Speaking about mental health and recovery, Jan 14 1-3 p.m. 2015

I am giving a FREE TALK about mental health and recovery on Jan 14th 1-3 p.m.

If you are interested in non-medical approaches to mental health/illness or my journey from mental health service user to published writer you are welcome to attend.

The talk is taking place at:

The Thrive Centre

5th Floor, Coventry Point

Market Way


To book a place (places can be pre-booked only)  please email marionaslan@aol.com  or  sarah.shelton1@gmail.com

Tele Marion: 0793 4675237

For more details visit http://www.elementalwellbeing.org


Taking back the Power

I am every colour of the rainbow and many shades in between. I own no label, no label owns me. A diagnostic homo Sapien, my bipolar is not me. I am not disabled, though my condition can be disabling. The rollercoaster is a metaphor I narrate in the blank verse of my behaviour, the discourse of my thought’s disorder and my textual laughs and screams. Bipolar is a creative sickness. Psychiatry is a symptom of an intellectual disease

The Myth of Thomas Szasz

As young person growing-up under the ideological constraints of 1980’s-1990’s Britain, I became reactively interested in a bygone age. The 1960’s ostensibly offered me a model of society in which freedom had seemed, not purely conceptual, but achievable. Thus, I became immersed in the residue of counter-cultural products of a decade, at odds with the ideological emphases of the period of my own youth. During this time of my life, I first became acquainted with the notion of anti-psychiatry, the work of R.D. Laing and David Cooper awakening me to consciousness. It was during this time that I first read, The Myth of Mental Illness by Thomas Szasz. Having recently heard of Szasz’s death, I promptly revisited his iconic work.


“Modern psychiatry dehumanises man by denying…the existence, or even the possibility, of personal responsibility of man as a moral agent.” The Myth of Mental Illness, Szazs (1961)

When I was 20 years old, I longed for the day when humankind would be free from the forces of oppression. When I was 20 years old, Szasz’s text told me that man was inherently free. Why, I asked myself, if we were free, was self-expression punishable by The State?
Szasz distinguishes between physical and mental ill health. For him, mental health issues derive from the mind’s interpretation of the problems of life. Thus, mental illness becomes a metaphor for our inability to cope with the demands of reality. Grounded in, “The real,” distress becomes our escape mechanism.
Today, I understand why Szazs’s ideas attracted me. Man is a moral agent and the focus for change; we are greater than The State. Psychiatry has been utilised as a tool to undermine the powerfulness of our true nature and assaults our basic human rights. The psychiatric patient is not beyond reason, she is subject to the coercion of The State.

However, my more mature mind has prompted me to reappraise his arguments. Now, when I read his work, I am aware of the reactionary behind his libertarian guise. For separating physical and mental health, not only sets up binary opposition but, supports right wing notions about personal responsibility; if those experiencing psychological distress are not ill, they are as accountable for their actions and behaviour as all others. The logical conclusion to this argument is that people affected by mental health issues should not be entitled to State benefits or even treated differently by the judicial system.
As a liberal, these ideas are repugnant to me. I believe it somewhat ironic that one time arguments of the idealistic left have been appropriated by the repressive Conservative government of today.
Reading Szasz again, has reminded me of the importance of his contribution to moral philosophy and my own naivety at the age of 20.