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Showing posts with label schizophrenia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label schizophrenia. Show all posts

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Why is mental-health charity SANE promoting a survey that seems incapable of not using 'psychosis' and 'schizophrenia' interchangeably ?

SANE promotes a survey that uses 'psychosis' and 'schizophrenia' interchangeably

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

5 August

Why is mental-health charity SANE promoting a survey that seems incapable of not using 'psychosis' and 'schizophrenia' interchangeably ?

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

I do in friendship counsel you / To leave this place¹ : A response to Long Forgotten Fields (2015)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

28 December

This is a Festival response to Long Forgotten Fields (2015) (which was directed by Jon Stanford, and premiered at Raindance Film Festival 2016)

Featuring what is insightful understanding in, and in showing, whatever is happening to² Sam (Tom Campion), all of it is at the centre of Long Forgotten Fields (2015), but without its being or seeming to be ‘about that', since there are many other connected themes that question the meaning of notions of strength, trust, duty, and loyalty, and how we describe them both to ourselves and to others when we invoked them.

We are put us straight into the woodland, and then, through his sister, into Sam’s time at home on leave : an embeddedness, in the setting in Shropshire, acts as a tension with what is and becomes reality for Sam, and into which Lily [Rebecca Birch] finds herself entering, and thus becomes – at various levels – complicit...

Very positively meant, perhaps a little as if Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden (in As You Like It) actually turns out a far worse place than being in the life of a provincial French court, and subject to its ways¹ ? :

And this our life exempt from public haunt
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in every thing.

Duke Senior ~ As You Like It, Act II, Scene 1

End-notes :

¹ Le Beau ~ As You Like It, Act I, Scene 2.

² Diagnostic labels, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or schizophrenia, rarely add to the nature of such experience, or the acceptance - or other accommodation - of those who have or see it, because they are reductionist in nature.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Monday, 12 May 2014

From the archive : Much-delayed review of Max Barton’s No Magic – performance 6 March 2010 !

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

12 May

As one who came to Cambridge’s ADC Theatre (Amateur Dramatic Club (@adctheatre)) that night clutching book 6 of Harry Potter (HP and the Half-Blood Prince), it was a distinct surprise – not to say ‘spooky’ – to find that the performance opened with Potter, and, within moments, Max Barton, as his own Harry, crying out Expelliarmus !.

In the flyer’s write-up, the play’s origins in Barton’s reading of Jekyll and Hyde are made explicit. However, for anyone with a background in the world of mental-health, they make one wonder whether, in his premise for the work, he has mistaken the symptomatology of multiple personality disorder (as it tends to be called, rather than split personality) for that of paranoid schizophrenia*.

In fact, the suspicion turned out to be justified, because, although it was suggested that Harry might have been hearing voices (as those with the diagnosis of schizophrenia commonly, but not invariably do (auditory hallucination)), there was great weight placed on the notion that he was acting under the name of Edward Catcher (we do not learn Harry’s surname) as a distinct personality, who has distinctly violent, even murderous, inclinations. [Touches of Hitchock’s Psycho (1960), not to mention Powell’s Peeping Tom from the same year ?]

As the drama unfolded, any belief dissipated (although it did occasionally revive) that Barton might have seen a more subtle parallel between Hyde and the apparent subject of his own work : it had been initally fostered by the fact that the programme notes, despite the flyer’s suggestion, did not mention Stevenson after all). There was also an increasing feeling that the seeming similarities with Sebastian Faulks’ novel Engleby**, itself clearly set in Cambridge, might be more than coincidental, and that maybe, when it came to the involvement of a lawyer in Harry’s unfolding case, implausibly so. Yet, Faulks’ novel, too, appears to have, as its proper subject personality disorder, its possible origins, and its public understanding.

Interestingly, in the scenes with the lawyer, and in Harry’s prior experiences at some unnamed Cambridge college, there was an allusion to the finding attested by an apparent body of research – the link, because skunk is a highly concentrated form of hash (specially cultivated for being stronger than the ‘traditional’ forms of hash), between its use and the onset of schizophrenia. Or, perhaps more properly, the sorts of psychotic experiences to which this label is frequently applied. What made this allusion relevant was the way in which Barton’s text appeared to suggest is that there might be a cynical manipulation of such research findings, by the legal profession, to exculpate the guilty from full responsibility for their crimes – a topic more fully and knowingly dealt with by Faulks’ eponymous Corpus graduate (Harry does not get to graduate).

