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My piece at Shape's 'Perception of Balance' exhibition

I received the good news that one of my pieces was accepted for the Perceptions of Balance Exhibition at Shape Arts.   My piece is called ‘Balanced Mind’

I have been labeled ‘mad’ by society, so therefore seen as unbalanced. Society’s way of redressing that is not to help me make sense of the childhood trauma that triggered my psychosis, nor to tackle inequality and discrimination in society because of that label. Its way was to medicate me into submission. For decades I was on antipsychotic medication. I did not laugh or cry on these meds. Is this well balanced? It took away my symptoms but my life too. Is that a fair payoff, a balanced payoff?

A tablet does not cure abuse, isolation, or stigma. But I was sedated, out of society’s hair. They said the tablets would make me feel better. Please define better when I have lost my soul. Maybe you don’t need a soul nowadays. 

The message: don’t speak your mind. Your silence and submission are signs of being well-balanced.

So my art shows that the medication weighs heavier, and the promise of peace of mind, of having my life back is an empty promise, not worth the prescription pad it is written on.

I have given up the meds and regained my life. Some may say that shows I am unbalanced. I say it makes perfect sense. 

There is a private view of the exhibition on the 20th Sept. 

Date: Thursday 20th September 
Time: 6pm 
Location: Shape. Deane House Studios, 27 Grenwood Place, London NW5 1LB

Please RSVP to and let us know if you have any access requirements.

Posted by Dolly Sen, 5 September 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 9 September 2012

Family album - thanks to psychosis

I don't know how many people share this experience, but I am a bi-realitist. Having the intense, divergent mind psychosis brings but able to comprehend the world of consensual reality, albeit a bit strangely, and in an off the wall way.

But sometimes one overpowers the other: when the psychotic side does it, I am compelled to create art to exorcise; when the 'normal' side does it, I am compelled to create lists. I needed to create this piece of art, and now I feel haunted by one less ghost.


Posted by Dolly Sen, 22 August 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 23 August 2012

Dolly Sen does 4thought

 Here is my itty-bitty contribution to Channel 4 Goes Mad season. 4Thought asked the question: 'What is Madness?' I could have talked for hours on the subject, but if fact the producer didn't want me to answer it but tell my story in a minute and a half. I would have liked longer to qualify some of what I said, but here it is

What has been interesting about the 4thought this week, when it poses that question is the debate it has brought up amongst people who use mental health services themselves. Earlier on in the 4thought week there was a woman who talked about angels, and some people who use services didn't like it, that it showed hearing voices as a positive thing. What is really shocking is that so many people who hear voices and stuck in the system don't know that most voice hearers are not in the system. Romme and Esher did a study on it and they found the difference between the two groups was that those not in mental health services felt they were in control of their voices, whilst those who use the mental health sytem didn't feel in control. 

Here is the angel lady's contribution

I know this slot of the lady talking about angels would be very useful in my training around mental health to explore: What is mental health? Because this woman is probably mentally healthier than most people, in that she may be happy, contented, and feel connected to the world. It would start a discussion around hearing voices, and the fact most people don't know that most voice hearers are not in the mental health system, and most voice hearers have helpful, supportive voices. So when is the point that mh professionals deem it pathological? Because the evidence shows pathologising it is a sure way of people suffering more because of it. In societies where voice hearing is acceptable, it has a higher 'recovery' rate. It also opens up the question: what is delusion? Because a Gallup poll in 1995 found 70% people believe in aliens and 31% believed in ghosts. This is an unusual belief but a socially acceptable belief, which brings up the question: how much of psychiatry is based on judgment and social policing than on 'illness'. Believers of God think atheists are deluded, and it is true the other way round. The discussions out of that minute and a half clip can inexorably change and make people questions their beliefs around mental health. And that is a good thing. 

