Mental Health and Learning DisabilitiesResearch and Practice: Vol 4 No 2 Plus ça change Shortly after my book Depression: The Way Out of Your Prison was published in 1984, Angela Tilby, now the Reverend Angela Tilby but then a BBC TV producer working on the Everyman series, made a programme about my book called The Mind Box (Rowe ). This programme attracted nearly 2 million viewers, and afterwards it seemed that every one of these viewers wrote to me. This may be an exaggeration, but it is not an exaggeration to say that the majority of those who wrote said, “I’ve asked my GP if he’d refer me to someone I could talk to but he said not to be silly, just keep taking the tablets”. These GPs were not being obtuse and difficult. They were simply following the advice given by the Royal College of Psychiatrists who saw depression as a physical illness caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, underlying which was the gene for depression. Consequently the appropriate treatment was antidepressants and electroconvulsive therapy. In 2006 the Royal College of Psychiatrists abandoned the idea of chemical imbalance. The College now advises doctors that antidepressants (and, rarely, ECT)…

CCYP (March 2007)

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:50
A Whirlpool in a Stream This was a talk by Dorothy Rowe at the BACP’s conference on Counselling Children and Young People in November 2006, which was subsequently published in the CCYP Journal (March 2007) ‘Man is the same in Pall Mall as in the wilderness of New South Wales.’ These were the words of Captain-Lieutenant Watkin Tench, one of the officers of the First Fleet sent to Botany Bay to found a penal settlement. Two hundred years later the Australian biologist Tim Flannery wrote, The two peoples who met on that day in 1788 – the Aborigines and the Europeans – had been separated from each other for longer than any other human cultures on our planet. For 60,000 years – perhaps half the span of our species’ tenure on earth – they had been cut off from each other, living on isolated and very different land masses at opposite ends of the globe. They had developed separate languages and cultures, different skin colour, gene frequencies and facial features. But despite it all, recognition and understanding were immediate, for so strong is our common bond that 60,000 years of separation melted away in a moment. A smile was a…
The Meaning of Emotion  For all of us emotion exists like a Greek chorus in the play which is our life. Sometimes it is just a gentle hum in the background: sometimes it takes centre stage. However, the fact that something plays a significant part in our life does not mean that psychologists research it. Like every human activity, psychology has fashions. Certain topics become fashionable to research: certain words become fashionable to use. For most of my career as a psychologist ‘emotion’ was considered to be unmentionable and ‘subjectivity’ was scorned. Psychologists had to be ‘objective’ and ‘impersonal’. Now fashion has changed and ‘emotion’ is definitely in fashion. Unfortunately the years of neglect meant that the problems in understanding what emotion is have not been tackled.  Emotion has always been very difficult to define. When I ask colleagues what they mean by emotion I am given a list of emotions or told – usually in many words – that it means ‘feelings’. Definitions of ‘emotion’ always turn out to be circular and explain nothing. Collins Dictionary define ‘emotion’ as ‘(1) strong feeling, excitement, and (2) any specific feeling as love, hate, fear, anger etc.’ Macquarie Dictionary defines it as ‘an…

The Skeptical Intelligencer

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:27
The Skeptical Intelligencer Vol 3, Issue No1 July 1998 A Skeptic's Attitude to Science and Religion Radio Four's Today programme has, as far as I'm concerned, only one fault. Thought for the Day is ring fenced. John Humphreys can't interrogate the person presenting the Thought, while every other person who ventures on to the programme can be scrutinised for lies, inconsistencies, logical errors, fudges and downright inaccuracies. On Thought for Today and, with Melvyn Bragg's blessing, on Start the Week various church men and women can be heard discussing religion and science in the terms which imply that these are equivalent modes of thought. This is one inaccuracy which ought to be challenged if not by John Humphreys then by the rest of us sceptics. Religion and science are not equivalent concepts of modes of thought. Religion uses the mode of thought called fantasy and science uses the mode of thought called scientific method. The way we are constructed physiologically means that we are unable to perceive reality directly. All that we can ever know are our constructions, our theories about reality. (See Richard Gregory's Eye and Brain and any of Oliver Sacks books for demonstrations of this.) Once we…

