Thursday, 4 May 2017

"no way we can guarantee success": the breakdown of supervision; "slumbering time bomb"

On Tuesday I had a meeting organised with my PhD Supervisor Professor Matthias Schwannauer in Edinburgh at his office, Doorway 6, Medical School.  This was in response to an Email I sent to my supervisors and academic mentor on 26 April, an appeal for solidarity:

Strapline: being set up to fail [risk of relapse]; equating psychosis with mental disorder

"Dear Matthias, Andrew, Rosie

I'm looking for solidarity on my PhD journey.  For you to stand with me, alongside, all the way.  So that I can evidence safe haven crisis houses, alternatives to psychiatric inpatient treatment, to eventually develop the same in Scotland so that people experiencing psychosis can transition, come through, journey, without risk of coercive drug treatment, psychiatric abuse and mental disorder labels/diagnoses.

If you're not up to the job then please let me know.  I need people who are with me, not against me.  To be "with me" means not setting me up to fail.  I don't need this type of "support".  I get enough of this already from psychiatric system conscripts who have done their best since 2008 to silence my voice, to bully and intimidate me.  But I didn't recover from, survive, psychosis and abusive psychiatric treatment on 3 separate occasions, just to allow Scottish mental health bully boys to have their way.  I will resist.

I don't mind failing, can bounce back.  However I'm not prepared to be set up to fail because you don't believe in me, or rather you believe the system is all powerful.  I don't believe this.  I'm not a fatalist and escaped lifelong mental illness because of my unbelief.  

Judy Thomson, Director of Psychology Training, awarded £10K for a piece of research into the involvement of Experts by Experience in NHS Psychology Training.  I've now got a copy of the 38 page booklet.  It's not an impressive piece of work, got to be honest.  In comparison my PhD will result in 100K words, over 3yrs of in-depth mixed methods research, engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, maybe a book at the end of it, eventually gathering evidence to justify the setting up of alternative safe houses in Scotland for people experiencing psychosis and/or extreme mental states, avoiding coercive treatment.  Fees of £12K plus project funding.  Value for money.  

Before applying for project funding I need to ensure PhD fee payment.  It may be that our (not just my) project funding application will include Researcher salary costs.  However the fees for year one will require to be paid within about one week of matriculation in September.  I don't have £4000 in my bank account to pay the first instalment.  I can't take out a loan because I couldn't afford to pay it back.  To be blunt, I am very poor financially, dependent on my son to give me money out of his benefits so that we can survive, pay the bills, have food to eat, a warm house, clothes on my back.  

I don't like or enjoy being poor.  To have no car now after 40yrs of driving.  That's hard, living in a village, bus service going by Stratheden Hospital where my son was abused.  I'm a resilient person but that doesn't mean I'm a superwoman.  I've got various health conditions which I live with, including a metal plate on right fibula, bladder prolapse, golf-ball sized gallstone, weak hamstring left leg and prone to muscle strain on left side due to metal plate causing imbalance.

To sum up.  It is my intention to do a PhD at Edinburgh University.  I will require you to support me in this venture.  Fees will need to be paid in September.  Project funding will be required to cover expenses and other costs.  I am not able to do it all on my own, or I would.  I won't be giving up this quest.  

Thank you for listening,

Yours sincerely, Chrys"

I received a positive response from my mentor Professor Andrew Gumley, summing up conversations which we'd had by Email and finishing with "Hope these thoughts are helpful as they reflect the kind of commitments and solidarity that I feel can support you on your quest.". 

Prof Schwannauer also responded, to a previous Email I'd sent him, firstly on 23 April then resent on 26 April, asking for a meeting to discuss funding.  He only responded when I sent the Email above.  There was a lack of communication between us and this was concerning.  Prior to this I'd had to resend Emails to receive an answer from the Professor.  

