Training/Workshop – Accepting Voices – Fri 31st Mar 2017


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Suicides in northern Saskatchewan a result of colonization, not mental illness

From December, report at CBC News on a community Medicine Gathering to talk about a wave of young people ending their lives.

Psychologist Dr. Darien Thira explains how suicide is not a sickness but a response to terrible unbearable pain; a fairly natural but terrible response to colonization, the pain in the community and loss of cultural identity that brings about.


Psychologist says northern Sask. suicides a result of colonization, not mental illness

Hundreds of northerners gather to talk about wave of youth suicides

CBC News Posted: Dec 05, 2016 10:08 AM CTLast Updated: Dec 05, 2016 9:22 PM CT



A candlelight vigil in memory of three young girls was held in La Ronge in October. (Don Somers/CBC)


An expert who has worked in First Nations communities for years says a string of suicides in northern Saskatchewan won’t be solved by outside professionals.

Dr. Darien Thira is a psychologist and the keynote speaker at this week’s Community Medicine gathering in Prince Albert, Sask. The event is bringing together around 200 teachers, health workers and young people to talk about the youth suicide issue.

As of early November, six young girls had recently killed themselves in communities across the north.

“Suicide is a fairly natural but terrible response to colonization,” said Thira. “The approach that I’m coming in with is to challenge the idea that suicide is a mental health issue, because it’s not a mental health issue.”

‘Suicide is not a sickness. It’s a response to terrible pain.’– Dr. Darien Thira, psychologist

Thira said a number of factors, from residential schools to a loss of cultural identity, have damaged many First Nations communities.

“Suicide is not a sickness,” he said. “It’s a response to terrible pain. And the pain is throughout the community. I often think about suicidal people as the canary in the coal mine.”

While Thira said the situation may seem helpless, he said it’s a mistake to rely on outside experts. He said all the supports the community needs are already present.

“I think there’s amazing work being done in communities all the time,” he said. “It’s happening in families, it’s in the elders’ voices, it’s a child that says, ‘This is what we need.’ The question is, who’s listening?”

Residential schools in Canada

The psychologist said he focuses on four keys to restore communities:

Caring connection.
Having a meaningful role in the community.
Cultural and spiritual revision.

Residential schools were established in the 19th century and the last ones closed in 1996. At least 6,000 Indigenous children died while in the residential school system, according to Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“Residential schools were created to change people’s vision, but really, it stole people’s vision,” Thira said.

“So, how do we reclaim a vision? Whether it’s Christian-based or traditional-based or any other tradition, if you don’t have that spiritual root, we’re lost.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its summary report and findings last year after six years of hearings and testimony from more than 6,000 residential school survivors and their loved ones.

At the time, Sinclair called for changes in policies and programs, as well as commemoration through education and memorials, in introducing the commission’s summary report and 94 calls to action.

“Words are not enough,” Sinclair said last June, to address the “cultural genocide” of residential schools on aboriginal communities.

“Reconciliation is not an aboriginal problem — it is a Canadian problem. It involves all of us.”

Governance model

Ron Michel, chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council, agrees with Thira’s assessment.

“One of the things I’ve been relaying to governments is that you have to give us the right to govern ourselves, the right to take care of ourselves,” he said. “We’re peoples that took care of ourselves for many, many centuries, and I think it’s time to look at the governance of our people.”

Michel said he was encouraged by the enthusiasm at the event.

“This is where it all starts,” he said. “And we have to gather up the strength to talk to our people, talk to our First Nation youth and try and do as much as we can.”

The Community Medicine gathering is held by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in response to a well-publicized wave of youth suicides.

The event wraps up tomorrow.

-with files from CBC’s Jennifer Quesnel and Trevor Botherol


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Canadian judge rules in favor of forcibly adopted First Nations survivors

Long overdue, breaking news as reported today by The Guardian…

2061-1Government is responsible for trauma of 16,000 indigenous children removed from families in ‘Sixties Scoop’ between 1965 and 1984, judge said.

