A journey through the vale of tears

Patrick SegalFormer interdepartmental delegate for people with disabilities, former general inspector for social affairs, and honorary member of Humanity & Inclusion.
Vagabondages. Itinéraire buissonnier d’un psychiatre de secteur (Vagabondages. The itinerary of a district psychiatrist) Michaël Guyader MJW Fédition, 2023 (published in French)

A literature buff fascinated by the agonies of mental health, Dr Guyader, a hospital psychiatrist, has devoted his career to making inroads into the indifference exhibited by our exclusionist societies. In the Paris suburbs, this psychiatry department head and his team have made every effort to restore the dignity rightly owed to the neglected residents.

Further afield, in Cambodia, Rwanda, Iraq and Palestine, the number of humanitarian workers who seemed to care about the deep trauma suffered by those who replay, over and over like a death mantra, the visions of horror and the cries of torture victims, were all too few and far between.

Against this backdrop, while I was on a journey with the founders of Humanity & Inclusion (formerly Handicap International), Dr Guyader was bridging the gap between his practice in France and mental health issues further afield. On the invitation of France’s Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, he developed programmes aimed at Palestinian health workers concerned with mental health. He made trips to Palestine over a ten-year period from 1996 to 2006, taking part in training for psychiatrists faced with the unfolding tragedy of a people and their invisible wounds.

This book tells the tale of a humanist doctor who crossed borders to reach the furthest confines of the human mind.

Publisher’s note

While Charlie Chaplin gave us his open-hearted and poetic portrayal of the tramp, how can the working life of a doctor in the public health system follow in the footsteps of this heart-warming vagabond? How can we broaden the scope of the most fruitful questions? How can we bring about unlikely encounters between people who have nothing in common? How do we explore the, at times, precipitous paths of thinking, artistic expression, philosophical discussion and social questions? Michaël Guyader endeavours to start shaping answers to these questions by telling the story of his exhilarating career as the head of a psychiatry department in the most underprivileged Parisian suburbs. Accompanied by a team endowed with remarkable skills, care and dedication, he focused on implementing a care programme based on resistance to any form of human domination over fellow human beings, at a time when division, segregation and exclusion were the order of the day. Inspired by his time spent in the company of madness and his many encounters with “ordinary people doing extraordinary things”, in the words of Lucien Bonnafé, Guyader has written a book that strongly encourages the reader to open their mind, offering a radical and original perspective on alienation, between psychoanalysis and politics, that will leave readers with food for thought.

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