Wednesday, 26 August 2015

stigma and scapegoating

A wee post about the singling out of some people for "special treatment" in mental health matters.  When emotional distress becomes a mental disorder or mental illness.  Diagnoses and labels which remain in the notes regardless of recovery or remission.  Scapegoating a few so that the many can rest easy. 

It wisnae me.

Last year I was asked to teach a 2 hour session from the "lived experience" perspective to a group of social work students on the topic of Social Justice.  I chose the topic of 'Mental Health Recovery':


During the session one of the male students in the class, very much in the minority (about 20 women to 6 men) told the story of an older female relative who had "schizophrenia", describing her antisocial and inappropriate behaviour over many years.  I then spoke of the risks to women in psychiatric settings, of drugs which disinhibit and leave female patients open to sexual exploitation.  The male student became agitated and said it was because of promiscuity.  To which I wrote up on the flipchart the word "scapegoat" and highlighted the definition on the white screen from the internet.

After the comfort break the male student and another male colleague did not return to the class.  The lecturer who was present during the session told me afterwards that she used some of the topics raised over sessions in the following weeks with students.  I found the teaching to be challenging.  Not least because I was sharing my story and life which is always costly but also because of the importance of the topics, the social injustice inherent in mental health matters and psychiatric treatment.  Which can result in psychiatric abuse.

Tough teaching which I hope led to some learning and shifting of perspectives.  When I hear of women being singled out for "special treatment" in psychiatry and society, in families and communities, it gets my goat.  The unfairness of it.  In a man's world.

I'd prefer a paternal psychiatry to a patriarchal system.  Protecting their conscripts and patients, from stigma and discrimination.  Rather than sending them out to a world which scapegoats and pins the label on a person like the game of pinning the tail on a donkey.  Which is no fun if you are the ass.

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Mary O’Hagan, Legal coercion: the elephant inthe recovery room, SRN, 17 January 2012 

 Scotland’s Mental Health Strategy: Mind the Gap, CSPP (Centre for Scottish Public Policy), 4 September 2014
 
In personal consideration of the 3 R’s: Resilience.Resistance. Recovery. Division of Clinical Psychology, Scotland, Review, Winter 2014/2015 edition, Issue 11

Bipolar Disorder from where I’m standing: a Mother speaks out (a piece written for Bipolar Scotland mag)

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