Tribute: Michael Corry, 1948 – 2010

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.