Category Archives: Aggression

Creating healthy environments in psychiatric wards

no straight jackets

No straight jackets? 

Here’s a cheerful feature from The Guardian about a new male psychiatric ward in South London called The Tarn.  Everyone working at the centre recognises the importance of creating a safe, responsible, stimulating and status rich environment for the severely unstable and often violent men who live there – and the article reports on their very positive results:

 “Francis Adzinku, the trust’s acute and crisis services manager, insists that he and his colleagues developed their distinctive approach in former, very rundown wards, and that it is much more about attitudes and principles.

“If you prepare an environment where you think people are going to throw things around, then they come prepared to do that,” Adzinku says. “But if you put people in an environment where they feel comfortable, where it is clean and where there are nice things to look at, the effect can be wonderful. The philosophy is to have, as much as possible, an ideal environment, and we have a very good multi-disciplinary team who have a clear idea of the philosophy they are working with.” read the article

Posted by: Eleanor

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The fatal consequences of not treating PTSD

The almost unbearable tragedy reported today of the former soldier David Bradley, who had not been detraumatised from the experience of serving in the Gulf War, Bosnia and Northern Ireland (discharged in 1995), and who killed four members of his family with a pistol before giving himself up to police – reminds me of a short but poignant case study published in the Human Givens Journal in 2003 about a Falklands War veteran who had lived with severe PTSD for over 20 years until being detraumatised in one session using the rewind technique. He describes his experience:

Ken is a 49 year old Falklands veteran who, between March and June 1982, experienced three terrifying events. A missile hit HMS Antelope, but did not immediately explode. Twenty four hours later, it exploded. Ken had to pull bodies out of the water as he was helping to get his colleagues off the ship.

Ken rated his wellbeing, as a result of these events, as 5 out of a possible 50. He described his life before rewind: “I don’t go to parties because of the noise. I know the balloons will bang. I pre-empt by ducking under a table. I start to sweat; it’s sheer terror for me — it takes me back to the war. I vomit — people think I’m drunk or on drugs. I feel I am back on board; I’m swaying.

“I have lain on the bathroom floor for hours because I feel so physically sick. For days I am on edge, sometimes unable to walk. I avoid sleep because of the nightmares and, after several days, I get hallucinations, I sit in the flat in total darkness for days, curtains drawn. I imagine the bus going by is a jet. The smell of fuel oil, ‘burnt pork’ makes me feel sick. I’m sweating profusely but I am cold and shaking, in a state of mental confusion.

“I was like a zombie, a robot. I saw my GP in 1983, after leaving the navy. I saw a psychiatrist for a year. It did not help; it was a waste of time. I have no recollection of what they said, apart from being told I was a manic-depressive. Medication did not stop the nightmares. I have been prescribed Valium, Mogadon, antidepressants and I’ve been given antipsychotic drugs, and they did not help.”

Seven to 10 days after rewind, he said, “The memories don’t seem to bother me anymore. I’m not fearful. I’m unsure — it’s like bereavement. I’ve had 20 years of a wasted life. It’s like coming in to the light. I felt jolly, joking and then — but what am I going to ‘do with it’? I feel all over the place. I feel like I’m born again at 50.”

Three to six months later, he commented, “I feel my face has changed. The light has come on from within; it’s a spiritual light. I am more relaxed, more at peace. I think I am content. I have laughed more in the last weeks than the last 20 years. I sleep much better; I eat well; I can relax. I feel much more in control. This has been life changing for me — no more flashbacks or nightmares; it was like a prison sentence. My partner has noticed the difference in me. She likes what she sees.”source

The surviving family of David Bradley released a statement saying “My sister and I try to cope with this by trying to believe it was not David who did this unspeakable crime but some other entity that slowly took him away from reality and into some other dark world.”

PTSD indeed strips away reality, leaving suffered ‘trapped’ in a world of heightened emotional arousal, so Bradley was in ‘some other dark world’, and the charges against him were rightly dropped under grounds of diminished responsibility due to’ mental illness’.

