Just posting a quick bullet-point list of tasks I will be working on in 2022, and a very short recap of my first year as an MD-PhD trainee in 2021.
I am about to complete and submit a manual on research methods to be published as an open-access resource at the Universitat Oberta de Cataluña and Universitat Rovira I Virgili. It will be used at an undergraduate level course I will be working as a professor assistant from February to June, my first experience at university-level teaching.
The main issues I am dealing with are quantitative-qualitative methods, feminist research, open science and innovation, FAIR data, citizen science, and a toolkit of open source software suited for anthropology fieldwork.
I will be doing my best to engage enough students to be able to take forward a new edition of the Open Dialogue postgraduate course I was supposed to promote and co-coordinate this course at Blanquerna-Universitat Ramón Llull along with Dr. Jaakko Seikkula and Dr. Berta Vall (one of my thesis directors), but was finally canceled due to lack of quorum.
Once this is done, I will explore other avenues and opportunities to teach in different institutions, as I both need the experience to ensure I become a professor in the future, and my family sorely needs the money it will generate -due to an incompatibility legal clause, short teaching gigs happen to be the only economic activity aside from my research I am allowed to engage during the span of my current contract of University Professor in Training with the Spanish Ministry of Universities (until October 2026).
Publish-or-perish, my future academic career depends in part on the quality of my publications, so I will be taking it seriously:
I am co-authoring a chapter on alternatives to coercion to be published in a forthcoming Springer book, edited by a colleague from the European Violence in Psychiatry Research Group.
Hopefully, I will get my name on the special edition devoted to Open Dialogue in Frontiers of Psychology, thanks to the involvement in the HOPEnDIALOGUE initiative. Equally important, I will do my best to reengage with the ODDESSI trial and the international research project to ensure the data collected from implementation efforts in Spain benefit the rest of the teams working on the approach Worldwide.
In any case, I am restarting the work with the Open Dialogue pilot project team in Barcelona, as well as coordinating a working group on the topic along with professionals of the Spanish chapter of the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis (ISPS) and members of the Spanish Open Dialogue Network we established last year, with about 70 members in total. At the very least I will be presenting the results of the research at the next ISPS conference to be held in Trieste this summer.
Other ongoing research projects include:
Finishing the mapping of the Spanish excellence research network on mental health, the national CIBERSAM network, including a short review of the about 4k papers the groups involved have published so far. The resulting paper will point at the lack of psychosocially oriented groups and research, the need to coordinate efforts, and to include socio-economic and cultural expertise beyond purely biological and naively reductionist approaches to ensure the network output is truly relevant and benefits society for real.
Finishing the mapping of the status of forced medication laws and practices in the Spanish territory, with input both from practitioners and service users.
Resuming meeting informants and co-researchers to fully understand how practices are currently working in Spain. I have more than 300 survey answers to review from last year, and the chance to interview about 30-50 persons who already offered to share their experience.
Sharing my research on an ongoing basis as an autoethnographic project, with full disclosure and transparency, enforcing open science principles to the best of my abilities, with regular updates using this newsletter and, hopefully, also a podcast and/or a videoblog.
Resume my involvement with action-research networks and initiatives such as Mad in (S)pain and the EU COST action FOSTREN on alternatives to coercion in mental health settings.
I will simply do my best to pass my first year of medicine without dying trying; I already got a couple of subjects off by the validation of previous studies, so I am technically already in the second year of the degree. My goals with the study of medicine are:
To ensure my family and I have a brighter future, as the path to tenure is extremely narrow, hard to traverse, and would still require many years of temporary contracts and financial instability after completing my Ph.D.… which we -as a marriage with small kids to take care of- simply cannot afford.
With my current salary as a researcher, I cannot even rent a place to live independently in any major (and most minor) Spanish cities, despite my contract being the most competitive and prestigious at the doctoral level in Spain (only 250 candidates get it per year, among those with the best curriculums and higher academic grades in the country).
To be able to help those facing similar situations as a practitioner soon. I know firsthand that abusive families can destroy individuals, crush lives, and damage generations to come, especially if paired with professional prejudices and carelessness that blind those supposed to help. Becoming a medical doctor myself is the perfect way to make sense of what we have been through, and use the experience to help others out.
Being a medical anthropologist without being a medical doctor, undertaking observant participation as a fly-in-the-wall without being able to be part of the community, maybe half enculturated in the group but not skilled and ready to engage in the ongoing healing processes as a real member, is not enough to establish the bonds needed to truly learn, understand and share.
Very quick 2021 recap:
Overall, it was a good year in which several important milestones were achieved: participating as a speaker in a forum held at the Mexican congress thanks to the invitation by Dr. Alberto Vásquez, presenting data for an EU report on alternatives to coercion in the continent thanks to Jonas Bull, and Dr. Piers Gooding, helping co-coordinate the HOPEnDialogue conference and Spanish postgraduate course on Open Dialogue thanks to Dr. Raffaella Poccobello, Dr. Berta Vall and Dr. Jaakko Seikkula, coordinating the Mad In America Global Network thanks to Robert Withaker, and many other achievements.
But it was also a year in which my family and I were almost sidetracked again by the mental health problems and abuses of my family of origin. Otherwise, much more could have been done. I.e. I had to give up my scholarship to study with Dr. Mary Olson to become a trainer of trainers in Open Dialogue at her institute at Yale University due to the economic and emotional hardship imposed on us by a crisis of my relatives (my family of origin drama, and the pain they have inflicted on me and mine through the years, needs to be dealt apart in another post).
Fortunately, we are now in a much stronger position to defend ourselves and fight to have a good life on our own, be ourselves, cut clean from their dysfunctional dynamics, their controlling and domineering ways, deeply disrespectful and abusive behavior…. and just love each other, care for those in need and deserving, and deliver as much goodness as possible.
I am writing these lines from Oulo, Finland, during a quick stop on our way from Tromso back to Helsinki. Over here, alone with my wife and kids, we are enjoying a respite… learning to enter -and defend- our own safe space:
Jokes aside, we collectively need to learn how to enter a safe space where those suffering will feel welcome, protected enough to open up and share what’s bothering them. We, collectively, as a sick society. Help each other, knit a mutual aid support network without much distinction between professionals and non-professionals, without arising an artificial barrier, hierarchies to divide between experts and laymen, those who know and those who don’t. Doing no harm.
Authority comes from a loving heart, the most important skill to help heal is a just that and a keen eye to prevent abuses from those with power over those who don’t have the resources and the freedom to choose. To regain trust, build community, go through the process together with those we chose to share our lives with, without coercion, without violence, without lies.
And, if necessary, relearn the essentials: just be there for each other and care, feel again that there is hope and the prospect of being loved, despite how cold and cruel the world may seem to be at times, is real.