REVIEW: The Other Side of Silence – Linda Gask

REVIEW: The Other Side of Silence – Linda Gask

As a psychiatrist, I walk a fine line of understanding. While I can try to empathise with the people I see in my clinics and on my ward, I cannot truly know their experiences. Sometimes that helps to give me the distance of objectivity, and sometimes it leaves me lacking. Linda Gask has a markedly different perspective. She is a psychiatrist and academic who has experienced mental health problems from both sides - that of a clinician and that of a patient. In her book The Other Side of Silence: A Psychiatrist's Memoir of Depression, Linda draws on both her professional knowledge and personal experience to take the reader on a "guided tour" of depression - using her own life and anecdotes about patients to illustrate the complexity of this illness and its manifestations. What I love about The Other Side of Silence is that it sets aside the traditional, medical model of psychiatry and instead embraces a whole-person, holistic approach to the...
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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: 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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Freudian Script: Inside a Psychiatric Ward

The madhouse. Loony bin. Asylum. Psychiatric wards are called many things, but what is it really like inside one? Freudian Script continues to give writers an up-close-and-personal view of mental health services in the UK and this week's post concentrates on the inside of mental health unit. History of the psychiatric ward The first "psychiatric wards" were the asylums of the 18th century. These were private houses where your relatives could send you because...well, because they felt like it, really. There was no regulation and the owners didn't ask many questions, provided you could pay. The first mental health legislation in the UK - The Madhouses Act 1774, for the legal nerds - was to regulate these houses, license and inspect them. In many ways, mental health services have moved on from this point - and in some ways they haven't. Who is admitted to a psychiatric ward? So, why do people come to a psychiatric ward? In the old days of asylums and institutionalisation,...
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Freudian Script: Police and Crime

Police officers - not the most likely custodians of society's mental health. However, they are frequently called out to mental health emergencies and they play an uneasy role alongside the mental health profession in enforcing mental health law. In commemoration of National Crime Reading Month, I'm going to explore the often-complex relationship between the police, mental health professionals and people suffering from mental health problems. Please note, I am neither a lawyer nor a police officer. These examples are mostly drawn from my own experience and attempt to offer insight for writers who wish to write about these topics. Why involve the police? Several situations may require a police presence in the context of a mental health problem. A few examples include: > A disturbed man in the street, running into traffic. > A desperate woman on a bridge, threatening to jump > A 999 call from a concerned mother whose son with schizophrenia has gone missing > A woman accused of assault says the demons made her...
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Freudian Script: The Mental Health Act

So, you want to write about mental health. By checking out the previous series of Freudian Script, which concentrated on specific conditions - like depression, psychopathy and autistic spectrum disorders - the writer can get to grips with a sensitive and accurate portrayal of a mental health problem. But what about the experience of living with a mental health problem in the UK? How do mental health services function? What happens when you have an urgent problem one morning? How about at midnight? What goes on inside a mental health hospital? Who comes to see you if you can't leave the house? And what about the professionals who work in mental health? Who are they and what do they do? How do they interact with other areas of medicine, social workers, and emergency services? The next series of Freudian Script concentrates on these aspects of mental health. Because I live and work in the UK, this will focus on the British experience of mental...
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Freudian Script: Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia: a mental health problem that everyone's heard of and yet receives little attention in media or movies. In this week's Freudian Script, we will explore the definition of agoraphobia, its connection to panic attacks and other mental health problems, notable examples and writing tips on how to portray agoraphobia sensitively and accurately. DISCLAIMER: This blog post is designed for writers of fiction. If you are concerned that you or someone you know has symptoms of mental health problems, please see your doctor. What is agoraphobia? From the Greek "fear of the market/gathering place", agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder characterised by fear, anxiety and panic in public places, mostly open or crowded spaces, resulting in avoidance. The phobia part is similar to any other phobia - spiders, heights, small spaces - because a phobia is an exaggerated anxiety response leading to avoidance. I'm emphasising avoidance here because it's a really key part of agoraphobia. The definition hinges on the anxious person's splitting of the world...
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