Here is the introduction to a tale of two health board areas in terms of psychiatric inpatient care and the treatment of carers and families. Next door to each other geographically but under different management and leadership. The one where I live is rural and the other a city.
Since 1995 I've engaged with psychiatric services in Fife, the first occasion as a carer of a family member in the Lomond acute ward, Stratheden Hospital, Cupar. It was a difficult experience, my relative wasn't well looked after, he got a head injury, I complained. Other stuff happened, all of it negative. Therefore in 1999 when another family member had a psychotic episode we made sure he was admitted to the Liff Hospital, Dundee which he remembers as a positive experience.
Then in 2002 I ended up a patient myself in Stratheden's Lomond Ward, going in voluntarily but quickly sectioned and forced to take the risperidone. Beginning on a path of psychiatric drug cocktails, suicidal impulses and so-called mood stabilisers. Before taking charge of my own mental health and completely recovering in 2004.
I've also had brushes with psychiatry in other health board areas. As a patient in Hartwoodhill Hospital, Lanarkshire in 1978 and 1984. Then as a carer visiting family members over the years in Murray Royal Hospital Perth, Gartnavel Royal Glasgow, Royal Edinburgh, from 1970 to 2000. And presently visiting Carseview Centre, Dundee.
So I'm an expert by experience when it comes to psychiatric treatment, from the user, survivor and carer perspective. Not a career of choice but one of circumstances. I don't believe in the biomedical model of mental illness although I might have had more cause to than most. Therefore recovery was always a given despite what the professionals forecast. It made sense.
And so I have always encouraged family members to recover after their psychiatric inpatient treatment and labelling. To ignore the diagnoses which are psychiatric constructs and to plan their own recovery journey, as I did mine. It's not easy, especially if you tell psychiatry that you won't be following their advice. Lifelong mental illness, mood stabilisers, disability and mental health service land.
Many folk will go their own way and not tell psychiatry, disappearing off the radar, psychiatric labels buried deep within the notes. Others might have a relapse or another episode of mental distress and are captured again by the system. Revolving door patient syndrome might follow or maintenance medication. Social control by another name.
I look forward to comparing and contrasting the two different areas, weighing up the pros and cons of psychiatric treatment and recovery focused care. The exercise will be useful in the work I do in mental health which includes participating in national groups from the survivor/carer perspective. My aim as always is to bring about improvement and even transformation to the psychiatric system. It's my reason for getting involved.