Monday, 13 April 2015

levelling the ground; listening to the real experts; meaningful involvement

SRN link Dec05 event
Thinking back over the years of trying to be meaningfully involved in Scotland's mental health world and in having a voice locally in Fife, what sticks out most is the hierarchical shenanigans alongside the infantilisation of mental patients and the patronising of people with "lived experience", the real experts by experience (EBE).

I caught a glimpse of it at the Scottish Recovery Network Peer Support conference in December 2005, Glasgow, when noticing the organisational leaders who were going about as if on a different level from the rest of us.  No time to speak to anyone who wasn't a crony.

I had also by that time been a volunteer in a few mental health organisations in Cupar when recovering from psychiatric treatment in 2002, and noticed the patronising behaviour by paid workers towards EBE.  Mirroring the infantilisation techniques used in psychiatric settings.

It put me off getting involved and by 2006 I'd got a full-time post in Fife (Adam Smith) College setting up a student mentoring project, also finding work placements for students who were disabled or had other barriers to employment.

Latterly I got into lecturing at the FE college, doing a self funded postgrad qualification at Stirling University, in my own time.  I enjoyed the college post and got involved in various activities, including the Scottish Mentoring Network and writing pieces for local press about the projects I had set up.  At the same time I had evening posts, lecturing in care subjects and doing paid work for Fife Council in a community use school at Glenrothes.

Peer Support Fife bulletin front page
I decided to get meaningfully involved in mental health, January 2008 starting up Peer Support Fife, because of the peer movement, linked to recovery and the government arm SRN, which appeared to be about civil rights.  But it was more about employability, reducing the welfare budget and numbers of people with mental health problems on benefits.  The hierarchy and cronyism in SRN, VOX (national MH service user led organisation) and their buddies I found difficult to thole.

The more I spoke out with a questioning or critical voice, the more I was excluded, nationally.  There was no room for opposite opinions or for people who were independent thinkers, who would not fall into line and become a crony.  As if we should challenge psychiatry and patriarchal thinking by adopting the same mannerisms.  Very irritating.  A surfeit of badmouthing, backstabbing and bullying behaviour kept arising. 

The local Fife situation wasn't any better.  Tokenistic involvement of EBE and any critical voices not listened to.  Independent advocacy in Fife was not recognised or respected.  And in 2009 the advocacy tendering by statutory agencies resulted in the local groups losing out and an English learning disability service provider Circles Network winning the contract.  An end to independent advocacy in Fife.  A continuation of psychiatric abuse and tick-box involvement.

SPSO decision report link
The exposing of the "unreasonable treatment" of my son and human rights abuse going on in the Stratheden IPCU (intensive psychiatric care unit), in my Email complaints all through 2012 and in the successful Ombudsman complaint against NHS Fife, instigated by me and supported by my son, should have resulted in the health board attempting to meaningfully involve us.  Rather it is still a case of drawbridges up and a refusal to engage with us, and to work through the issues.

The old Stratheden IPCU/Ward 4 building was declared "unfit for purpose" by the Mental Welfare Commission.  Locking mental patients in a seclusion room with no toilet or drinking water for hours at a time is human rights abuse.  Prisoners got compensation for slopping out: "seeking to challenge slopping out as being in breach of Article 3 of ECHR in that it amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment"

For the culture to change in Stratheden Hospital will require the meaningful involvement of EBE and for NHS Fife health board managers to work with complainers, listening to our experiences and asking for our participation.  Otherwise it's like closing the barn doors after the horse has bolted.




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