It breaks my heart to read about the terrible consequences that can arise from people not being effectively detraumatised after horrific experiences (not just soldiers) – so if you know anyone suffering from PTSD or panic attacks please read this article published in the Human Givens Journal (2005) which decribes how the rewind technique, eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR), and emotional freedom therapy EFT or ‘tapping’) share a common mechanism that explains their often miraculous effects on traumatised people, and also explains why the rewind technique in particular is taught to and used by human givens therapists to great effect.

Posted by: Eleanor

A breeding ground for crime

The crucial question of “how should street crime be tackled?” has risen again after the sentencing of those responsible for killing the young London lawyer Thomas Rhys Pryce.  Donnel Carty (aged 19) and Delano Brown (aged 18) robbed Pryce of his mobile phone before stabbing him in the heart.

It’s very interesting to read on the BBC message boards and Have Your Say page that public opinion seem to support the “hang ’em” solution (implying that these  “scum” are lost causes, naturally doomed to forever commit crimes until the Justice System is well enough equipped to discipline and imprison them effectively) rather than taking the more optimistic view that many young people today are bored and turning to crime only in order to fill a void created by the unhealthy environment around them.

The fact which really needs to be addressed is that everyone is born with innate emotional needs that have to be fulfilled in the world if we are to flourish and be mentally healthy.  (Psychologists call these needs ‘human givens’ because they are programmed into us from our genes.) If families, schools and society generally prevent children from getting their innate needs met in balanced and productive ways, we are, in effect, stopping them maturing well by stunting their mental and emotional life.

The rising levels of violent crime occurs as young people try to meet their innate needs, which nature is driving them to do, by turning to gangs and criminal activity because nothing else more wholesome is on offer.  Delinquent behaviour follows on from a natural effort to fulfil these needs; such as for status, control, being stretched, feeling that life is meaningful and being part of a community. Crime is a destructive path to follow, but it does fulfil many of these emotional needs for these deprived youngsters.

People don’t come into the world as criminals but much of the culture in the UK at the moment provides the perfect conditions for generating mental illness and raising children to be violent and antisocial.  It is our society that is creating young criminals like Carty and Brown.

It will require drastic measures to create a more healthy society and, until there is a deeper understanding of the importance of this backed up by the political will to do something about it, these problems and the tragedies that follow from them will only get worse.

Posted by: Eleanor

Mental Health Bill 2004 still fails to acknowledge or promote the importance of meeting emotional needs

The proposed Mental Health Bill 2004 still has some serious flaws.

The Government needs to go back to the basic principles of primary care: helping people get their innate physical and emotional needs met. These needs, the ‘human givens’, are each individual’s genetic inheritance. (Our biology determines that we cannot avoid needing food, water, attention, status, friends, being stretched in life etc.) How well our needs are met clearly depends on the quality of physical and emotional nourishment provided by the environment.

Human givens are intertwined. That is to say, if we are prevented from getting our physical needs met — by famine, accident, illness or ailments — our emotional life is affected. And when our emotional needs are not met and we suffer emotional distress — such as anxiety, anger, depression or psychosis — it can affect our physical health too.

Primary care with sufficient resources and training to act proactively in the mental health domain is not currently available. Too many people fall through the cracks, and with this Bill, they could be imprisoned and given drug treatments or ineffective psychotherapy against their will.

Compulsion within a resource-constrained mental health service will focus attention on minimising treatment and put pressure upon clinicians to prescribe drug treatments rather than focus on human needs and individualised therapy.

We believe that if society imposes an obligation of treatment on an individual, it should impose a moral obligation on itself to ensure that treatment is appropriate and available.

Posted by: Eleanor

The UK needs more than ‘Supernannies’

A few weeks ago it emerged that the Youth Justice system in the UK has reached a crisis point – with literally only a few beds available.

