Conference to shine light on ‘meaningful madness’

A two-day conference which will focus on madness as a meaningful human experience is due to get under way at University College Cork tomorrow.

 UCC: People can 'express anger at care system'.

Moving beyond the traditional notion of academic expertise, the speakers at the conference will include individuals with experience of “madness or distress”.

The organisers say that madness is a word that continues to invite controversy, with some perceiving it to be a derogatory term while others view it as a celebration of human creativity and diversity.

They stress that the dominant biomedical view of madness has led to responses that are primarily, and often exclusively, of a biochemical nature, in which the significance of meaning and life contexts are generally ignored.

One of the keynote speakers is Liz Brosnan, a PhD graduate from Galway who is coming from the perspective of having “survived psychiatry”. She says the annual conference in UCC is one of the few places where individuals who have experienced pain and trauma can publicly express their righteous anger at failures of the care system.

“Our pain is a natural human response to a harsh, uncaring environment, not a brain disease. At these conferences we can feel heard and respected and maybe find some comfort that professional allies are willing to listen to us about how mental health services can stop damaging our lives further.”

Another keynote speaker, Prof Gail Hornstein of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, stresses that the reframing of more and more actions, feelings, and perceptions as brain-based disorders is eroding our capacity to understand ourselves and to assess and cope with life’s challenges.

“We need to create the conditions that enable people to construct coherent narratives of their lives that can make sense of their thoughts and feelings and be expressed clearly,” she said.

“Fostering genuine relationships is crucial to this process, for it is in connection with others that we cultivate our capacities for empathy and stretch our own sense of possibility.”

The free conference is being organised by representatives of the School of Nursing and Midwifery and the School of Applied Social Studies in UCC.

* For more go to exa.mn/19i.

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