Family, friends and community


“If you can’t get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance” George Bernard Shaw

When it comes to healing from emotional distress, support from others and within the community is vital for successful recovery. Despite all the talk in the media about mental health, sadly people can find themselves without support or understanding. Lack of support can inhibit and delay the healing journey.

Families need accurate information on what can help a person in distress. “In the field of mental health people need to be as informed as possible as some day, without much warning, we can find ourselves, a relative or a friend coming in contact with the current system … Giving someone a Psychiatric diagnosis is an immensely powerful act which has profound implications for their identity, relationships, place in the community, employment, health and future.” ~ clinical Psychologist Lucy Johnstone [1]. Dr Johnstone highlights that the process of recovery has to start with the most accurate description of what is going on for the person. Listening non-judgmentally with empathy is something to aim for, hard as that might be. Find out what is going on in the person’s life. It can sometimes be more convenient to slap on labels and blame genetics than address issues and struggles within the individual and their family or within society itself.

We have been conditioned in the biomedical view, which benefits the pharmaceutical industry but doesn’t necessarily help the person to heal to the best of their potential. It is possible to get people through recovery and back to being a productive member of their community. This could mean paid work but there are also ways a person can voluntarily contribute to their community and this requires some recognition. It is not always possible if the person is on high doses of strong tranquilizers which can affect their ability to get motivated and function e.g. in a work environment. While no one should stop or change prescribed drugs without expert advice, long term exposure to these drugs can cause brain damage.

Critical Psychiatrist Dr Philip Thomas in his book Psychiatry in Context explains that it can be hard to measure non-specific factors that aid recovery e.g. trusting human relationships [2]. He points out that it is necessary to engage with people in emotional distress within the social and cultural contexts of the communities they come from. It may be possible to find out from communities what helps people in that community regain a sense of well being, so that people can be productive and have purpose and meaning in their lives.

Forces in society that damage family relationships

“Sometimes you got to accept the fact that certain things will never go back to how they used to be”

I recently re-watched the great classic movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and wish I had seen this movie at 18. While it is now over 40 years old and has cult status, there is a lot to be learned from this awesome movie. I do believe that mainstream Psychiatry is a powerful and controlling group that has the potential to cause a lot of damage to family relationships intergenerationally. As my father had an emotional crisis when I was about three years old, a lot of what I was led to believe about “mental illness” for the first few decades of my life is based on fiction and not fact. I had been indoctrinated from an early age into my families and societies way of viewing and dealing with mental health issues.

When I had my own crisis and direct experience a decade ago, instead of using an Open Dialogue approach to engage with me [3], family members were questioned and this information was then used as “collateral”. This made it feel like everyone was working against me instead of with me. The terminology is something I became aware of when I got my notes under Freedom of Information! Reading such notes can be very traumatic and I do not recommend it unless you have a good support person to go through this process with you. I was left with Post Traumatic Stress, feeling fearful, unsafe and hyper-vigilant. While the feelings are starting to ease, this has lasted almost a decade so far! When I went through Regression therapy with Ivor Browne, it turns out the Post Traumatic experience I carry is very much intertwined with memories of my father been locked away on several occasions throughout my childhood.

In my experience, starting with how the person can be forced into an “Acute Unit” without use of a mental health advocate or Open Dialogue, I found the overall approach taken by the system to be highly traumatic and damaging. It destroys trust between family members. Sometimes the family is already struggling with past issues, trauma and dysfunction and this adds another layer of damage to the situation. What is needed is family therapy.

If friends/relatives spy and gossip about the person in distress, this is very unhelpful. If the person becomes aware of this, it can lead to a breakdown of trust and relationships. When trust is gone sometimes it’s gone for good! Sadly I am not talking about “paranoia” but evidence based fact. But a certain amount of paranoia can easily become a survival mechanism. While some people have been occasionally good to me financially to help me through the destruction caused e.g. loss of career, on an emotional level I went from feeling I was part of a family to feeling very much alienated and disconnected from them. An outsider. I am still close to some cousins in my extended family and have started to build back some trust with relatives in the previous generation. People that have been very good to me, especially in my younger days. But the approach of Psychiatry can cause lots of damage.

