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State of Mind
Wednesday 2100-2130
About the series
Claudia Hammond charts the development of mental health care in the UK from the 1950s until today, to ask where we are now, and where we’re going. Will the stigma of mental illness ever be entirely removed?
Altered States
Wednesday 14 January 2009
Listen to this programme in full
Claudia Hammond
The 1960s saw anti-psychiatrists, like RD Laing, question the notion of insanity, believing madness to be a special state, while in therapeutic communities the patients were taking over the asylum.
Claudia Hammond visits one of only two remaining NHS residential therapeutic communities - the Cassel Service in Richmond, Surrey - and goes to Bradford to meet the members of Sharing Voices - a community development approach to mental health services.

In any one year in the UK, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem. How we're treated depends on the current understanding and attitude to mental illness. All those who were asked, including many Radio 4 listeners who contributed their experiences as mental health service users or providers over the last half century, conceded that it’s better to have a mental health problem now than at any other point in that time. Yet there were reservations: Although the huge Victorian asylums could be cruel and impersonal, they did afford a retreat from a world that can be difficult to navigate at a time of mental crisis. Today, with acute beds scarce, you’re soon tipped back out to cope in the community as best you can when you suffer ‘an episode’.

On the other hand, drugs are much improved, with far fewer side effects, and the recognition that talking therapies can help (even if they’re hard to access) makes for an approach that’s more understanding.

In speaking to those who’ve experienced mental health care and those who havve supplied it for over half a century, what struck the presenter, Claudia Hammond, time and again was that how we are helped depends on the current social and political emphasis as much as on the latest drug advances. Most importantly, whether we’re understood or stigmatised will vary according to our culture and social framework.

Additional Information
The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness by RD Laing, pub.Penguin, new edition 1990, ISBN-10: 0140135375 ISBN-13: 978-0140135374

Aylums by Erving Goffman, pub. Penguin 1970, ISBN-10: 0140210075 ISBN-13: 978-014021

Madness and Civilisation by Michel Foucault, pub. Routledge, new edition 2001, ISBN-10: 0415253853 ISBN-13: 978-0415253857

The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Contact by Thomas Szasz, pub.Harper & Row, new edition 1984, ISBN-10: 0060911514 ISBN-13: 978-00609115

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, pub. Penguin, new edition 2005, ISBN-10: 0141187883 ISBN-13: 978-0141187884

Suman Fernando

Phil Thomas  

Joanna Moncrieff   

Cassel Service 

Sharing Voices Bradford 

Text of Health Minister Enoch Powell's 1961 'Water Towers' speech

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