My Other Writings
Here you’ll find some of my other papers and presentations, mostly on my ‘activist’ work, and mostly since completing my PhD. I’ve decided to list them in chronological order to give a sense of the historical development of my ideas and my activities. It’s a bit of a mixed bag – some are quite formal papers and/or presentations, others less so, such as short articles for the media and even one Open Letter.
2002-2004 – see some of my Other Academic Papers
I was invited to speak at a forum on Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Action in Development hosted by the Department of Justice (state of Victoria). I chose to focus on the importance of the first-person voice of those with the lived experience of (psychosocial) disability, and how the current enthusiasm for “evidence based” everything – research, policy, practice – disempowers and silences the first-person voice. The other speaker was Frank Hall-Bentick, who has since become a great inspiration, mentor and friend.
Because drugs were a part of my story, I do get asked to comment on drugs and mental health, which is a bit of a drag really. This is a short article published in VICSERV’s New Paradigm about the huge gaps between mental health and drug and alcohol services that many people are falling into, especially young people. I argue that the idea of “dual diagnosis”, which aligns drug and alcohol more closely with the mental health system, will backfire as people will actively avoid any system that has the risk of getting you locked up. But see also the paper and book chapter on this topic in 2007.
I was invited to speak at the annual conference of the Australian Counselling Association (ACA), which was a bit daunting as I am very wary of any kind of “therapeutic relationship”. I chose to make it a presentation on Wilber’s Integral Model as a map of the self to describe the all-of-me that I believe needs to be permitted into any counselling relationship. No paper here, just the ppt.)
The Mental Health Legal Centre in Melbourne hosted this forum to further its advocacy for legally binding Advance Directives. My paper connects the human rights argument for Advance Directives with the academic arguments in my (recently completed) PhD of the importance of the first-person. Given the lack of any legal Advance Directive instrument, I conclude by making a public statement of my own Advance Directives wishes, which I call upon the audience to act as witnesses.
The Centre for Psychiatric Nursing Practice and Research (CPNRP) at Melbourne University organised this event for me, as the sole speaker, to talk about my research and how it influences my human rights activism (and vice versa). (No paper here, just the ppt.)
AMHCN Conference – two presentations
I presented two papers at the annual conference of the Australian Mental Health Consumer Network (AMHCN). The conference theme was Perspectives – Peer Support and Innovative Practices. (No papers, just the two pdf files.)
Another presentation of Wilber’s Integral Model to introduce and illustrate the importance of the first-person voice – first-person data and expertise – and how it fits into a bigger picture of what constitutes valid research.
Human rights are barely on the radar in mental health in Australia, plus there is considerable resistance to identifying as a person with a disability within the mental health consumer community. This presentation therefore introduced the social model of disability, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights, and also some of the international organisations in this area.
This paper was written for and presented at a conference on human rights hosted by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC). In 2006, the UN had adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and, coincidentally, Victoria had introduced its new Human Rights Charter. This paper highlights some of the key principles of the CRPD and how they might influence the implementation of the Charter, with a particular emphasis on the rights of people who experience psychosocial disability.
The ANEX conference attracts mostly non-clinical service providers in the drug and alcohol sector, and in particular anyone involved in needle exchange programs. This year the conference was on ‘dual diagnosis’ and I was asked to speak, given my familiarity with both sectors. This talk highlights the hazards of the growing medicalisation of the drug and alcohol sector as it gets drawn into the more medicalised mental health sector. My take home message for this audience was that the mental health sector has more to learn from drug and alcohol services rather than the other way round, so please, stay firm and resist the increasing medicalisation of drug and alcohol services.
Peter Phillips is a UK academic who asked me to do a chapter for his book on dual diagnosis after the ‘consumer’ (sic) that he’d lined up for the job suddenly died. I really liked Peter from my brief encounter with him when he was visiting Melbourne for a conference. So I was rather surprised when I saw the finished book. My chapter contrasted the two very different cultures of mental health and drug and alcohol services, and warned of the hazards of medicalisation that was occuring under the dual diagnosis banner. The other chapters of the book, I’m sad to say, were pretty much examples of this medicalisation – although happy with my chapter, very disappointed with the rest of the book. You can see more of Peter’s book at Amazon.
