Thursday, 28 February 2013

stigma begins and ends with psychiatry

Let's not kid ourselves.  Stigma is caused by psychiatric labels given to vulnerable people in mental distress.  The fact that society then reinforces this stigma by alluding to the labels, of schizophrenia and other mental disorders, doesn't mean that the person in the street is to blame.  

Therefore anti-stigma campaigns should first of all be directed at psychiatry.  Targeting society doesn't make sense to my mind for they are only playing at 'follow my leader'.  As long as we can be judged mentally ill on the basis of a collection of symptoms, labelled as a disorder, then there will continue to be stigmatising newspaper headlines and segregation of people with mental illness.

In Scotland the anti-stigma campaign See Me gets around £1million from government funds to challenge stigma and discrimination.  Their vision "A Scotland where people with experience of mental ill-health, and those who support them, are fully equal and included.".  Their work to "Change public attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health problems, Involve people with direct experience of stigma, Work with the media and to Work locally with partners".

These are admirable aspirations and work goals but I still maintain that the stigma of mental ill health begins and ends with psychiatry.  For the people who are forced to enter the psychiatric system to the people who get anti-depressants and benzos from the GP gatekeepers.  The fear of a psychiatric diagnosis or label is ever present because they are indelibly written in psychiatric notes.  

Although I did recently get my schizoaffective disorder label marked as being in perpetuity.  I'd have preferred it to be completely erased and this is my long-term goal.  Because I don't believe in diagnoses which are psychiatric constructs, given by professionals who didn't know me as a person and didn't understand my state of mind at the time.

Ignorance is no excuse and I've said it before.  The stigma from psychiatric labels in my family's notes have carried down through the generations, justifying forced treatment and slandering of reputations.  Requiring resilience, strength and resistance on my part, to recover from the trauma of psychiatric treatment.  And to help family members do the same.  You might describe is as being a resistance fighter.

I'm not prepared to put up with stigma and the inevitable fallout from being 'different'.  And that includes stigma within the mental health world and in the psychiatric system, from refusing to believe the prevailing regime or collective position.  To be equal doesn't mean to conform.  Here's to those of us who are non-conformist and who challenge stigma at its very roots.  Slainte!

the plan to increase brain surgery for mental illness in Scotland

Since 2006 there have been 260 referrals for treatment at the Dundee Advanced Interventions Service at Ninewells Hospital which specialises in anterior cingulotomies or brain surgery for mental illness.  Of these referrals, 108 were men, 152 women, as usual women in psychiatry being targeted for special treatment.

According to the most recent DAIS report the mean age was 47yrs with a spread of ages from 18 to 84.  In other words any of us might be a candidate for this irreversible surgery if we had 'treatment refractory' depression or OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder.  And had been tried on a range of psychiatric drugs and courses of ECT/shock treatment.

The latest DAIS annual report summary and conclusions on p8 states: "Neurosurgical activity in 2011/12 continues to be variable but it is recognised that clinical activity varies from one year to the next and is dependent upon the nature of the patients referred. We believe that there remain considerable numbers of patients with unmet needs and we are keen to ensure that they have the opportunity to be referred to the service."  (bolding is mine)

You've got to admire the zeal with which the team at DAIS believe they are doing the right thing in promoting this cutting edge treatment.  Destroying brain tissue that is to do with feelings although it isn't a cure and the patient will likely have to look forward to further psychiatric treatment.  [see Mind website on 'Making sense of neurosurgery for mental disorder']

Of course it may be that some people like having the attention of psychiatrists whatever the outcome.  I find this to be a mystery and nothing to do with my experience of psychiatry since 1970 when I first visited my mother in Kinnoull ward at Murray Royal Hospital.  And saw many distressed women all locked in together.  I came away from visiting in tears.

My mother had been forcibly given many courses of ECT/shock treatment in the 50's and 60's so eventually agreed to a lifelong depixol injection every 3wks until her death in 1998, aged 68, before her time.  A vulnerable woman agreeing to forced treatment so that she wouldn't be locked up in a psychiatric hospital and given more horrendous treatment against her will.  

There is no excuse for it, in my opinion.  My mother was a gentle woman who didn't deserve this sort of treatment and force used against her.  Therefore I have never believed psychiatry and think it to be a religion, a belief system, one that I am not prepared to accept or follow.  And I will continue to resist the use of force and of invasive treatment in psychiatry. 