We are advised to talk about our mental health struggles but in general we also need to be careful when doing so and to protect ourselves e.g. career wise. Some people in our communities are not so understanding about struggles with emotional distress. At the same time there are good people, therapists and organisations out there e.g. Samaritans (116 123). 

R D Laing

Sometimes the dysfunction within families can trigger mental health issues. Scottish Psychiatrist R D Laing did studies on this using game theory (based on the work of mathematician John Nash) [4].

Family members may not be the best people to try to re-engage the person or motivate them. Occupational therapists and other support people should be involved. If I had a family member or friend with mental health issues I would acknowledge any true progress they are making and wouldn’t compare them to others. Everyone’s journey is unique.

Impact of mental health struggles of a parent on their children

“it is essential to try to open up the hidden area and collusion going on within the family” Ivor Browne

When a parent experiences mental health difficulties this also will affect the family unit and children, including the stability of the environment the person grows up in. Family therapy may be needed to help families through difficult times.

If the parent is / was on medication, the sedative nature of the drugs can impact on the parents ability to function and motivate themselves e.g. work, cook meals, get the children out to school or engage with their children. Watching a parent experience depression, mania or ‘psychosis’ can affect the child.

By being aware of intergenerational trauma and what can be done to support each generation, it is possible to help families to function better. My goal would be that the next generation in my family will have an accurate picture of what mainstream Psychiatry is about and a more accurate picture of what Manic Depression is and what can trigger it. This would help them of avoid pitfalls of what has become an intergenerational trap. They need to be armed with the correct knowledge that will protect them, so that they do not become a victim of what I see as a damaging system.

As the oldest of four siblings, I grew up in an environment where my father was on up to 14 pills a day and given Electric shock treatment which had a huge impact on him, his relationship with my mother, my childhood and family life. I was unaware of the risks of getting involved with the Psychiatric industry and allowed myself to be referred by my GP for help with severe anxiety / panic. While I’m not discouraging people from getting psychological help when they need it, allowing myself to be referred to a Psychiatrist and into the public system was a big mistake that has cost me dearly on many levels.

Mainstream Psychiatrists are medical doctors that mainly prescribe drugs and get people onto cocktails of drugs. Only a relatively small percentage of them are trained therapists. Despite all their power and control in society e.g. in the courts, they can’t help a person in distress without the correct skill set! When I eventually got to see Prof Ivor Browne, who is a Psychiatrist and trained therapist, while I’m not trying to say he is perfect, the difference between seeing him and the other amateurs was huge. Even when I read back on my notes now from being in the system between mid 2008 and early 2012, the “help” I received was inadequate on many levels. With the exception of the help I received from Orla the Occupational therapist. More investment is needed in Occupational therapy.

In my blog on Genetics I explore the fact that some people can’t process drugs like anti-depressants and there is a genetic aspect to that. I have a 1st cousin that took a similar SSRI to the one I did (Citalopram & Escitalopram respectively). We both ended up with the same diagnosis. So I would recommend that people related to me, particularly on my paternal side, to steer away from these mind altering psychotropic drugs and to find alternative ways of managing their distress.


Strategies to enable family and friends to help someone through mania and/or Psychosis

  • While I don’t agree with all the information in this link some of it may be helpful. How to avoid a manic episode [5].

  • Start with the most accurate description of what may have triggered the Psychosis (loss of touch with so called reality) and anything that may be fueling it e.g. Severe lack of sleep, drugs (prescribed or street), alcohol. Address any of these issues appropriately.

  • An Open Dialogue approach is needed, if possible, which has been known to have very good recovery rates. See separate blog.

  • Address the stigma within families from the start. Not all families are supportive of each other. R D Laing believed that ‘psychosis’ and ‘Schizophrenia’ is incubated within family environments. Sometimes there may be other causes e.g. Drug use, including prescribed psychoactive substances.

  • Minor or major tranquilizers are not a “cure”. Short term they can help a person who is in mania and/or psychosis to relax and get some sleep. Depending on the person and the drug, as each person reacts differently to each drug. For example, I found 5 mg of Olanzapine used short term to be helpful.

  • Relevant courses, including online ones, can provide knowledge but are sometimes funded by or influenced by the pharma world e.g. Free online courses on FutureLearn.