A group of aboriginal children sit with a nun in 1940 at a residential school in Canada, a system that attempted to eradicate indigenous culture and assimilate First Nations children. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

After a bitter legal battle that has lasted nearly a decade, a Canadian judge has ruled that the government is liable for the harm inflicted on thousands of First Nations children who were forcibly removed from their families and adopted by non-indigenous families.

Between 1965 and 1984, around 16,000 indigenous children were fostered or put up for adoption in an episode which became known as the “Sixties Scoop”.

Ontario superior court justice Edward Belobaba’s ruling Tuesday found in favour of survivors of the operation and their families, who argued that the forced removal robbed the children of their cultural identity and caused emotional damage that has resonated for generations.

Indigenous Canadians taken from homes as children get day in court

“There is … no dispute that great harm was done,” Belobaba wrote. “The ‘scooped’ children lost contact with their families. They lost their aboriginal language, culture and identity. Neither the children nor their foster or adoptive parents were given information about the children’s aboriginal heritage or about the various educational and other benefits that they were entitled to receive. The removed children vanished ‘scarcely without a trace’.”

The class-action lawsuit was launched last year, after nearly seven years of delays, mostly because of appeals by the federal government. The plaintiffs sued the federal government for C$1.3bn in damages, though a settlement has yet to be reached.

Belobaba accepted the argument that the federal government did not consult with indigenous parties before provincial agents moved in to apprehend 16,000 children from Ontario reserves.

“The evidence supporting the plaintiff on this is, frankly, insurmountable. In any event, Canada offered no evidence to suggest otherwise,” he said in the decision.

Canada consequently “breached” an intergovernmental accord established in 1965 called the Canada-Ontario Welfare Services Agreement.

“The uncontroverted evidence of the plaintiff’s experts is that the loss of their aboriginal identity left the children fundamentally disoriented, with a reduced ability to lead healthy and fulfilling lives,” Balobaba wrote. “The loss of aboriginal identity resulted in psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, unemployment, violence and numerous suicides.”

The final report of Truth and Reconciliation Commission stated the Sixties Scoop continues to cause dysfunction in indigenous families. Canada has never officially apologised.

Michael Cheena, a peer support mentor at Toronto’s Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, said Canada has an obligation to those who survived the Sixties Scoop. His work involves reconnecting residential school and Sixties Scoop survivors with their native languages and cultures.

“Reconciliation means acknowledging historical injustices and taking action to end colonialism,” he said, in reference to the court verdict. “These policies eradicated spiritual practices, cultural identity and language.”

Marcia Brown Martel, one of the lead complainants in the lawsuit said the ruling was “a step closer to reconciliation”.

“After so many years, I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my heart. Our voices were finally heard and listened to. Our pain was acknowledged. I hope no one sees this as a loss for our government. It is a gain for all of us,” she said. “There is still work to be done, but my hope is that we can now undertake that work with open hearts and open minds.”

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Moanin’ Mingus


Uh Huh!
Oooooooo- hoo!



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I’m afraid of Americans – David Bowie

i_m_afraid_of_americans_singleI’m afraid of Americans
I’m afraid of the world
I’m afraid I can’t

help it
I’m afraid I can’t

I’m Afraid of Americans
Uh-uh-uh uh, uh, uh-uh uh-uh-uh
Johnny’s in America
No tricks at the wheel
Uh-uh-uh uh, uh, uh-uh uh-uh-uh
No one needs anyone
They don’t even just pretend
Uh-uh-uh uh, uh, uh-uh uh-uh-uh
Johnny’s in America
I’m afraid of Americans
I’m afraid of the world
I’m afraid I can’t help it
I’m afraid I can’t
I’m afraid of Americans
I’m afraid of the world
I’m afraid I can’t help it
I’m afraid I can’t
I’m afraid of Americans
Johnny’s in America
Uh-uh-uh uh, uh, uh-uh uh-uh-uh
Johnny wants a plane
Johnny wants to suck on a Coke
Johnny wants a woman
Johnny wants to think of a joke
Uh-uh-uh uh, uh, uh-uh uh-uh-uh
Johnny’s in America
Uh-uh-uh uh, uh, uh-uh uh-uh-uh
I’m afraid of Americans
I’m afraid of the world
I’m afraid I can’t help it
I’m afraid I can’t
I’m afraid of Americans
I’m afraid of the world
I’m afraid I can’t help it
I’m afraid I can’t
I’m afraid of Americans
Johnny’s in America
Johnny looks up at the stars
Johnny combs his hair down
And Johnny wants pussy in cars
Johnny’s in America,
uh-uh-uh uh, uh, uh-uh uh-uh-uh
Johnny’s in America
I’m afraid of Americans
I’m afraid of the world
I’m afraid I can’t help it
I’m afraid I can’t
I’m afraid of Americans
I’m afraid of the world
I’m afraid I can’t help it
I’m afraid I can’t
I’m afraid of Americans
Yeah, I’m afraid of Americans
I’m afraid of the words
I’m afraid I can’t help it
I’m afraid I can’t
I’m afraid of Americans
God is an American
God is an American
God is an American
God is an American
God is an American
God is an American
God is an American
God is an American
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Montreal – Hearing Voices Training Workshops – April 2017

