Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Paranormal "Experts" Must Never Ignore Possible Mental Health Issues.

A major concern I've had with the behaviour of certain paranormal groups in the past, is their willingness to go into a family home and declare the presence of some form of paranormal happening. This is often done with little regard for the potential impact this has on the individual being told this. The impact is obviously greater for more vulnerable individuals such as those suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues.

I know of a few diligent teams who even after ensuring their does not suffer from these particular issues by speaking to them directly, will send a member of the team to the client's bathroom to check the medicine cabinet for prescription medication that indicates the presence of a sufferer of one of these conditions. To be clear: not sure I'd actually endorse this myself.

This may seem unscrupulous, even underhand, but its important to bear in mind that this done because the team is passing some form of judgement on those with mental health issues, or that these issues make their experiences less credible, its the consideration that performing an investigation in this person's home may be perpetuating a delusion that they are suffering from, or perhaps cause an unbearable amount of stress or anxiety to this person.

Its responsible. These groups don't what to harm people and they are aware of the potential to do so.

Unfortunately many paranormal groups are operated by individuals who are deluded themselves. When they offer help to others they aren't looking for rational explanations, they aren't looking to dismiss these things. Both parties are colluding, albeit subconsciously in many cases, to join together to perpetuate their MUTUAL delusion.

The danger in this is, some people can't switch the delusion off. They can't return to normality, can't compartmentalise their belief that paranormal entities are affecting their lives. Its these people that paranormal groups and "experts" who aren't also mental health professionals, should avoid dealing with, the potential to do harm is to great.

So, at some point last week this message appeared in my Facebook news feed:

I have to admit, I was intrigued. Proof? Legal reports? Of the haunting itself? That WOULD be most unusual indeed!

In the past I've become involved with "cases" (and I use that word extremely loosely)  such as this and its simply involved a few photographs that could be easily debunked, experiences that could simply be described as "interesting" but little else. The promise of "proof" and "legal reports" was definitely new. 

I contacted Jo and offered any help with the occurrences in question as I could. My thinking was I would offer the rational explanation, that may not be forthcoming from others involved.

 I was then included in a private Facebook conversation with "Joseph". It was immediately clear to me from reading the earliest posts and Jo's introduction, Joseph had not had the easiest life. In fact he'd seemingly suffered some quite unspeakable abuse as a child.

Apparently Joseph's parents were Satanists
who subjected him to ritual and sexual abuse as a child. They were also heavy drug users. Joseph evidences this with a news clipping about himself from a Canadian newspaper (I'm omitting details here to preserve Joseph's anonymity as much as possible), he also includes a doctor's report which mentions the abuse but only in terms of what Joseph has reported to the doctor. This certainly isn't documentation of anything paranormal, and I'm sure the term "ritual Satanic abuse" will raise many eyebrows.

If you are unaware of the link between satanic abuse allegations and false memory syndrome there are a wealth of articles available on-line. Here are a selection of links to reports on the topic. Joseph's age would certainly mean he was alive and a young man during the height of "Satanic panic" that spread throughout the US and Canada during the 80's and 90's. Whether Joseph's experiences are connected to this I don't know, what is undeniable is that he is extremely disturbed by what he claims to have experienced.

Joseph also has an unhealthy obsession with the paranormal. During the conversation he posts a multitude of extremely mundane "paranormal" photographs, many of them are absent of anything that could even be described as photographic anomalies. This strongly implies that Joseph sees the paranormal in almost everything. Opposite are a few of Joseph's photos that according to him display paranormal phenomena to illustrate this point:

Joseph's obsession with the paranormal also extends to believing that he has several "attachments". Ranging from the spirits of dead children to demonic entities, Joseph claims these entities physically and sexually assault both him and other people, including his ex-girlfriend. This is the issue that Jo was initially asking other individuals to help with. 

Below Joseph describes in his own words the entities which plague him:

He also describes the nature of the attacks he alleges he has suffered at the hands of these beings. 

As you can see the response to this by one of the individuals "helping" Joseph is to suggest that he is suffering this abuse because his parents "opened the door to hell". This is clearly encouraging the delusion Joseph is suffering from, and even if you believed that was true, why state it? Did this person not question for a moment that maybe the impact of such an idea on Joseph could be damaging to his well being?

