Murray Jackson

1922 – 2011

(Biography written at time of nomination.)

Murray Jackson has played a leading role over many decades, in both Britain and Scandinavia, in stimulating and maintaining the interest and skills of many professionals in the contributions that psychoanalytic approaches can make to the treatment of individuals with psychotic illnesses.

Born in Australia in 1922, he graduated in medicine  at the University of Sydney in 1945.  After Military service in Occupied Japan and a period of medical research in the US he moved to London where he trained in psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital. In the hey-day of psychoanalytic influence in psychosomatics he was much influenced by the work of psychoanalysts in the field of, in particular that of George Engel and John Romano at the Rochester School of Medicine and of Franz Alexander in Chicago.

Ten years as a psychiatric Consultant in a University Hospital led to a life-long interest in the psychological factors contributing to certain physical illnesses, in particular in those gastro-intestinal disorders which may occasionally reciprocate with psychotic states. Writing about psychosomatics, teaching medical students and trainee psychiatrists, and interest in Jung’s work on psychosis led him to training first in analytical psychology and later in psychoanalysis.

Appointed as Consultant at the Maudsley hospital in 1972, he directed a 10-bed a unit on ‘Ward 6’ where psychoanalytic principles were applied to the treatment of a wide range of the severely mentally ill, whilst continuing his private psychoanalytic practice which focused on less severe borderline and psychotic cases. The success of this unit depended on the integration of pharmaceutical, psychological and innovative nursing approaches, together with his psychoanalytically-based ‘ward rounds’ with patients and staff and active support for the psychological containment offered by the staff – particularly those nurses who went on to further training as ‘nurse-therapists’.

Although far from partisan within the psychoanalytic schools, he felt that Melanie Klein and those who followed in her footsteps and developed her ideas further offered a rich framework that greatly assisted the understanding of the psychotic mind, and he profoundly admired the work of pioneers such as Henry Rey, Donald Meltzer, Herbert Rosenfeld, Hanna Segal and Wilfred Bion.

With the encouragement of Paul Williams, the co-authored book ‘Unimaginable Storms:   A Search for Meaning in Psychosis’ (Jackson & Williams 1994) was published. This outstandingly educative book was based on edited transcripts of audio taped interviews of Murray with patients of the ward. It has been a most important source book for a whole generation of professionals seeking a contemporary psychoanalytic understanding of psychosis, and of the ‘psychotic’ aspects of their mind.

Regrettably the in-patient unit at the Maudsley Hospital was  not continued in the same modality after his retirement from the British National Health Service in 1987, but he continued his teaching at a number of centres in Scandinavia over the next 15 years, recording his experience in a second book –Weathering the Storms – Psychotherapy For Psychosis’ (Jackson 2001), a masterpiece of communication illustrating how selected psychotic patients can benefit from non-intensive psychoanalytic psychotherapy conducted by well-trained professionals was largely born out of this experience.

He and his colleague Michael Conran succeeded in persuading younger colleagues to work to bring the ISPS symposium to London in 1997 in order to influence practitioners in the mental health field in the UK and to inform them of the importance of developments in other parts of the world. Although long retired from direct clinical work, he has sustained a great interest in the subject of psychosis. He lives in rural France with his wife Cynthia, his constant companion and support for the 49 years of their marriage.

He was awarded a Life Service Award at the ISPS International Conference in Washington in 1994.

Brian Martindale