“Patients who claim to channel spirits are immediately prescribed medication.” - Prominent Australian Psychiatrist
The above statement was made during a televised discussion about Australia’s mental health system and mental illness. Given my interest and experience in the contentious topic of ‘spiritual crises,’ it naturally captured my attention.
While I don’t channel spirits, I have been a spiritual researcher for about thirty-five years during which time I learned and experienced many intriguing things, including the healing power of spiritual mediumship and the often challenging life path that precedes a medium's calling to bring solace to many.
The work of a medium requires high levels of sensitivity, energy and giving to others. This can increase the risk of illness and imbalance on all levels - mental, emotional, physical and spiritual - if a stringent self-care protocol is not adhered to.
Lack of education and awareness about the potential pitfalls associated with spiritual healing and other metaphysical practices can easily lead to a 'spiritual crisis,' which western medicine typically diagnoses as a mental illness and treats with psychotropic medication.
“The experience of becoming wounded can seemingly break us, while simultaneously breaking us open, thereby facilitating a connection to the world of the unconscious with its inexhaustible riches. We have all been wounded, which is to say that we are all potentially wounded healers in training.” Awaken in the Dream, Paul Levy
I stumbled onto my spiritual path after the sudden death of my father in Adelaide, South Australia, 1980. At 17 years old, and with no understanding or beliefs around death, my impossible grief and inability to accept the cruel finality of never seeing my dad again, proved too much to bear. Consequently, I remained in a limbo state of denial for the next 9 years.
With few people to turn to for guidance in my personal quest to understand death and grief, my largely solo journey brought me private glimmers of solace, hope and wonder. By 1989, I experienced the onset of what felt like a liberating spiritual awakening that opened me up to new realms of loving energies that propelled me along my path like never before. My father also began appearing in my dreams and later guided me through what would become one of the scariest experiences in my life.
Sadly, with no awareness of 'self-care,' a dangerous combination of crazy hours in the television industry, too much partying, lack of sleep, exhaustion, acute stress and poor nutrition, eventually took their toll.
The straw that shattered my already fragile mental and emotional state arrived in the form of immoral South Australian lawyers and police figures who conspired to arrest and imprison me on false charges for a crime committed by one of my colleagues. Several television executives and other staff members were also adversely affected by the secret scandal that erupted due to incompetent, desperately misinformed venal lawyers and police.
If that wasn't shocking enough, soon after moving into a job at a radio station, massive silver bullets were fired through the window - a terrifying event that flipped my scales and led to the calamitous end of life as I knew it. Thirty years later, the motivation behind the bullets which were allegedly never reported to the police, remains a mystery. Maybe they didn’t like the music.
Consequently, my spiritual awakening rapidly descended into a spiritual crisis. I knew that I needed rest and counseling and hoped I would find a spiritually-minded therapist. Instead, I ended up in a psychiatrist’s office that was recommended by a friend of my mother who mistook her for a psychologist. This ultimately led to a short-lived nightmare with debilitating psychotropic drugs that almost drove me to suicide - when I was never suicidal, to begin with. Thank goodness my mother's intuition screamed at her to intervene at the eleventh hour.
I have since come to regard psychotropic medication as a crude quick fix that shuts down the spirit without identifying the root cause of the issue to enable healing to occur. While it wasn’t the psychiatrist’s fault that university taught her to prescribe medication to treat grief and anger, how did she fail to diagnose my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? This came to light several years later thanks to my friendship with a spiritually-minded psychologist.
After dismissing the psychiatrist’s damaging services, I moved interstate to begin a new job and life. In retrospect, she did me a favor because I also walked away from the drug-driven mental health system and have steered clear of it ever since. I also heard that the psychiatrist later suffered a nervous breakdown, allegedly a common occurrence in the psychiatry industry.
“Contemporary psychotherapy has, in most cases, forgotten that it’s about the soul. Not about fixing things. Shamanism is a soul-based therapeutic approach to healing. It honors whatever the person is experiencing, no matter how distressing, traumatic or painful it may be because it plays a very important role in that person’s life. Underneath the experience of fragmentation and breakdown, there is a breakthrough to another level – a rite of passage – an initiation.” - don Oscar Miro-Quesada, Peruvian Curandero & Psychologist
About a year later, a friend gifted me with a dream catcher. While I didn’t know what it was, I felt a powerful sense of love and reconnection, an awakening of something deep within me.