Posted by Dolly Sen, 26 July 2012

Last modified by Dolly Sen, 26 July 2012

Welcome to Action T5

 Anyone who knows about the Nazi's Disability  Euthanasia Programme Action T4, will see unsettling parallels to what is happening to disabled people now. The current demonisation and persecuting of disabled people , the media hype over disabled people being burdens and scroungers, an ecomonic strain to society,  is following the Nazi Euthansia's To Do list to the letter.

I left my last job in April due to stress, which triggered psychosis and depression (which is one of the reasons this blog has been so neglected), and knew the letter from ATOS would be soon on its merry way. And it came, as you can see from the photo I took. Forget the polite language, how I recreated it is how I should have received it. Too many people see us through these lenses of false labels, which will magnify discrimation and hatred, while the person behind it shrinks. 

Fortunately - or unfortunately - I was actually psychotic when I filled in the atos form, and thought I was Jesus, and filled it in accordingly. Someone reassessed the form and decided I needn't go to the atos interview. Give it a few months and I will be asked again to go. As stress is a trigger for psychosis, I may think I am Jesus again and try to cast the demon out of the atos assessor. Or heal the sick, who are the people who work there. Because despite over 1000 people being deemed fit to work dying after their assessment, according to atos and the government, there aren't any ill people about.

Hold on a minute, maybe we have got it the wrong way round and atos are healing people through a patronising and demeaning interview. 


Why I have religious convictions when I am an agnotistic, I have no idea.

Posted by Dolly Sen, 18 July 2012

Last modified by Dolly Sen, 18 July 2012

The Fundamental Good of The Human Being?!

I have started doing collages, actually there was a compulsion to do a collage of a human being. Maybe I was just feeling all that was wrong with the world, but in my psychosis, human beings were growing shark heads.

Is psychosis a collage of the cutting outs of reality? Dunno. But my source material isn't women's weekly, it is the complex human being.

I get frustrated with people who say humans have fundamental goodness. Tell that to any human being who has died at the hands of someone of his or her own species. It's an insult to them.

No genocide victim will wear that t-shirt, I am afraid. There are both sides to the human. The only thing axiomatic about it is the choice between the two.



Posted by Dolly Sen, 7 July 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 7 July 2011

Dolly Sen on poetry and the darkness of the soul

I am mostly a happy go lucky person, with a certain cheekiness. I hope when people meet me, they detect the light in me. But I haven't had an easy life, as I have dealt with extreme abuse as a child, and its consequent madness and pain.

Over the period of decades, my madness went from darkness to a strange light with some lapses into the shadows. The soul must do its work, dip into the shadows to see why they are there, and try to remove the caustic monoliths that cast them.

I do not want to bring these shadows into my meetings with other people. They come out in my art and poetry. And so these shadows scatter into the smaller shadows of letters and words. Sometimes they make sense. Sometimes they are cathartic. Sometimes they are an incitement to immerse myself more in the shadows. But I won't step deeper - one poem at a time. I like the light too much...


The friction of life
On skinless hope
The kisses of love
Bleach lost flesh
I don’t mind
My new scars
Protect me
From the sweetest breezes

Everything that has touched me
Has left its imprint
Of boot kicks and butterflies

I am raw sculpture
Still unmade
Yet I refuse to let
The softest part of me
Turn to stone
I can’t even cry

Tears are inflammatory
My mind immolates
Kills itself with fire

There is not enough water in my dreams
There is not enough ice in my sleep

Spit on me


Posted by Dolly Sen, 1 July 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 2 July 2010

Dolly Sen sets up Mental Health Training Company

I graduated from Uni about a month ago, and said to myself, I am going to take a year off. But only two weeks into that resolve, I became bored and am productive again.

I am looking for work - and also creating work for myself. One of the ways I am doing that is to promote what I already love doing. So I have a lot of website and updating to do, like my artist website etc.

The first site that is nearly done is Ascend Mental Health Training and Consultancy. Check it out if you have the chance. I am going to add a blog to that website soon as well. If you have any ideas where I could promote the service, drop me a line, I would very much appreciate it.

