Recently I attended a symposium organised by Community Work Ireland which was called ‘Shifting the Paradigm on Mental Health -A Call to Action-‘. The day aimed to establish or enhance the community work mental health network and to act in making a paradigm shift happening away from the medical model to mental and emotional well-being. In this article, I would like to bring you to fields of medicine that are not explored and understood because we do not care about ourselves enough. Many only bother about their well-being when things go wrong and are devastated when the doctor comes up with a diagnosis. But when we start listening to our heart and we are enabled to express our worries in confidence on a regular basis, we start real prevention, avoiding intervention with conventional medicine which allows psychiatrists to continue their practice.
Some ten years ago after my last psychiatric admission, I chose to use my expertise of being abused for medical purposes by psychiatry for the alleviation of the suffering of my peers who are worse off. I was lucky in a way because through my self-education, my six-year study of homeopathic medicine, and years of professional experience I was grounded in the belief that I was the only expert on my own life. I was convinced that those who tried to tell me that there was something terrible wrong with me, the psychiatrist, the psychiatric nurse, and another doctor in conventional medicine, were wrong and I was right. I discovered that working relentlessly in aid of the marginalised helps to make your problems seem more insignificant and makes you even more determined to continue your fight for justice. While I was still at rock bottom myself and drugged up to the eyes, I started to connect with people that I met in the psychiatric unit and this made the ball rolling for me.
Social medicine & self-help groups
I set up three types of self-help groups each to socially integrate marginalised people. In doing so, I socially re-integrated myself and increased my network of like-minded people. One of those self-help groups is Listen-to-your-Heart and through the monthly Zoom group meetings of peers, which recently merged with MindFreedom Ireland, we hope to establish several of these Listen-to-your-Heart self-help groups throughout Ireland. Local Listen-to-your-Heart self-help groups will function independently like cells yet in line with the aims of MindFreedom Ireland. Each of them will have its own constitution and credit union account functioning like local community groups among community groups with an opportunity to get funding from partnership companies and/or County Councils while enjoying membership in local Public Participation Networks.
All of this is in continuous development towards the perfection of my social enterprise which endeavours to develop a social medicine in which only the best of all medicine will integrate with homeopathic medicine. This is a steep learning curve and many times it surprises me how I succeed in making true what once was a dream-like vision shortly after my last psychiatric admission when I was helping my wife with hanging out the wash. As it happened, I am clairvoyant, a dirty word in the academic world I know, but I nevertheless would like to appeal to your broadmindedness, because I know you are inclined to understand, let us say, hearing voices and other extrasensory impressions, as issues that need to be understood for the benefit of those who you feel obliged to help. Well, I am one of them and I have the intention to cooperate in aid of the most vulnerable of which many among the general public have no idea that being ignored, humiliated, and trampled on as they have experienced is currently possible in our country. This is on one hand very personal while on the other it is essential that mutual understanding spreads quickly to make people see that there is nothing wrong with having exceptional gifts. Someone exceptionally gifted with a mind for mathematical thinking will be celebrated in this age because maths is essential in statistics, information technology, etcetera, supporting us in a cultural need to control each other and in particular our future. My talents do not meet those current cultural needs on a superficial level, yet on a deeper individual level we are craving to be understood and feel well about ourselves and this is where my practice for homeopathic medicine plays a significant role.