A meeting was arranged between us, on 2 May at 1pm in his office.  I'd also sent a more recent Email, saying that I would like to discuss a presentation which he'd given to DClinPsy trainees, topic of 'Interpersonal Processes', strapline of Email "Why does the majority of mental disorder develop in early adulthood?" from Slide 3, in which I said "to be honest I'm horrified".  A strong word but it was how I felt upon reading Prof Schwannauer's presentation.

Introductory slide had this quote:

Slide 2
 Which inferred that "mental disorder" was abnormal development.  Rather than a psychiatric construct which allows for coercive, abusive, treatment, justified by declarations of "incapacity". 

"Slumbering time bomb" on Slide 3 I found this very stigmatising and discriminatory, deterministic and wrong.  Eight of my family have been subject to psychiatric abuse because of mental disorder labels.  I was undertaking the PhD to evidence safer alternatives to psychiatric inpatient treatment.  

Slide 3
On 28 April I had Emailed my academic mentor saying that I had doubts about Prof Schwannauer being the right supervisor for me, the dubiety and lack of congruence, appearing to support me at one meeting then the next time being the opposite.  I'd had this since September 2016.  Plus his treatment of Rosie Stenhouse, my other Supervisor.  Catching her on the stair to give her instructions as to what she should say to me, getting her to run his errands.  Like piggy in the middle.  I wasn't happy about this. 

I said to Prof Gumley in this Email 28 April: "I don't have the time for academics who are trying to undermine me.  This is not a game.  My family have been abused in psychiatric settings.".  

However when I arrived at Prof Schwannauer's office just after 1pm on 2 May, slightly late, his door was shut and I knocked on it.  He had 2 women in with him.  And so I waited outside.  A few minutes later the women left and I entered.  As I sat down the Professor said that Rosie would be joining us.  That was a surprise, I hadn't been informed, but was fine about it.  Eventually she appeared and the meeting began.

From the offset the meeting didn't go well, it felt like two against one.  Rosie had met up with Prof Schwannauer prior to this and it seemed they had agreed a plan of action about me, without me being present.  Rosie and I were sitting on the armchairs and the Professor was sitting slightly higher in a hard backed seat.  Rosie did most of the talking, took the lead.  The Professor sat back and watched the show, or so it seemed.  Interjecting here and there.  (Puppet Master?)

Then he said in response to my statement about requiring my PhD fees to be paid and funding to be secured "no way we can guarantee success there".  I wrote it down verbatim.  I knew there and then that the Professor was not on my side.  "he that is not with me is against me"  I was being undermined.  Again.

At a previous meeting with Prof Schwannauer, 7 February in the Dugald Stewart Building, Edinburgh University, my academic mentor also present, I'd been expressing pain at my son's treatment and the cost of campaigning, how it wasn't fair.  To which Schwannauer responded saying "Life isn't fair".  No compassion.  My situation wasn't of concern to this Professor.  He didn't care and was aloof from my struggle.  (Mindfulness?)

Edinburgh University DClinPsy programme places trainees in Fife, in Stratheden Hospital where they had been using a locked seclusion room for decades to "manage" the patients.  Head of Psychology at NHS Fife, Dr Katherine Cheshire, who I met with twice in 2010/2011, said to me that she had no authority in Stratheden.  I thought it a copout and another demonstration of "mindfulness".  Minding her own business while others are being abused.  Or selfishness.  

They only stopped using the locked seclusion room when I "won" the Ombudsman complaint September 2014, having been awarded £4.4million by Scottish Government as a result of my whistleblowing regarding the abuse of my son in the Stratheden IPCU.

On 28 April I Emailed a good friend and confidante, a consultant psychiatrist, and said to him:

"I'm very concerned about this (presentation slides, "slumbering time bomb" quote).  My PhD will be an important piece of work and I will require support from my academic supervisor.  Up to this point I've not been supported and I wonder if Prof Schwannauer and I are poles apart, in terms of our understanding of psychiatric treatment and mental disorder labels/diagnoses.

And I'm not keen on the "mentalisation" philosophy, or metacognition.

I have to be able to trust my supervisor."