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

engaging with the Dundee Advanced Interventions Service

Scan showing targets for Anterior Cingulotomy
I've been trying to set up a meeting with the leading psychiatrist at the Dundee Advanced Interventions Service (DAIS) which specialises in NMD, neurosurgery for mental disorder.  Brain surgery for mental illness, anterior cingulotomy.  We've had Email exchanges but there seems to be resistance to our meeting up in person.

The latest DAIS annual report summary and conclusions on p8 states:

"Neurosurgical activity in 2011/12 continues to be variable but it is recognised that clinical activity varies from one year to the next and is dependent upon the nature of the patients referred. We believe that there remain considerable numbers of patients with unmet needs and we are keen to ensure that they have the opportunity to be referred to the service."  

The mention of considerable numbers of patients with unmet needs sets off alarm bells in my mind.  Are they proposing a return to the days of lobotomies and large scale brain surgery for people who are 'treatment resistant' or have been given psychiatric treatment that is useless?   

Are they under the illusion that going into the frontal lobes of the brain to the limbic system and using electric currents to destroy tissue is the best way of helping people to recover from mental ill health?  Does labelling people with lifelong mental illness give them the right to offer treatment that is irreversible and isn't a cure.

Mind, the mental health charity, says "NMD is not a cure, and people who have the surgery are likely to need continued psychiatric support afterwards, even if the surgery is considered to be successful.".

I think that brain surgery for mental illness is a symptom of psychiatric system failure and another form of psychiatric abuse.  Together with ECT/shock treatment that exchanges one pain for another.  A paradigm shift is needed, away from biomedical models of mental illness to holistic mind and body care.  No more resorting to physical force on people who feel more keenly the pain of living.  Give it a restPlease.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

a tale of two cities aka health board areas - an introduction

Here is the introduction to a tale of two health board areas in terms of psychiatric inpatient care and the treatment of carers and families.  Next door to each other geographically but under different management and leadership.  The one where I live is rural and the other a city. 

Since 1995 I've engaged with psychiatric services in Fife, the first occasion as a carer of a family member in the Lomond acute ward, Stratheden Hospital, Cupar.  It was a difficult experience, my relative wasn't well looked after, he got a head injury, I complained.  Other stuff happened, all of it negative.  Therefore in 1999 when another family member had a psychotic episode we made sure he was admitted to the Liff Hospital, Dundee which he remembers as a positive experience.

Then in 2002 I ended up a patient myself in Stratheden's Lomond Ward, going in voluntarily but quickly sectioned and forced to take the risperidone.  Beginning on a path of psychiatric drug cocktails, suicidal impulses and so-called mood stabilisers.  Before taking charge of my own mental health and completely recovering in 2004.

I've also had brushes with psychiatry in other health board areas.  As a patient in Hartwoodhill Hospital, Lanarkshire in 1978 and 1984.  Then as a carer visiting family members over the years in Murray Royal Hospital Perth, Gartnavel Royal Glasgow, Royal Edinburgh, from 1970 to 2000.  And presently visiting Carseview Centre, Dundee.

So I'm an expert by experience when it comes to psychiatric treatment, from the user, survivor and carer perspective.  Not a career of choice but one of circumstances.  I don't believe in the biomedical model of mental illness although I might have had more cause to than most.  Therefore recovery was always a given despite what the professionals forecast.  It made sense.

And so I have always encouraged family members to recover after their psychiatric inpatient treatment and labelling.  To ignore the diagnoses which are psychiatric constructs and to plan their own recovery journey, as I did mine.  It's not easy, especially if you tell psychiatry that you won't be following their advice.  Lifelong mental illness, mood stabilisers, disability and mental health service land. 

Many folk will go their own way and not tell psychiatry, disappearing off the radar, psychiatric labels buried deep within the notes.  Others might have a relapse or another episode of mental distress and are captured again by the system.  Revolving door patient syndrome might follow or maintenance medication.  Social control by another name.

I look forward to comparing and contrasting the two different areas, weighing up the pros and cons of psychiatric treatment and recovery focused care.  The exercise will be useful in the work I do in mental health which includes participating in national groups from the survivor/carer perspective.  My aim as always is to bring about improvement and even transformation to the psychiatric system.  It's my reason for getting involved.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

non-compliance and insight, resilience and recovery

Why does psychiatry link non-compliance with lack of insight?  What is this all about?  It shouldn't be a foregone conclusion that people in mental distress or crisis don't know what's happening.  The reverse is often true, in my experience, and we are all too aware of what's going on when in the midst of a mental crisis. 