This is my human rights analysis of involuntary psychiatric treatment. It was presented at a forum hosted by the Mental Health Legal Centre (MHLC) and the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC), and sponsored by the Victorian Equal Opportunities and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) … phew, so many acronyms in mental health. The forum’s theme was the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities and Mental Health Rights, so the focus of my analysis is the Charter but I include reference to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
“It Takes a Village to Prevent a Suicide” (abstract only)
I was invited to give this keynote address by the Koch Foundation who are doing terrific suicide prevention work in far north Queensland. I’d never been north of Brisbane so it was a special treat to go to Cairns and meet these people, especially some of the many indigenous people who were at this conference. My presentation (no paper, just an abstract and the ppt here) was primarily another talk on Wilber’s Integral Model as a map of what the whole-of-self and whole-of-community must encompass for it to be truly holistic.
Interview in New Paradigm (Winter 2009 issue)
New Paradigm is the Australian Journal on Psychosocial Rehabilitation, published seasonally by VICSERV, the umbrella organisation for (non-clinical) psychosocial services in Victoria. Here they interview me about the role of legislation and human rights in mental health, and in particular in regard to suicide prevention.
The European division of the WHO and the Karolinska Institute held a small, invitation only conference in Stockholm on “The relationship between economic values and socio-cultural values for helping us understand how to prevent suicide”. In their negotiations with the WHO, comrades at the European Network of (ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (ENUSP) insisted that a survivor delegate be invited to speak at this conference. By coincidence, I was due to go to the UN in Geneva around the same time so ENUSP asked me to represent them at the Stockholm conference. I felt privileged and honoured, plus it was quite a thrill as the conference was held in the Swedish parliament, which was memorable for its uncomfortable seats. I’m no economist so it was a challenge to come up with an appropriate talk, but managed OK with the help (again) of Wilber’s Integral Model. Of note was that my talk was mostly very well received but that there were clearly a few people among the WHO (psychiatric) hierarchy who were seething and scornful of what I had to say. Like I said, an honour and a privilege.
I attended the meeting of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Geneva wearing two hats. First, I was there representing the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) but I was also asked by WNUSP to make a submission to the Day of General Discussion on Article 12 of the CRPD. In this submission I argue that suicide prevention requires a strong interpretation and implementation of Article 12.
The campaign to establish a Disability Rights Tribunal for the Asia Pacific (DRTAP) is an initiative of the Tokyo Advocacy Law Office in Japan, who co-hosted this forum with the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO). Although working for AFDO at the time (and helping to organise this event), I spoke as a representative of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (WNUSP) – no paper here, just the dot-point notes for my talk and the ppt file.
At the inaugural conference of the Disability Studies and Research Centre (DSARC) I presented my critique of the ICF, the WHO’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health.
A busy time in Victoria with a review of the Mental Health Act already underway and now a review of the Guardianship Act commences. Meanwhile everyone is still coming to terms with the Human Rights Charter, not to mention the UN Disability Convention. This forum, hosted by the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit (DARU) and the Victorian Disability Advocacy Network (VDAN), sought to provide information on all this activity, in particular how they relate to each other.
My submission to the Mental Health Act review following the release of the Draft Exposure Bill. I’m including it here, for the record, because this Draft Bill pretends to be human rights compliant and based on a supported decision-making model. Which is Orwellian enough, but then it breaks new ground in double-speak when it allows involuntary treatment even if a person passes the Draft Bill’s new mental capacity test.
Compared to the wider disability sector, the mental health community in Australia remains remarkably unaware of the UN Disability Convention. This presentation on the CRPD was given at VICSERV’s conference with the theme Unfinished Business – Pathways to Social Inclusion.
The Development Studies Network at ANU publishes the Development Bulletin. I was invited to write this paper for a special issue on ‘Disability, Disadvantage and Development in the Pacific and Asia’ (No. 73, April 2009).
I’m going to boldly claim this as perhaps the most important paper I’ve written. Like many people, I regard the medical, psychiatric colonisation of the human psyche as one of the great calamities of our time. And the champion of this colonisation is the Mental Health Division of the WHO. This paper wades through the double-speak of the WHO’s own documents to show that while they might talk the talk of human rights, they certainly do not walk the walk. On the contrary.
The wonderful Bob Sapey at the Centre for Disability Research at Lancaster University was interested in my idea of replacing the Mental Health Act with a Suicide Prevention Act, an idea I raised in my 2008 paper Is Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment “Reasonable, Necessary, Justified and Proportionate”? Bob asked me to present a seminar on this at Lancaster Uni during my visit to the UK. This Powerpoint presentation is based on the 2008 paper.