We are very pleased to announced that working with Montreal’s  Prise II and other community partners we are  able to offer our popular workshops for the first time in Montreal – so taking first steps in connecting  work supporting those who struggle in Canada’s two largest cities…


Thanks to Prise II providing their space and other support – meaning we get to focus on the content and learning – and also that we can offer you opportunity to participate at reduced price.

Please note that these workshops will be offered in English and with a funny accent.

Two workshops, two stages

accepting-voices-mntreal-april-2017-posterWorkshop #1 Accepting Voices

This workshop is designed for anyone who works with or supports in any way individuals who hear voices and struggle with their experience.

  • Offers a non-diagnostic way of understanding experiences that can be difficult to navigate and that get called names like “psychosis”
  • Offers you ways to connect your own experience with experiences others live with that are made taboo and difficult to talk about, by finding some common connection with whatever you do experience.
  • Designed to enable you to be better able and more confident to offer yourself as a one-person safe-space to a person you support who lives with experiences like voices that we have been taught to fear.
  • Provides the first step, or foundation for further learning…

For full description see here for easy-print pamphlet on #1 Accepting Voices

working-with-voices-montreal-april-2017-posterWorkshop #2 Working With Voices

If you have been successful in offering yourself as a one-person safe-space then you may begin to find that people you support begin asking you to accompany them in exploring and making sense of their experience.
When that happens you will likely find yourself wondering “ok, what can we do?”
This workshop is designed for that space-time and offers you

  • Build a deeper understanding of common relationships between difficult life experiences and difficult experience with voices.
  • Try out a handful of approaches that can be selected from and combined in any combination to explore and make sense of difficult experiences.
  • Embark on a creative and exploratory, reflective and sense making, in whatever way makes sense to the person whose life is at the center.
  • A map for exploring and reclaiming our power and as a useful tool and language for easing communicating and making choices together.

The approach is always that the person hearing the voices is the one making the choices for example about what they do, how much, and when.

For full description see here for easy-print pdf pamphlet on Workshop #2 Working With Voices

Please note that #2 Working With Voices follows on from Workshop #1 Accepting Voices. You will need to have participated to join us in this workshop.


Accepting Voices                      $100
Working With Voices             $300

Go Combo…
Early Bird Combo deal –         $350 total

Limited availability “Early bird” discount
If you book both workshops before 11.30pm Feb 28th you can save $50 on Working With Voices. Limited quantity available.


Registration is online and  open now.



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Stratford to Rio – Shakespeare as “treatment”

BBC News spotlight on the work of Vitor Pordeus and how he combines roles of art therapist and Psychiatrist,  using theatre to offer people new ways to explore states of mind, identity, role, and being in the world.

Lets face it gotta be a lot more fun and also offer a great deal more healing value than being offered nothing but sitting in a backless gown staring at a wall waiting for the drug trolley to come round again. 

Go Vitor!

vitor-pordeusFrom Stratford to Rio: using Shakespeare to treat mental illness

Exploring feelings through playing different roles is recognised as helping people with mental health problems. And the theory has led one doctor to bring Shakespeare to Rio de Janeiro.