Also am going to make all my websites more accessible - now I know how to do it!

Posted by Dolly Sen, 17 June 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 17 June 2010

Dolly Sen posts Recovery Film by Michelle McNary

When I used to believe in Recovery as concept and practice, I took part in a film about the subject matter, made by my good friend Michelle McNary.

I think she made a really touching and powerful film. It was made for our local Mental Health Trust, so my decision to wear my mad pride t-shirt was deliberate!

Recovery and mental illness: part two continues a series of edited testimonies from system survivors on youtube


Posted by Dolly Sen, 12 June 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 14 June 2010

Dolly Sen does BBC Radio Sussex

I have just moved to Eastbourne. BBC Sussex presenter Danny Pike interviewed me about the stigma attached to being labelled with a mental health condition - as part of Mental Health Action week.

Posted by Dolly Sen, 8 April 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 12 April 2010

Dolly Sen writes a one-off blog for Mind

My one-off blog for Mind about access to psychological therapies gives an opinion on supporting Mind’s 'We Need to Talk' campaign.

Let me know what you think?

At the moment I am mostly thinking why He-man had a girl's hairstyle?


Posted by Dolly Sen, 27 March 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 29 March 2010

Doctor who hears voices film night

Fundraiser Event at the Candid Arts Trust
6th November 2009

screening of Leo Regan/The Doctor who Hears Voices with Q/A with Doctor and the protagonist Rufus May

This is to raise money for a documentary on psychosis by Dolly Sen

Starts at 19.00 2 Torrens Street, London, EC1V 1NQ

(Right behind Angel tube station)

Posted by Dolly Sen, 28 October 2009

Last modified by Dolly Sen, 28 October 2009

Dolly Sen says:

I DO MIND FILMS presents ‘voices from a strange land’

Lurking behind tabloid interest in the mental health crises of celebrities is a vast unease around mental ill-health. The everyday stigmatisation of the Mad affects everyone. Films about madness are usually made by people who have not been there.

Dolly Sen has been there, and is making a travelogue about a place few return from unscathed. Most films about madness turn us into something to be feared or vilified, it does not see the strength of the people who go through it daily and still manage to stand. This film hopes to address that aspect. The film seeks to be a work of art, but also to help dispel the ignorance around this subject matter. The Candid Arts Trust in Angel, London is hosting a fundraiser to raise money for this important film on the experience of psychosis on September 8th 2009 with a night of film music, words, comedy and massage.

Date: Tuesday 8th Sept 2009
Venue: The Projection Room, Candid Arts Trust, 3 Torrens Street, London, EC1V 1NQ
Travel: Angel Tube, & Buses
Time: 6pm to 9.30pm
Price: £5
Web: &

Line Up 8 September
3 films about psychosis Dolly Sen – MC

Rai Studley writes about life, love, madness and the little things inside her head that refuse to be silenced. Playing a mix of acoustic guitar-based tunes and some truly breathtaking acapella, her songs have a habit of touching something deep inside you.

Madeleine Bridgett is a poet based in Brighton, UK. Born in Sydney, Australia, she worked as a social worker for many years advocating for very marginalised and vulnerable groups of people living on the fringes of society. Having presented at both national and international conferences, Madeleine has been involved in creating change to improve the quality of life for many people.

Madeleine moved to the UK in 2004 and began a career writing and performing poetry. Her poetry is inspired by people and she is fascinated by the human condition. In 2006 she produced her own live chat show which gets filmed for internet broadcast.

Liz Bentley is a mother, writer, poet, musician and therapist. She has been working on the stand up poetry circuit for 6 years. Her experiences include 3 successful shows at the Edinburgh Fringe (last year performing, programming and hosting over 50 shows in Edinburgh’s only swimming pool venue (in the pool!) with artists including John Hegley, Robin Ince, Luke Wright to name but a few). She has hosted and performed at disability events such as DaDaFest, Liberty, Boundless and at mainstream festivals such as Latitude festival, Reading and Birmingham comedy festivals.