You'll notice that in the first segment I reproduced there Joseph states that his doctor can vouch for the events he states occurred. He reproduces documents from his doctors,that, while not providing evidence for the supernatural nature of these claims, do strongly indicate what the underlying issues are here:

In case you missed  that:

So Joseph suffers from dissociative personality disorder? The key symptom in this condition being the adoption of multiple personalities that control the sufferer's behaviour at times! Surely that explains Joseph's "attachments" who he believes control his behaviour? If the individuals involved in this conversation had any ethics they would've pulled out of this conversation as soon as they read this. Surely they must realise that discussing these "entities" as if they are real has the potential of being very damaging to Joseph?

A letter from a rehabilitation centre further confirms Joseph's mental health issues alongside his history of substance abuse:

Despite this the participants in the conversation continue to speculate on what demonic forces are at work in Joseph's life, what form of spiritual rescue he needs, all seemingly oblivious to the harm they could be doing to Joseph: They almost seem to be enjoying themselves. Why not? Its enjoyable to lose yourself in a little in fantasy world, where you are an "expert" or posses amazing abilities and gifts. But this clearly isn't what Joseph is experiencing.

He needs a least three "demonists" to visit him! In Jo's "expert" opinion one just won't do the trick! And true to her word she introduces a "Warren" (not the official term for a group of two of more self proclaimed "experts" in demon studies... but it should be) of demonologists into the conversation.

The first is a founding member of RAPS paranormal, Vivian. RAPS were recipients of a 2014 "Casper" for a hilariously faked ghost photo, and are a group that seemingly sees no ethical issue in walking into people's homes and telling them that they have demonic lodgers.

Its at this point in a conversation that I notice a trend in what is being said to Joseph. The paranormal "experts" often out right state that Joseph's ordeal is somehow his fault. He isn't strong enough, they say. He doesn't want this to be over enough.

Can you imagine a mental health professional handling this situation in this way? By blaming the victim for their condition? It wouldn't happen.

This individual then decides that the course of action here is to confront and challenge Joseph's "attachments".  Eventually this begins to warrant an angry response from Joseph:

As is clear Joseph begins to speak as one of his alternate personalities now. It has to be pointed out now that Joseph may well be trolling this person, he maybe enjoying this game and the attention it brings. But the danger is that with his medical health history, Joseph maybe experiencing an episode brought about by this discussion or the direct confrontation.

If this occurs to Vivien it doesn't change her approach. Not even the threat of self-inflicted physical harm seems to give her pause. She continues to goad Joseph.

This leads almost inevitably to Joseph threatening to take his own life:

 Not even this stops any of "experts" who just want to help Joseph from questioning him, or from enforcing his delusions. More "demonologists" come into the conversation. They seem completely unconcerned about Joseph's mental health.

Well. I was.

At this point I contacted Joseph's local mental health authority, I believed that given Joseph's history he maybe known to them, and indeed he was. They assured me he would be contacted to ensure his threats of self -harm were not legitimate.

Joseph's last message indicated that he had been told not to communicate with anyone on the thread any more, that they weren't his friends, and weren't trying to help.

My hope is he was told this by the professional involved with his case and not his "attachments".

I wish Joseph the best and really hope he gets all the help he needs.

I feel terribly sorry for what he experienced in this exchange.The individuals involved here, were at best, completely and utterly reckless and irresponsible. The stupidity at allowing this to continue after Joseph threatened suicide is breath-taking.

  At worst they exploited Joseph's problems to construct a fantasy for themselves were they were the gifted individuals who were going to save this poor wretch from his literal demons.

They totally ignored Joseph's mental health disorders to prolong this scenario. That's unforgivable whatever the motivation.

Some accusations from the instigator of the post I blogged about here that I didn't stay until the end of the thread. She insists the correct help was given after I left. I maintain that the "correct help" would come from mental health professionals not self proclaimed demonologists.

Here's the last post I received from the thread. You'll clearly see Joseph had left and didn't seem like he had the demeanour of a man who had been helped.