On admission to a psychiatric hospital, whether voluntary or not, a patient has to swallow the psychiatric drugs or else.  The regime is set and any objections or resistance is met with a detention and compulsory/forced treatment.  Because you won't get any therapy (OT, psychological) until you take the medication.  Compliance is a sign of insight returning, according to the psychiatrist and their nursing cohorts.

Who watch the patients for signs of abnormal behaviour, overfamiliarity, laughing inappropriately, walking strangely, questioning the status quo and any other actions that you might do in the normal world but are frowned upon in the locked wards of psychiatry.  Where resilience is seen as a threat and recovery is for the distance future when labels have lost their power.

Me and my family are resilient and recovery-focused even when in psychiatric circumstances.  It's natural for us and we don't lose our insight when unwell although each of us may be non-conformist in different ways.  We might seem like we're going along with the treatment and yet be internally resistant.  Or we might defy the regime and resist the assault. 

The psychiatric system has no right, to my mind, in forcing their beliefs and treatments onto me and mine.  We've never been religious although people of faith and principle.  Religion binds and constrains whereas faith is about freedom and choice.  A clash of culture and beliefs.  Non-conformity makes sense to those of us who are resisting a coercive system.

There's no point in the government promoting recovery and wellness while the psychiatric system demands obedience to the mantra of lifelong mental illness, biomedical models and genetic liability.  The clash of culture catches the non-compliant in the cusp.  We have recovered and survived the system and mental illness label by not believing it.

Give us some credit and recognition for our stand against coercion and for the freedom to choose.  We deserve to be respected for daring to speak out against the injustice and control of psychiatry, bringing balance to a system that can so easily silence the voices of reason in a chaotic world.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

sanity reigned at the mental health tribunal yesterday

Some good news for a change.  Yesterday I attended a Mental Health Tribunal as a Named Person and the decision was the right one.  The patient became voluntary, undetained, and sanity reigned.  It made sense for the person had been compliant, was swallowing all the psych drugs and doing what they were told.

I couldn't have done it, that's for sure, putting up with having my freedom curtailed for so long and being given cocktails of psych drugs.  The person did well and the tribunal panel asked pertinent questions of the agency locum consultant who was asking for a CTO.  The evidence didn't warrant a detention and we were glad of the positive outcome. 

This was the third tribunal in four weeks and I'd attended the first one which seemed to be like going through the motions.  From which I'd raised a number of complaints with various agency heads, in an attempt to express my dissatisfaction with the psychiatric treatment and the information available to carers and patient.  These are still ongoing.

I want to see the mental health act safeguards working and yesterday's tribunal was a better demonstration of a working safeguard.  However it required family members to be vigilant and for other safeguards to also be in place.  The solicitor did a good job of advocating and the Mental Health Officer showed more support for the patient.  

The advance statement is a useful safeguard and can help a person have some control in psychiatric circumstances, backed up by the named person and carers.  Also having a WRAP, wellness recovery action plan, is a another way of controlling present and future mental health care treatment.  Tools that help a person have a voice when they are unwell or mentally distressed.

I'd like to see a move away from talking about 'non-compliance' as if this demonstrated a lack of insight.  I think that to completely recover from mental illness and the psychiatric system then a person has to be non-compliant or non-conformist.  It's how I recovered, by not listening to psychiatry and taking charge of my own mental health. 

I am going to remain hopeful about safeguards and improvements to psychiatric treatment while keeping a critical eye on practice and developments.  For one swallow doesn't make a summer.  And it's going to take a paradigm shift so that forced treatment isn't an option in psychiatry. 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

social workers colluding with psychiatry to separate families

I am very unhappy with the attempts of social workers and MHOs (mental health officers) to separate families in psychiatric circumstances.  It happened in Fife last year when the social work service colluded with psychiatry in their attempts to blame me, a mother, so that they could have more influence over my son who was 27 and not a bairn.  It didn't work.

