Mad in Ireland: A powerful voice for the new paradigm in mental health

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Mad in Ireland’s mission is to serve as a catalyst for fundamentally rethinking theory and practice in the field of mental health in Ireland, and promoting positive change. We believe that the current diagnostically-based paradigm of care has comprehensively failed, and that the future lies in non-medical alternatives which explicitly acknowledge the causal role of social and relational conflicts, abuses, adversities and injustices. Our principle mechanism towards this mission is to provide an alternative media platform that gives voice to the new paradigm. During 2023, we continued to expand our offerings, as our own skills, contacts and cohesion amongst our mixed bag of an editorial team has developed and broadened. 

We also travelled to Copenhagen (some of MII team with founder of Mad in America Bob Whitaker pictured above) for a world meet-up of all of the global affiliates of Mad in America. We held fruitful discussions about increasing our reach, sharing content and the importance of not only giving voice to personal stories in an ethical, journalistic manner – but in also having science on our side and because of this, feeling confident in challenging the powerful vested interests seeking to maintain the status quo. The problem often can be, however, that mainstream media seeks comment from those vested interests and other voices are not given equal – or sometimes any, weight. This is particularly evidence in the debate – or perhaps the non-debate around antidepressants in Ireland. Despite the widespread prescribing of these drugs, the Irish population does not hear public discourse about the potential problems these drugs can and do cause. This is changing in the UK, as we covered on our site, but as yet, the Irish public remains largely in the dark about the dangers of these pills and there is nowhere people can go to receive advice about tapering.

Personal opinion and blogs

Whilst we strive to showcase relevant research, news, policy discourse, art & poetry, podcasts in the Irish context and globally, it is the personal voice in opinion pieces or blogs that reveals the stark reality of mental health in Ireland. On one hand hearing these stories first hand, often harrowing, reminds us that the ineffective bio-psychiatric paradigm still has a national stranglehold on the lives of people in distress seeking help In Ireland and on the other hand, people have spoken out about their own healing journeys and their own roles in reshaping mental health discourse. Drawing on mainstream media outputs, people have had the opportunity to publish a personal critical reflection on stories that may have otherwise gone unchecked. Here we have had the opportunity to publish some of the good things that are happening in the community. Our art, humour and poetry section for free expression remains a slow burner, yet the beauty and passion within the offerings of 2023 beg for more and more in 2024. 

Trending themes 

Perhaps not surprisingly a number of themes appeared in research and news submissions; Stigma, young people’s mental health, psychiatric medications and mental health practices. Mad in Ireland’s opening editorial at the beginning of the year shone a light on what seemed to be retrograde psychiatric practice in response to young people. There appears to be selective commonsense within practice discourse, in particular an attempt to move away from medicalising and disorderising young peoples natural response to the world around them.  However, the more we read of the outpouring of research into the damage caused by psychiatric medications and realise the challenges in Ireland faced by anyone who would like to taper themselves of medication, the more critical it is that support and possibilities for people wishing to choose alternatives towards healing than psychotropic drugs are availableOf course stigma and discrimination remains front and centre for people diagnosed with mental illness. Whether a celebrity or anyone embodying stigma, there is no indication in anything published that it is getting any less. Indeed if we reflect on earlier items on policy, it would seem that our own policies are continuing to enable discrimination.

Policy shifting

Looking to the wider landscape in 2023, we covered the ground-breaking joint publication by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) which calls on governments around the world to make radical reforms in mental health laws to promote human rights in order to protect the rights of everyone who interacts with mental health system. It is worrying that this report and global press event didn’t get any other media coverage in Ireland, aside from our own report

Mad in America founder Bob Whitaker, who has himself suffered in his career as a result of speaking truth to power, wrote a powerful and heartfelt editorial, stating: “the WHO document, if could be boiled down to a succinct two-pager, makes this declaration: Forced treatment is a gross violation of human rights, and laws that allow for people to be locked up against their will and forcibly treated must be struck down and replaced with legislation that protects their rights to be free from such coercion.” 

Watchful eye

Mad in Ireland’s role is to be hopeful about the new paradigm, but also to remain watchful. We put a lens on the Irish response to these growing calls on the international stage to embed human rights into mental health treatment. Our own Mental Health Commission now states that it wants to see a shift towards rights based mental health practice. Perhaps ironic, when we still have active mental health legislation that ‘others’ anyone with a mental illness. Talk of human rights approaches and training for frontline services and staff bodes well, but requires an ongoing critical gaze, lest it becomes another soundbite. Dual Diagnosis (having substance use and mental health difficulties)  has featured prominently in politics and promised service changes in 2023. Following several failed attempts to establish a clinical programme for dual diagnosis, years of clear research recommendations and much politicking, the Dual Diagnosis Clinical Programme and action plan was published in August 2023. Mad in Ireland have been following developments and we believe contributing to the discourse in our own way. Watch this space for a vital critical voice on policy shifting in 2024.

Content – submit to us in 2024

We know from contemporary research that podcasts have become popular and important source of information and an attitudinal shift for people interested in anything ‘mental health’. Mad in Ireland are embracing this trend with once off bespoke single episode features and our own ‘ Fields of Healing’ podcast series.

We will continue to bring you Irish podcasts during 2024 and also make sure to subscribe to our sister affiliate site Mad in America, which hosts in depth weekly podcasts across a range of topics relating to the new paradigm. We want to enrich our content and materials during 2024 and so we want to hear from you. Get in touch with your own story or opinion, relevant research, newsworthy reporting, art, poetry or music and join the chorus of a new mental health approach – a healing journey based on informed consent, effectiveness and choice. We would love to hear from you. 

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