Sunday, July 22, 2012

Laughing our way through a double-dip recession...

Across history and cultures, if you are seen as ‘different’ or perhaps question the status quo, the prescribed method of the state has been to tell you to shut up, or else lock you up. Religion has played no small part in this too. Just think witchcraft - think sexuality - think gender. Incarceration and execution. Homosexuality as a mortal sin: and then post-enlightenment, as a diagnosable illness that only this year, the psychiatrist Dr Robert Spitzer recanted his theory that if you were gay, you could be ‘cured’. Widely seen as one of the architects of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which is the ‘bible’ of the the American Psychiatric Association, and in which for years homosexuality was categorised as a disease, the DSM isn’t without it’s detractors, who argue it perpetuates the beliefs of a small number of powerful psychiatrists and by proxy, the pharmaceutical industry.
Psychotherapists like Gary Greenberg in his book Manufacturing Depression, suggest that the pathologising of human nature is pernicious, and it could be that ‘the depression epidemic is not so much the discovery of a long unrecognised disease, but a reconstitution of a broad swath of human experience as illness.’

It was with Greenberg’s comments in mind, around the pathologising of human discontent as disease, that I read with some disquiet, economist Lord Layard’s comments that, ‘If you go back 30 or 40 years, people said you couldn't measure depression. But eventually the measurement of depression became uncontroversial.’ 
With the first set of results on happiness for the governments national happiness/wellbeing index due this week from the Office for National Statistics - and with Layard something of a happiness tzar: the assertion that depression is all neat, measurable and uncontroversial is divorced from reality. Yes, we all know that treatments have, by and large improved, as has general understanding of mental ill health, but the assumption that human nature can be weighed out, compared and categorised still dominates, and in turn the relationship between those manufacturing the ‘cures’ and those diagnosing the ‘disease’ still exists. Earlier this month, I shared the story of the GlaxoSmithKline $3billion payout for ‘bribing doctors and encouraging the prescription of unsuitable antidepressants (Paxil) for children’, and having ‘paid for articles on its drugs to appear in medical journals...’ Therefore, it’s relevant that of the ‘authors who were selected and who defined the DSM-IV psychiatric disorders, roughly half had had financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry at one time.’

So no, the measurement of depression is not clear cut Lord Layard and subjective happiness - on a scale of 1 to 10? I’m a sceptic, a cynic - no a pessimist, and I’m told that this is unhealthy, after all, our government aspires to be the next Bhutan! Happiness by government target? Well judging by our ranking in all the global measurements of wellbeing, we’re not doing too well. Still with the right medication, we can passively laugh our way through our double-dip recession.
Greenberg again, gets it right: ‘To think of pessimism as the symptom of an illness and then turn our discontents over to the medical industry is to surrender perhaps the most important portion of our autonomy: the ability to look around and say, This is outrageous. Something must be done.’

Talking of being incarcerated for expressing dissent or opinion in the face of an oppressive  state/church, lets remind ourselves of the non-violent protest of Pussy Riot back in February 2012. The Independent reports that, the three members of a feminist punk band arrested for singing a protest song in Moscow's main Orthodox church must remain in custody.
The trio, part of a collective called Pussy Riot, were told they would be kept in detention for a further six months, until at least 12 January. The case involving Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Ekaterina Samutsevich, 29, has split Russian society. The women have been in prison since they were arrested in February for performing an impromptu rendition of a song "Blessed Virgin, Mother Mary, Drive Putin Out!". They sang the "punk prayer" at the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour two weeks before the presidential election that returned Mr Putin to the Kremlin. They could be jailed for seven years if they are convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred".

Five women took part in the prank, dressed in the trademark coloured balaclavas worn by the Pussy Riot collective. Ms Tolokonnikova, Ms Alekhina and Ms Samutsevich were arrested a fortnight later after a video of the stunt went viral on YouTube. On Thursday, a lawyer for one of the cathedral guards, who claims to have been a "victim" of the women's alleged hooliganism, accused Pussy Riot of being supported by the same "Satanic forces" that carried out the 11 September terrorist attack in New York in 2001. Read more by clicking on the very satanic image of the three incarcerated women who used music to comment on politics, below.

