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Colin Hambrook continues to be mad... / 10 May 2010

painting of a man injecting large needles into another man

'The Jealous Psychiatrist' - oil on canvas, 1988. Image © Colin Hambrook

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Living with disability can get extreme sometimes. For me, living in the wake of so-called 'schizophrenia' has meant a lifetime of juggling the darkest emotions like tennis balls. My relationship with the illness has been a lifelong struggle... one of those things you are not meant to own up to.

It's a guaranteed conversation-stopper. Even within the disability community you are not guaranteed an empowering response. Reference to the illness can be a great way of losing acquaintances you are not particularly keen on in the first place.

The best you can expect is a conversation about how much better the medication is these days... as if the pharmaceutical companies were engaged in quality control of the neurological issues, heart problems and effects on the central nervous system which are endemic to all the anti-psychotics.

In an interview about definition and language on BBC Radio 4s Word of Mouth, Francesca Martinez asked "why not redefine people with schizophrenia as 'overly imaginative.'" In context she meant it as an understatement challenging the media's tendency to capitalise on the instant shock value to be gained from adding the 'schizo' word to a headline.

I saw a great ad at a multi-screen cinema recently... 30 seconds of blurry camera and dramatic sound introduce the oft-used cipher 'schizo' - leading you into thinking you're about to see a trailer for a violent horror movie. And then the image is cut with an ordinary family situation. A middle-aged man addresses the camera, telling the audience how he has lived with 'schizoprenia' for 12 years and has been able to live a full life with support from his family. 

There needs to be more responsible open discussion of so-called 'schizophrenia'. As an illness it is all about irrational fear - as effect and as a cipher. Living with overly developed fear responses, is incredibly debilitating and hard work for those around you.

Societies mindless, sensation-grabbing responses don't help. Alison Wilde sent me an interesting analaysis of the nature of fear's companion, evil - in an article on a book titled On Evil by Terry Eagleton in The Independent.

It seems that we've never quite recovered from the boring name goodness and virtue made for themselves during the Victorian period. Despite the banality that accompanies evil; we have become obsessed by painting evil as romantic and glamorous.

During the Thatcher years we saw a reinvention of selfishness as 'altruism', in the desperate game of justifying greed. It set us up for a lot of fighting... and of course, we were the evil ones in demanding that support of our communities was a necessary part of finding strength to lead fulfilling lives. 

But our community does continue to thrive... and will continue to thrive as the going gets tough...

Keywords: disability art,disabled people's movement,mental health,psychosis,


tanya raabe

11 May 2010

i see a new set of paintings comming on.....i do feel we somehow have lost the ability to talk about medical intevetions

John Hoggett

15 May 2010

Yes, an over active imagination, but a terrifying one. A terrifying over active imagination, that is what so called Schizophrenia is.

Once you understand that, and once you see so called mental illness as fear and confusion, usually moral confusion, then you can never see mentally distressed people in the same way again.

You can never see people as having defective brains needing medication. You can only see them as people struggling with fear and confusion, like we all do from time to time, and deserving or your sympathy and understanding, or not, depending on what sort of day you're having and what side of the bed you got out of bed that morning.

tim black

16 May 2010

I just looked 'schizophrenia' up on wikipedia. It says 'Despite the etymology of the term from the Greek roots skhizein "to split" and phrēn, "mind", schizophrenia does not imply a "split mind"' But if schizophrenia doesn't mean what it means, then what does it mean? Everybody has two lobes to their brain - a left and a right hemisphere. Does that mean that everybody is schizophrenic? Why does psychiatry continue to hang on to the label, unless it intends to confuse and obfuscate?

tony heaton

17 May 2010

Colin, you say there needs to be a more open responsible discussion of schizophrenia, i would also like to see this accompanied by artwork, poetry, the creative output as part of that discussion.


20 May 2010

I have a backlog of artwork that is about so-called schizophrenia. Even the services now are reluctant to talk about this term. They prefer 'psychosis' but still hand the labels out like the pills.