In response, the Government is targeting parents with their £4 million “super nannies” scheme – which will install 80 child psychologists in high crime areas to teach parents good parenting skills.

I was speaking this week to an array of psychiatrists, psychologists, GPs and other health workers at a MindFields workshop and they were all in agreement that, whilst the intentions of the Government may appear to be good, changing the way children are brought up cannot be done as a short-term, ‘sticking plaster’ task of the kind politicians love so much. No one in the room felt able to trust politicians’ ability to do much to change things for the better. The feeling expressed was that they are floundering on the major issues of parenting, mental health and anti-social and criminal behaviour in just the same way they are over the war in Iraq.

To really make a difference requires long-term – a project lasting decades. That requires a bigger, more ‘true’ organising idea about what makes for a good life if it were to carry the population with it. The work would involve changing the very nature of our culture and its priorities. Just sending in 80 child psychologists to deprived areas to give ‘parenting classes’ only scratches the surface and, ultimately, will fail unless the fundamental needs of people can be met in the environment in much better ways than they are at present.

And it really must be seen as long-term endeavour. The brains of some children are already so damaged by their upbringing that they will remain a burden on the rest of us until they die. To stop this sad state of affairs getting worse will require an almost superhuman effort driven from a clear vision that guides the work over decades.

Until all agencies, education, health, government, media, work in tune with nature – the ‘human givens’ – and start to create a healthier culture by pushing for the kind of changes needed, there will be no meaningful improvements made.

The group I was talking to were unanimous that current government policies, by encouraging the infantilising of the population instead of helping it mature, are incapable of working because the laws and systems are too complex and hopelessly unrealistic. If this is a true reflection of the world we are now living in it’s not surprising then that many children are not growing up to fulfil in healthy ways what they might otherwise be capable of.

However hard parents try, many can’t help the fact that they are bringing up their children in a deeply uninspiring, criminally inclined environment that is culturally shallow. They live in a world where greedy, selfish behaviour is encouraged by strong exhortations to emotional expression that are constantly demonstrated and encouraged through the media (strong emotions, happy or sad, keep us ‘stupid’ and easy to condition) and families are collapsing.

When can we trust politicians?

We talk to a large number of people in the caring professions and education, thousands every year, and it is clear that there is a breakdown of trust between these people and politicians. No one expects politicians to do what is needed any more, yet they all expect politicians to interfere and make things worse. Despite this, changing our corrupting environment does require political leadership of intelligence and perspicacity. Even if only some of the taxpayer’s money that is wasted each year by government (£83 billion pounds according to the European Central Bank) was spent more wisely, much could be done to achieve what is actually needed, as required by the reality of the situation, instead of political ideology.

But on the present showing there seem to be no politicians interested in creating a healthier culture, or, if they do exist, they are so bogged down in power struggles and autistic bureaucratic political and civil service systems that they can’t operate. Whatever the reason, until politicians start to sincerely seek help from people who know how to facilitate making it easier for the innate needs of children and adults to be met more healthily in this country, and back them with money, the situation will deteriorate further. Children will continue to get their innate needs met but do so in ways that diminish them and society at large, as when a child’s need to connect up to larger groups and have status is satisfied by becoming part of the local delinquent criminal gang because they have no alternative.

Working with the givens of human nature should be the touchstone of any Government policy.

Posted by: Ivan

The Origins of the Human Givens Approach

Here is some background from our Human Givens Institute website on the origins of the human givens approach. I thought it would be interesting reading for people new to the concept who might be visiting this blog:

It is now commonly realised that there is a core set of principles for stabilising the human mind, creating harmony in and between communities, bringing order to schools and colleges, making government and administration more just and effective.

These principles grew out of the work of psychologists and psychotherapists who were trying to bring greater clarity to the way people who become depressed, anxious, traumatised or addicted are helped.

In 1992 they formed a group, the European Therapy Studies Institute (ETSI), whose aim was to discover why some psychotherapy approaches appeared to work and others didn’t. ETSI quickly gained several hundred members from a wide variety of professions whose support enabled them to publish a journal, The Therapist.