François Matarasso
Echoing many of my blog comments on worries about understanding the value of the arts in terms of reductionist methods, I hope you’ll find this new paper from François of great interest. A Different Heartbeat is an account of a residency by musician Patrick Dineen at the Kidney Dialysis Unit, Royal Liverpool University Hospital, in spring 2011, with drawings by Mik Godley. A Different Heartbeat describes an intimate, small scale arts in health project, and places it into a wider context of questions about chronic illness, well being and the nature of benefits. It is an essay by François Matarasso and is a reflection on particular experience, and so about as far from a randomized controlled trial as it could be. But perhaps in that difference is something of value also.

Clore Duffield Poetry awards
The Clore Poetry and Literature Awards fund poetry and literature initiatives for children and young people, under the age of 19, across the UK. The Foundation has created these Awards with the aim of providing children and young people with opportunities to experience poetry and literature in exciting and compelling ways, in and out of school. The Awards are worth a total of £1m over five years, 2011 to 2015, with individual awards ranging from £1,000 to £10,000.
For more information click on le ciel below... 

Think you can run public services better than they are being run now?
The Government has announced a new £11.5m financial support scheme that will help voluntary organisations take over the running of public services in their communities. Communities with good ideas for how they can run local public services and want to use the Community Right to Challenge, can access advice and support to develop their skills to be able to bid for and run excellent local services.The grants programme will open in mid-July and more information on criteria and applications will be available then. Read more at:
Comic Relief UK Grants Programme (UK)
Comic Relief has announced that the final funding round as part of the current UK grants strategy will open for applications on the 13th August 2012. Under the UK grants programme voluntary and community groups can apply for funding for projects in the areas of:
  • Young people and mental health
  • Sexually exploited and trafficked young people
  • Domestic and sexual abuse
  • Mental health
  • Young people and alcohol
  • Refugee and asylum-seeking women
Comic Relief provides both capital and revenue and can pay for up to 100% of projects costs but they encourage applicants to get some of their funding from other sources. On average grants of between £25,000 and £40,000 are available.  The closing date for applications will be 12 noon on the 19th October 2012. Read more at:

£2.6 Million to Help Disabled People Become MP's (UK)
The Government has announced a new £2.6 million fund designed to help disabled people overcome barriers to becoming councillors, police and crime commissioners or MPs.  The money will help meet the additional costs a disabled candidate may face in standing for election.  The fund will be open for applications until the end of March 2014. It will help disabled candidates meet the additional costs they may face compared to a non-disabled person whether these are related to transport, communication, technology or support.  In addition to the fund, a new online training package went live today, tailored to disabled people who are interested in a political career.  Grants available will range from £250 - £10,000. Read more by clicking on the anarchist symbol above.

The British Film Institute – Film Fund (UK)
The British Film Institute has announced that its Film Fund is open to applications.   Through the fund a total of £18 million a year is available for filmmakers in the UK who are emerging or world class and capable of creating distinctive and entertaining work.  The funding is available for the development, production and completion of feature films.  The British Film Institute welcome applications for all kinds of film – from commercial mainstream to experimental, from genre movies to personal stories, from documentaries to animation to live-action fiction.  Applications can be submitted at any time. Read more at:

The Art of Good Health and Wellbeing, 
Fremantle 2012
4th Annual International Arts and Health Conference
The Art of Good Health and Wellbeing
26 - 29 November 2012
The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle WA
The Art of Good Health and Wellbeing, 4th Annual International Arts and Health Conference, will present best practice and innovative arts and health programs, effective health promotion and prevention campaigns, methods of project evaluation and scientific research. Get full details of the conference by clicking on the image above.

an absence