Dealing with trauma

In this clip from training delivered to care workers in Sheffield (April 2013), Peter talks through the importance of dealing with past trauma as the basis for recovery.

I would go as far as saying that all mental health issues are rooted in experience. There is a lot of talk around depression and chemical imbalance – not enough ceretonin, but does anyone check a person’s levels of ceratonin before they put them on drugs?  You don’t get depressed for no reason. It's the same with dopamine – when I was in Melbourne there was a 100 psychiatrists – they say we have seen schizophrenics brains and they are different.  My argument was that the difference could be the affect of long term use of neuroleptics, and they said 'We knew you would say that but we’ve seen schizophrenics brains that have never used medication – the structures are different'.  Well isn’t the primary function of the brain to process the environment?  Are you not looking at a brain that has been through significant trauma? 

There will never be a gene for schizophrenia found, we talk about dispositions but what is that disposition?  Can you show it me?  All psychiatry is based upon is opinion and assumption, and family history – ah great Aunt Ada had it, but there isn’t a predisposition.  I argue against the stress vulnerability model – I think its crap – nonsense – all this psychosocial intervention is built around it – when I say its crap, I mean its crap if it is not understood – there is a difference.

Tell me what the stress vulnerability model is – professionals will say it's a vulnerability to stress – no it is not!  How arrogant is it to say that I have had mental health issues because I have a vulnerability to stress.  It doesn’t matter what happened to me as a child then – being raped?  That doesn’t impact on my life?  What the stress vulnerability model suggests is that at certain times in your life you will have memories, thoughts about bad events – and they will become very very stressful – perhaps around certain anniversaries – its what happened that creates the stress.  The person is not more vulnerable to stress, its that certain points will trigger difficult times.   Someone has come over from Somalia, they have been raped and had a gun shoved in their face, they barely escaped with their life – are they psychotic because they are vulnerable to stress? – no!  They are responding to the events that have happened to them.

The wheels of mental health grind very slowly.  We are using more talking treatments, about 7 years ago the government did a big push on it.  But more often than not, the therapy is only designed to deal with the here and now and how you think – it won’t go back to childhood trauma and open that box.  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a classic example.  Its not that you were raped Peter, it is how you think about it. No its not believe you me its not!  They try and fit everything into this model – this anxiety based model – but it needs to deal with the root of the problem and not just try and change someones thinking.

The relationship is more important than the therapy – the relationship has got be collaborative and on equal footing – there has to be a balance of power.  We have got some very good workers in the health service but the infrastructure – its draconian – it doesn't work well for people in distress – something gets lost in management.

Sadly, if you get a label like schizophrenia your right to an opinion is taken from you – if you offer an opinion you are being opinionated, aggressive, delusional. We are not allowed to talk about our past, our experiences.  Its not right.  You have to not look at the behavior but the thoughts, feelings and experiences that are causing the behavior.  Addressing the past is the only way to enable a recovery to begin. 

What is recovery?
Dealing with trauma