"Dear Leaders of mental health organisations in the Scottish Mental Health Partnership (addressing this to people I know and have Email addresses for)
|link to SMHP info on RCPsych Scotland website|
I am writing to you with an initial response to the briefing paper 'Why Mental Health Matters to Scotland’s Future' from the perspective of a person who has survived psychoses and coercive psychiatric treatment on 3 separate occasions, 1978, 1984 and 2002, making a full recovery, by going against the advice of psychiatry, ignoring the "diagnosis", tapering the drugs and getting back on with my life. And I am also speaking to you as an uwaged carer of many family members who have experienced mental health challenges, coercive psychiatric treatment and recovery. Some of whom remained in the system, on the drugs and were/are disabled. By the drugs, treatment and "condition".
"The Scottish Mental Health Partnership believes it is time for a significant shift in Scotland’s approach to mental health. This means moving from a system primarily focused on crisis intervention and maintenance towards prevention of distress and the promotion of good mental health and wellbeing for everyone in Scotland, by right. We are therefore calling for a high level Commission of enquiry to lead and inform the transformation we need to place mental health at the heart of Scotland’s future. We also recognise that there are immediate challenges to address alongside the process of co-producing this future direction."
I have highlighted three points which stand out for me in your original statement paragraph. I agree that in Scotland we need a significant shift in our approach to mental health treatment. Particularly in psychiatric settings where my family have been constantly coerced to swallow drugs when in mental distress and were offered no talking therapies or individual, personal care. Rather we have been forced when resistant and made to conform with a drug regime which didn't suit all or many of us, or even any of us in the longer term. Psychiatric diagnosis were used to justify coercive drug treatment. I always entered a psychiatric ward voluntarily and then was forced. More recently the mental health act was used coercively on me and other members of my family. Same difference.
Therefore I want to see a shift away from drug-centred treatment to individual support and talking therapies, being listened to when in a psychosis, mental distress or emotional crisis. There will always be people in mental distress because life is tough and some of us are more prone to mental health than physical health conditions when experiencing stress. We externalise rather than internalise emotions, letting it out rather than keeping it in. So I don't agree with the focus on "prevention of distress". Rather I think it should be about supporting people through periods of distress or episodes of psychoses. Helping them/us to regain our equilibrium and resume our everyday lives with the minimum of coercion and drug intervention. I don't like being forced. Who does?
"co-producing this future direction": this statement bothers me. Because since I got involved in Scotland's mental health world in 2008 I have been continually excluded by many of you for speaking out about psychiatric abuse, human rights issues in mental health and for running on ahead with recovery-focused initiatives. Scottish Recovery Network left me out of the loop for daring to be a leader, a few months in to 2008 not long after I organised "Celebrating Recovery" in Cupar, Fife, for over 120 people. I have been continually excluded, silenced and bullied for daring to have a different opinion and for not being afraid to express it. I resisted coercive psychiatry so there is no way I'm going to put up with coercion in the "free" world of mental health matters.
Co-production should not be an exclusive enterprise of cronies and back-slapping chums, in my opinion. You should have critical and questioning voices in the mix so as to bring balance and give flavour to the proceedings. Room for doubt and a re-thinking of aims, objectives and outcomes. Otherwise it will be just another empire-building exercise by and for the chosen few. Which I've witnessed on many occasions over the last 8 years of being "meaningfully" (meaninglessly) involved in a variety of mental health networks and groups. You need to level the playing fields and include psychiatric survivors at the table. It makes sense to involve the people who have resisted mental illness, the scapegoating and coercive drugging.
I am looking for more. From mental health partnerships in Scotland. More sophistication in the consideration of shifts, direction and transformation. More commitment to alternative ways of working with people in mental distress. More talking therapies. More listening. More safe havens, therapeutic communities for people in psychoses and altered mind states which can be clinical but with space for the person as an individual. More room at the table for folk like me who are not afraid to speak out.
9 March 2016: disempowerment and discrimination: overcoming
cc Roderick Campbell MSP