Three leading figures from the start were:

joe griffin ivan tyrrell pat williams

Joe Griffin, Ivan Tyrrell and Pat Williams.

Attacking the efficacy question from a scientific viewpoint, they discarded any approach that was dogmatic or hypothetical, or that research showed was not helpful, whatever its practitioners believed. They also incorporated what they could glean from the therapeutic wisdom of other cultures and times. Then they took what was left, stepped back and set about understanding how it matched up to the emerging findings of neuroscience, asking “why does this work?”

The result was a new synthesis of everything that can reliably be said to help human beings function well and be happy, together with remarkable new insights into the purpose of some long-unexplained brain mechanisms. These derived from the work by Joe Griffin on why we dream, how this relates to depression and psychosis, the importance of the REM state, and why we are so vulnerable to addiction

In 1996 MindFields College was founded to teach people about the practical application of this rapidly developing psychological knowledge. Since then over 150,000 people have attended MindFields courses. By 1997 the term ‘human givens’ was being used so often it stuck and the first monograph on the subject was published. Soon after that the journal changed its name to Human Givens to reflect its wider appeal and it grew from strength when Denise Winn joined as editor.

From a growing need to implement these ideas into training effective human givens counsellors, the first HG diploma course was run in April 2000. The approach grew organically, refining as it was being taught and merged with other knowledge and feedback from the wide range of psychologists, teachers, counsellors, psychotherapists, nurses, social workers and others who did the diploma.

The Human Givens Institute (HGI) was set up in 2001 for people who were using the approach in their work to keep in touch with one another.

In 2003 the first edition of Human Givens: A new approach to emotional health and clear thinking was published in hardback to great acclaim. Demand was so great it was republished almost immediately and then came out in paperback.

Dreaming Reality: How dreaming keeps us sane, or can drive us mad, was published in 2004.

A new series of books, Essential help in troubled times – the human givens approach, was launched to introduce new knowledge (about getting out of depression, curing addictions and mastering anxiety) to the general public. The first two titles quickly became best sellers and a new book has just been published.

In March 2006 a higher level of education was introduced on a new course for people wishing to explore these ideas even further.

As knowledge of how human beings function continues to grow it is essential for therapists that they never stop learning. The human givens approach to therapy is an open and evolving concept — continually incorporating new knowledge and insights as they come to light — which frees us to see more clearly what really works and why, and makes therapists and counsellors more effective at relieving distress.

Posted by: Eleanor

A walk in the park

green fields

The MindFields College office is situated in a rural area of East Sussex.

While this makes the journey to work slightly more taxing than if we were in a city centre (e.g. getting stuck behind a slow moving tractor and only one train an hour at the local train station), it’s also lovely to be able to take a stroll with the dog through the brisk winter air in the fields at lunch time, gaze out the window through the willow tree at the old farm house, hear the geese honk over the ringing of the telephones, shuffle through the autumn leaves to the stock room…

But enough poetic licence, this is relevant because I’ve noticed an interesting article on the BBC news website about the launch of a new campaign by the conservation agency Natural England to get people out into nature and away from the NHS.

“The aim of the campaign is to get people to have more contact with the natural environment where they live by promoting green spaces and encouraging health professionals to incorporate them into the advice and care plans they give to patients.” 

According to a Natural England health adviser, spending time doing physical activity in the countryside is beneficial for both physical and mental health, and in doing so will take the pressure off the NHS by preventing ill-health.

Natural England also cite some findings to support their iniative:

– children with attention disorders improve with contact from nature,

– regular exercise is more likely to be kept up when it is conducted in a natural setting rather than in a gym,

– people convalescing from operations need less pain killers when they have a view of green fields,

– being close to nature cuts stress.

So, for those not fortunate enough to live or work close to the countryside, it’s worth making the effort to get out there, de-stress and improve your health!

Posted by: Eleanor