During the supervision meeting on 2 May in Prof Schwannauer's office I knew that our relationship was over.  I didn't trust him.  And sent an Email early the next morning, to him, Rosie and my academic mentor:

"Dear Matthias

Yesterday at our meeting you said to me, Matthias, in our discussions about my PhD research funding: "no way we can guarantee success".  A very negative response.  Undermining.  It's not the first time.

I didn't know that Rosie was to be at the meeting, no-one said.  Not sure why.  I was fine about Rosie being there but thought it odd that I wasn't informed beforehand.

It seemed that there was a divide at the meeting, two against one.  Rather than a collaboration.  That's concerning.  Rosie supporting you.  Both of you defensive whenever I raised points.  Neither of you seemed to understand where I was coming from, regarding my proposed research.  There was a barrier between us.  And it seemed to be a problem with me.  Not that I think so but this is how it came over. 

I'm not happy about this.  I don't appreciate attempts to put me in my place (wherever you think that might be, I don't know).

I'm not happy Matthias that you've been "bumping into" Rosie on the stair before she has met with me.  Directing her on what to do or say.  I find that manipulative.  It's not congruent. 

Rosie and I have worked well together in the past.  I don't appreciate that you appear to have manipulated her to stand with you against me.  That's unacceptable, regardless of your reasons for doing so.  I'm not putting up with it.  Rosie doesn't deserve to be "piggy in the middle".

I wanted to speak plainly.  Slept on it before saying anything to you.  I'm not confident with you as my PhD Supervisor.  I will require someone else to supervise me, along with Rosie, someone who is with me, not against me.

Copying in Andrew for his information.  I'd Emailed him last night with my concerns.  

I'm very unhappy with your behaviour.  I hope that I've made myself clear.  The PhD course of study is important to me, part of a long term strategy, a pathway to eventually developing safe haven crisis houses in Scotland.  Gathering evidence of good practice.  I will need supervisors who are with me, not against me.  People who are covering my back, not stabbing me in the back.  People who can take criticism from a psychiatric abuse survivor, unwaged Carer and Mother.  People who can understand my pain as a Mother of 3 sons who have been abused in psychiatric settings because of experiencing psychosis.  

I would be happy with David Gillanders as a supervisor if he was willing to take me on.

Yours sincerely,


Nearly 4 hours later I received this response from Prof Schwannauer, the quickest response I've ever had from this academic:

and then another Email from him, 29mins later, ending with "I genuinely wish you all the very best with your endeavour and I remain inspired by your motivation and energy for it.":

Here is part of an Email I wrote yesterday, requesting another Clinical Psychology Supervisor:

"I've got a PhD place within Clinical Psychology at the University of Edinburgh therefore I will require at least one Supervisor within the department who can support me to do my best.  If Paul Hutton had still been in post there I would have asked him.  But he left for Napier.  You don't need to be my Supervisor Rosie.  I can see that you're a busy person.  Please don't feel obliged.  David Gillanders suggested you and I went along with it.

I need a Clinical Psychology supervisor who can guide me through academic processes at Edinburgh University and also support me in research and writing.  Someone who I can go to with questions and who will respond as promptly as possible, bearing in mind their commitments.  I'm good at self direction and hard work so won't require that much support once I've got funding and the process is underway.  However at this point, prior to getting funding, I will require much more support and information about university procedures.  Which I've not been getting from either of you.  For whatever reason.

Over to you, Matthias, to suggest or recommend someone who will support me to access funding, to get established at Edinburgh University as a PhD student and be a supervisor who is loyal and can stand with me.  I don't think it's too much to ask, considering my pedigree."

By this time I was getting very fed up with the game play.  All I require is a Supervisor for my PhD who can advise and support me through the process, firstly in securing funding for fees then for project costs.  And during the research and writing.  Professor Andrew Gumley is a supportive academic mentor and friend, who has demonstrated in our relationship, since 2009 when we first met at the Mental Health and Wellbeing Unit, Gartnavel, Glasgow, that he understands something of my pain as a psychiatric survivor and Mother, and I trust him. 

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