Homeopathic medicine is invented by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann in 1796, and ever since homoeopathy, as a medicine for the future, goes from strength to strength. Homeopathy is a person-centred medicine, meaning that we work with the personal narrative on mental, emotional, and physical well-being for as long as the client feels this is helpful to achieve happiness. We regard symptoms and characteristics only from the individual point of view involving their coloured norms and values. At every consultation, we look for those symptoms and characteristics that emphasise what makes one stand out and we prescribe individualised remedies that meet the needs of the whole individual mind-body organism. Each prescription supports the drive, innate in all of us from the time of conception till the moment we die, to be happy and healthy, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Considering the broader context
A simple backache for example is assessed through the coloured glasses of the suffering individual with the purpose to understand the issue from her point of view only. This may be a hairdresser with the responsibility to keep the family afloat financially. A GP and/or a specialist are totally focused on the back issue and do this predominantly from their system’s point of view. So, the patient provides the pointers that they use to understand it in terms of evidence-based pathology. Then they prescribe a generic drug or a medical procedure that may alleviate the physical complaint alone. But a practitioner of homeopathy takes the broader context into consideration as well. While taking more time out to listen carefully to the hairdresser, guided by his empathy, he explores with her the possible causation of the backache from her point of view and establishes what she is already doing herself in order to cope with the pain and discomfort. During the consultation, she could tell me about her ability to ease the back pain by lying with her back on the hard floor. What really stands out for me and what amazes her is how every time again when the work pressure is on, which aggravates her health problems, she declines any support from others, because of her relentless will to pursue her career independently. The pressure to make ends meet financially seems to aggravate headaches and muscle tensions in the neck and back. In all individual situations, we support a change in attitude with natural remedies that sustain lasting relief. This attitude is profoundly who you are, physically as well as spiritually, and rather through influencing instead of intervening we help to change this attitude if it is deemed to be not sustainable from the client’s perspective. The remedies are not chemically engineered but derived from whole natural substances and are diluted to the extent that only the curative properties remain. The homeopathic practitioner avails over an arsenal of more than 4000 natural remedies, each with their therapeutic properties, and aided by the laws and principles underpinning cure we are enabled to choose a remedy that supports the individual in getting better of her own accord.
In any consultation for the purpose of medical care, there are always two points of view, that of the client and that of the caregiver. In homeopathic consultations, we rely on equality in which the expertise of the client (her personal intake on her complaints and her life) and that of the practitioner meet in an effort to derive together at the most individualising remedy. This is in contrast with conventional medicine, including psychiatry, where the applicable therapy literarily all depends on the final word of the medical expert and most do follow up on their advice.
While psychiatrists attempt to deal with their issues through blunt questionnaires, asking as many as possible closed questions to avoid any personal input from the vulnerable person, they do effectively NOT listen. They do this because they wish to rely fully on their pitiful system and distrust their patients utterly in the hope they might reveal some objective, quantifiable aspect that confirms their beliefs. Psychiatry, as the pinnacle of evidence-based medical efforts to fight all pathology and medical conditions under the sun, is based on the presumption that our mind is but a product of complex dead material processes in the domain of neurosciences. In their estimation, free will is but a fantasy in the end because it all is depending on the biology of how the brains work. We are not our brains! This is critical, so please read how the Dutch physician and neurobiologist Dick Swaab proclaims the opposite in his popular, easy to read, book ‘We are our brains’ but also read my book ‘Psychiatry and the joy of living together -An intake on reality beyond the expected evidence base-‘. The paradigm switch we are longing for is a gradual cultural and global one and can only be comprehended if we are willing to think outside the box and dare to include our current paradigm itself which is maintained by materialism in the sciences.
Loneliness and isolation
The key to social medicine from my point of view, a perspective formed by over 22 years in homeopathic practice, my personal encounters with psychiatry, and my almost 10 years of experience in peer support, is that loneliness and isolation are the chief causatives and maintaining factors to mental, emotional, AND physical unwell being. Stress is normal and can even be helpful in situations that require our full attention if we are able to manage it. Stress needs to be managed at all times and one of the best ways is to learn together through social integration so we can relate better to stress factors. Physical exercise is another important way of dealing with stress but, besides the many health benefits it brings along, it does not help directly to better deal with the stress factors through changing one’s attitude. By now, after many years of not engaging with practitioners of homoeopathy, it is generally accepted in medicine that stress can be the cause of many ailments under the sun, such as heart disease, chronic high blood pressure, asthma, obesity, diabetes, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. This insight is a relatively recent development in medical science while to homeopaths it is common sense since homeopathy was founded over 220 years ago. Now, social exclusion drives people into loneliness and isolation, and this debilitates individuals to relate to others with similar stress factors in their life, which aggravates the stresses. In that way, it helps to increase the prevalence of not only mental and emotional well-being but also disease in general.
Psychiatry drives vulnerable individuals deeper into isolation and has a place in our society as long as our neoliberal grab-it-all culture of self-enrichment and consumerism remains at the heart of living together. A word that encompasses the two is materialism and this connotes our desire only to be fulfilled with what the senses have to offer and our plain ignorance of spiritual matters, such as they become manifest in unconditional love and care. In other words: we predominantly seek happiness in material well-being by consuming more of the same and perfecting our material lifestyles to the extreme. To a certain degree, we all are part of it as this is the way our contemporary life works. It is impossible to escape it other than becoming a totally reclusive far away from “civilisation”. We are born in this society and stained with its fruits while all is put in place to sustain a bright future but at the cost of what?