Compelled to learn about the Native American culture, my first teacher was Jamie Sams who is now recognized as one of the foremost teachers of Native American spirituality and wisdom. She taught me many significant things, including the 'Good Red Road' of physical life and the 'Blue Road' of spirit. I continue to learn and hold Native American teachings close to my heart all these years later.
Further education about holistic health has also taught me about the vital role that nutrition plays in maintaining our health on all levels - particularly mental health. If only I had a nutritional psychiatrist when I needed help the most - if only nutrition was taught in medical schools.
This passage sums it up perfectly:
“A lack of essential nutrients known to contribute to the onset of poor mental health in people suffering from anxiety and depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and ADHD. Nutritional psychiatry is a growing discipline that focuses on the use of food and supplements to provide these essential nutrients as part of an integrated or alternative treatment for mental health disorders.” - Joyce Cavaye, Author and Senior Lecturer, The Conversation
“There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen
I managed to find my way through the elusive tunnel to the proverbial light largely thanks to wise spiritual guidance from the native American culture and holistically trained practitioners. How many sensitive souls such as healers, artists, mediums, visionaries and empaths haven’t been as lucky? How many are trapped in lonely, mind-numbing, medicated worlds, blocked from developing and contributing their gifts to society by dismissive physicians?
This is surely humanity’s loss. A preventable loss.
Psychotropic medication may have its place as a short-term fix for mental health issues, but long-term use inevitably leads to a life of disability, disconnection, depression and poverty which, in turn, places increasing pressure on public health and welfare systems.
“A bout with mental illness can be deeply transformative. Unfortunately, due to our limited cultural and societal beliefs, many people develop feelings of guilt or shame around their experience.” Kelly Brogan, MD.
Of the 374 official mental illnesses listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), Schizophrenia is arguably one of the most contentious.
Psychiatric patients are generally hospitalized and prescribed drugs with counseling. Niall McLaren is an Australian Psychiatrist who, according to his bio, ‘occupies himself delving into the philosophical basis of psychiatry, only to find there isn't one. This has not helped his popularity with his colleagues, now well into negative territory.’
This excerpt from McLaren's recent article bears repeating:
“In the UK at present, 16% of the adult population (one in six) take antidepressants. In the US, that figure is 13%, and in Australia, 12%, up from 9.8% just three years ago, and a bare 1% in 1991. Significantly, the length of time people take these drugs is growing, meaning that once they start, they don’t stop.
The consumption of these drugs is a social phenomenon, not a disease phenomenon: there is zero evidence to say that the actual incidence of depression in Australia has increased by 1200% in one generation. Certainly, they don’t appear to be very effective as the suicide rate in this country has been rising for years and recently hit a peak.”
American holistic psychiatrist Kelly Brogan is another courageous leading light within an emerging new medical paradigm which is gathering momentum like wildfire. The following passages are from her best-selling book A Mind of Your Own, which found its way to millions of people despite a mainstream media blackout:
“In 1952, DSM was a slim 130 pages and outlined 106 illnesses. Today’s version is a colossal 886 pages and includes 374 diagnoses. It encompasses a general consensus by a committee consisting of practitioners with profound conflicts of interest and pharmaceutical enmeshments.
As Dr. Allen Frances of Columbia University and author of Saving Normal states: “Wholesale imperial medicalization of normality will trivialize mental disorders and lead to a deluge of unneeded medication treatment - a bonanza for the pharmaceutical industry but at a huge cost to the new false positive patients caught in the excessively wide DSM-V net.”
Dr. Frances is the psychiatrist who chaired the task force that produced the fourth edition of the DSM and has been critical of the latest tome. In 2013, Frances rightfully said that “psychiatric diagnosis still relies exclusively on fallible subjective judgments rather than objective biological tests.”
Curious as to whether the DSM even mentioned the word ‘spiritual,’ I downloaded the DSM-V and found references to spiritual healing practices, possession, ‘normal’ hallucinations and the importance of cultural concepts to psychiatric diagnoses to avoid misdiagnosis.
Perhaps the prominent Australian psychiatrist quoted at the beginning of this story would benefit from revisiting the DSM-V, particularly if he provides advice to high level public servants responsible for making key policy decisions about mental health.