“Definitely one of my Fringe highlights” Three Weeks *****
“Like a female Ivor Cutler” The Scotsman
“Bentley is beguiling. Such an exhilarating experience” Chortle


Massage by Paula Bailey

If you cant come, but would like to donate go to
Contact details: Dolly Sen

Posted by Dolly Sen, 30 August 2009

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 7 September 2009

Dolly Sen will be reading from a tree top in Regents Park, London!

Survivor's poetry and music - Mad Chicks and the Bath Mad Hatters
Budding Hub Gallery, Fri 28th August 2009 6:00pm - 8:00pm

A multi-faceted cornucopia of readings, talks and sound performances around the works of those who have suffered from mental illness from Mad Chicks and the Bath Mad Hatters. Mad Chicks is about women psychiatric patients and survivors of the psychiatric system. The movement developed from within Mad Pride, a user-led mental health civil rights movement, committed to ending discrimination against psychiatric patients, challenging misinformation in relation to mental health and celebrating mad culture. Clare Crestani of the Mad Hatters of Bath will tell real life stories of lands beyond time and space, where fairies and demons dwell. Followed by a discussion of whether the psychotic experience is a valid way to discover Universal truths or merely a mental illness to be druggged, pitied and patronised.

I will reading from my book in a tree, I always knew I'd one day do that. Told you Doc, it wasn't a delusion!

For more info about the treehouse gallery go to

Posted by Dolly Sen, 27 August 2009

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 28 August 2009

Dolly Sen says 'life has been normal - this must change!'

hey there guys, the last month I have been mostly in front of my computer, fundraising and form filling, and there's nothing to report about that, except it seems easier to write a book than fill out a funding application. The only time I have left the house is to go scouting for locations for my Trapped Birds documentary or meeting with my lovely producer Nora Somogyvari, a fellow LCC student and native of Hungary. She has been amazing, and has brought a lot of Hungarian crew to the project, which I am excited about.

One of the things we are working on is a film fundraiser at Candid Arts in Angel London, where she works. Will let you know when it is finalised what the details are. We also went Angel hunting at Stoke Newington Cemetery for use in the film.

Apart from that, I have been a normal human being, enduring normal pain of bereavement and mourning (My grandad and cousin). Have fallen in lust with someone (poor them) and am moaning about the weather. I almost feel like part of the human race!

One thing of note, my madness is going international. I have just done an interview for Arab tv (Al Arabiya) and am helping a Japanese Production Company make a film about mental health. I would love to do a world tour eventually. Hee hee.

I also went to London Pride, which was good fun. I think there should be a disability arts presence there next year. Well, the Catholics and Conservatives were there. And I don't want to march on my own.

Ah, life is never normal, it is a star dancing on snowflake that is stuck up the nose of a monkey that doesn't believe in stars.

Posted by Dolly Sen, 7 August 2009

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 16 August 2009

An article about Dolly Sen from Life in a Day magazine

Recovery heroes – a profile of Dolly Sen
by Dolly Sen, Sarah Morgan and Jerome Carson

A life in the day Volume 13 Issue 2 May 2009 © Pavilion Journals (Brighton) Ltd

The development of the recovery approach must mean a fundamental change in how mental health services see service  users, for as the Social Perspectives Network paper rhetorically asks, ‘Whose Recovery is it?’, it is, of course, the service users’ (Social Perspectives Network, 2007). The recent influential Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health report, suggests that professionals need to move from a position of ‘being on top, to being on tap’ (Shepherd et al, 2008).

Service users need to take a more central role in the whole recovery debate. One of the ways that this aim can be realised is by looking at ‘recovery heroes’. These are individuals whose journey of recovery can inspire both other service users and professionals alike.

