All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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A modern approach to hearing voices

Rarely will you find a well researched, well written article on mental health in Australia, let alone one that focuses on hearing voices, so when an article on this topic appeared on The Conversation a couple of months ago I’ll admit to approaching it with apprehension and dread.

What clichés would they trot out? Would the word compassion be as foreign to the writer as it is to most who write on this topic? How angry would I become from reading it? And more importantly, how angry would my voices become?

To my surprise, I needn’t have worried, for it was one of the rare occasions when mental health (and hearing voices) was reported with empathy, compassion and understanding.

It even received a thumbs up from two of my people, which is almost the greatest accolade you can receive! :p

Beyond madness: a modern approach to hearing voices

livingwithvoicesFour years ago, a woman came to speak to my third year psychology class at the University of Auckland. Her story completely changed the way I thought about voice-hearing. Like most people, I associated “hearing things” with being very unwell psychologically; with madness. Yet here was an articulate, hilarious and confident woman – a mental health educator – who was very much in touch with reality.

The first voice she heard was a supportive, maternal voice which didn’t cause her any distress. Later, she heard a group of demonic-like voices who threatened to harm her or those she cared about. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalised for many years.

Her turning point came when she asked her voices to show her some of their power by doing the dishes. When they didn’t, their hold over her started to loosen. Slowly, she learnt how to deal with her voices, built relationships with others and finally gained employment helping other voice-hearers. Hers is one of the stories of recovery recorded in Living with voices: 50 stories of recovery.

What struck me most about her story was how easy it was to draw an analogy between her voices and internal “self-talk”. Immediately, the experience of voice-hearing seemed less foreign and incomprehensible and more akin to what most people experience. This “inner-speech” theory is in fact the most well-known neuropsychological theory about what causes voices.

Apart from making voice-hearing seem less foreign, her story challenged several assumptions I held. First, it seemed that she was able to live a functional, productive and meaningful life while still hearing voices. Second, a diagnosis of schizophrenia is thought to carry with it a very poor prognosis, with little hope of recovery.

So, is her experience unique? It seems not. There is evidence of long-term recovery for around half of people distressed by their voices, enabling them to live meaningful lives and function to a degree considered normal by most people.

Continue reading ‘Beyond madness: a modern approach to hearing voices’

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Is there such a thing as the ‘privileged poor’?

pleasekeepourstreetsclean

“Which brings us to the other side effect of our collective crying poor: it makes it easier to look past the struggles of those who are genuinely struggling.”

Over the years I’ve written quite a bit about my pet peeves – and the endless complaining of the ‘privileged poor’ is definitely one of them!

This article, from Australia’s The Age newspaper, is beautifully written and ends with a truth that few people acknowledge:

Is there such a thing as the ‘privileged poor’?
by Rachel Hills

Have you ever sheepishly backed out of a social engagement because you’re “too poor”? Taken to Twitter to vent about how broke your Master’s degree/recent overseas trip/great-for-party-conversation-but-not-exactly-financially-lucrative career has left you? Complained to friends over red wine and camembert about how difficult it is to pay for private school, a mortgage and a cricket club membership, and still take your annual holiday?

Congratulations. You may be a member of Australia’s privileged poor, the growing portion of the middle (and upper-middle, and even occasionally upper) class who believe they are doing it tough despite being socially, economically and educationally privileged in every way.

The privileged poor can take a number of guises. They might be a student who subsists on Centrelink payments and unpaid internships, but still has their rent, food and phone bills paid by mum and dad, Lena Dunham-style on Girls. They might be a twentysomething graduate who earns less than their lawyer and banker friends, but who still has enough cash on hand to eat out, keep abreast of the latest technology, and zip home in a taxi when the train is tardy. They might be a small-business owner taking in $120,000 a year, but who feels like they don’t have much left over to play with once the bills have been paid.

What they all have in common is that they are not actually “poor” – at least, not in the conventional sense of the word. In fact, by most people’s standards, they’re pretty well off. They just don’t feel like they are.

Continue reading “Is there such a thing as the ‘privileged poor’?” (via The Age)


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Epigenetics, Puberty and Heavy Metal: A triumverate of mental health articles

mental-health-media

However much I despair at the Australian media’s coverage of mental health – frequently bombastic, reactive and known to repeat common stereotypes and stigma – articles that are well researched, interesting and thought-provoking do occasionally slip through the net. Over the last week, there have been three such articles:

“!ti od em edam nataS” … does rock ‘n’ roll really make kids kill themselves?

As Jane Austen probably wanted to say, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good Black Sabbath CD must be in want of a shotgun.

We are so encultured to believe that heavy metal music induces teenage suicides that my father once gave me $100 to buy clothes that weren’t black: I bought sunglasses and survived. Nonetheless, countless rock stars and record stores have been sued by parents and protesters who claim that METAL HURTS KIDS.

Psychology is caricatured as the science of the mad, the sad, and the bad, and research on self-harming among metal fans illustrates this perfectly.

Continue Reading →

Growing up too fast: early puberty and mental illness

Puberty has long been recognised as a transition point in which many emotional and behavioural problems emerge. These include depression and anxiety, substance use and abuse, self-harm and eating disorders.

We previously thought that children who entered puberty earlier than their peers were at greater risk of these problems because they were less equipped to cope with the transition. This may be part of the story.

But we’re increasingly realising that social and emotional disadvantages and stresses in childhood may trigger early puberty. This possibility was explored in a study published today in the Journal of Adolescent Health, which found children who go through puberty early showed signs of poorer mental health in early childhood.

Continue Reading →

Epigenetics offers a glimmer of hope for future anorexia treatment

Most people know that anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric illness associated with the maintenance of low weight and fear of weight gain. But we know very little about what causes this destructive disease, which is associated with the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric illness.

Anorexia affects about 2% of women in their lifetime, although one in every ten sufferers is male. Between the ages of 15 and 24, suffering from anorexia nervosa means you’re 12 times more likely to die. It’s clearly a serious illness, but there are many myths about what causes it.

Continue Reading →

~ These articles originally appeared on The Conversation; academic rigour, journalistic flair ~

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