I will be facilitating a screening and discussion of the film Crazywise at Amistad in Portland, ME on March 21, 2019 at 5-7:15pm.
This is an amazing film. Director Phil Borges had interviewed around 40 shamans from all over the world and found they got their start in similar ways. In their teens or early 20’s they started hearing things others did not hear and seeing things others did not see. They were identified as having a special gift or sensitivity and had mentors to train them how to use their abilities as shamans to help their communities. He draws a comparison with the much different treatment for the same experiences that young people in the West receive from the mental health system.
For resources related to the film:
There is a good Ted Talk by Phil Borges while in the process of making the film with over two million views. It was posted February 23, 2014 titled Psychosis or Spiritual Awakening: Phil Borges at TEDx UMKC.
There is a great interview of Ekhaya, one of the subjects of the film by Madness Radio and posted October 1, 2017. The interview touches on some of the training she underwent to become a shaman.
I was graced with the opportunity to attend a three-day Hearing Voices Network Facilitators’ Training this month conducted by Western Mass Recovery Learning Community trainers. Within the Hearing Voices Network all possible explanations for experiences that would typically be labeled psychosis in a clinical setting are welcomed and allowed along with the additional perspective that the experiences are just a normal variation of human experience. It was stated that one in 10 people hear voices at some point in life and two thirds of them never seek psychiatric services. The Hearing Voices Network is composed of self-help groups throughout the world where people come together to talk about their voices, visions, and unusual experiences in a non-clinical environment with no assumption of an underlying illness to their experiences and no requirement to have any exposure to the mental health system to attend groups. Each individual is allowed the freedom to interpret their experiences in any way and the group accepts that voices and visions are real experiences. The Hearing Voices Network can be considered a civil rights movement that started when a patient confronted the psychiatrist Marius Romme in the 1980’s about limitations of the psychiatric care being provided. Regarding psychiatry’s attempts to stop voices with treatment, Romme eventually compared “eradicating people’s voices to forcing homosexuals to become heterosexual” (Sapey & Bullimore, 2013, p. 4). The groups started in the United Kingdom and are in at least 32 countries around the world now. In the United States there are at least 94 registered groups. The State of Maine Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services has been funding trainings to facilitate the growth of Hearing Voices Network groups. Though not all Maine groups are listed yet, http://www.hearingvoicesusa.org/ does have a listing of some Maine groups including one in Portland. There are additional meetings in Maine forming at peer drop in centers.
Sapey, B., & Bullimore, P. (2013). Listening to voice hearers. Journal of Social Work,
In a 2013 United Nations report on “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” it was stated that:
“…medical treatments of an intrusive and irreversible nature, when lacking a therapeutic purpose or when aimed at correcting or alleviating a disability, may constitute torture or ill treatment when enforced or administered without the free and informed consent of the person concerned.”
Saddened by the increase in forced treatment in America, I submitted a related abbreviated personal story to Mad In America:
Phew! I just finished Diagnosis and Treatment Planning, my toughest class. I hate not only the idea of writing people off with labels, but the pressure to think in terms of them never recovering and writing plans from that perspective goes against my hope for everyone to find freedom to be just who they are.