The same thing has happened in a different area with another family member of mine.  Which tells me it's what they do and is common behaviour.  Separating children from families is a speciality of social work services.  And nothing they should be proud of.  Recently there was a report that Fife Council Social Work Service had overspent by £4 million, £1.5 million due to taking children away from parents with substance misuse issues. 

Social work needs to support families and not assume the worst.  Breaking up families is damaging society.  Much better if they were to do their best to keep families together.  Looked after children don't do well, it can't be the best way of resolving a situation.  In my opinion it's time for social work to investigate themselves.  Or get in an independent investigation team, made up of carers and families.  That would soon sort them out.

I attended the Carers Parliament last October in Edinburgh, the first of its kind.  And the main gripe I heard carers speak of was the problems with the social work service.  MSPs also mentioned this, including the long wait for assessments, difficulty in getting equipment and services.  It seems that social work has broken down and it's they who are needing to be separated and given a makeover.  

In the recent issue with an MHO in another area, not Fife, I've raised a complaint which is being investigated, by social work.  I'm not hopeful.  It will likely be judged as a 'learning point'.  I've been there before.  They make mistakes, they don't say sorry and likely go on and do the same again because it's a habit.  Interfering in families without due consideration or information or experience.

It's very annoying that families are targeted in this way.  It is negatively impacting on society and adding to the breakdown in family life.  Exacerbated by the financial recession and impending depression, brought about by consumerism and our spend, spend, spend philosophy.  Anti-depressant prescribing isn't having an effect, more pills are being popped

Therefore I hope the social workers and mental health officers stop blaming families and start helping them to stay together.  Stop colluding with psychiatry in their misguided attempts to solve life's problems with chemical straitjackets and sledgehammer treatments that replace one pain with another.  It's not working and doesn't make sense.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

ECT - new pain for old

I believe that ECT/shock treatment is about inflicting new pain so that people, mostly women, forget the old pain.  For a while, a short while.  Similar to chemical straitjackets but more abusive and more focused on females.  As Bonnie Burstow describes it "a gentleman's way of battering a women".

People usually need 'maintenance' treatments of ECT.  Many ask for it again and this seems to be a psychiatrist's justification that it's OK to shock women, silence their pain for a moment, and give them some relief.  They probably think they are being humanitarian.  When in fact they are keeping them quiet.

Recently I was told by a man in a position of power, with letters after his name. to "SHUT UP" and "go to bed".  This demonstrates perfectly the viewpoint of men in psychiatry who want to silence women's objections and expressions of pain.  

"Are you tearful?" was a question often asked by a psychiatrist of me before cranking up the dose of venlafaxine.  A drug that depressed me, took away my sense of humour and singing voice.  Dumbed down and emotionless, a life not worth living, to my mind.  Fortunately I came to my senses and escaped.

Well I'm not going to shut up or go to bed.  I will keep speaking about pain and abuse, until the cows come home.  In over 40yrs of psychiatric engagement, pumped full of drugs from time to time, they've not managed to keep me quiet.  And it won't be happening.  This woman's not for turning.

getting away with bullying and intimidation

They got away with bullying and intimidation.  Regardless of complaints systems or accurate detailing of everything that happened, as it happened, from day one.  It had no effect on their treatment of a mother and her son 

They justified it by writing about the mother, saying she was "difficult" and "demanding".  A family history of schizoaffective disorder.  So it was OK to use force with the mother, disrespect her, accuse her of psychological harm.  With no evidence.

How dare she try to protect her son and expose the human rights abuse?  She should have kept right out of it and left the psychiatric nurses to do the business.  Restraint, seclusion and forced treatment the order of the day.  Patients left unattended.  Policemen brought in to deal with distressed female patients.  

Queuing up for psychiatric drugs.  No privacy or personal space.  Dormitories for female patients overlooked by male patients in single rooms.  Unsupervised spaces, nurses busy writing notes.  Works of fiction and subjective opinion.  Justifying the use of force, the disrespect of mothers.

Forgetting to tell a mother that her son's hand got broken when he was shut in a room with 3 male nurses.  Saying it was justified, the assault on her son when she wasn't on the ward.  In fact, it was all the mother's fault and so she was also forcibly treated, keeping it in the family.  Put under pressure to conform and obey the psychiatric fraternity.

But the mother wouldn't lie down and take it.  She persisted with complaining and advocating for her son.  They stood together throughout the locked ward indignities, human rights issues and disregard of mental health act safeguards.  Professionals saying that people without capacity didn't require advocacy.  (Circles Network, Warwickshire, manage the Fife project)  Trying to override safeguards to do what they wanted with her son.  But he knew the mental health act and would not be bullied.

