Friday, 22 January 2016

Dear @scotgov Ministers & Civil Servants: no hope of paid work in mental health recovery education; it's not fair or just

Here is an Email sent this evening to 36 Scottish Government Ministers & senior Civil Servants, including my MSP Roderick Campbell and other Fife MSPs:

Strapline: 'good for nothing' blog post; not meeting the criteria for EMPOWER project Glasgow University; no hope of paid work in mental health recovery education; financially poor; it's not fair or just

"Dear Scottish Government Ministers & Civil Servants

Here is a blog post which I wrote this morning first thing after waking entitled 'good for nothing':

This was because I heard yesterday that I did not meet the criteria for an interview re a project manager/research post with EMPOWER (Early signs Monitoring to Prevent relapse and prOmote Wellbeing, Engagement and Recovery), University of Glasgow, Mental Health and Wellbeing Unit.  I also heard from Abertay University mental health nursing programme that there was no likelihood of me getting any paid work there either, from the "lived experience" perspective.  Despite the fact I have two postgraduate reflective practitioner qualifications, am a lecturer and trainer, and have campaigned for better psychiatric services at Stratheden Hospital.  And for the last 8 years have voluntarily promoted recovery in a variety of settings and supported my two sons in their recovery from mental health issues and psychiatric treatment.

Here are two blog posts about the EMPOWER project which mentions mental health recovery.  Prof Andrew Gumley is the Chief Investigator:

I now have no hope of getting any paid work to do with mental health recovery education.  My 35 years experience of working in community learning and development, BA Admin Management (best student, Fife College 1996), PG Diploma Community Education (Northern College Dundee 1998), PG Certificate Teaching Qualification Further Education, care subjects (Stirling University 2008) are not valued in Scotland's mental health world.

The fact that I gave up paid work to be an unwaged carer, and at the same time got involved in many mental health groups from the psychiatric survivor and carer perspective, counts for nothing.  I recovered 3 times from psychoses and psychiatric drug treatment.  I never claimed Disability Living Allowance and got back to working as quickly as possible, resisting lifelong mental illness labels.  

I am now on a basic State Pension, no carers allowance, live in a council house and can't afford to run a car so have to take public transport.  Which is fine except the Springfield bus goes past Stratheden where my son had his human rights abused in 2012.  Therefore I am constantly reminded of my fight for justice.  And see the new build IPCU at a cost of £4.4million given to NHS Fife by Scottish Government after my son and I whistleblowed about the locked seclusion room, winning an Ombudsman case in Sep14, and a one-line apology from the Fife health board.

I am fortunate to have got myself fit and more able after a health scare last summer.  However if I'd believed the mental illness mantra and stayed on the 3 drug cocktail I was put on, 2002-4, then it might be a completely matter.  As it is, I have a 6in titanium plate on my fibula, no doubt caused by maximum doses of Venlafaxine when I was in my 50's, bone loss.  

I got involved in mental health matters because of sharing my recovery story on the SRN website in 2005 then updated in 2008, setting up Peer Support Fife that year, voluntarily, and running many events until funding ran out in 2012.  And then my time was taken up fighting for justice and for my son's wellbeing.

Why should I be penalised for making a full recovery from mental illness?  Why should I be financially poor for having supported my son 24/7, singlehandedly after psychiatric abuse in February 2012?  He lives with me. I have sat with him through the flashbacks in 2012, hearing what was done to him in the locked seclusion room.  Held face down with a broken hand in his own faeces and urine.  Light switch was outside the locked room which had no drinking water or toilet.  He was left for hours unobserved in the dark, through the night.  Practice should have changed and improved because of our transparency and exposing ourselves.

It's not fair.  I wanted you to know how I feel.  I am 63 and well able to do full-time paid work in a responsible position, educating mental health professionals from the perspective of surviving mental illness, psychiatric treatment and helping many family members to do the same.  Yet it seems that I have been penalised and punished for whistleblowing and for supporting my sons in their recovery.

Scottish Government should be funding properly paid posts for people who have recovered from mental illness and have supported family members to do the same.  It makes financial sense to employ the real Experts by Experience, giving appropriate payment for qualifications, to people who have proved their commitment by leading the way, in actions and outcomes.  (I am not interested in gongs, just wanted to clarify)

Yours sincerely,


cc Paul Hawkins CEO NHS Fife; Allan Burns Chair NHS Fife Board"

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