top of page

The Networker

The West Coast Mental Health Network did publish a quarterly news letter called The Networker.  Editor: Irit Shimrat and Design/Production: Stuart Matthews

Read Past Issues

An excerpt from The Networker, Vol. 20 No. 1 Summer 2015

System Compromise, Salvage          By Mia

She shuffled up the path from behind my park bench, then turned back and stopped again.  "Oh great," I thought, "A classic Looney-Toon."  If she were male I would have thought, "Oh great, Pervert-Alert Looney-Toon."  For the few seconds it took for my blood pressure and ire to double, I stared back wordlessly over my shades, thinking, "Off your meds?  Or on too many? Put you in Outer Head-Space, and now I am The Enemy, right?  Go back to the Ward..."

Before I should speak, the actual focus of her attention ambled along the path: a similar but older woman, wearing a pink Dora the Explorer backpack, caught up to her, and they walked serenely together.



Who's the real lunatic out here?  And I call myself enlightened.

I thought back to a low point in my own Outer-Space years: curled up in hospital gear, facing off against Huey, Dewey and Louie, as my distorted perception labelled the thinly veiled expressions of Horror, Disdain and Longsuffering of the staff psychiatrist and his two students, who were trying to assess the breakdown that had brought me to the ER.  Perception and interpretation have clearly been core issues in my literally maddening interactions with the world.

Twenty years later...  still here, well enough recovered to add a few basic personal Reader's Digest Condensed thoughts to the ongoing discourse:  What is mental illness?  And why is it so complicated and controversial to even define?

When it comes to "dysfunctional" human behaviour, we try to differentiate between illness versus emotional disturbance, or developmental delay, or erratic eccentricity and ultimately, illness versus choice.

Defining "functional" or "healthy" behaviour can be just as dicey: the individual meshes reasonably well with the group, as the group evolves towards greater balance between stability and progress - ie, the greatest amount of contentment, freedom, productivity and potential realization for every member.

Pinpointing obstacles to mental health paralleles the search for obstacles to physical health: viruses, bacteria, toxins, deficiencies, mutant cells, etc, that interfere with functioning in life.  In the Diathesis-Stress model, a person's unique pre-existing genetic, psychological or biological vulnerability develops into illness only when combined with particular stressors.

Currently, the most prominent branch of psychological research is Behaviourism.  Mind and behaviours are compared to a biochemical computer system here input/output is the basic function and applications (behaviours) run using program coded into neural pathways.

In this model, a "thought virus" ("I am flawed/miserable/dependent and so should be rejected/deactivated/dead!") generates malfunction (isolation/self-medication/suicide).  The solution: root out the maladaptive thought bugs in the software, write in some optimal code and  - voila!  The machine will perform as designed.  The individual recognizes faulty programming or invading malware, chooses to reject it, or to rewrite the program (using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, ideally with expert guidance) and mental illness is prevented or cured.  So logical and simple to diagram...  so difficult to re-program, due to the infinite variables of the inner/outer environments, and the fact that these cognitive distortions are usually deeply embedded and numerous.

As a rational thinker (on my good days), I prefer the most practical, evidenced-based, generally accepted mental illness/treatment/health models.  As a desperate opportunist, I opt to cherry-pick the best bits from all the world's ideas (especially the intriguing subconscious-mining modalities that use psychoactive entheogens), constructing my personal Warm Fusion framework that fills whatever psyche gaps need fillilng, and carry on.

As far as becoming unnerved be the peculiar conduct of other park-walkers... I'll likely stay slightly on the safe defensive, while co-opting any new cutting-edge high-tech adaptations to life, such as:  Keep



                       Sweetheart :)

bottom of page