So mother and son stood against the bullying and intimidation.  They would not be victims although they were victimised.  Attempts were made to criminalise them both but they stood tall and refused to be subdued by the use of compulsory treatment.  Policemen coming to their home and demanding entry.  Social workers looking for evidence to blame the mother and excuse the dehumanising treatment.

They got away with it. 

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

they've got away with it

I've given up on getting justice through the complaints process for the bullying and intimidation that went on at Stratheden Hospital in February and March 2012, against me and mine.  The psychiatric nursing staff have got away with it.  

Patients and carers can be treated with disrespect, badmouthed and even assaulted, and nothing will be done about it.  Mothers blamed for psychiatric system failure.  For daring to complain about inappropriate nursing practice.  For speaking out about the vulnerability of female patients and of what goes on behind closed doors.

But they won't stop me speaking out.  Regardless of useless complaints systems and colluding social work staff.  Of bullying and intimidating behaviour.  Just because they are allowed to give compulsory treatment doesn't mean to say they should be using force.  It's not a short cut.

There needs to be a transformation of culture, management and leadership at Stratheden Hospital, so that patients, carers and families are treated with respect and given the care they deserve.  Not sure how this will come about.  The nursing staff have got away with it and are likely to keep getting away with it.  We need independent advocacy, locally led.  Unfortunately the local advocacy projects lost out at a tendering process in 2009 to the English learning disability service provider Circles Network.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

keeping the circus on the road

I've been thinking about how the mental health world and its symbiotic twin the psychiatric system are like a travelling circus.  With roustabouts to keep the show on the road, the wild animals under control and the whip in the hand of the ringmaster.  The greatest show on earth and we've all got ringside seats.

Some of us even got to take part in the performance although not by choice.  We found ourselves in cages among the straw, being kept in line and getting fed the food of obedience.  Others weren't so wild and were like the performing dogs, jumping and twirling, from barrel to barrel.  Happy to get the applause and the honours.

The trapeze artists did the fancy stuff and looked the part, high up and away from the crowd.  Tightrope walkers managing to keep their balance while appearing never to look down.  But the risk for these fancy footwork folk was always about falling from their high places and landing on their heads.

The best of all are the clowns, like jesters of old, commanding the attention of every eye while remaining incognito.  They can engage with the audience, make fun of them and get away with it.  Wearing masks of garish colour, hiding lives of complexity and myriad moods.  Getting away with madness.

Animal rights activists managed to change the shape of circuses and I'm hoping that human rights activists can do the same with the psychiatric system and mental health practices.  It's not much fun if you're in the cage or always living behind a mask.  The magic pills and potions only work in fairy tales.  Real life requires sophisticated solutions.

Monday, 11 February 2013

disrespect for carers, that's what it's all about

[about Fife experiences]

The mental health act principle of 'respect for carers' isn't happening and I can testify to that.  I'm assuming it is a wish or a faraway expectation, not the here and now.  Don't let's kid ourselves.  To be a carer or mother in the psychiatric setting is like entering the lion's cage. 

We're talking growls and teeth, fur flying and fear.  It's not for the faint-hearted and you need to be prepared.  Voice at the ready, for they're out to get you.  The biomedical modellers or the bio model meddlers.

The mothers among us have been labelled as genetically flawed.  We're to blame for society's ills.  So says the patriarchs of psychiatry rather than it being about the sins of the fathers.  It's our fault there's war and oppression, armies and bloodshed.  Orphans and victims, poverty and famine.

And for those of us who have completely recovered from lifelong mental illness, despite the labels and psychiatric drugs.  Well what a cheek!  How dare we!  Defying the diagnoses and ignoring the DSM and ICD.  Making a fool of the hierarchy that keeps people safe and secure, with community treatment orders and coercive control.

Like the jokers in the pack we keep appearing unpredictably.  Bouncing back from adversity and the bullying behaviour of people in power.  Playing the game in the way that we like, knowing that what goes around comes around and it's more about the taking part than the winning.