The Journal of Palliative Care

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:26
Information ExchangeThe journal of the National Council for Hospice and Specialist Palliative CareNo 32 - March 2001 WHAT DEATH MEANS TO US When my mother was eighty years old she said something to me which I found to be totally unexpected and utterly amazing. She said,Dorothy, I’ve had a good life. I asked, What do you mean? She replied,Your father never interfered with what I wanted to do. I thought, but did not say, He wouldn’t dare. My father was afraid of her just as all her relatives were. When Mother was displeased she would become immensely enraged, and many times she followed this with a great sulk which could last weeks, even months. She often had occasion to be displeased because, apart from flowers which she loved, everybody and everything in the entire universe failed to live up to her expectations. When I recovered from the shock of my mother’s words I was pleased because I knew then that Mother had carried out the task which we all have to complete if we are to face our death with any degree of equanimity. Our task is that we have to review our life and find it satisfactory. Just how…

Spirituality & Psychotherapy

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:26
Spirituality & Psychotherapy - In Spirituality and Psychotherapy edited by Simon King-Spooner and Craig Newnes, Critical Psychology Series, PPC Books, 2001 11 November 2000 WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY ‘SPIRITUAL’? Dorothy Rowe Religion has always been one of my interests – what people believe and why, and the consequences of different beliefs. This was the subject of my second book. I called this book The Construction of Life and Death but when the publisher HarperCollins acquired it from the original publisher John Wiley my editor changed the title to something more upbeat, namely The Courage to Live.(1) The theme of this book was that our metaphysical beliefs are central to the way we live our lives because these beliefs always concern the nature of death and the purpose of life. All religions try to bridge the chasm that death creates in the project of our life by teaching that some important part of ourselves will continue on after death. Actually, no one knows what death is. All we can say for certain is that a living person becomes strangely still. Nevertheless we each choose one of the two possible meanings we can give to death. Either death is the end…

Psychotherapy & Politics

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:23
The Age of Melancholy, Dan G. Blazer, Routledge, 2005, 251pp,   Anyone interested in the history of ideas would find this book very interesting. Currently the medical model of mental illness is so all-pervasive and powerful that people born after 1950 could be led to think that this has always been the accepted explanation for mental distress. The subtitle of Dan Blazer’s book is “’Major Depression’ and Its Social Origins” but the book is essentially a history of the ideas in psychiatry in the twentieth century.  Psychiatry did not come into its own until after the First World War and in time for American psychiatrists to be greatly influenced by psychoanalysis. This was the point where psychiatry began to be associated with the image of the couch, an image which bears no relationship to present day psychiatry in the USA where psychiatrists do not sit beside a couch and probe their patient’s unconscious. Rather, they sit at a desk, question their patient, make a diagnosis, and write a prescription. An efficient psychiatrist can complete this in 10 to 15 minutes.  Freud saw neurosis as the conflict between the individual and society. Blazer wrote, ‘For Freud . . .a neurosis, such as melancholia, arose…

JCPCP book review

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:23
Making and Breaking Children's Lives Edited by Craig Newnes and Nick Radcliffe This book represents a critical look at current issues in the field of child psychology. It examines current debates around mental health's reaction to societal shortcomings in bringing up children. Among many other issues, the book investigates the concept of individualism, exploring how this allows society to see mental health problems as residing in the child. Psychiatrists are seen as agents to manage guilt and anxiety and not to explore the roots of problems. The effects of psychiatric labelling and drugging are discussed and there are four whole chapters on the issue of ADHD. These chapters question the dominance of the biomedical model and the subsequent validity and utility of ADHD as a diagnosis. The book is split into three parts; constructing childhood, problematising children and appreciating children. Some chapters make an easier and more enjoyable read than others, my personal favourite being that of Dorothy Rowe's which explores 'ADHD: Adults fear of frightened children'. Also interesting is a chapter on empowering children and their families, whilst chapter eight makes use of a clinical vignette which really draws the reader in. This book is both informative and thought…