Dolly Sen: a brief biography in her own words

Dolly Sen was born in 1970 in London, the oldest of five children. She is from a mixed heritage. Her father is Indian and her mother is Scots-Irish. Her childhood was not a happy one, with physical, emotional, mental and sexual abuse, racism, poverty, neglect and bullying. Despite this, she excelled academically and had very close bonds with her siblings.

When Dolly was 14, she had her first psychotic episode and had to drop out of school. She was under the care of child psychiatry and social services, but felt that they exacerbated her problems by trying to force her back into the school system without addressing either the volatile home situation or the psychosis.

Dolly attempted to work but was unable to, lost in a world of psychosis, self-harm and suicide attempts until her 30s. Dolly has been in hospital four times: in 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2006. She is currently diagnosed as suffering with bipolar affective disorder, but has in the past been diagnosed with schizophrenia and psychotic depression. Three things changed this darkness into light. These were: her decision to recover and take personal responsibility; her creativity; and a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in the Psychological Interventions Clinic for Outpatients with Psychosis (PICuP) at Maudsley Hospital. This enabled her to dream and make up for three decades of painful sleep. Dolly is now an accomplished and published writer and her works include, The World is Full of Laughter (Sen, 2002) and Am I Still Laughing? (Sen, 2006), which have both been published by Chipmunka Press.

Dolly’s dreams keep coming and keep being lived. She is a writer, director, artist, filmmaker, poet, performer, raconteur, playwright, mental health consultant, musician and public speaker. These include a succession of performance roles around Europe and at places like The Young Vic, Trafalgar Square and The Royal Festival Hall. She has undertaken a poetry tour and won a poetry award from Andrew Motion. She has directed two plays and several films, appeared on TV, and has given presentations at London City Hall and Oxford University. She has appeared over 20 times on TV and radio talking about mental health issues.

This is quite staggering, because in the past she was told that she would never amount to anything and would end up in jail or Broadmoor. She believed this, and was on her way there until she changed her belief into one of believing she could do anything she wanted to do. To Dolly, this proves that the mind is an amazing thing; it can drive you mad and inspire you in the same breath. And that you can do anything if you believe that you can do it.

Dolly Sen – interviewed by Sarah Morgan

Dolly Sen spent years in a delusional state. She published her book The World is Full of Laughter in 2002, to much acclaim. Most recently she performed at Bonkersfest, a festival by and for the mentally ill. In the programme she calls herself a professional mad person. She tells me that since she’s been creative professionally she writes, talks and creates artwork around the subject of being ill. ‘I just find I’m being paid for being mad’, she laughs.

She describes how she first got ill: ‘I was listening to the top 40 on the radio, when … the DJ’s voice kind of disappeared and instead this kind of deep gravely male voice began talking to me and saying “You know I’m watching you”, and “I know what you want”. Those two sentences were the very first sentences of me hearing voices.’

She experienced one long period of psychosis from that point. ‘That block of time was from a little bit of my late teenage years and my 20s. I wasn’t Dolly Sen, I was this thing taken over by psychosis. Paranoid and depressed and angry and negative … the only kind of light I had in those days was my writing … it stopped me going too into myself. But then again, having said that, when you’re really ill, you can’t write.’

She was very embarrassed about her illness and didn’t talk to her family about it. Talking about her family in her first mental health memoir forced her family to talk about it. ‘You know after that I felt really supported by my family.’ Once her illness was more public, she had both positive and negative reactions to it. She used to have a neighbour, who reported her to the Department for Social Security (DSS). The neighbour wrote threatening notes and Dolly even had faeces put through her letter box. That was the worst example, but usually reactions are less extreme. She also gets people saying: ‘I’m going to make something of my life after reading your story’.

