Monday, 18 August 2014

Scotland's mental health strategy - a damp squib and a disappointment but I shall persist

Since getting involved in Scotland's mental health world in 2008 I have taken part in many consultations, run by government and government funded organisations.  In particular the "new" mental health strategy consultations in 2011 where I attended national events and completed an individual response, all of this in a voluntary capacity.

I remember asking the question in a blog post at the time of the strategy
launch in September 2012 - "is the new mental health strategy more than just a fine piece of rhetoric?". 

And the concluding paragraph: 

"I'm looking forward to the challenge of finding out if the new mental health strategy is more than just a fine piece of rhetoric.  More than an aspirational document.  And more like a template for action with a real commitment to change.  To bring about a transformation to the psychiatric system and the resulting mental health services.  While recognising and respecting the ongoing stories of the survivors."

Considering that in February 2012 my youngest son was subjected to human rights abuse, forced drugging and humiliations in Stratheden Hospital IPCU, I think it says something about my positive attitude that by the September of that year I was still hopeful that Scottish Government's mental health division was serious about meaningfully involving people with "lived experience".

Nearly two years have passed since the mental health strategy was launched.  What are my thoughts about the strategy?
  • it's an aspirational document that hasn't lived up to its expectations
  • it's not been a template for action or real commitment to change, rather a reinforcement of what has gone on before
  • it hasn't brought a transformation to the psychiatric system or mental health services 
  • the stories of survivors have not been truly recognised or respected
Why is this? 
  • it's a top-down affair
  • meaningless involvement has underpinned the strategy
  • they wanted puppets not flesh and blood people
  • they expected obedience and not free thinking individuals
  • they are used to "service users" kowtowing
  • they don't know how to translate words into action
 What is the solution?
  • meaningful involvement of mental health users, survivors and carers
  • level playing fields and straight paths - civil servants being honest, behaving with integrity, demonstrating equality, admitting their weaknesses
  • team playing, delegating, sharing information, risking relationships
  • recognising and rewarding the hard work of users, survivors and carers
  • breaking down barriers and admitting that we are all in the same lifeboat
How can this be achieved?

For my part I will continue in writing, activism and campaigning, to influence positive change in mental health matters.  I've started so I'll finish.  I will continue to be meaningfully involved with individuals who are of like minds and in groups where my voice is being heard.  

I will also agitate and attend events where I can speak out about the reality of mental health care in Scotland and human rights issues in psychiatric settings.  First do no harm.  I want to see an end to forced psychiatric treatment and alternative ways of working with people in altered mind states, mental distress or emotional crises, that don't just mean drugs.

I expect civil servants to be civil and to be accountable, to the public and to government ministers.  I expect the psychiatric system to improve where I live and for justice to prevail.  I expect that voices of reason in mental health matters will be heard and respected, eventually.  It makes sense.

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