As a survivor, mother and carer I'm in it for life.  It's not about choice or a vocation, a paid job or a pension.  It's £58/week, according to the government's calculations.  But that doesn't mean we deserve the worst treatment and bottom of the pile consideration.  Have some respect, professionals on big pay in the service of psychiatry and its subsidiaries.  We deserve it and have earned it.

We need independent advocacy, for carers and service users/patients.  Locally managed.  The tendering process in 2009 resulted in the Circles Network, Warwickshire, winning the contract, and the local advocacy groups losing.

don't bother complaining, it's not worth the effort

Here are my top ten tips regarding psychiatric system complaints
[based on my experience in Fife]

1.       Don't bother
2.       It's not worth the effort
3.       They'll only get their chums in to defend their actions
4.       You'll be investigated by "lay persons" with absolutely no experience of mental health matters
5.       They will get away with saying it was a "learning point"
6.       People in uniforms will turn up at your door day and night
7.       You won't have a leg to stand on
8.       The blame will be yours so develop broad shoulders
9.       They will drive you mad if they can
10.    And then you'll be dragged off with your own mental breakdown



Sunday, 10 February 2013

women, forced treatment and ECT in the psychiatric system - I say NO

I'm compelled to revisit the theme of women and their treatment in the psychiatric system.  Being a woman who has 3 times been under the control of psychiatry, my mother also a conscript and victim, of forced ECT and psychiatric drugging.   Keeping it in the family.  She was kept on a depixol injection until the end of her life in 1998.  My mother was a gentle woman, clever and sensitive, and didn't deserve to be treated like this.

The system has nothing to be proud of.  Grabbing and jagging women, shocking them into sense.  More like keeping them quiet, voices silenced.  Well this woman isn't conforming.  It's not in my nature, regardless of the system's pills and potions, manacles and gags.  I have to speak out.  On behalf of the women in my family and the many other women labelled and disabled by psychiatry.

Bonnie Burstow, feminist and academic, in her 2006 article 'Electroshock as a Form of Violence Against Women' writes of aiming to "fundamentally shift the ECT frame and provide a critical feminist reconceptualization of electroshock".  Burstow has also spoken of ECT as a "gentleman's way of battering a woman".

She says "More specifically, this article argues for and lays the basis for understanding electroshock as a form of violence generally and a form of violence against women in particular.  Correspondingly, it sheds light on the nature of the violence and the manifold effects on women—psychological, social, and physical.". 

In Scotland two-thirds of people getting ECT are women, one third of these getting it involuntarily, and of women over 60 getting ECT then one half are getting it against their will.  Or because they are 'without capacity'.  I'm now 60 so have written an advance statement which says - NO forced treatment, NO anti-psychotics or anti-depressants, NO ECT, NO NMD/brain surgery for mental illness.  

I hope the message is clear, that I am not a masochist or like being forced to do anything.  I don't like mind-altering drugs and don't drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes.  Mental distress doesn't alter the situation.  The psychiatric system is going to have to find an alternative way of working with me if I become mentally distressed, or as they describe it 'psychotic'.

Friday, 8 February 2013

what does it mean to be 'user led'?

I've been a community development worker for over 30 years, mainly grassroots project development, led by the people on the ground.  It's what we did.  Identified a need then set up a project to meet the need eg playschemes in the school holidays for our children, visiting the housebound in the village where we lived, youth events on a weekend in our community hall.

We came up with the ideas and statutory agencies supported us financially and practically to bring about positive improvement and change.  We were the instigators of change and this was welcomed by the powers that be.  It wasn't about focus groups or being pawns of government.  It seemed like we were all working together in terms of community empowerment.

However this hasn't been my experience of mental health user involvement since getting involved in 2008.  I expected the same sort of process.  Equal partners, grassroots activism and strong user voices.  Instead it's been more like focus groups, government led activities and user leaders compromised in positions of power.  A gently gently approach that does nothing to change the balance of power in the psychiatric system.

And for me it's all about changing the balance of power.  So that there is no recourse to force or dehumanising treatment in the name of psychiatry.  The dilemma with having compulsory treatment is that for some paid workers this is an excuse or reason to use force and degradation.  I find this unacceptable, always have done, whatever situation, society or system.

Therefore national user led mental health groups have to set the agenda, be proactive and challenge the use of force and human rights issues in psychiatric treatment.  Otherwise they are colluding with the system and the perpetrators of abuse.  Turning a blind eye just isn't good enough, in my opinion.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

getting justice in the psychiatric system

I've been considering the importance of getting justice in the psychiatric system if there has been abuse perpetrated by a paid worker.  When labels of mental disorder give rise to behaviour that goes unchecked and nothing is done about it.  Paid 'professionals' getting away with it.  What can be done?