  • Charities like Grow and Shine provide some support

  • Support is also needed for kids whose parents experience mental health difficulties e.g. play therapy and counseling, to reduce inter generational trauma [6]

  • Work on a sense of Self. Both the person in distress and their supporters can do this. There is a good book called Selfhood with exercises by Dr Terry Lynch [7].

  • Coming off medication should be an option for most people but that requires specialised, expert advice and close monitoring. It would need to be done slowly under the supervision of someone who has the expertise. Usually a GP or other doctor but the question is do they have the most accurate information and knowledge ? [8, 9]

  • If a person hears voices there are organisations out there that can help e.g. Hearing Voices Network and Intervoice [10, 11]

  • When the person is in a good place learn about WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) and help them develop a WRAP plan [12]. There are some organisations in Ireland that provide training in WRAP e.g. Suicide or Survive.

Social stigma and discrimination

Research by the Mental Health Foundation (Pull Yourself Together report) found that 56% of people suffering from mental distress had experienced discrimination by family and 51% said they had experienced discrimination by friends. Many of the respondents reported that relatives and friends had distanced themselves, sometimes to the extent that people felt ostracised and socially isolated. Many people also reported being on the receiving end of name calling, labelling, and unhelpful instructions such as “Pull yourself together”. [13]

If you don’t feel accepted or feel unwanted, stigmatised or excluded, healing from emotional health issues can be seriously affected. Your sense of belonging within your family of origin can diminish or become non-existent.

Many of us have persevered in the face of discrimination and social stigma. We have witnessed the death of our old self and the “reemergence of a new self out of the ashes of the old” [2]. This can be quite a painful process. You experience a sense of loss. Sometimes it can be hard to let go of what was to embrace the new reality. But this is sometimes a necessary part of the healing process, including stepping away from relationships that increase distress. Either temporarily or more long term. Life is short. Sometimes we really only appreciate people when they have passed away. As someone who lost a close friend recently in tragic circumstances, we need to learn to appreciate people more while they are still around and to be as supportive as possible.


[1] A Straight Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Diagnosis by Lucy Johnstone

My review of this book ~

[2] Psychiatry in Context : Experience, Meaning & Communities by Dr Philip Thomas 2015

My review of this book ~

[3] A collection of resources on Open Dialogue practices ~

[4] R D Laing used work of Nash and Game theory to study human relationships (18 & 25 mins)

[5] How to Avoid a Manic Episode ~

[6] The Efficacy of Play Therapy With Children: A Meta-Analytic Review of Treatment Outcomes

[7] SELFHOOD: A Key to the Recovery of Emotional Wellbeing, Mental Health and the Prevention of Mental Health Problems, 2011 ~

[8] Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families by Dr Peter Breggin, 2012 ~

[9] Guide for stopping anti-depressants (under supervision of medical professional) ~

[10] Hearing Voices Network ~

[11] Intervoice (International Hearing Voices Projects) ~

[12] WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) ~

[13] Pull Yourself Together! A survey on the stigma and discrimination faced by people who experience mental distress ~ by the Mental Health Foundation (2000) ~

Other information that may be useful

* The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey ~

* The Writings of Ivor Browne: Steps Along the Road, the Evolution of a Slow Learner ~

Some of the papers in this book covers family & family therapy “it is essential to try to open up the hidden area and collusion going on within the family where it is often seen as necessary to hold the patient in his or her sick and painful state as scapegoat and guardian of the secret” pg. 239

* Ivor Browne interview with Pat Kenny from 2013 ~

* Sanity, Madness and the Family by R D Laing ~


Family therapy “is a type of psychological counseling (psychotherapy) that helps family members improve communication and resolve conflicts”

Family systems therapy draws on systems thinking in its view of the family as an emotional unit. When systems thinking—which evaluates the parts of a system in relation to the whole—is applied to families, it suggests behavior is both often informed by and inseparable from the functioning of one’s family of origin”

Pharmacogenetics “is the study of inherited genetic differences in drug metabolic pathways which can affect individual responses to drugs, both in terms of therapeutic effect as well as adverse effects” (Wikipedia)

Play therapy “a form of counseling or psychotherapy in which play is used as a means of helping children express or communicate their feelings”. For more information see


An Open Dialogue around ‘Psychosis’

“The deepest hunger of the human heart is to be understood” Stephen Covey


Cabiria, 1914 (from a silent movie by Giovanni Pastroni). Trying to capture how terrifying Psychosis sometimes feels like, which is difficult and the clip that goes with this photo reminded me of the experience.

