Rufus May

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Rufus May
Alma materUniversity of East London
OccupationClinical Psychologist

Rufus May (born 1968) is a British clinical psychologist best known for using his own experiences of being a psychiatric patient to promote alternative recovery approaches for those experiencing psychotic symptoms. After formally qualifying as a clinical psychologist, he then disclosed that he had been previously detained in hospital with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Early life and education[edit]

May grew up in Islington, north London.[1]

May qualified from the University of East London in 1998.

Experiences of mental health[edit]

May was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1986 at age 18. May was compulsorily detained in a psychiatric hospital on three occasions.[2][3] He understands his psychotic experiences as a reaction to experiences of emotional loss and social isolation.[4] Among other beliefs, he developed ideas he was an apprentice spy for the British secret service.[5] He also experienced messages from the radio and television. This eventually led to three admissions to Hackney Hospital within 14 months.[4]

After a year of receiving psychiatric drug treatment Rufus May decided to stop being involved with psychiatric services and stop taking the drugs he was being prescribed, he then used exercise, creative activities, social relationships and voluntary work to regain his well being.[6]

Clinical approach[edit]

Rufus May has used his professional knowledge and own experiences of psychosis to focus on developing services that are more patient centered and therapeutic approaches that are more collaborative, without relying on chemical imbalance theories of mental distress.[5] For example, he works with those experiencing auditory hallucinations by conversing directly with the voice to help discover the meaning of these dissociative experiences. He draws upon the Nonviolent Communication style developed by Marshall Rosenberg and mindfulness.

His approach received considerable publicity when it was the subject of The Doctor Who Hears Voices, a 2008 British television documentary broadcast on Channel 4 about a junior doctor helped by May to overcome her experiences of hearing voices.[7][8] Directed by Leo Regan, the documentary depicts the therapy which May provided to the junior doctor, played by actress Ruth Wilson.[9] The programme created a significant reaction[10] with both support and criticism of May's approach[11][12][13][14][15][16] and was a 2008 finalist in the Mind Mental health media awards.[17]

Religion and culture[edit]

May has expressed sympathy for individuals who come from various cultural backgrounds or those who hold specific religious beliefs in regards to proper treatment.

He has stated that "...for many people their voices are spiritual entities...we are working alongside traditional spiritual healers to create healing workshops that will help people deal with negative spirits. To insist on medicalizing this experience is now being recognized as culturally oppressive and colonial."[18]

Professional career[edit]

May has worked as a clinical psychologist in Tower Hamlets, East London, England.[6] He currently works as a clinical psychologist in an assertive outreach team in Bradford, England. He is actively involved in consumer recovery groups such as the hearing voices network and a Bradford mental health discussion and campaign group, Evolving Minds.[19][20]

He often provides comments in the British media against the use of compulsory detention and the forcibly use of medications legislation.[2][21]

His story has received a number of awards, including a Mental Health Media Survivor and Factual Radio awards in October 2001 for Fergal Keane's show Taking a Stand on Radio Four.[22][23] and a 2008 award for the TV documentary.[17]


  • May, R. (2000) "Routes to recovery from psychosis: The roots of a clinical psychologist", Clinical Psychology Forum 146: 6–10.
  • May, R. (2004) "Making sense of psychotic experiences and working towards recovery". In J. Gleeson & P. McGorry, (eds.) Psychological interventions in early psychosis. Chichester: Wiley.
  • May, R. (2007) "Working outside the diagnostic frame". The Psychologist Vol 20, No 5, pp. 300–301.
  • May, R. (2007) "Reclaiming mad experience: Establishing Unusual Belief Groups and Evolving Minds public meetings"'. In Peter Stastny & Peter Lehmann (eds.), Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry (pp. 117–127). Berlin / Eugene / Shrewsbury: Peter Lehmann Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9545428-1-8 (UK), ISBN 978-0-9788399-1-8 (USA). (E-Book 2018)
  • May, R. (2007) "Zur Wiederaneignung verrückter Erfahrungen. Gruppen für Menschen mit außergewöhnlichen Überzeugungen". In Peter Lehmann & Peter Stastny (eds.), Statt Psychiatrie 2 (pp. 119–130). Berlin / Eugene / Shrewsbury: Antipsychiatrieverlag. ISBN 978-3-925931-38-3. (E-Book 2018)
  • May, R. (2009) personal story of recovery in Living with Voices: 50 Stories of Recovery by Marius Romme, Sandra Escher, Jacqui Dillon, Dirk Corstens, Mervyn Morris. ISBN 978-1-906254-22-3

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dr Rufus May: One man and a bed". 22 September 2011.
  2. ^ a b "I survived mental illness". BBC News World Edition. 25 June 2002. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  3. ^ James, Oliver (2002/2007). They f*** you up. Bloomsbury. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  4. ^ a b "Dr Rufus May: One man and a bed". The Independent (UK). 6 August 2006. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  5. ^ a b "The mad doctor: The extraordinary story of Dr Rufus May, the former psychiatric patient". The Independent (UK). London. 18 March 2007. Archived from the original on 8 July 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  6. ^ a b James, Adam (20 September 2000). "Spying on the psychiatrists: Insider who has challenged the treatment of mental illness". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  7. ^ "A dialogue with myself". The Independent. London. 15 April 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2010.
  8. ^ "Review of The Doctor Who Hears Voices (2008)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
  9. ^ "Channel 4 The doctor who hears voices". Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  10. ^ "News on the film reaction". Psychminded. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
  11. ^ "Frontier Psychiatrist blog". Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  12. ^ Banks-Smith, Nancy (22 April 2008). "Last night's TV: The Doctor Who Hears Voices". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  13. ^ Flett, Kathryn (27 April 2008). "Hear the voices from the other side". The Observer. London. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  14. ^ Cooke, Rachel (24 April 2008). "A dangerous experiment". New Statesman. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  15. ^ "Hearing voices with your head in the sand". Mind Hacks. 22 April 2008. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  16. ^ Hoggart, Paul (19 April 2008). "The dangerous methods of Leo Regan in The Doctor Who Hears Voices". The Times. London. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  17. ^ a b "Mind Media Awards 2009". Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  18. ^ Hewis, Elaine; Knight, Tamasin (2013). Beyond Belief: Alternative Ways of Working with Delusions, Obsessions and Unusual Experiences. Peter Lehmann Publishing.
  19. ^ "Rufus May website". Retrieved 24 March 2010.
  20. ^ "Evolving Minds website". Retrieved 24 March 2010.
  21. ^ Horton, Clare (21 December 2000). "Mental health proposals flawed, says ex-psychiatric patient". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  22. ^ Double, D. B. (November 2002). "Critical thinking in psychiatry: A positive agenda for change". Lecture for the Mind Conference. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  23. ^ James, John (24 October 2001). "Society Role models. Praise for mental health media images". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 24 March 2010.

External links[edit]