When Dolly first saw a psychiatrist at 14 because the paranoia stopped her going to school, she didn’t admit to hearing voices or having hallucinations, so she was just treated for depression and didn’t take her medication. She says it was only in her 20s when she ‘just wanted help’, so she went to her GP and was transferred to the mental health centre. It was only after six weeks of taking antidepressants and seeing a key worker that she admitted to seeing and hearing things and was put on antipsychotics.

She has been hospitalised several times: ‘there were a lot of women who were really vulnerable because there were men that would pester them. I was big and crazy enough to tell them to go away and leave me alone’. As a result, she feels that hospitalisation wasn’t good for her recovery: ‘Let me put it this way, they said: “Dolly are you hearing voices or do you think that people are coming to get you?” and I said no, even though I believed it. I just wanted to get out as quickly as possible’. She was back in the hospital two weeks later.

Dolly was first in hospital for three months, then six weeks, then a month and finally three weeks. ‘I don’t plan to go back in, so I’m not going to say [the length of her hospital stays] are going to get better each time.’ She says: ‘I’ve had a lot [of antipsychotics], because they weren’t working. It was eight years until they found the right one. That’s a lot of time to wait, actually.’

She had to fight for non-drug therapies. In her 20s, she asked eight different psychiatrists for cognitive behavioural therapy and was told by all of them that it was only for people with depression and it couldn’t help her. They said the same about psychotherapy. It was only when she had a ‘good’ psychiatrist, that she was put on the waiting list for CBT at the clinic at the Maudsley hospital. She was on the waiting list for a year. She says: ‘CBT was the first thing that made me see that my psychotic thinking was actually quite logical and it always followed the same pattern. What CBT does is to see how one thought affects another and affects another until you end up in the middle of paranoia or kind of depression. What the service did was break down this thinking process, but with alternatives.’

She felt that a lot of people outside the mental health service helped her recovery, like her publisher, Jason Pegler: ‘He was the first person to really truly believe, not just the fact that I could be a good writer. He believed that I could recover – nobody else had that belief about me, not even me.’

He persuaded her to write her life story for Chipmunka Publishing, which concerned her at first, because her life had been so difficult. But once started, she finished the book in six weeks. ‘That’s how much it needed to get out.’ There is a note of laughter in her voice as she says ‘it was a cathartic experience’.

At the same time, Dolly became one of the founding members of Creative Routes, which started at the end of 2002, and which organise Bonkersfest. Their original membership of six is now around 500. She feels that the artists she has met have helped her. ‘I had social phobia for the longest time and I met a poet who kind of literally forced me onto the stage [laughs] to do some of my poetry reading’. They helped by giving her confidence. For her, the artists who she has met have been the biggest influence on her, as unlike mental health professionals ‘they do see my heart and they do see I’m a human being and that I’ve got good things inside me.
They don’t see something that’s broken, they see someone who can make poetry andmusic and write. I call them my angels, actually’.

She says with some mental health professionals, ‘it’s like you’re being served at Woolworths. Sometimes what you just need is a hug from these people’. She had a more positive relationship with the woman who gave her CBT. ‘That was Sarah “CBT was the first thing that made me see that my psychotic thinking was actually quite logical”

Shortly after I moved from the Norwood Team to work in the Streatham Service in south London, I began to hear about Dolly Sen. Colleagues would tell me in almost reverential tones how ‘she had written a book’. The opportunity to meet Dolly came when I invited her to give a talk at our local recovery group (Morgan & Carson, 2008). She spoke to a group of our service users and answered a whole range of questions from how she coped with suicidal thoughts, to the importance of having dreams for your life. ‘Have big dreams, take small steps’, she advised.