On a brighter note, in November 2018 the Australian Productivity Commission was tasked with an inquiry into mental health. The final inquiry report is expected to be handed to the government by May 2020.
According to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), $9.1 billion was spent on mental health in Australia in 2016/17. One would expect the result to be a happier, healthier population but this is not the case.
Of most concern is the fact that more than 100,000 children under 17 are on antidepressants even though they are not approved for children under 18. There have also been 7 psychiatric drug warnings issued by Australia’s drug regulatory agency to warn of the risk of suicidal behaviour with antidepressants.
The number of suicides in young people has increased by almost 40% since 2009. While at the same time, the use of antidepressants has increased by 60% in young people. (More details: https://cchr.org.au.)
My unfolding healing journey has also involved ancestral medicine including shamanic healing practices, energy medicine and sound healing. West African shaman Malidoma Patrice Somé, sums up the shamanic view of mental health far better than I ever could. I hope you find the following excerpts from his article ‘What a Shaman Sees in a Mental Hospital’ as helpful and thought-provoking as I did:
“In the shamanic view, mental illness signals the birth of a healer. Thus, mental disorders are spiritual emergencies, spiritual crises, and need to be regarded as such to aid the healer in being born.
What those in the West view as mental illness, the Dagara people regard as “good news from the other world.” The person going through the crisis has been chosen as a medium for a message to the community that needs to be communicated from the spirit realm.
Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds, signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field. These disturbances result when the person does not get assistance in dealing with the presence of the energy from the spirit realm.
In the Dagara tradition, the community helps the person reconcile the energies of both worlds – the world of the spirit that he or she is merged with, and the village and community. That person is able then to serve as a bridge between the worlds and help the living with information and healing they need.
Thus, the spiritual crisis ends with the birth of another healer. Western culture has consistently ignored the birth of the healer.”
Perhaps the least known new frontier in mental health recovery involves spiritual intervention by experienced mediums. Professional evidential medium, author and paranormal researcher Jock Brocas is a pioneer in this fascinating emerging field and authored the groundbreaking book "Deadly Departed".
Jock is also the co-founder and president of the American Society for Standards in Mediumship and Psychical Investigation (ASSMPI/ISSMPI) and heads the newly-formed Parapsychological Intervention Division (PID). I asked him to share some thoughts about medicating people who claim to hear voices or channel spirits and he responded by sharing one of many experiences in successfully assisting such people:
“I had an email from a distraught mother who implored help because her son was hearing voices. The medical community’s instinct was to medicate and I must say in my own perception – discriminate. They were convinced it was Schizophrenia.
The individual was referred to me because of a previous case involving another family member who was in a similar situation and being medicated to the detriment of her being. Investigations revealed that the individual was suffering what I consider as ‘mediumship psychosis’ or ‘potential obsession from a misaligned spirit entity’.
After only one intervention, the issue was dealt with and to date, there have been no more interferences and the individual is not under any medication or medical treatment.
I truly believe that mental disturbances that have no foundation in physical or traumatic ailments, should be investigated for a spiritual solution and that spiritual intervention should be a considered approach.
The problem, of course, is that you can’t have just anyone doing this type of work, as the responsibility is huge. This is why within our ASSMPI/ISSMPI organization, we are moving forward in research and development of protocols to investigate and deal with mental health issues requiring spiritual intervention.
For me, it is not so much a healing aspect, as I have no foundation as a healer or indeed a psychiatrist but understanding the spiritual efficacy of the intervention by divine law and authority, I believe, goes some way to providing relief from parapsychological or psychosis with a spiritual foundation.”
There are many stories to tell about individuals who have experienced profound healing through spiritual interventions, after a lifetime of ineffective medical treatments involving debilitating psychotropic medications.
I look forward to writing about them.
In closing, I would like to share a new insight that recently came to light during a conversation about death and grief with ancestral medicine advocate, Adam Shield of the Feather.
We agreed that the death of a loved one, be it, family or friend, was possibly the most challenging lesson in life and that the equally challenging journey of grief that follows, if left unresolved, can lead to anger, depression, substance abuse and other negatives, destructive behaviors.
When I told him how mediumship helped me heal from the grief of losing my father and embrace life again, he paused and said, ‘We can use grief as medicine.’ I had never contemplated grief in that light before but the concept made my spirit dance and inspired a whole new story for another day.