Hearing voices with your head in the sand

UK TV station Channel 4 broadcast a docudrama last night called The Doctor Who Hears Voices, a fictionalised account of an apparently real-life situation where psychologist Rufus May (who played himself) treated a junior doctor who began hearing hallucinated voices.

I’ve not seen it yet, although should be interesting viewing as May is a UK clinical psychologist who was himself diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 18.

His story is an interesting journey in itself and he’s a valuable critic of the mental health system, even if you’re not fully in agreement with all of his views.

The reviews have largely been positive and the UK’s largest mental health charity Mind have sung it’s praises.

However, The Independent’s TV critic Brian Viner obviously didn’t like the programme, which is fair enough, but also manages to add some pretty appalling prejudice in his review:

May thinks that society should embrace mentally ill people, not shun them, an admirable – enough ambition that is slightly clouded by the stark statistic that 50 murders a year are committed by people with mental-health problems; 1,200 a year kill themselves.

It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that people with schizophrenia are at much greater risk of being victims of violence that perpetrators (one study found 14 times greater chance of being a victim of a violent crime that being arrested for one).

But I’m still slightly startled that this is used, as well as the shockingly high suicide rate, as something that might “cloud” an ambition not to shun people with mental health problems.

If a torrent of the programme turns online, I shall post a link to it so you can make your own mind up, or if you’d rather take the Viner route, you can just re-arrange your prejudices rather than do any serious consideration.

Link to Channel 4 info on film.

4 thoughts on “Hearing voices with your head in the sand”

  1. Although I agree that we have to remember that people with schizophrenia* are much more likely to be the victim of violence than the perpetrators of it – we can’t pretend that people with schizophrenia aren’t also at a much higher risk of comitting violence against another (or themselves), particularly if they also have a personality disorder and/or alcoholism.
    * she seems to have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in the film, although her symptomatology is pretty unclear

  2. I wonder whether Viner says that because in the film she returns to work as a doctor with residual psychotic symptoms having lied to her employer about taking prophylactic medication and the nature of her illness. When she was ill she had suicidal and homicidal thoughts, as well as grandiose medical related delusions and persecutory delusions. During this she is left fairly unsupported in the community by the ‘radical’ psychologist without contact with formal psychiatric services.

  3. There is an overlap in the distribution between the brains of people with schizophrenia and people without – you can’t just look at one and tell it has schizophrenia. But there is indeed a lot of evidence of changes in the brain in schizophrenia.

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