“Ser ou nao ser, eis a questao!” – “To be, or not to be. That is the question!” bellows a rugged, masked Hamlet, against the stunning backdrop of the Brazilian city’s golden Ipanema beach.

His fellow actors begin chanting Shakespeare’s famous words, before setting off in giddy skips, their faces in theatrical grimaces, around the circular stage.

These performers are not part of a professional theatre company. They are patients from the Nise da Silveira Psychiatric Hospital – many have diagnoses of severe schizophrenia and chronic psychosis.

Hamlet is played by Vitor Pordeus, an actor and mental health activist, who is also the patients’ doctor.

He believes that theatre routines, singing and chanting rituals treat his patients’ mental health problems better than conventional drugs.

‘Now I can express myself’

Vitor says theatre is effective as a treatment for mental health conditions because it throws relationships wide open to debate.

“We can work on emotions, identities, family relationships, memories, cultural relationships. By exploring, reflecting, debating, we can decrease the power and mental weight of frightening thoughts and images lurking in a person’s mind,” he explained.

Performers in costume
Image caption: Drama therapy is used to allow patients to explore their emotions and feelings

Vitor certainly isn’t the first to promote the idea that theatre has a therapeutic effect on mental health problems, and many recognise the benefits of drama therapy.

“Theatre is healing as it allows you go deeper into a person’s story,” said drama therapist Nadya Trytan, president of the North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA).

She explains that drama therapy allows people to play different roles that allow them to project different feelings and thoughts, and can act as a rehearsal for real life situation to aid reintegration into society.

Shakespeare’s famous play Hamlet has a frequent and special place in Vitor’s patients’ repertoire.

He explains that Hamlet’s archetypical characters and exploration of states of mind are particularly useful for the actors – they allow the patients to project their emotions and to build up to roles in society.

A banner hangs above a doorway with 'Welcome to the Madness Hotel' in Portuguese
Image captionA sign greets people when they arrive at the theatre group, ‘Welcome to the Madness Hotel’

Controversial ‘cure’

Vitor’s collective, known as the Madness Hotel, rehearses in the grounds of the hospital where he works,

Caio, (not his real name), a patient who has long suffered from severe schizophrenia, says: “When I first got here I was in a really dark place but now I can express myself, and I just love singing and dancing. Theatre has helped me open my mind.”

His positive view of theatre therapy is echoed by many other members of the cast.

But Nadya Trytan explains that, in the US, the role of physician and drama therapist is usually played by different professionals; doctors prescribe drugs and assess physical progress in a more removed way.

Others have been far more critical, including those within Vitor’s own hospital.

He has been told his technique is overly simulating or agitating for the patients; others say his performing among them blurs and breaks down clear doctor-patient boundaries that patients rely on in times of need.

A performer in costume
Image caption: Vitor believes that these performances help his patients; others aren’t convinced

One of the biggest conflicts between Vitor’s approach to mental health treatments and that of more mainstream physicians is about the use of drugs.

Vitor openly admits that he has reduced his patients’ medication, shirking what he says are hideously outdated drugs prescribed to patients of the public health system.

But many say medicine must remain a central tenant of mental health treatments.

Dr Leonardo Palmeira, who runs his own clinic in Rio de Janiero where he specialises in schizophrenia, shares this view.

He does not dismiss Vitor’s work, but urges caution. “We have to be reasonable in our evaluation of available treatments: no single tool has been proven to cure mental health.

“The best results have come from a tailored mix of therapies – and theatre and the arts are a part of this complementary side of a broad spectrum of therapies. We should remember that theatre may not be for everyone.”


There’s a short Video [3.30 min] , click the link.


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Primordial Mind

If, like me, you live your life knowing first-hand and full-well, from bearing daily witness to the limitations of  thought, logic, reason and order as over-indulged, over-privileged, overrated,  as well as both limited and limiting ways of understanding  the world-universe and everything in it – and more especially a human experience within it – then you might like this mind-opening book.

Particularly, if you work in some capacity with people who struggle with being too-different in this world and find your training limits your ability to understand, then this book can be a bit of a mind-bomb.

It’s not, at least in parts, an easy read but your mind with thank you for it.



