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Spirituality SIG Chair Blog

Welcome to the new look spirit SIG blog. The blog goes someway to replace the newsletters, and we again give our thanks to Andrew Powell for all his hard work collating these over the years.

I am very glad to announce that Gloria Durá-Vilá has agreed to join the exec. She is a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist  and author of 'Sadness, Depression, and the Dark Night of the Soul' which raises questions about the over-medicalisation of severe sadness, which we will be tackling in the Spring 2019 conference. 

Here is Gloria’s personal introduction:

I am a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Lead in Autism, Surrey and Borders NHS Trust, and Honorary Lecturer at the Mental Health Neuroscience Department, University College London.

I studied medicine in Valencia, Spain, and trained in psychiatry at the Royal Free, St Mary’s, and UCL. My research interests are truly interdisciplinary, focusing on religion, culture and mental health from the standpoints of medical anthropology and cultural psychiatry.

I have authored the best-selling book “My Autism Book: A Child's Guide to their Autism Spectrum Disorder” (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2013) and the recent “Sadness, Depression and the Dark Night of the Soul: Transcending the Medicalisation of Sadness” (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017). My latest book on Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome, a profile within the Autism Spectrum Disorder, is coming out in November 2018.

The Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group has been a reference point in my learning, both academic and clinical, since the beginning of my career. My latest research project (see “Sadness, Depression and the Dark Night of the Soul”) compelled me to seek membership of the executive committee. My study clearly showed that religion played a crucial role in the way sadness was understood and resolved: symptoms that otherwise might have been described as evidence of a depressive episode were often understood in those more religiously committed - within the framework of the “Dark Night of the Soul” narrative, an active transformation of emotional distress into a process of self-reflection, attribution of religious meaning and spiritual growth.

I would like to contribute to the special interest group through my academic work and also as a clinician to help psychiatrists to find ways to incorporate existential aspects into clinical practice to offer a more person-centered service.                                                                                    

We also welcome Omur Miles, another Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, who has joined the exec particularly to help with the website and modern media. Omur Writes:

I have worked in the NHS for 15 years and have been in a Consultant Role for 5 years. Like all my colleagues working in mental health services offered to under 18s, I have concerns about increasing levels of youth unhappiness, self-harm, eating disorders, mental health emergencies and crisis presentations at a time of diminishing resources or promised resources not reaching the front line. While observing and understanding the increasing emphasis on checklists, presentations, risk assessments and outcome measures, I have also developed worries that we, as a wider system, are losing sight of the bigger picture and being distanced from seeing  young people as whole individuals to be appreciated with all their assets, strengths and weaknesses and individual identities. 

I have for a while feared the bigger system's loss of grip on this holistic outlook on young people and worried that one of the core vehicles of how people relate to life, the world and the bigger society, that is spirituality, is being overlooked.  Spirituality has long been a subject I had an interest in.  I have been a member of the wider Royal College Spirituality Interest Group for a long time. I am grateful to be appointed to the committee as one of the Communication Secretaries and look forward to contributing in anyway I can.

The exec recently had an animated discussion about human rights and the Mental Health Act.  Some of the exec members would support a move away from forced admission of anyone who has capacity to consent to treatment; others feel that it is often in the best interests of the individual to receive treatment against their will, irrespective of capacity. As so often in the Spirituality SIG there is a legitimate breadth of opinion, which does not divide neatly on faith community lines.

Our exciting, Autumn day conference “Music, Spirituality and Mental Health Care” is a departure for us, with talks from musicians and composers, and featuring live music; it will be very interactive.  This will be on 9th November 2018 at the college.

Our Spring 2019 day conference is on 5th April 2019. We are inviting key international speakers to present on the Medicalization of Unhappiness. Watch this space for further details.

We have 29th November 2019 penciled in for the Spirit SIG 20th Anniversary celebrations, looking back and looking forward. Save the date!

We welcome feedback, new subject ideas and seek to encourage the development of spirituality in mental health conferences all over the country. If you would like to invite a member of the exec to speak to your conference please complete and return this form to me via the college and we will do all we can to support you.

I look forward to hearing from you, and seeing you at the next conference.

Alison J Gray
Chair Spirituality in Psychiatry SIG

Get in contact to receive further information regarding a career in psychiatry