Theoretically there are complaints systems but these can be weak and frustrating over the longer term, in my experience.  The temptation is to give up when justice isn't forthcoming and just live with the feelings of victimisation, or try and forget.   The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland is another avenue for complaint as they do investigations into "situations where something has gone wrong in mental health ... services".

I think blogging is a very therapeutic way of having a voice and telling your side of the story.  So is Facebook and Twitter, and no doubt many other social networking sites that give opportunities for people to speak out and be heard.  For it's important not to be silenced, to my mind, whether the system approves or not.  Our lives are not all about systems even though at times it seems we have no option to traverse through them.

We don't live in a totalitarian state although for those of us with a psychiatric history sometimes it feels like it.  And justice can be a long time coming.  However I choose to be optimistic, it seems best since I've over 40 years of engaging with the psychiatric system, personally and helping family members in and through.  For me it makes sense to have hope that justice will prevail.

Monday, 4 February 2013

mental welfare commission - superman or wise after the event?

I've engaged a lot with the mental welfare commission since 2010, highlighting poor psychiatric nursing practice and latterly human rights issues in locked wards.  It's become apparent to me that the commission is wise after the event rather than intervention at the time.  Of course, as a mother, I would prefer them to do something at the time and stop the bad practice and dehumanising behaviour.  Go in like Superman and sort it out.

But it doesn't work like this.  They are watchdogs on a leash who show their teeth in the writing of reports and spot check visits, keeping in contact with psychiatric institutions while listening to patients, carers and families who phone in and spill out their fears and anxieties.  Folk like me who feel that the commission's helpline doesn't help and their 'after the event' action isn't enough.

This makes for tension, between the commission and psychiatry, and between the commission and psychiatric patients/carers/families.  To me it seems the mental health act safeguards aren't always or often safe.  This is a dilemma that needs to be addressed, in my opinion.  Safeguards shouldn't be in name only, they have to work.  Otherwise the whole watchdog scenario is a work of fiction.  Like Superman.

I think the mental welfare commission and the mental health act safeguards should be more effective and prescient.  For the here and now, not just the future.  Otherwise human rights issues in psychiatric 'care' will continue and poor nursing practice will not be challenged.  You can't depend on the user/survivor/carer voice to do the job.  That's not fair.  We're not getting paid for it and why should we do everyone's jobs for them?

However, some positive feedback, it's good to see the commission employing/using people with lived experience in their visits to psychiatric institutions.  The challenge there is that these voices will be heard by the high heid yins in the MWC.  I say, listen to them even if it's painful.  

Don't metaphorically or otherwise put the phone down on them and us.  It's not nice.  Brush up on your communication skills.  Really engage with folk like me.  Keep up the contact face-to-face, even when the going gets tough.  We are the folk on the ground having to deal with the fallout of psychiatric institutional treatment.  When there's force being used you know it's not good enough, no matter if it's justified because of detention orders.

Be wiser during the event.  Listen more to the people at the sharp end of psychiatric treatment.  We want an action figure more real than Superman so, sleep easy, there's no requirement for the blue tights and red cape.  Yet.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

agency locum psychiatrists - ignorance is no excuse

This blog post isn't about Fife but about a health board nearby which is using agency locum doctors on locked psychiatric wards.  A recipe for disaster and headless chicken abandonment.  With patients and carers taking the brunt of it, for which there's no excuse.

I've just been reading the report submitted by an agency locum psychiatrist to a mental health tribunal.  If it were a court of law then this evidence would be thrown out as unsubstantiated and conjecture.  Hearsay and false deduction based on historical notes that have no basis in reality.  

I shouldn't be surprised as it's happened before but this is the worst one yet.  Chinese whispers on a grand scale and so-called professionals picking up a wage for writing this baloney.  And that's a kind word for it.  However the ones I blame are the high heid yins who get the big money and are not being held accountable.

For some reason the government thinks this area is doing a good job.  Not sure where they are getting their information from.  On the ground it's not happening, there's delusional thinking going on, and not just in the writing of the notes or reports.  The truth's not getting out, that the game's a bogey.