Saturday, 19 March 2016

"it has been difficult on the margins, being bullied for speaking out" @ChrysMuirhead #RethinkingPsychiatry

Yesterday a Facebook friend sent me a link to a blipfoto piece on Rethinking Psychiatry in Portland, Oregon, which told of a Truth and Reconciliation meeting held on Wednesday night.  It resonated with me and this morning I wrote a comment.  

Here is the piece by kendallishere on blipfoto:

"Thanks to Cindi Fisher, Portland now has a thriving community called Rethinking Psychiatry. It offers a radical approach to what has been called “mental illness.” That community speaks of “extreme emotional states,” rather than "illness," and they met Wednesday night for a three-hour Truth and Reconciliation exercise. Those who have extreme emotional states were invited to sit in an inner circle and briefly describe their experiences of treatment. The outer circle was composed of mental health professionals, allies, and friends. 

Some described their “treatment” as “assault” or “incarceration and torture.” All had been forced to take psycho-active drugs, and not one person in the circle reported a positive experience with those drugs. Instead they described disorientation, confusion, seizures, rashes, vomiting, and lasting brain damage. Most had been isolated, left without human touch or contact for weeks at a time. One said she never wants to hear the term “non-compliant” again because every attempt she made to take control of her own body and her healing was interpreted as “non-compliance” and was punished. 

People in the outer circle sat in silence, some visibly moved, all grave. After a short break, “providers”--nurses, therapists, and some physicians, took their places in the inner circle and expressed anger, grief, rage, and shame. A physician said the field of mental health treatment as she has known it is a “cult.” A nurse said she thinks the pharmaceutical industry is the only group that profits from “this broken system.” A therapist apologized for the harm he has done. An emergency room nurse said she always has at least four patients at a time to care for, making it impossible for her to give adequate care to any of the four if one of them is having a mental health crisis. Several elders in the group said the quality of care declined sharply during the Reagan years and has gone steadily downhill since.

Finally all of us sat in a large circle and said what we will take with us from the exercise. Empathy and compassion. Rage. Awareness of the ways the system abuses both patients and carers. Commitment to strengthen the community of those who seek alternatives to drugs, electro-shock treatments, and punitive incarceration of people who report having extreme emotional states.

The man in the photograph was jogging through the streets of Portland carrying a heavily weighted ball on his shoulder, part of his exercise regimen. Most people’s weights are less visible."


And here is my comment:

"A facebook friend from Fife in Scotland where I live shared your story in a private message and I'm glad she did.  I joined blipfoto and it is encouraging to read about the Truth and Reconciliation exercise at Rethinking Psychiatry (had heard of this before through Rufus May). I'm a psychiatric survivor and carer, 63 years young and a granny, having supported my 3 sons in and through psychiatric treatment, and write in blogs and through social networks from the survivor perspective.

I like that there were professionals or providers at the meeting who were willing to take part, sharing their own emotions and feelings. In Scotland this would not be likely to happen.  Rather I've been at meetings where the anger from paid workers has been directed at me for speaking out about psychiatric abuse, coercive drug treatment and the long-term disabling effects of psych drugs.  I think the issue is to do with expressing the anger and rage without it becoming, or resulting in, bullying and aggression.  

I got "meaningfully involved" in Scotland's mental health world in 2008 because of the so-called "peer support" movement, sharing my story on Scottish Recovery Network, and set up Peer Support Fife (Jan08-Nov12).  However it wasn't long before I found myself excluded from inner circles and bullied for speaking out from the psychiatric survivor perspective.  My voice silenced.  Which turned me into a writer, to have a voice, and in Jan12 I became a "foreign correspondent" on Mad in America (until Sep15), having invited Bob Whitaker to speak in Cupar, Scotland, Nov11.

I have since had to become a human rights campaigner in mental health/psychiatry because my youngest son was locked in a seclusion room with no toilet, drinking water, in the dark, for hours on end, unobserved, in Feb12.  Human rights abuse.  I did get an apology, if grudging, from our health board in Fife, and Scottish Government gave £4.4million for a new build Intensive Psychiatric Care Unit, nearly complete.  However it has been difficult on the margins, being bullied for speaking out.  And at the same time caring for my son 24/7, with no other support, after the abuse from psychiatric treatment.  

The challenge for me is not to become too angry or bitter at the injustice of a system which silences critical and distressed voices.  I will keep speaking out and can do no other, at the same time taking care of my own mental and physical health, as best I can.  Fighting for justice and to be heard.  All the best to Cindi Fisher in her campaigning work. 

Thank you, Chrys.

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