In November 2014 I went to the launch of the lengthy report “Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia” by the British Psychological Society (BPS) in London. There I got to meet and hear from some of the top experts and clinical Psychologists in the UK. A revised version was published in 2017 [1].

‘Psychosis’ is a loss of touch with reality, which is usually temporary. Because the general population don’t understand it, they can overreact. The person themselves may feel quite confused & scared. Especially if it’s their 1st experience. It can involve unusual perceptions e.g. the person feels they are under attack from evil and the need to protect themselves. In my experience, how I protected myself was influenced by religious upbringing. I even started to go to Latin mass to try and calm my brain down. While some would have frowned upon that at the time, for me it was a coping mechanism. I only occasionally go to a church these days. Usually to light a candle and to sit in silence for a while.

As an example of one of my “psychotic breaks”, in my last experience I decided that the town I live in, which is prone to flooding as it is built on a river, was going to become immersed in water. I checked into a hotel that was a few stories high & took a bus to a ‘safer’, inland county. At the time I was frightened. It wasn’t based on reality but could have been based on news reports and worries about climate change. Stress and lack of sleep would have been a trigger, plus the fact that I was still going through drug withdrawal. It took at least two years to get the main effects of long term use of prescribed psychotropic drugs out of my system and I was left with long term sleep issues, the effects of which I still feel to this day.

Psychosis can be triggered by anti-depressant use and severe lack of sleep / stress [2]. I had been on anti-depressants for anxiety / panic attacks for 3 years when I had a ‘psychotic break’ in August 2008. Other illicit drugs can also trigger psychosis e.g. skunk cannabis [3].

Trying to make sense of the symptoms can help. In the context of the person’s life. As through making sense of experiences or learning to process them, a person is more likely to recover.

Usually the people around you will not understand and might not be supportive. I went through my last ‘psychotic break’ alone (2012). I would not recommend that but maybe getting through it alone is why I no longer fear it. There was also a Spiritual aspect to the experience and I wish I kept notes at the time to give me more insight into what I was going through. In my terrified state, particularly at night time, with no support around me, I used the online work of Sean Blackwell to help me through. “Bipolar or Waking up?” [4, 5, 6]. I do believe this was more of an awakening and a spiritual journey. A part of my own evolution as a soul on this planet.

A significant percentage of people hear voices and for many this is not a problem. If the person hears voices that are distressing or ask them to harm themselves or others and the person finds this overwhelming, they would need help and support in coping with the voices. There are people who have managed to integrate their voices into their lives, without been affected negatively by them e.g. Eleanor Longden [7] , Jacqui Dillon [8] and Rai Waddingham [9]. Dutch Psychiatrist Dr Marius Romme has also done a lot of great work in the Hearing Voices Movement [10]. Some children also hear voices and may need support.

Others experience hallucinations. If the hallucinations affect a persons quality of life, including ability to work, sleep and relate with others, the person may need help in dealing with their experiences.

Open Dialogue

I’m a believer in the Open Dialogue approach, where the person should be involved as much as feasibly possible in decision making about their care or treatment plan [11, 12].

Open Dialogue includes the gathering of clinicians, family members, friends and other relevant persons for a joint discussion. It was started in Lapland by Jaakko Seikkula et al. It is also used in other countries eg the Parachute project in New York [13]. In West Cork a successful pilot project was implemented [14, 15]. It would be great to see widespread use of this approach. If a more traditional, backward approach is used it can lead to more dysfunction within a family and the fracturing of relationships, sometimes long term, in my experience. It is important to get the approach right at the start. Not everyone will want family involved in their care.

I write more about the trauma of what happened me in 2008 in the blog Anti-depressants are great, until you have an Adverse Drug Reaction, where I outline some of the things that would have helped at that crucial time. Because of the way people in ‘psychosis’ are treated, I ended up with Post Traumatic stress for the past decade, which is only starting to ease recently. It has improved via therapy and hard work on my self, but it is something that will probably always be there are a protective force in my life. A necessary hyper vigilance and a lack of trust in others!

I have learned as much as I can about what is helpful when a person is in distress. I’ve dedicated several years to learning via reading, listening to audio/visual presentations (of experts I respect), courses, conferences and various short training sessions. A summary version of what happened to me can be found under Other Relevant Resources at the end of this blog.

During my first ‘psychotic break’ (where I had not harmed myself or others) I needed:

  • truth and honesty about the anti-depressant drug I was on & its adverse effects (2)

  • An Open Dialogue approach

  • Re-assurance that my stay in the hospital was temporary ( the survival part of my brain was convinced I would be there for a very long time, possibly forever. This left me in a very distressed and agitated state and naturally so)

In places like Finland, where they employ the Open Dialogue approach and where prescribed psychoactive drugs are not the main form of treatment, they have proven that recovery is possible. They use early intervention and involve the person in decision making. In general, instead of the person ending up on disability, they go back to being productive members of society.

Below is now 89 yr old Prof Ivor Browne giving a talk in the National College of Ireland in 2015. As opposed to being “anti-drug”, Prof Ivor Browne believes in using the lowest dosage of tranquilizing drugs possible for as short a time as possible. Ivor explained that people need help in understanding the psychotic process. He also recognises the importance of therapeutic relationships, personal friendships and loving relationships, when it comes to healing from trauma and distress. What are referred to as “Anti-psychotics” e.g. Olanzapine, as mainly major tranquilizers.


For people to have “Recovery spaces”, they need to be with supportive people who can tolerate, be patient and interact with the person in ‘Psychosis’. Soteria is a network of people in the UK promoting the development of drug-free and minimum medication therapeutic environments for people experiencing ‘psychosis’ or extreme states [16]. If a person is a carer for someone in emotional distress e.g. a family member, the long term goal should be to enable the person they are caring for.

The public have learned to associate the word ‘psychosis’ with violence and there is not necessarily a link, unless drugs or alcohol are involved [17, 18]. That can include prescribed psychotropic substances or withdrawal from these drugs [19].

People in distress need hope that they can recover and heal. Education from reliable, unbiased sources is an important part of that healing journey. As are supportive and understanding people who can hold space for the person in distress. These support networks also need education around Psychosis, what is helpful and what is not. Being judgemental, getting into arguments with the person, being critical and dismissive of their experience is usually unhelpful. Trying to stay calm and creating a calm space for the person, where they are not over stimulated, might be helpful. Everyone is an individual and has their own unique journey and experience.

Note: This blog is not medical advice and is mainly based on my own experience. But also on my extensive interest and learning in the whole area. Do not stop or change prescribed psychotropic drugs without advice, due to the dangers of withdrawal. Any changes need to be made slowly, under the supervision of an expert in this field. At the start of my journey I was never given that advice from the ‘experts’ I was dealing with and this delayed my healing journey.

Minor and major tranquilizers did help me at times e.g. with sleep, which can help restore some normality. But overall, in hindsight, I found that the large cocktail of drugs I was on (over a 3 year period) fueled symptoms, as opposed to ‘curing’ them. “The ethical use of psychotropic drugs is perhaps the single most important aspect of Psychiatric care that requires urgent attention” Dr Phil Thomas [20, 21].


[1] Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia, revised version 2017 ~ (Edited by Anne Cooke)

[2] Antidepressant-associated Mania and Psychosis resulting in Psychiatric admissions. Yale study (2001)

[3] Smoking skunk cannabis triples risk of serious psychotic episode, says research, 2015 ~

[4] Am I Bipolar or Waking Up? Sean Blackwell, 2011 ~

[5] Sean Blackwell’s work ~

[6] Corrina Rachel speaking to Sean Blackwell about Bipolar ~

[7] TED video by Eleanor Longden (Voice Hearing) ~

[8] Jacqui Dillon (Voice Hearing) ~

[9] Rai Waddingham ~

[10] Hearing Voices Network ~

[11] OPEN DIALOGUE: an alternative Finnish approach to healing psychosis (by Daniel Mackler) ~

[12] A collection of resources on Open Dialogue and Open Dialogue practices ~

[13] New York ‘Parachute’ programme for people with acute mental distress lands in the UK ~

[14] Mental health pilot focus of Finnish film ‘Open Dialogue’ ~

[15] A fresh approach to mental health ~

[16] Soteria ~

[17] ‘Mental disorders’ are neither necessary nor sufficient causes of violence ~

[18] Dispelling the Myth of Violence and Mental Illness ~

[19] Prescription Drugs Associated with Reports of Violence Towards Others

[20] Psychiatry in Context : Experience, Meaning & Communities by Dr Philip Thomas

Dr Philip Thomas highlights the limitations of neuroscience in explaining Psychosis or distress. He also explores how Racism plays a key role in many black people’s experience of Psychosis.