The Prprimordial-mindimordial Mind in Health and Illness: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

by Michael Robbins

The universal quest to create cosmologies – to comprehend the relationship between mind and world – is inevitably limited by the social, cultural and historical perspective of the observer, in this instance western psychoanalysis. In this book Michael Robbins attempts to transcend such contextual limitations by putting forward a primordial form of mental activity that co-exists alongside thought and is of equal importance in human affairs. 

This book challenges the western assumption that knowledge is synonymous with rational thought and that the aspect of mind that is not thought is immature, irrational, regressive and pathological. Robbins illustrates the central role of primordial mental activity in spiritual cultures analogous to that of thought in western culture as well as its significant contributions to numerous other phenomena including dreaming, language, creativity, shamanism and psychosis.

In addition to his extensive clinical experience as a psychoanalyst Robbins draws on first-hand contact with Maori and other shamanistic cultures. Vividly illustrated by first and second hand accounts, this book will be of great interest to psychoanalysts, those with a psychological interest in spiritual cultures as well as those in the fields of developmental psychology, cultural anthropology, neuroscience, aesthetics and linguistics.


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Diagnostical Bolloxupification

If the institution and business of psychiatry can make up disorders “because we could” then we can make up names for what that their doing that does to we humans.

Neologism is not, as they would have it, a “symptom” of “illness” but the very process of language- every word was once a new word – a neologism.

The whole point of a diagnosis is that it helps understand what’s going on, how we got here, what we might do to get outta here…

If a diagnosis is useful that way then it’s, er, of some use. Thing is, though,  most of us find at some point that’s not the case and the diagnosis is not really that useful, or even worse, its limiting or even damaging to our personhood.

It’s really easy to get trapped into becoming the diagnosis, at least in the eyes of others, and once in there,  more difficult to get out of than a grizzly-sized bear trap.

And even where it is of some use, the diagnosis can blind us to the human experience of the person at the centre of struggling with being in the world.
it can certainly blind-side us into seeing only the category that a diagnosis names and to which we consign puts a person into- so  that we no longer see the person- and their experience and pain of being in the world


There are many ways to bollox something up.

Diagnostical bollocks sure can bollox up a life.

In short if, a diagnosis is useful to you – helping you make sense and helping you move forward then go for it.

If it isn’t useful to you- if its not helping you make sense, helping you move forward then it’s likely boxing you in:  diagnostical bollocks that’s bolloxing you up and bolloxing up your life.

And diagnostical bolluxupification is the process of being fucked over by diagnosis.

Never Mind the Bollocks, eh?

BW all the best, mate.


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The Bottle – Gil Scott Heron

See that black boy over there, runnin’ scared
His ol’ man’s in a bottle.
He done quit his 9 to 5 to drink full time
So now he’s livin’ in the bottle.

See that Black boy over there, runnin’ scared
His ol’ man got a problem
Pawned off damn near everything, his ol’
Woman’s weddin’ ring for a bottle.

And don’t you think it’s a crime
When time after time, people in the bottle.

See that sista, sho wuz fine before she
Started drinkin’ wine
From the bottle.
Said her ol’ man committed a crime

And he’s doin’ time,
So now she’s in the bottle.
She’s out there on the avenue, all by herself
Sho’ needs help from the bottle.

Preacherman tried to help her out,
She cussed him out and hit him in the head with a bottle.
And don’t you think it’s a crime
When time after time, people in the bottle.

See that gent in the wrinkled suit
He done damn near blown his cool
To the bottle
He wuz a doctor helpin’ young girls along

If they wuzn’t too far gone to have problems.
But defenders of the dollar eagle
Said “What you doin’, Doc, it ain’t legal, ”
And now he’s in the bottle.

Now we watch him everyday tryin’ to
Chase the pigeons away
From the bottle.
And don’t you think it’s a crime
When time after time, people in the bottle.

Written by Gil Scott Heron • Copyright © Peermusic Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group
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the revolution will not be televised – Gil Scott Heron

gill-scott-heronYou will not be able to stay home, brother The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal… There will be no reruns The revolution will be live….





Gil Scott Heron explaining what they meant by the revolution will not be televised…

You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag
And skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Wood and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner
B ecause the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

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