Our society is geared up to meet the challenge of economic survival and this starts as early as in our childhood when we are educated for that purpose only. Children are educated to meet the needs of our economic welfare by a few policymakers at the top who decide on the curriculum. Dedicated teachers follow up on their advice but also bear the responsibility for the individual child. They are very passionate and sincere in their efforts to make our children comply. And with respect for all those involved in education, I have to conclude that they do it with love and care indeed but so far, they did not consider the disastrous consequences carefully enough of the overall direction.
Taking into consideration that society needs to be in support of consumers we proclaim to be civilised and make sure that also those living on the breadline continue to support those making breathtaking profits and do not revolt. “Wise” governments do commit to keeping the silent majority at ease while doing everything to please the filthy rich multinationals and individuals. Money dictates the globalising economy and therefore this requires production scale enlargement. While the economic system demands to care for the facilities that support our economic activity, those at the helm see their gross income continue to rise at the cost of squeezing the middle class, fortunate enough to be in sustainable jobs and have a roof over their head while more people are pushed into precarious conditions. Money goes from the poor lower class to those who have money to burn and, in the meantime, we do anything to avoid our children to fall out of the education system and to help them to meet the needs of our industrialised nation. Here I think of the introduction of Special Needs Assistants in National Schools, Autism Units, Career Guides but also the point system in secondary schools, all very debatable initiatives to help our children to comply with industrial demands in adult life. Yet, our desire for materialistic fulfilment remains unquenchable because it has become our way to cope with life and avoid more hardship. This triggers the for-profit industry to work more “efficiently”, to become more demanding towards their employees and it also obliges governments to tighten their finances, all with the help of information technology.
People are increasingly occupied with their material needs and consequently, the care for a lonely neighbour, a family member in a nursing home, a child with special needs, or a loved one in distress is becoming more and more in jeopardy. Anxiously we are overly occupied with our own well-being which increasingly depends on our income, the things we have, do not have and are saving for. Money and our hunger for material satisfaction are driving us apart and this is most noticeable in modern societies where more people are becoming marginalised, such as our senior citizens, people with intellectual learning difficulties but in particular those who are not readily understood as they lack the skills to come along with the unhealthy hasty pace in this day and age. But not only individuals are marginalised, but also rural areas in Ireland such as the midlands. What happens is that young people, many of them well-educated, move to Dublin and other industrial areas in the hope they will be able to make a good start. Also, many take it on to commute and drive 2 hours up and down to their work to make life happen for them. This is all detrimental to living together in a rural area as it pressurises people in ways of living, they can realistically not afford. The remaining rural communities cry out for help from the government demanding assistance and over the years funding is arranged via several European, national, and local organisations for increasing social inclusion against the increasing forces of globalisation.
Loneliness and isolation are by far the greatest causative and maintaining factors to mental and emotional distress and are caused essentially by our preoccupation with our fulfilment of the senses and so our material needs. Over the years we have established a society that meets the requirements for economic survival to a high degree in line with the effects of globalisation and our education system plays an important role in meeting that need. Instead of adjusting to the needs of our youngest citizens, we push them into learning things that are not in line with their gifts and talents. This is helpful in developing young individuals with lacking self-esteem, have an unfulfilling life, maladjusted to what is expected. This leads to an array of social problems from traumatising violence and abuse in the family to individuals living in isolation and not being able to socially engage to a healthy extent. Social medicine, with homoeopathy as a front runner, recognises these obstructions to full social participation as factors that inhibit us from developing our full potential for human citizenship, namely the potential to unconditionally care and love.
Real progress has been made on behalf of those rejected and forgotten about through the establishment of self-help groups where we make time for each other and attentive listening is paramount. Attentive listening is open-minded listening directed by your compass(ion) while you suppress giving in to voicing your own opinion until it is your turn to speak up to your heart’s content. Through attentive listening, we listen with respect for someone else his/her predicaments and perspective and in doing so we increasingly allow ourselves to manifest in confidence. Listening in this way is the key to the success of Listen-to-your-Heart as it aids the stability of the group and unleashes a much-required passion for justice. A true paradigm shift comes about when we listen attentively to one another and enable our true identity to manifest, the human identity that the well-cultivated scientific method helps us to suppress at all costs.