When Dr. Michael Corry died at his home in Co. Wicklow on 24th February 2010, Ireland lost a gifted psychiatrist and psychotherapist, a fearless campaigner for the rights of mental health service users, a fierce opponent of, what he saw, as the over reliance on pharmacology in mental health treatment, an indefatigable campaigner for the abolition of ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy), a compassionate healer and to those of us privileged to work with him in Institute of Psychosocial Medicine (which he co founded), a generous and supportive colleague and friend.
Michael’s campaigning work and professional achievements have been rightly chronicled in the national media and there is a wonderful tribute to him by his good friend Basil Miller on the website of The Wellbeing Foundation, set up by Michael in 2006 with a number of mental health campaigners ‘who supported his existential approach to the treatment of psychological distress’. Michael’s humanistic approach grew out of his belief that ‘Depression was an emotion and not a disease; a reflection of loss, grief, broken hearts, chronic anxiety, panic attacks, sexual abuse, bullying, difficult relationships, financial problems, and the impact of having life fired at you point blank’. Michael lived his whole life passionately, professionally and personally. His love of music, cinema, gardening, horse riding and the countryside were as much a part of his life as his work, all shared with his beloved partner Dr. Aine Tubridy, with whom Michael co-wrote a number of books on the theme of mental health and wellbeing. Together they established and moderated the monthly Depression Dialogues seminars at the Institute. This was followed by The Psychosis Dialogues.
Michael’s physical presence and energy in the practice was palpable from the moment you opened the front door on the days he worked there. In an alcove in the hallway would always be the most stunning and beautiful arrangement of flowers from their garden which Michael had especially picked that morning. It raised one’s spirits immediately. Michael’s flower arrangements were done with the same passion he brought to the rest of his life and indeed he was often asked by friends to do the flowers for their weddings.
Michael’s sheer energy was at times like being around a whirlwind but as a colleague I had the privilege of sitting in on a number of sessions Michael had with people in terrible distress and great states of fear. Michael seemed to enter into a calm stillness with his patient and was naturally able to go wherever they had taken refuge within themselves and communicate with them so they began to feel a sense of safety. To me Michael’s compassionate way of working was the epitome of the humanistic approach.
We miss Michael very much in the practice both as a colleague and friend. The phone still rings every day with people wanting to share their memories of his many kindnesses and who just miss him. About a month ago I was coming up the garden path to the practice and I saw the crocuses had finally emerged into the light after this long hard winter. I thought of Michael planting them a couple of years ago with his son Julian and then I noticed something wonderful about the crocuses, they were growing in a particular pattern. Michael had planted them in the shape of a heart.
Tony Boland IAHIP is a psychotherapist and friend and colleague of Michael Corry.