Our service users were hugely inspired by her presence and personal witness. The story of Dolly’s life and illness as revealed in her two books is a remarkable account of recovery, not just from mental illness, but extreme social adversity. Her story is an example of what the journalist India Knight has referred to as Mislit (Misery Literature), which I note Waterstones places in a section called, ‘Painful Lives’. Her life was as painful a story as I had ever heard in my years as a clinical psychologist. This woman happened to be a service user in the new community mental health team I was working in, and was our own local recovery hero. One of the training initiatives within our own service was the Retrain Project, developed by Professor Tom Craig and Doctor Mike Slade. This project aimed to train mental health professionals in two inner-city boroughs about recovery over four and a half days. On day one of the training, Premila Trivedi, herself a service user, talked about four recovery heroes. These were Patricia Deegan and Mary Ellen Copeland from the US (readers can see and listen to both women on YouTube) and Rachel Perkins and Peter Chadwick from the UK.

Another service user, Michelle McNary, has made a film about recovery, which features Dolly and three other local service users. In the booklet that accompanies the film (Carson et al, 2008), Dolly describes what helped her recover: ‘In the fabric of hell that enclosed me like a straitjacket, there was an infinitesimal tear, a hole which unravelled my hell, thread by thread, until the constraints became more hole than limitation.

Recovery is a letter of hopes, dreams, songs, peace, hurt, chaos, transcendence, night and light. Recovery is to be able to dream and live those dreams. To shine my brightest and live my fullest. To seize the day without the weight of the past. To lose any negativity in my life. To find the Dollyness of Dolly.’ (Sen, 2008, p11)

The four key elements of recovery, according to Andresen et al (2003), are having hope, finding meaning in life, developing a sense of identity separate from an illness, and taking personal responsibility for your life. These are complex processes. To my mind, Dolly epitomises all four, summed up in her wonderful phrase, ‘to find the Dollyness of Dolly’. Patricia Deegan also reminds us that the most important goal is ‘to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated, human being that we are called to be’ (Deegan, 1996). The challenge for all of us is to help our service users value their own uniqueness and help them move towards their own personal dreams and goals.

Dolly Sen is a remarkable woman. To my mind, she is a true recovery hero.


Andresen R, Caputi P & Oades L (2003) The experience of recovery from schizophrenia: towards an empirically validated stage model. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 37 (5) 586–594.

Carson J, Holloway F, Wolfson P & McNary M (Eds) (2008)

Recovery Journeys: Stories of Coping with Mental Health Problems.

London: South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

Deegan P (1996) Recovery as a journey of the heart. Psychiatric

Rehabilitation Journal 11 (4) 11–19.

Morgan S & Carson J (2008) The recovery group: A service user and professional perspective. Groupwork 18 (3).

Sen D (2002) The World is Full of Laughter. Brentwood: Chipmunka Press.
Sen D (2006) Am I Still Laughing? Brentwood: Chipmunka Press.
Sen D (2008) Dolly’s story. In: J Carson, F Holloway, P Wolfson & M McNary (Eds) (2008) Recovery Journeys: Stories of coping with mental health problems. London: South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

Shepherd G, Boardman G & Slade M (2008) Making Recovery a Reality. London: Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health.

Social Perspectives Network (2007) Whose Recovery is it Anyway? London: Social Perspectives Network.

For more information about Dolly Sen, visit her website at

Sarah Morgan is a service user who has recently completed a masters degree in journalism.

Jerome Carson is a consultant clinical psychologist, who works within the Lambeth Directorate of the South London NHS Foundation Trust. He can be contacted at

Posted by Dolly Sen, 7 August 2009

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 16 August 2009

Raising money for documentary on psychosis

I was over the moon to get picked to direct a documentary on psychosis as my graduation for university, but now it is the dirty business of raising funds. I want to raise unrestricted funds, in that the usual suspects who fund these kind of films are medical based, and I want to get away from the medical model.

So here are the details of what I want to do:
A synopsis of the idea It is a self-reflexive documentary about the experience of psychosis, focusing on the sensory aspect of it but also touching upon delusion. The film will be partly experiential in that through the film the viewer will hear voices and see visual hallucinations, but also how it affects people who have psychosis, their sense of identity, perception, and communication. It is a documentary that has no claims to objectivity which absorbs drama and art because by its very nature psychosis is not a reality shared.