The observant reader will recognise this as the title of my PhD thesis. David Harper, another wonderful guy I met on this tour of the UK, invited me to speak about my PhD to his students at the University of East London (UEL). So this presentation represents an overview of my thesis – with about 15 slides at the end on ‘Further Topics’ that are more like an appendix to, rather than part of, the presentation itself in the preceding slides.
The Quarterly Essay describes itself as “Australia’s leading journal of politics, culture and debate” where each issue features an in-depth essay on a specific topic by an invited author. The following issue then includes some shorter articles from invited respondents. The Quarterly Essay 18 (June 2005) featured Gail Bell’s essay on The Worried Well: The Depression Epidemic and the Medicalisation of Our Sorrows. Although Bell’s original essay is not included here, my response is self-contained and worth including in this library, I feel, as it presents my critique of the disease-mongering occurring in Australia under the pretence of an ‘awareness raising’ campaign on depression.
Liz Sheean and her team at the Human Condition Bookshop have been a great support for both me and my book. This is an interview with me in their journal Psychotherapy in Australia (aka Psychoz) that I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on. Probably the best plain language summary of my main ideas. Recommended. (pdf only, I’m afraid, because it’s formatted for the journal.)
I was asked to write on this theme of the urge to die by CAPA, the Counselling and Psychotherapy Association of NSW, who published it in their journal The CAPA Quarterly (May 2011). Re-reading it now leaves me feeling rather wistful. It’s a quite personal and reflective piece on my decade as a (dissenting) suicidologist, including some of the bruises I’ve picked up during this time. But it finishes with a hopeful call for the broad community conversation on suicide that underpins all my work. (Once again, only in pdf format because of the journal’s formatting)
Quite early in my activism I realised it was a waste of time speaking to (medical) doctors, we needed to speak to the lawyers – in particular, human rights lawyers. I then spent quite a few years engaging with the main human rights players in Victoria, sitting on their committees, speaking at their forums and generally nagging them to pay more attention to the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities. But around this time (July 2011) I finally saw that all of these players were in fact part of the status quo discrimination against mad people. It hit me like a kick in the guts. These are (mostly) good, well-intentioned people, many of whom I had developed a quite warm and fond relationship with. It took the wind out of my sails. Big time! (Plus I believe this contributed to the collapse of my immune system at this time). This Open Letter was written in a rage against those who pretended to be our allies but all the while were advocates, and therefore perpetrators, of the systemic violence against us – and thus contributing to the suicide toll. It was time to name names.
Thinking (Differently) About Suicide Conference Program
A very special paper for me. It has effectively become my ‘swansong’ since retiring from activism due to ill-health, and it seems a fitting paper for this purpose. It also was written for a conference that stands out as the highlight, the high point, of all the conferences I’ve been to.
The conference was called Searching for a Rose Garden – Fostering Real Alternatives to Psychiatry and was part of a series of events on “Survivor Control: The Rights and Self-help Opportunities of People with Psychiatric Experience” that were organised by the Berlin Association for Protection against Psychiatric Violence.
All but one of the speakers at this international conference were psychiatric survivors. And so were most of the audience. Finally, a major conference by and for us. And they wanted me to speak about suicide, bless ‘em, despite their tiny budget (and the cost of flights from Oz). I shared a session with the extraordinary Clare Shaw talking about self-harm with so much more good sense – and passion and wit – than you’ll ever hear at a suicidology conference. We were brilliant! But there was so many great talks from so many wonderful survivors – Maths, Iris, Angie, Terri, Alison, Peter and Peter, I love you all.
But extra special hugs and love for my dear friend and comrade Jasna and her partner Zofia, who made this very special occasion possible for me.
DPI Conference (abstract only)
One last conference before I ‘retire’ … I stumbled through this talk with my new disability at the conference of Disabled Peoples International (DPI) in Durban, South Africa, where the CRPD was a major focus throughout the conference. In it I argue that there is there a very real danger that the CRPD might become the CRSPD – the Convention on the Rights of Some Persons with Disabilities. I illustrate my argument with two case studies, one local looking at the Mental Health Act review in Victoria where I live, the other international looking at the WHO’s global mental health campaign.
Online Opinion describe themselves as “Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate”. As part of the end of year issue, they invited various authors to comment on whether their ‘field of expertise’ deserved a visit from Santa. This is my response – no downloads or html copy, just the link to their website.
… it’s now November, 12 months later, and I’m considering coming out of ‘retirement’ for a conference in Sydney next month … dunno if I’ll be strong enough, but hoping …
Phew … it’s been a long time …