help. She banged on people’s doors and tried to claw her way into vehicles, setting off car alarms. Chiu died alone, her pleas ignored. The tale of her final hours was told through her footprints in the snow and the scratches on doors and cars. After her body was found, one neighbour recalled hearing the screams and another seeing a little old lady stumbling around in the dark. Neither offered to help, nor called 911 — they pulled the curtains shut and went back to bed.

Chiu’s preventable death is a reminder that, in modern society, isolation and loneliness are commonplace states of being that can have tragic consequences.

The second story is seemingly unrelated. Dr. Anne Snowdon, professor at the Odette School of Business at the University of Windsor in Ontario, examined the daily lives of disabled children and their caregivers. Unlike most studies, her work did not focus solely on health and social services, but also examined social interactions. The study found that 53 percent of disabled children had no friends. None. Outside the classroom, they spent less than two hours a week with their peers. They never played with other kids and weren’t invited to birthday parties — they were ostracized and isolated.

In Canada, we talk a good game about integration and about breaking down barriers to allow the inclusion of people with physical and social disabilities in every aspect of daily life. But reality is much harsher. Real integration requires a lot more than building ramps, adopting human rights legislation and funding programs — a dash of tokenism is not enough. Equality and equity require that people with disabilities be included in the banal activities of daily living, from the childhood playground and beyond. These accounts are a cruel reminder that many people in modern society, far too many people, are profoundly alone.

This hidden epidemic of loneliness is particularly acute in certain groups like the elderly, people with disabilities, immigrants and refugees, and the economically disadvantaged.
THE FULL STORY IS AVAILABLE HERE: