#KillerFest15 – Mental Health and Crime

#KillerFest15 – Mental Health and Crime

I was privileged to take part in Killer Reads and Waterstones' Killer Crime Festival 2015 with a Twitter chat about mental health and crime fiction. There were some great questions and an ongoing discussion afterwards about crime novels featuring protagonists with mental health problems. Please share your recommendations in the comments. [View the story "#KillerFest15 - Mental Health and Crime" on Storify] If you enjoyed the chat, why not check out #psywrite, the monthly Twitter chat about mental health in fiction. We're taking at break for March but we will be back for your questions in April! And if you have any detailed queries for your writing, please get in touch - I'm always happy to help with accurate and sensitive mental health portrayals....
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Freudian Script: Cannabis and Psychosis

Freudian Script: Cannabis and Psychosis

With the recent study from King's College London linking "skunk" to diagnosis of psychotic disorders, I thought it would be a good time to examine the link between cannabis and psychosis in detail. I have previously written about cannabis and psychosis while talking gangs and drugs, but we didn't look at the evidence base. As I was writing this post, I realised that I've also waded into the fields of statistics and research methodology. Hopefully, this will provide some clarity the next time a newspaper starts talking about odds and risk in healthcare. Background First, let's get some definitions on the table. Psychosis, in essence, is the inability to distinguish what is real and what is not. It is most often talked about it terms of schizophrenia. You can read more detail about it here. Cannabis is a group of flowering plants native to Central and South Asia. To get biological, there are three main species - Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. However, the...
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Freudian Script: How Common Are Mental Health Problems?

Freudian Script: How Common Are Mental Health Problems?

If you've visited this blog before, you'll know I like to bang on about the accurate and sensitive portrayal of common mental health problems. You may have noticed that I don't find many good portrayals - in fact, I sometimes find it hard to find any examples at all. Mental health has a visibility problem. Is that because it's not all that common to have a mental illness? Or is it because we like to hide from things that scare us and that we find hard to understand? Of course, some mental health problems are overrepresented. If you watch enough crime drama, you might be forgiven for thinking that one-quarter of the population of New York City is a psychopath - and the other three-quarters victims. To clear things up, here are a list of mental health statistics, comparing common mental health problems that you might see in fiction to reality in the UK. I've included nods to other health problems, to give...
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Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

Every year, I write a post about my writing and personal progress over the past twelve months and look forward to next year's goals and challenges. For this New Year's Day, I'm going to look at some awesome things that happened in 2014 and pair them up with where I'm taking them in 2015. In 2014, I became a published author I can't shout about this enough, because it fills me with a giddy joy that I've longed for since I was a child. It's been a very steep learning curve, but the process of taking a raw manuscript and making it into a novel with the help of my fantastic editor Deb Nemeth and the rest of the Carina Press team has had such a profound influence on my writing. And then seeing my books out in the world, receiving praise and reviews - even the gut-wrenching negative ones - has been amazing. People have read my words! They paid money to...
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Freudian Script: Emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD)

Freudian Script: Emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD)

Emotionally unstable personality disorder: balance, understanding and acceptance This week's Freudian Script concentrates on a mental health problem that is not often in the public eye. As opposed to correcting stereotypes about this condition, I will instead look at what emotionally unstable personality is, common stigma problems, portrayals in fiction, and how writers can consider the condition in their work. WARNING: This post contains discussion of self-harm, suicide and abuse. DISCLAIMER: Freudian Script discusses mental health problems for writers of fiction, to encourage accurate and sensitive portrayals. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health problems, please seek help from a doctor. What is emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD)? Perhaps a better starting question is: what is a personality disorder?. A personality disorder is when an adult has a set of personality traits that cause problems for them in their lives. These have likely developed from difficult early life experiences and were at one time useful to help survive those situations. However, as the...
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5 Biggest Mistakes When Writing Mental Illness

5 Biggest Mistakes When Writing Mental Illness

Madness in fiction, like most things in fiction, reflects and informs the popular view. If we write about terrifying, violent mad folk running about with machetes in our films, books and TV shows, the general public nod at how much that confirms their view of madness and cross the street when they see someone out of the ordinary. Or worse. Much worse. At the bare minimum, we should get the facts right. Here are my Top 5 mental health myths in fiction that need to be kicked to the kerb. 1) Straitjackets and padded cells are not standard issue Let's start with straitjackets. We do not use straitjackets in mental health in the UK. They are cruel and dangerous. Short-term physical restraint is used during a psychiatric emergency and it is tightly-regulated, with training and a mountain of paperwork. If your character is spending time in a mental health unit, they will not see a straitjacket. A bedroom in a modern mental health unit...
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Freudian Script: Gangs and Drugs

Freudian Script: Gangs and Drugs

Gangs and drugs - in the eyes of the public, inextricably intertwined. But what is the impact of gang lifestyle on mental health? And how do alcohol and drugs fit the picture? What is a gang? My protagonist Jason often protests that he wasn't in a gang. He ran with a group of lads who liked petty theft and doing drugs on the weekend. So, what exactly is a gang? In its 2009 report "Dying to Belong", The Centre for Social Justice identified that part of the problem of researching and tackling the negative effects of gang culture is the lack of universal definition. Therefore, they proposed a definition, which we will use for the purpose of this post: "A relatively durable, predominantly street-based group of young people who (1) see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group (2) engage in a range of criminal activity and violence (3) identify with or lay claim over territory (4) have some form of identifying structural feature (5)...
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Freudian Script: Bipolar Affective Disorder

Freudian Script: Bipolar Affective Disorder

Bipolar Affective Disorder: The Fight For The Middle Ground After the revelation that Robin Williams suffered with bipolar affective disorder, a rush of articles about creatives and mental health problems sprung up all over the shop. Last week - not for the first time - a young man sat in an assessment with me and said he didn't want medication to take away his "creativity". So, now seemed like a good time to talk about what bipolar affective disorder is and what it isn't, and how Hollywood and the media often get it wrong. What is bipolar affective disorder? Also know as manic depression, bipolar affective disorder is a mental health problem consisting of cycles of two opposite moods: manic/high phases and depressive/low phases. In between episodes, people sit somewhere in a mood state that is "normal" for them - which may run slightly high or low, depending on the person. A person with "rapid cycling" disease has four or more episodes per year. Bipolar...
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Myths about Depression and Suicide

Myths about Depression and Suicide

Given the recent tragic death of Robin Williams and the resulting surge in media attention, I thought I would bust a few myths about depression and suicide. EDIT 13/08/14: Amended to capture some of the ugliness that the UK media vomited out this morning 1) "What did he have to be depressed about? He had everything!" / "Oh, that particular problem is why he had depression and killed himself, is it? That explains everything!" Money does not buy good health. Close, loving relationships do not cure depression. The adoration of millions is not a NICE-approved treatment for any mental health problem, including addiction and mood disorders.  Wealthy, loved and famous people still get ill. They have heart attacks, break their limbs and die of cancer. Why is it so shocking that they should also have mental health problems? Conversely, debt does not cause depression. Addiction does not lead to violence. These things can contribute to someone's illness, but depression is a disease. It is not...
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Freudian Script: Psychiatrist v Therapist

Freudian Script: Psychiatrist v Therapist

"I'm going to see a shrink for therapy" - what does that actually mean? Who are you going to see and for what? What is the difference between a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a therapist? Who would win in a Psychiatrist v Therapist fight? Freudian Script is going to demystify the difference between a psychiatrist v therapist and what exactly folks mean by "therapy". What is a psychiatrist? A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specialises in mental health. In the UK, this means going to medical school, doing at least a couple of years in different medical and surgical jobs, then specialising in psychiatry. Psychiatrists are members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. You would visit a psychiatrist particularly for diagnosis, medication and monitoring. You may also visit them for therapy, but I will get into that later. What is a psychologist? A clinical psychologist is someone who has trained in psychology, usually to the PhD level (which means they are also called doctor!), and...
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