Here are a few great TED Talks I’ve found on a variety of topics related to mental illness. You can find more of my TED Talk recommendations in my blog index.
Eleanor Longden: The Voices in My Head
A psychiatrist once told Eleanor Longden that she would be better off having cancer than a psychotic illness, because it would be more curable. Having the voice she heard framed as a symptom triggered what she experienced as a “civil war” inside her mind, which led to a worsening of the voices and command auditory hallucinations. She later came to understand her voices as response to traumatic childhood events, and she tried to pay attention to their metaphorical rather than literal meaning. She set boundaries and became assertive with her voices. She is part of the International Hearing Voices Movement, and this is a fascinating look at how the experience of hearing voices can be reframed in a way that is more consistent with recovery.
Joshua Walters: On Being Just Crazy Enough
In this short talk, Joshua Walters talks about the connection between being a comic and having bipolar disorder. He talked about the “mental skillness” that comes with the creative edge of hypomania, and how it is often viewed as desirable when people are “just manic enough”. I found this comment particularly interesting: “Maybe there’s no such thing as crazy… Maybe it just means you’re more sensitive to what most people can’t see or feel.”
Elyn Saks: A Tale of Mental Illness – From the Inside
When Elyn Saks was in law school, she became psychotic. She was hospitalized involuntarily, put in restraints, and diagnosed with schizophrenia. She initially resisted taking medication, thinking that if she could manage without meds that would prove she wasn’t mentally ill. Eventually, though, with psychoanalytic therapy, medications, supportive relationships, and a positive workplace environment, she was able to manage her illness. She is an excellent example of someone living with schizophrenia and thriving. She speaks out about various issues related to stigma, including the criminalization of mental illness and inaccurate portrayals of mental illness in arts and entertainment.
David Anderson: Your Brain is More Than Just a Bag of Chemicals
David Anderson speaks about his research examining neural circuits in fruit flies. He likens current psychiatric treatment to trying to do an oil change on a car by pouring oil over the entire engine block. His studies in fruit flies have shown that modifying dopamine receptors can have different effects depending on the specific area targeted, and he suggests that we need to work on developing more targeted psychiatric treatments in humans that wouldn’t have the gamut of side effects that current non-specific treatments have.
Vikram Patel: Mental Health For All by Involving All
Vikram Patel addresses the worldwide shortage of mental health professionals, particularly in developing countries, by task shifting, i.e. training those who are already on the ground to deliver interventions. This has been demonstrated to be effective, including one study in Uganda that demonstrated positive results with psychotherapeutic interventions. Dr. Patel identified the elements of this empowering intervention in the acronym SUNDAR: Simplify the message, UNpack the treatment into smaller components, Deliver it where people are, use Affordable and available human resources, and Reallocation of specialists to train and supervise. This is an exciting new frontier for mental health care worldwide.