[21] My review of this book ~

This review was published in the Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy (Volume 16, Number 1, March 2016)

Other relevant Resources

* ‘I was unaware of potential adverse effects to my prescribed antidepressants’

* One woman’s account of suffering from Psychosis ~

* Course ~ Caring for People with Psychosis and Schizophrenia (pharma funded which influences the advice given) ~

* Intervoice (International Hearing Voices Projects) ~

* Hearing Voices Network Ireland ~

* The Icarus Project ~

* CRAZYWISE – Official Extended Trailer ~ 

* Peter Lehmann “Recovery from Psychosis and Depression by Taking Psychiatric Drugs versus Recovery by Coming off Psychiatric Drugs”

* 8 Tips to Help Stop Ruminating ~

Learning from the History of Psychiatry

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” George Santayana

The RTE “Behind the Walls” 2 part documentary highlighted that we locked up more people in mental institutions in Ireland that any other place in the world a few decades ago [1]. “Research shows that 33,000 patients died in overcrowded and disease-ridden psychiatric hospitals between the late 1920s and early 1960s, with death rates significantly higher than in the general community” Carl O’Brien, Irish Times [2]. In Nazi Germany people with mental health issues were the first to be killed and the last to be recognised [3, 4].

Athlone nurse Hanna Greally, experienced Post Traumatic Stress after spending time in England during WWII and was sent into St. Loman’s hospital, Mullingar by her mother for “a rest”. She was admitted to the Psychiatric hospital at 19 and got trapped there for almost 20 years! Her birthplace is currently The Bailey pub in Athlone with a plaque outside.

She wrote an excellent book called Bird’s Nest Soup [5]. The last line in the book is very poignant “I am now a sadder but a wiser woman, and one who can say with certainty that knowledge and FREEDOM are happiness”.

Sligo woman Mary Maddock and her husband Jim wrote a book called Soul Survivor [6] which gives a more recent insight into Psychiatric survival. Like many other sane people, Mary got caught up in the Psychiatric system in the early 1970s, after the birth of her 1st baby. With the help of people like Dr Terry Lynch, thankfully she freed herself from the mental “health” system. I’ve included a short video about her below [7].

I don’t think people truly comprehend what it’s like to be in a Psychiatric unit unless you have been there. “One thing you will find on Psychiatric wards that you won’t find on other hospital wards is a lot of people in various stages of tranquilisation … Psychiatry is the only medical specialty where considerable number of recipients of Psychiatric treatment consider themselves to be survivors of the actual system” Dr. Terry Lynch. Connecting to other Psychiatric survivors, including people like Mary Maddock, was a part of my healing journey. I also learned a lot from Dr Terry Lynch, Prof Ivor Browne and other honest doctors like them. As well as learning from the History of Psychiatry which, despite all the trauma it has caused in this country intergenerationally, many seem to have forgotten ?


[1] Behind The Walls by Mary Raftery:

Part 1 ~

Part 2 ~

“Behind the Walls’ is a two-part documentary series charting the history of Ireland’s psychiatric hospitals. Part one lifts the lid on this vast system. During the middle decades of the 20th century, Ireland led the world in locking up more of its people per capita in mental hospitals, ahead even of the old Soviet Union.

This documentary reveals damning evidence of appalling conditions within the hospitals, information which was kept secret by the State. It also tells the remarkable story of Hanna Greally, locked up for almost 20 years, but who emerged to write about her experiences in the 1970s, becoming one of the very few to chronicle her experiences behind the walls.