The way in which No Magic and Engleby both fight shy of specificity are also, one can only believe, more than chance: Faulks renames a well-known pub in Bene’t Street, but, at the same time, makes it so clear, from the choice of alternative name, which one he is referring to, as one of Engleby’s largely solitary drinking haunts, that one wonders why he has bothered. Likewise, although Barton himself is at Cambridge, we are only told in a wry way that Harry is there, in a running joke, carried off to great effect by the cast. There is, though, no way of knowing at which college the 'real' Edward Catcher was an undergraduate (although, for no good reason, one suspects Fitzwilliam).


If completed, this review would have dealt with the subjects whose headings follow, but the fact that it did not is why it is incomplete… [However, recollected comments, in square brackets such as these, have been added - there was some contemporaneous correspondence with Barton, which, when located, may provide more detail / confirmation] :

1. Blocking / staging
[The most vivid moment was one that reminded of the infernal scenes in What Dreams May Come (1998) (not to say Doré's illustrations of Dante), and the terror of Event Horizon (1997), in an effective combination of latex and lighting***]

2. Acting
[The principals were probably fine, with Barton as Harry****]

3. Ensemble
[Almost certainly generally tight enough, even if some scenes could have been dwelt on less in the playing]

4. Text
[As mentioned, there was a certain teasing coyness about where this place (Cambridge) might be, which suited the likely audience congratulating itself that it was 'in the know' - hard to remember now whether Barton's evocation succeeded, probably in the midst of in-jokes, in portraying a more recognizable Cambridge than Larkin did Oxford in his undergraduate novel Jill]

5. Further comments about pathology
[Only that the attempt to cover similar ground to Faulks also gave rise to somewhat cynical attempt to take down the whole justice system by association - a matter much in people's minds with Yewtree just now]


* A useful confirmation can be found in the published diary of Phoebe Pluckrose-Oliver, who was the show's producer :

Last night I was up until 1am in the Homerton auditorium making 3.5m by 2m frames out of Lycra and scaffolding for the set we’ve devised for the play. [...]

The frames are an important part of the set for the play, which is called ‘No Magic’. Written by a second year student on my course, Max Barton, it’s about an undergraduate who develops paranoid schizophrenia.

** Hutchinson, London, 2007.

*** This aspect seemed to have attracted favourable comment from Nathan Brooker, the (more-timely) reviewer for Varsity (though issue 731 seemed to be having a dig and /or private joke with the last of its (festive) Predictions : Max Barton will resurrect his verse-comedy No Magic).

**** The resource of is interesting...

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Skinner and Sanity

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

11 January

For Lucy Johnstone (@ClinpsychLucy) - written on a train into King's Cross

Some will be familiar with the idea of what is called (after the experimental psychologist of this name) a Skinner box, essentially a maze for rats, designed to test them (the rats) under different regimes and so make inferences about their psychological state, based on how they navigate the box.

Imagine such a box (or, rather, a series of them, say ten), on a relatively small scale, but designed to be resistant to the ingress of water. The experimental subject sees water (or a coloured liquid might be more effective) enter the system, and it is his or her job, each time, to direct it to a specified goal, either to the centre, or to one of a number of dead-ends, where there is a sink : the flow is such that, if the subject does not act reasonably quickly, the liquid will start to flow over the channels of the maze, which counts against him or her.

The subject directs the water by using baffles, i.e. insertable barriers that block the water from following any given route, and they represent means for closing off options that, once taken, cannot be undone. He or she is marked on criteria such as how quickly and effectively he or she directed the flow, whether the flow (and, if so, how much) ended up exiting from other sinks, and whether the flow ran over the channels. Say five times with each of ten target sinks, and this over ten boxes of different layout – no opportunity to run any one box successively, but in randomized order in which the five chances to tackle any given sink in any given box is allocated over the total runs, n = 500.

Analyse these data as one likes, say giving a weighting on which out of the five runs on this target in this box the results are for. Some statistically significant comparisons will result. Then imagine doing another 500 runs, and this just as training, but with the subject now told that he or she can operate freestyle, i.e. choosing the target sink, but, perhaps with penalty sinks (which might or might not be specified (beyond their existence and their number), which, if any liquid reaches first, stops the run and imposes a penalty, based on various criteria such as time elapsed, sinks blocked at that point, and a qualititative analysis of strategy. The subject would then be penalized, sometimes, for directing the water to a given sink, because it is an unstated penalty sink.

