Mental Health and Justice Commission: the Ulysses pact

In book twelve of the Odyssey Homer describes Ulysses' encounter with the sirens, half women half birds who lure sailors to their deaths. Knowing that he will be unable to resist their song, Odysseus asks his men to bind him to the mast of their ship: 'So bind me ye in a hard bond so that I may abide unmoved in my place'. The sirens surround the boat and Odysseus asks to be unbound: 'I bade my comrades loose me, nodding to them with my brows... presently Perimedes and Eurylochus arose and bound me with yet more bonds and drew them tighter.' Here binding is both an act of restraint and protection. 'But when they had rowed past the sirens, and we could hear no more their song, then straightway my trusty comrades... loosed me from my bonds.' 

Advance Directives are sometimes known as Ulysses pacts, particularly in the US. Written when well, the pact is made with yourself, loved ones and professionals that if you are unwell in the future, you agree in advance to treatments which when unwell you might not agree to. For example, you agree to take medication, which in the future you might refuse. This of course throws up many questions both for the person making the pact and their loved ones, and ethical issues for the professionals treating them.  

There is a strong connection between the Ulysses myth and my work, which often involves binding as a form of restraint and care. See the next post about Florid, a bound fabric sculpture. In collaboration with Bethlem Gallery I have written a resource about binding, how I use it in my work and how other artists might employ it in theirs - click here to download a copy.