Thursday, 29 January 2015

Nature and Narratives of Depression: 18th EPA and WPA Meeting in Paris

Salpetriere Hospital, Paris
The 18th Meeting of the Psychopathology Section of the European Psychiatric Association (EPA) and the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) took place on the 5th and 6th December 2014 at Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, France.

Over two days those invited to speak presented their talks related to the meeting’s leading theme – Nature and Narratives of Depression: Philosophical and Psychopathological Aspects, followed by plenary discussion. The meeting was chaired by Michael Musalek and the list of presenters included: Femi Oyebode, Pedro Varandas, Maria Luisa Figueira, Luis Madeira, Norbert Andersch, Raimo Salokangas and Gilberto Di Petta.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Inference and Epistemic Innocence

Will McNeill
This post is by Will McNeill, currently a teaching fellow at King's College London. He researches the epistemology of perception and recognition.

The main focus of PERFECT is on finding the epistemically valuable within mental pathologies of varying seriousness; of identifying pathological beliefs which are at least epistemically innocent. But in this post I want to bring our attention back to the cognitive processes of those with no serious cognitive impairments. It would not surprise me if many of our cognitive processes turn out to be epistemically innocent in a particularly direct way. They may turn out to be reliable, and to produce justified beliefs, while not being capable of explaining why the beliefs they produce are justified. Justified beliefs which are the direct products of such epistemically innocent processes are – I believe – foundational.

Suppose that we had good reason to think that someone was good at spotting emeralds. They tend to know, of emeralds, that they are emeralds. And they tend not to be fooled by the fakes. But suppose too that on other grounds we had good reason to think that the cognitive processes which generate their emerald beliefs relied in part on the thought that emeralds are grue.

On the one hand, we would have discovered something about the nature of their reliable capacity to spot emeralds. But on the other hand, we would not have produced any satisfying answer to the question of why they were warranted in their belief. At least, discovering that these deviant cognitive processes were at work would provide no more of an explanation of their warrant than the simple observation that they were de facto reliable at spotting emeralds.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Ellen White on OCD

Ellen White at the 2014 Mind Media Awards
Our new feature is a series of posts by experts by experience to be published on the last Monday of each month. Last month we had Roberta Payne who wrote about schizophrenia and "outsider art".

This month, we are delighted to host Ellen White who was recently awarded the 2014 Mind Media Award as Top Blogger. In her influential and inspirational blog, Ellen writes about the positive and negative effects of OCD and depression on her life, and challenges public attitudes towards mental illness. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Suffering from a mental health condition can be for the most part extremely distressing. An everyday battle with our minds. Not knowing what to believe, what not to believe, feeling like your own mind is working against you. However, living with a mental health condition can often go hand in hand with educating ourselves about the conditions we are suffering with and mental health in general. To recover from a mental illness, we first must understand our condition. This can often lead to people with mental health conditions being a lot more understanding of other people’s struggles. Whether that be struggling with the same mental health condition, or just struggling in general. We can almost put ourselves in the positions of others more easily.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Imagination Is Not Just For Fakers: a Reply to Neil

Anna Ichino
Thank you, Neil, for your greatly interesting post. I am very sympathetic to the negative part of your view: I definitely agree that the attitude of most religious people is not best described in terms of what you call ‘factual belief’. I am less persuaded by the positive part of your suggestion, though. The same reasons (some of which I summarized in a previous post) why I think that religious attitudes are not beliefs, lead me to think that they are imaginings, instead. So I do not clearly see the need for the new category of ‘religious credence’ that you suggest.

You argue that to describe religious attitudes as imaginings would force us to see religious people as fakers, which is obviously an undesirable consequence. On the other hand, you note, if we described religious attitudes as factual beliefs, we would be forced to see most religious people as fanatics: also undesirable. In order to make room, between fakers and fanatics, for a category of ‘normal religious believers’ – we need to posit, between imagination and belief, a category of ‘religious credence’.

I have some doubts on this, though. In particular, on your conditional premise that if we recognize that most religious attitudes are imaginings, then we are forced to say that most religious people as fakers. Why should the claim that Sarah imagines that demons exist and torment people lead us to conclude that she is a faker?

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia

Launch of the report
On 27 November 2014 the British Psychological Society (Division of Clinical Psychology) launched a new ground-breaking report on Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia, edited by Anne Cooke. At the meeting, contributors and other interested parties offered their own view of the challenges that need to be met to ensure that people hearing voices and having unusual beliefs can get support in an effective way.

I only attended the morning session, and this is a brief report of the content of the talks I heard. Peter Kinderman (Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool) opened the session and welcomed the audience and the speakers.

The first speaker, Luciana Berger (MP and shadow Minister for Public Health and Mental Health) highlighted the need to invest more in mental health and make sure that mental health receives the same attention and resources as physical health. She praised those sections of the report suggesting that psychosis often is best tackled not with medication but with psychological therapies. This is something that she promised to work on to ensure that in the future the NHS can deliver better services.

The second speaker, Mike Pringle (President of the Royal College of General Practitioners) emphasised the important role of GPs in helping people who experience mental distress to navigate through the system. At present, GPs do not have the knowledge and resources to do that effectively and the temptation is to prescribe drugs, but prescribing drugs is not the answer to everything. GPs need to know what the options are.