Why you want to make this film?
I have personal experience of psychosis, and want to show what it is like as accurately as I can, and make the viewer experience it in is some small way, so as to gain a better understanding of it. There is the scientific element to the experience and want to use this documentary why so many people who go through it do not see it as an illness, and are resistant to scientific intervention. Because it isn’t necessary a negative experience. After the 1000th ride of this burning mental carnival, you start to see something else. You see, as the train rides upward, you get closer to the stars than everyone else. You hear music that no-one else hears, your soul makes its own symphonies when everyone else has to buy their song. You see psychosis can be magic at times, but it is a precocious and precarious magic. You have to be careful, you have to make sure you can put yourself back together when you saw yourself in half. Houdini did on the physical plane what mad people do mentally every single day – to very little applause. Some people see weakness, I see immense strength in those who are still standing. This is rarely touched upon in films on psychosis. I want to humanize what is seen as unfairly pathological. When the ‘real’ world is full of bills, unkindness, wars and stigma, staying in psychosis is very seductive. I would also like to highlight why so many people in psychotic crisis slip through the net and commit suicide; crisis care in this country asks you to pick up the phone when you are also hearing voices, and wait for hours in A&E whilst you are experiencing an emotional and mental apocalypse being actually surrounded by bleeding, crying, broken-boned people. Mental health services ask people in distress to swim the Channel when they are already drowning. I want the film to provide a challenging argument to those who want to maintain things as it is.

I want this film to stand as a work of art but I know from my work in mental health this kind of film would be invaluable for mental health professionals to understand better the people who they are trying to help, and in their training. But also to dispel ignorance about this aspect of mental health generally.

So if you are able to donate just even a fiver, thats cool. You can do it by going to  or in kind support is cool too. love Dollyx

Posted by Dolly Sen, 29 June 2009

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 5 July 2009


Waking up this morning has kind of answered the question I posed in my last blog. I can see the London skies are grey now but they weren't when I opened my eyes. Reality changed its mind this morning.

The colours of at my window waxed deeper, stronger, wilder; the skies were the colour of a thousand setting suns reflected in the swirl of melting glass; every particle of air had its own individual, unequivocal jewel. Birds were flying free Free FREE across the skies. Trees turned into giant flowers under a hallucinated sky and kaleidoscopic sun. Trees burned with Vietnam War radiance, with the terrible haloes of a million animals burning to death. This strange morning greeting reached its electrical peak, like a Hendrix riff pulled so wild it snaps. It wasn't just a visual experience, it was a strong mental one. I had the idea that death is a strange art, and living is the work of that art. The comedown took the lift and its muzak, but was pleasant in itself. The light in my room was so sweetly nameless, so painful, so lonely; it haunted and then faded away – not unlike the human soul, eh?

Psychosis gave me a gift this morning.

Now I am getting ready to go out and the skies are grey again...

Posted by ben paley, 15 July 2008

Last modified by ben paley, 10 June 2009



This week I have been put on some new meds for some recently developed epilepsy, and my mind has done some thinking on it that I am not sure would have arisen if I wasn’t taking these new drugs.

Now with Epilepsy on top of Psychosis, I am doubly ‘disabled’ but how come I don’t get twice my DLA? I have also come to the thought that prospective employers are gonna love me!

I went to a DAO meeting today, and we talked about spaceships, and Colin recreated the universe into something that could fit onto page. Did that really happen?

I also had a dream last night that aliens in trilby hats were going to invade earth with Karl Malden as their leader. Is this connected with the previous comment somehow?

I also realized that the dreamer and the dreamed are the same thing. That the dreamer dreamed a dreamer who dreamed a dreamer, etc.

Also, despite never drumming in my life, I bought a drum kit just because Animal from the Muppets has one.

Or maybe these thoughts are less crazy than the ones I have usually!

Posted by , 1 February 2008

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 21 June 2009