Behind the Walls is a Misha Films production. Produced and written by Mary Raftery”

[2] Call to extend mother and baby homes inquiry to mental homes ~

[3] Peter Breggin, MD – Psychiatry and the Holocaust–The Violence Initiative – Part 1 ~

[4] Psychiatry’s role in the holocaust ~

[5] Bird’s Nest Soup by Hannah Greally, 1971 ~

There is also an RTE documentary about Hannah Greally ~

[6] Soul Survivor by Mary & Jim Maddock, 2006 ~

[7] Mary Maddock: a survivor of ECT and decades of Psychiatric drugging ~

Other relevant information

* The Rosenhan experiment proved Psychiatry to be a pseudo Science over 40 years ago.
David Rosenhan ~ Being sane in insane places ~

* Edward Shorter, Ph.D., author of How Everyone Became Depressed (Oxford 2013), is a social historian of medicine in University of Toronto ~ (includes podcasts)

* Music and Madness by Ivor Browne, 2008 ~

* The Writings of Ivor Browne: Steps Along the Road, the Evolution of a Slow Learner, 2013 ~

Electric Convulsive Therapy

I am now a sadder but a wiser woman, and one who can say with certainty that knowledge and freedom are happiness” Hannah Greally

Prof Ivor Browne writes “Over many years studies of ECT have shown no long-term benefit, only a temporary relief of symptoms due to confusion and brain damage”. He finishes with this line “The only real, lasting change comes when we help a person to bring about the painful work of change within themselves” [1].

Psychiatrist Dr Bob Johnson has written an informed consent form for Electric shock, which outlines the risks involved [2]. Psychiatrist Dr Michael Corry wrote an article entitled Barbaric age of electric shock ‘cure’ must vanish [3].

There is a short video about Psychiatric survivor and mental health activist Mary Maddock, who was subjected to Electric shock back in the 1970s, three days after the birth of her first baby! [4]. Mary is a co-founder of Mind Freedom Ireland. When it comes to modern day Psychiatry in Ireland this is what the Sligo woman now living in Cork has to say in a book called Soul Survivor, which she co-wrote with her husband Jim in 2006 :

“very little if anything, has changed over the last thirty years. The ‘experts’ still call the shots. The medical model is dominant, the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory is still propounded, depression is still a ‘disease’ and drugs are still the main form of treatment. More and more ‘disorders’ are being invented to be treated with more and more drugs, to the delight of the pharmaceutical companies whose profits grow and grow. Every year, a new crop of patients join the conveyor belt, just as we did in 1976. Pre-teen children are prescribed Ritalin. ‘A pill for every ill’ is becoming the norm. And yet, despite all that, two stark facts remain – 70% of admissions to psychiatric hospitals are re-admissions and the suicide rate in Ireland has never been higher” [5].

In 2016, a 16-year-old girl with an eating disorder was forced to receive up to 12 sessions of Electric shock, according to this Irish Times article [6]. I would love to know where this young girl is now and how she is doing. I know of another young girl who had a cocktail of drugs forced upon her via the High Court. I went to see her recently. She is damaged and suffering on a daily basis for several years now. Her family is also suffering. There has to be a more humane way of helping our young people.

I sat beside a lady in a private hospital that was going through Electric Convulsive Therapy (ECT). She wasn’t allowed in the garden. My heart went out to her. I found out later this hospital had one of the highest rates of ECT in the country ! I watched a documentary on mental health where a woman seemed to benefit from Electric shock but by the end of the programme she had relapsed. So what appeared initially to be a “miracle cure” seemed very much short lived.

I would suggest writing an Advance Directive and specifying whether or not ECT would be a treatment option that you find acceptable.


[1] Debate on electric shock therapy, Prof Ivor Browne, June 2008 ~

[2] An informed consent form for ECT, Dr Bob Johnson ~

[3] Barbaric age of electric shock ‘cure’ must vanish by Dr Michael Corry, 2008~

[4] Mary Maddock: a survivor of ECT and decades of Psychiatric drugging ~

[5] Soul Survivor by Mary Maddock, 2006 ~

[6] A 16-year-old girl with severe depression associated with an eating disorder is to receive up to 12 sessions of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) !

In memory of my sane father who was a gentle man and should have turned 78 in 2018. He was subjected to this barbaric treatment back in 1970s Ireland and possibly the early 1980s. It affected his memory. Rest in Peace.