Now extrapolate all this to, say, human behaviour. X has been tested, for example, on the autistic spectrum, and been given a diagnosis. Does that mean, if the liquid is the flood of stimuli, inputs and other people’s behaviour, that we have done any more than establish that, over a thousand runs in life, X has adjusted to trying to deal with it in a number of symptomatic ways ? Maybe life has baffled X, and X has tried to understand or adjust to it, coming to find some strategies that are, if not better, than at least less bad than others for being effective, given the task specified – because of the flow, and the need to direct it, X was forced to block off some choices, and become more habituated to others.

Subject A has an experimental profile, over the two regimes of 500 runs apiece, which corresponds to what we might think of symptoms, and the tendency to exhibit or experience them, so does a similar Subject B. Otherwise, A and B may actually be more dissimilar than similar, seen in the round (outside these tests), but their test results bring them together into the same place on the spectrum – their humanity, interests, values, become valued less than what they happen to have in common :
A may resemble B, but also, otherwise, resemble C, but compare B and C and the match may not be statistically significant on a chi-squared analysis that compares their data. We could have an alphabet of subjects and more cases where the statistically significant comparisons do not predict the match with another who also matches one of the matching pair.

We could consider a tendency to depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia as other test-results, other matches or mismatches. Do they tend to persuade us that diagnosis is perhaps no more than picking and choosing between bundles of what we call symptoms, and inferring the existence of a diagnosable condition, when a rigid experimental testing such as imagined might throw us back on our common humanity, battling the flow of money, relationships, stress, etc., against time and other objectives ?

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Sunday, 22 December 2013

All's fair - if it lets you sue

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

23 December

Continuing from Nothing's fair in love and court cases

My guess is that too many people are going to be interested in the court case (and there are so many ways nowadays for news of it to be disseminated) for it to disappear : I have already outlined the tactical reasons that might lead to the decision not being appealed, and, with short time-limits usual within which appeals have to be put in, it will not be long before we know what has happened.

On the face of it, a judge finding a causal link between whatever schizophrenia is and abuse earlier in life more probable than not (the standard of proof being the so-called balance of probabilities). For those who found R. D. Laing and Aaron Esterson's Sanity, Madness and the Family : Families of Schizophrenics compelling teenage reading, this ruling has been a long time coming, of course.

However, even if it depends on its own facts, it now legally challenges the orthodoxy that this loose bundle of symptoms called schizophrenia (where A might never hear voices, but B does, even if, say, they share (what is supposed to be) delusional thinking, paranoia, and numbness of affect) is heavily genetic in origin - and, whatever happens to this case, there will still be those who argue that there is a genetic predisposition* to respond to abuse in the way that the judge has found.

In the law of England and Wales, it is established principle in the law of tort (or some say of torts (which are just civil wrongs, some of them the non-criminal counterparts of criminal offences)) that one takes one's victim as one finds him. For example, the person negligently injured who has an egg-shell skull, and for whom the blow on the head was far more serious - on account of the fact that the person from whose negligence the blow has been found to result** is liable, he or she is liable for the complications that resulted (say coma, life-support, paralysis).

Bringing a claim for compensation for 'injury' (in its widest sense) resulting from abuse typically hangs back for any criminal case arising from the same facts to be brought, for the simple reason that the standard of proof is beyond reasonable doubt, so, although there are differences in approach, terminology and procedure between the civil law and the criminal law, a conviction is almost always going to establish the basic requirements of being able to prove a civil case., because another court, with a more stringent test, has already looked at it.

Some abused, perhaps, by Catholic priests, who went on to develop schizophrenia in their mid-twenties and who have been compensated may have agreed to settle all claims in return for receiving payment. Others may not have yet brought or settled their claims (and so would not need to test with the form of agreement had bound them and precluded future cases) might still have smoked skunk, known, in the unlucky few, to correlate not with the chilled experience that they sought, but with frightening psychotic experiences that they may no longer be free from.

A case to cite this Australian judgement, then, would best be brought by someone who was abused, whose abuse has been established but not yet led to a settlement or award, and who has not used recreational drugs, so that the picture is clear and not muddied. What stands n the way are likely to be several-fold :

* Availability of funding (even with insurance, one has to satisfy the insurers and their brokers that the chances are 51% or more of winning)

* The associated willingness of the legal profession (the advice of a solicitor or a barrister's opinion will almost certainly guide that assessment of the chances of winning)

* The calibre of the solicitor and barrister who take it on

How many years will it take for all this to be satisfied, and for a case to proceed to trial without the claimant (through pressure exerted by the defendant and its insurers and brokers and / or, as a result of tactical games, the claimant's own insurers and brokers) being induced to settle or knocked out in procedural wranglings prior to trial ?

Not to seem pessimistic, but I wouldn't be surprised at 15 years. If I'm wrong, take a case - surprise me, and prove me wrong !


* We all know, of course, that even the behaviour of non-biological systems, let alone human nature, is in the DNA (as the phrase, for the nonce, has it).

** Charmingly known as the tortfeasor. It could have been indirect, in a road traffic accident (or RTA) - whatever occurred, if insurance is involved, the length of the case may rival that of Dickens' fictional Chancery one of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce...

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Nothing's fair in love and court cases

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

16 December

Prologue : For many years, employers' organizations lived with a difficult decision in the area of law (now settled against those whom they represented) of entitlement to holiday pay when off on long-term sickness absence. The employers' specious argument, which their mouth-pieces had come up with, was essentially that holiday is for people who are at work and who need a break from work, because they wanted to deny these other people what the Working Time Regulations 1998 appeared to offer them (and so save money), by claiming that they did not need holiday (or to be paid for it).

The claimants, by contrast, had an incentive to try to get paid holiday, if they had exhausted any entitlement to full pay. The one difficult decision was a blemish, but the employers' organizations were best ignoring what that one Employment Tribunal had said - it was not binding on any other Employment Tribunal, because both would be making judgements at first instance, unlike an appeal to the next body up, the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Why risk going to appeal, losing, and then having a binding precedent ? It is now what is called settled law that the employers' argument was wrong, but how much did they save by sitting on their hands in the intervening time (that difficult decision was around 2001) ? Time for some Tweets :

If one reads the very short news report, the ACC is quoted for its views at the end :

ACC said it would consider whether this decision "has any wider impact" but took the view it would have "limited" value as a precedent and it would "continue to carefully consider each person's unique situation and circumstances".

Who stands to gain - cui bono ?, in legal Latin - by talking down the significance of the ruling (the piece is vague, because it talks about appeals, but without making clear what status they had, though a district court is usually the lowest level of court) ? And how much money are we arguing about ? :

I cannot see that the ACC, if the New Zealand system operates a similar law of precedent, has any choice other than to swallow paying this handsome (and backdated) sum - it will chip away at individual claimants (at goodness knows what expense !) who get as far as this one, making each one prove it more likely than not that abuse gave rise to that loose bundle of symptoms called schizophrenia (some of which one can have, others be free from, and which is no effective predictor of effective drug therapy), case by case, saying that their 'situation and circumstances' differ (a sure tautology ?).

The only hope is for the question to get to a higher court (since this does not appear to be one), and what compromises or concessions is it in the ACC's interests to make to those individuals who fight this far ? Of course, as with the employers' organizations, they do not want what is called an appellate jurisdiction to get anywhere near the question - they do not want an aggrieved claimant, turned down at this level, to take it further and risk a precedent being made.

Is it all cynical ? Of course it is. When Thatcher's government tried to deny those claiming asylum any resource to public funds (depending on rules about when they first claimed asylum), the courts decided that, if it had intended to make an implied repeal of the National Assistance Act 1948 (for no Parliament can bind any other Parliament not to legislate the opposite - part of what is called Parliamentary sovereignty), it would have had to use clearer language. Judges do not just have to roll over and not do justice, and they can and do make our law in a significant way.

Precedent is part of that, and opponents are quick to say that one case is materially different from another (and thus that there is no binding precedent, known as distinguishing a case), or that, even if it did apply, there are, say, six reasons why the claimant should get nothing (or a nominal amount). Judges know the tricks, because they once played them, and they should try to get to a just outcome.

So the possible good news for those in the UK diagnosed with this 'schizophrenia' is that cases from the Commonwealth have persuasive force or authority, which means that, even if judgement were binding in New Zealand, it is not here, but judges will listen to argument that it is relevant to consider what it says.

Postlude (by Tweet) :

Taking which further here...

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)